Thursday, July 28, 2011

My English weekend

Looking back on it now I'm really not sure how Marla and I were able to squeeze so much into such a short period of time, but my weekend in London was truly action packed. I think that had we planned things to do we would have accomplished half as much. It just goes to show that it really isn't what you're doing but rather who you're doing it with.

I arrived and immediately made my way to the tube, partially because it's the best way to get into the centre of town, partially because I love trains

I met Marla after work in Picadilly Circus...

... where we headed to the M&M store for some photo ops.

For diner that night Marla suggested a GREAT Indian place in a really cool part of town...

... which we walked around for quite a bit as Marla had a slight bit of trouble remembering where it was.

 Saturday began quite simply, walking around and ending up in a Canadian pub

 ... followed by a bit of vandalism...

I was even witness to Marla giving a tourist (this guy) directions...

We took a walk down Princess Di's memorial walk (something that Marla had always wanted to do here in London)

As it turns out she had walked this path dozens of times, but had never bothered to look down and see what the name of the path was. It led us to the treat of a beautiful London sunset, something I am told by good sources (Marla) that RARELY happens in overcast London.

Sunday was a day of discovery as we headed to the Museum of Natural Science...

I was frightened by the humongous imposing dinosaur at the entrance...

But like a good cousin Marla made sure to tell the dinosaur what's what!

We saw a whale big enough to swallow an elephant...

...and this guy with a mane large enough to star in the musical "The Lion King."

All over London there are bikes to rent. They're cheap and a great way to see the city. Unfortunately we had a SLIGHT problem getting them unlocked. Marla was not a happy camper.

But once we did we had a great trek through the city. This is Marla smiling away as we peddle...

...and Marla riding hands free...

...and Marla riding while standing on the seat of her bike...

...and Marla peddling with her hands...

It was an absolutely beautiful rainy day (or as Marla had predicted it would be). The sun shining we couldn't help but stop for pictures everywhere).

Action packed and full of photos and smiles my weekend couldn't have been better. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

a New York [108] minute(s)

I have discovered that the way I prefer to travel is with extended layovers. By taking advantage of such I can see other places that aren't my destination, but none-the-less places I've never been and look forward to enjoying. London (England) was my first experience with this, and was so inspiring that I arranged to have two fairly significant layovers on my trip to Paris. The first (on the way there) was NYC, and though I only had a little over an hour to spend in the city I made sure to take advantage of it. After all... I had never been, and since two good friends of mine live there I had to make a run at the city. So what follows is my hour and a half in New York City!

Upon first arrival I was fairly surprised to see so much in reference to the World Trade Center ten years after 9-11

But I was none the less happy to see such signs. What impressed me most was the digital display on the subway trains.

It seems as though every place that I've traveled has better metro systems than Chicago. First Delhi, now NYC. I expect that London's will follow suit, though I can't knock the CTA; It cost me $17.50 to get to and from the airport in 2 1/2 hours - something that would have cost 2.50 (including two transfers) in Chicago.

The real point of my trip to NYC was to see two friends. Since I only had such a limited time in the city I resigned to the notion that I would never see everything, nor would I attempt to do as much as possible. Instead my focus was on seeing two friends. And my heart screamed how right this priority was

(Chris)Topher, a friend of mine who shared the same address as I at 420 Melrose in Chicago, had moved out of the city (and to NYC) a week before I did. Though we only spent a few months hanging out (and though I only knew him for those two months) we made a connection that most good friends have. He became the type of friend that I could call over to watch "Killers" just because it was terrible.

Janira I met along with Chen (another friend not pictured) on a train from Delhi to Mumbai. The three of us hit it off almost immediately. She had been traveling for a year and a half, and just a few months before my trip had returned to New York. We only spent a few days together (2 on the train, 2 in Mumbai) but again created a connection.

