Sunday, July 13, 2008

Photos from England...more to come later.

Westminster Abbey
The London Eye
Me and Westminster. You can't quite grasp how HUGE this place is until you're right up next to it.

Hmmm. Why do you think they call it "Big" Ben?

Big Ben
Oliver Cromwell

The Union Jack flying proud over Westminster


The Imperial War Museum. This is a very cool place. I spent the better part of four hours wandering around in here.

Russell Square Tube Station

Warner Street. Tough neighborhood, lol.

Had a pint here. It's a bit pretentious and proof that Yuppies still exist!

The Duke Of York. I had a few pints in this fine establishment. The had a help wanted sign on the door the said "Perfect English Required". I had to go in and ask if they would hire an American!

The Thames looking toward the Tower Bridge.

I Eat Rubbish!

Dogs on the Thames.

St. Paul's from the Millenium Bridge.

The dome of St. Paul's and a statue commemorating the fire brigades that helped save it during the Blitz.

One of the most enduring images from WWII. St. Paul's during the Blitz.

Statue in front of St. Paul's
St. Paul's Catherdral. Unfortunately I was too late to get to go inside.

Old Bailey. It must have been a little intimidating walking through these doors.
Straight and to the point!
Yep. Had a drink here! Right across from Old Bailey.
Inside the Viaduct Tavern

Old Bailey
Where ever you find a church, you find a pub.

The Three Kings Pub. Somehow I don't think this is the original sign.

A solid gold clock in the British Museum. Apparently, when this clock sounded the hour, the guns would roll out of the ports and fire.

The library in the British Museum. This was actually my favorite room because it smelled of old books.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Better late than never; the England blog continued...

It sometimes takes me a bit, but I do finally get around to blogging all the stuff I should, i.e.: finishing incomplete posts, putting up photos, etc. I would like to blame it on my hectic work schedule, but since I'm only working three hours a day, I find it hard to justify. That said, I'll blame it on the traumatic experience of going back to work after a fabulous vacation. Anyway, on to the Kommotion.

For those of you unfamiliar with this grand event, a little history should be given. Three or four years ago, I started hanging out on a p2p music site called Komodo Island where I learned the ins and outs of sharing music on the net. The Island was (and is) a fairly close-knit online community with tons of cool, helpful people who have excellent tastes in music. Well, last year, two of the site's regulars, Susysue (Sue) and zzzhazz (Rich), purchased a pub in the tiny Yorkshire village of Bellerby. Somewhere along the way, some one suggested having a get together for people on the website to meet in person. Thus the Kommotion was born. The first Kommotion was an unqualified success, so naturally another had to be arranged. Having seen the photos from the first Kommotion, I figured I couldn't miss Kommotion II. Hell, what better excuse to travel half way around the world than to meet a bunch of cool folks and drink your face off!!

The folks of Kommotion II

As I mentioned in the previous blog, I stayed with Mark (Scorpio Rocks) and Coreen (psycho_coco) in Rotherham for a few days leading up to the Kommotion, and we drove up there together. We arrived in Bellerby in the mid-to-late afternoon on Friday. Having had
a beer or two before leaving Rotherham, I arrived at the Cross Keys in a fairly agitated state. I ran in to the bar, stared wildly around and said, "Hello, hello! Bathroom!" Thus my introduction to the small crowd already gathered. Anyway, the drinking pretty much began in earnest as we waited for the other folks who were to arrive for the first night's revelries.

Things went pretty much as expected for the first night of the party: lots of small talk getting to know folks and many, many pints of Fosters. The first real adventure came at the end of the night. My tentmate for the first night, another Mark (FoxRiver), and I staggered off to the tent around 3 am. About 4am, I woke having to return many of the Fosters I drank to nature. I rolled over and straight into a puddle of puke. Disgusted, but having to pee bad enough that I didn't really think of the repercutions of this situation, I stumbled out of the tent, stepping over Mark, who was by now dead asleep outside the tent in little more than his tattoos. It was when I stepped in the first puddle (it had been raining by then) that I realised that there could be a bit of a problem with this. Still a bit addled from a)waking up, b) rolling in puke, and c) old BarfRiver's gleeming white carcass lying on the ground, I crawled back into the tent. It was at this time that I noticed the smell. Uttering a few choice words, I grabbed my sleeping bag and my shoes and went hunting for a place to sleep. I ended up in the gazeebo set up earlier that day (which had already claimed the big toe of one of the other members of the group, but that's another story altogether involing a tent peg, a shoe, and a ride to the hospital) sleeping in a cair wrapped snugly in my hoody and sleeping bag. There I woke up, my spider sense tingling, to the sounds of giggling and the snapping of photos.

Thus began the second day of the Kommotion. It was a fairly subdued crowd that slowly staggered out of their tents that morning. If it wasn't for the saving grace of Lincoln and her camper full of coffee and tea and several morning drives to the local Tesco for sandwiches, the morning could have been downright ugly. By about 11am, I was feeling pretty good and chomping at the bit for the pub to re-open it's taps. I think Drita beat me to the pump that morning, but I wasn't far behind. It's funny how the first beer of the day when you don't have a care in the world is such a glorious thing. While things got off to a slow start, the party started to pick up steam as the fire for the BBQ was lit and more people discovered that the bar was open. We ate a great meal of sausages and burgers while sitting around and making fun of FoxRiver and the other miscreants from the night before.

