"Europe 2004-05" story # 5

London, United Kingdom           May 25, 2004

During early April, I was still hanging out in England.
     On a Saturday night, two shaven-headed twenty-year-olds became excited when they spotted my purple, puffy eye in the back of a Newcastle city bus. One of them, who had the manners of a wild wolf adolescent, pushed his fist in front of my face. He shouted at me with wide eyes, his voice maintaining the enunciative abilities and confused frustration of the person who invented the wheel. "One punch!" he kept yelling. "One punch!"
     I thought he might've been planning to hit me.
     It turned out he was only "grunting" a story to me, of how he was a boxer, and he'd taken his boxing gloves off recently in a bout (because he felt like they weren't allowing him to inflict enough damage) and punched his opponent with bare fists. He'd been "foynd" (fined) and suspended.
     He returned to his seat. He "bang!!"ed on the window to gesture to someone outside. He stood up, spit out a high window, and "bang!!"ed it shut. He told another young man on the bus that he looked just like Rod Stewart, and this young man laughed nervously, probably fearing he was going to get hit.
     The bus-riding barbarian then yelled at some girls, "Do you want to suck my lollipop?" and repeated this phrase brainlessly like a hyperactive four-year-old. He also got up and asked fellow riders to smell his new bag of marijuana and tell him if it was quality stuff.
     "Yuhv godduh injoy thuh weekend," he said, sipping alcohol from a plastic bottle.
     Wow! Newcastle really was a barbarian, unfriendly, animal place.
     In Newcastle, I wasn't having much fun. Although my passion is for traveling and writing, I also believe: "Life should be fun." I made a tricky, kind-of-wussy decision to "screw England" and go home early to friends and family (and my old girlfriend, Elaine, woohoo!) in Michigan.
     Life in England surely could've been fun, if I would've kept at it. I at least would've learned a lot, even if the place wasn't so nice.
     But, I had to get going. In my wake, I leave a brief, explanatorial list - a little something, known and loved in all corners of the globe as "MODERN ODDYSEUS' TOP 5!!!" (Even if hardly anyone knows of this explanatorial list, it's still loved by me, and most corners of the globe are covered right there.)

The negative forces of England seem to pushing their way to the front of the unruly mob. So, I'll begin with The Top 5 Worst Things About England!

The memory of England I'll always take with me is that of Highway M-1 leaving London. For three hours heading north, the grey highway was congested with grey lorries (semi trucks, in American-speak) and grey cars. The sky above - seeing how this was England - was grey. And, all we passed was grey industry and grey urban sprawl and grey smoke-stacks and just a complete, futuristic, dull, grey mess.
     Eww. I've never been to a place as densely-packed or as built-up as southern England.

With so many strangers bustling around them, English city-dwellers don't shed a passing concern for people they don't know.
     They live amongst an overwhelming population, where the corporate-led society emphasizes industry, development, progress, trade, and earnings. A single person sees he is of little importance, and he has difficulty finding meaning. (The young, nice English guy beside me on our bus from Newcastle to London described life in his country as "dismal.")
     People get depressed. Many Englishmen deal with this depression by wanting to put down others. They readily pick fights, use one another, and insult each other. On Newcastle night streets, groups of bar-going men or women in their thirties would see me walking alone and make fun of me, calling me a "Fu**ing Australian!" or saying, "Where's your boyfriend?"

Weathermen don't study meteorology in England. They just buy parrots and teach them to say, "rain."

The English people I had met travelling, in other countries, had some of the best personalities I'd ever come across: they were good-humored, friendly, often hillarious.
     However, it got to the point while I was in Newcastle, where I would go out at night, look around the bar at the guys in their trendy, new button-down shirts and the girls in short dresses, hear the things they found funny, and be bored by the thought of talking to anyone.

5. PETTY -
The English news and tabloids are ripe with headlines and gossip relating the day's daily doings of the country's most trivial celebrities. Ladies on busses always gabbed about people they knew, usually putting them down.

Gee. I don't know anyone around here who likes to gab about other countries and put them down. Do you!?
     HONORABLE MENTION includes TONY BLAIR, the Prime Minister who runs the country while simultaneously ignoring the views of the people who voted for him.
     Moving along with my gabbing about the gabbers, here are The Top 5 Best Things About England!

Kirkby Stephen was a tiny, picturesque, countryside village that I stopped in. The life in these beautiful, green towns was of a much higher quality than that of the cities, and the people were friendlier.

The government places a high tax on gasoline. Thus, the English who own cars drive environmentally-friendly small ones. It's refreshing to see cars that get fifty miles to the gallon, in contrast to the world-consuming American SUV's and big trucks that get a third of that.

I was in awe of the things the English government provided for the people. These included: public venues, great transportation systems, quality care for the needy and mentally ill, and free health care.

4. TEA -
English weathermen parrots can also say, cheerily, "Won't you have a cup of tea?"

Yes!!! Indian restaurants are everywhere!

HONORABLE MENTION points go to the BREAKFASTS and the COURTESY. (English people have learnt their manners.)
     I wanted to leave England on a good note.
     So, I spent my last night there in London. German Kai (who studied with me in Australia) hosted me, and English Steve (who had adventures with me in the Amazon Rainforest) joined us for a night of stories and laughs. The drinks in the pub were good, the olives in the Greek restaurant were delicious, and the company was - as Steve would say - "Fantastic!"
     But, on April 8th, I flew home.
     For the time-being, I have chosen to be with friends over being on the road.
     Aah, but I'll be back out again soon. The dream of getting to know the world is still alive and kicking!

Until next time/soon, Modern Oddyseus

Much thanks, again, to Kai and Celine for the place to stay!

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