As darkness descended on the unsuspecting, sleepy hamlet of Bellerby, the alcohol began to kick in and things started to get really fun. Sue had hired this band, well, really two guys with guitars and a drum machine. Not only did it take these guys almost four hours to set up their gear, but, and I'm certainly not alone in this opinion, they SUCKED. The true highlight to the night was when the kommodians stole the stage and Ross (RossUK), Bully (pmsbull or Daisy the Sheep, depending who you talk to), and Marco (pedulla) jammed away on a few tunes. Ross is a young guy in uni, but that boy can seriously play the guitar. He pulled a note for note perfect Joe Satriani tune right out of his ass and crushed it. After that, Spidey Slim ... Slim Spatula ...or whatever the bands name was came back on and played a bunch of tunes that had people dancing around (simply because there was nothing else to dance to. You gotta make do sometimes, lol).

Oddest question of the night: "Do you have a soft ass?" This was asked by Sarah (Bag Lady) right before she stuck her hands down my pants and grabbed my ass! Apparently I didn't have the softest ass in the bar. That honor went to Rick (zzzhazz). It was turning into that kind of night.

I had brought a two liter bottle of soju with me to England with the idea of making soju jello shots for the party. Unfortunately, I made the stuff a bit too late in the day because by the time it came to serve them, they weren't jello. They were still liquid. However, not being overly bothered by this and with the enthusiastic help of one of the bar girls, Gemma, the shots were served. Gemma, taking one for the team, did quite a few of these shots in the process of convincing the others they weren't death in a glass. It was quite funny. I think they went over fairly well despite the obvious problems (best thing about a roomful of drunks is that they'll drink just about anything, lol).

The night continued on with more dancing and general drunken frivolity, and I finally staggered off to sleep (not in the same tent) somewhere around 3am.

The next day dawned and keeping with my usual schedule, I was up at 6:30. Since very few people were stirring at that hour, I decided to go for a walk and check out Bellerby. I wasn't fully awake or I would've remembered to bring my camera with me because it is a very quaint, old English village. The thing is, Bellerby consists of a church, a pub, and about twenty five houses. It took me 15 minutes to check out the entire place. I got back from my walk and found that people were up and about and looking none the worse for wear (more or less). The best thing was that there were people in the pub kitchen cooking up a bunch of bacon butties (sandwiches to those of you not from the UK). A bacon sandwich is a beautiful thing after a night of heavy partying, and I think I ate 3 or 4 of them.

Later that day, Mark, Coreen, and I loaded into the car and headed back to Rotherham where I spent one last night before hopping the train to London and the plane back to...sigh...Korea. All in all, it was an awesome trip. One of the things you naturally worry about going to something like this is are the people really going to be like their online personalities or not? Am I going to get along with folks? Suffice it to say that the folks at the Kommotion, while lunatics all, are probably the nicest bunch of people you'd ever care to meet. They're already planning next year's Kommotion, and as I sit here, sipping on a beer and writing this, I'm VERY tempted to make the trip again.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

At Jounrey's End

I find myself thinking that there's really nothing quite so depressing as the last day of vacation. I'm sitting here in an internet cafe with my luggage (had to check out of the hotel at 10 this morning) with nothing to do until I have to head to the airport. It's an absolutely glorious day in London. Not a cloud in the sky, warm...sigh.

Anyway, all maudlin self-pity aside, I had a fantastic trip. I met tons of cool folks and pretty much had a blast. My last couple of days in London (this is where I left off on the last post) I kept it pretty mellow. I'd done so much walking and site-seeing in the days before that I felt I had a well-deserved break coming (plus my feet were KILLING me!). I had found a pub the day before called the Queen's Head. It was very much a neighborhood pub with both friendly bartenders and clientelle. The other thing it had was this bar game called Buzztime - sort of an electronic trivia game. The game is a great way to pass the time although many of the questions were quite England-centric (I mean really, how am I supposed to know who Liverpool beat the first time they one the FA Cup or who was the first African cricketer to play in England??). It was fun none-the-less, and I got to chat to some very cool folks. Later that night, I went to a place called the Water Rats Theatre and watched a bunch of bands play. The bands ranged from spectacular to brutally bad, but it was a kick in the head to watch some live music.

The following Monday, I hopped on the train at King's Cross Station and headed up to Rotherham in Yorkshire. There I met Mark and Coreen, the first two of many from the music website I've been on for the past few years. Mark had generously offered up Coreen's sofa for me to sleep on for the week leading up top the Komodo Kommotion (my real reason for coming to England in the first place). Both are very gracious hosts, and I greatly appreciated thier hospitality. The funniest part of staying there is that, while I'm still pretty much on my work-week sleep schedule, i.e.: up at 6:00 am, Mark, being the vampire that he is, was not. Coreen, though initially a bit shocked at my early morning habits, handled it with relative aplomb. Mark basically had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the dawn's early light where he suffered flash burns on his vampiric skin ("Bloody 'Ell!! I'm Pink!!"). Mark, being the trooper that he is, soon adjusted...well...sort of adjusted. Anyway, we did some touristy stuff with Mark taking me to the Leeds Armory; a very cool museum full of weapons and armor and such. After that, I just had reached saturation point with museums, so Mark and I went back to Coreen's house and settled into what turned into two days of relaxing drunkeness in the backyard (I wanted to take Coreen's backyard with me when I left, but I couldn't fit it in my pack and probably would have raised some eyebrows going through customs).

The next post will be about our adventures at the Kommotion in Bellerby over the past weekend, but I need a smoke and something to drink.