Before leaving Chicago (for this trip) I thought about what I wanted to do, if anything, aside from hopefully seeing friends. The memories of India rushed forward, and I was aware of what I had to do! The only thing I wanted to do in NY was get a palm reading, and only to fulfill a promise. When I last saw Janira we were walking down the road in Mumbai and passed several palm readers. Janira commented that we should get our palms read, and I mentioned that I had never had mine read. I was fairly uninterested to do so at the time, but told her that the next time our paths crossed, no matter where we were in the world, that I would get my palm read...

It was not wonderful. Such daring statements included "I see you taking a trip soon" (as if the 40 lb bag I had in tote wasn't a dead give away) and (upon learning that I write) that "I see you having success with a screenplay"  (something perhaps almost every writer - aside from me - aspires to do). To explain how uninteresting it was perhaps a face would do best:

The worst part for me was that her cell phone kept ringing during our $25, 8 minute session, and that she repeatedly answered it. I like the idea of a person being able to be in touch with unworldly forces, but not the idea of being in touch with Craig the insurance guy. We were excited when it was finished

Perhaps the BEST part of my trip was to be able to do something totally NYC (or at least I have pictured it thanks to Hollywood). On a sweltering day, in the middle of summer, in the middle of the city, we found a hydrant rigged into a sprinkler!

So of course we ran through it!

I even got the opportunity to curb shame (the act of leaving someone on the curb who, though traffic permits it, refuses to cross the street because the little red hand signal tells them not to) dozens of New Yorkers!

And to top it all off, we got to see time square, where the only picture I was interested in taking was of this guy:

It was more amazing of a trip to NYC than I could have ever imagined. It truly warmed my heart that two friends dropped everything and cleared their schedules to make time to see me. It really drives the idea that good people find good people, and that in this world love and connections with others makes it all worthwhile. It doesn't matter what we're doing, but rather with whom it is with. I feel like a little kid ready to explore and take on the world.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Open ended letter to my future host

Dear host,

     I guess first I should take the time to thank you for reading even these words. My name as you may or may not know is Kyle, and what follows is the brief story of the upcoming adventure I am about to embark on - and what I hope it entails.
     About a few months ago I got the idea to travel to Paris. It came about as most great ideas do - suddenly and passionately. I had spoken with a co-worker of mine and as I often did lamented that between both full time jobs I didn't have enough time or energy to write. He mentioned a place in Paris called Shakespeare and Company, a world known and renowned bookstore that was in the habit of proving writers with a place to stay in the city while they write. The concept itself seemed so amazing that it spurred me to do a little bit of research into the subject matter. Aside from the knowledge that the likes of Ernest Hemingway and  James Joyce have spent time there I also discovered (after light correspondence) that indeed the shoppe houses writers on a tumble-weeding (first come, first serve) basis. My master scheme began to take shape.
     Within days of receiving confirmation of the policy/ies from S&Co. I firmly decided that I would take a trip to Paris. I began to consolidate my savings and figured that I would spend a month abroad to write and explore. The last time I traveled (to India in December) I had a brief layover in London and the remembrance of the 6 hours I spent there inspired the idea to stop in London for a few days before heading to Paris. So this is where I am now. And by booking with KLM I was able to fly into London (with a layover in NYC) and fly out of Paris. I will be in London for 5 days, arriving the morning of Friday, July 22nd, and leaving by train to Paris on the early morning of Wednesday, July 27th. The stay in Paris as it is planned is to be for 3 weeks, when I fly out to come home again. All I really want to do is write, and explore, and meet people, and speak different languages (Je parle Francais aussi, mais pas comme je parle l'Englais), and just experience what it is that I will experience. Really, I have no "must dos" aside from writing, and that I know will be more than accomplished. My hope upon arriving in Paris is to be able to stay at the bookstore. With the awareness that I am clearly not the first to have such an idea I began to do some research on how I could do such a trip if without the stay at the store.
     This brings me to you, future host. While on a sleeper class train traveling from Delhi to Mumbai I met a young woman (hopefully one of the two friends I will see while in NYC on my way) who had couch surfed her way through India. She ranted and raved about how positive the experiences had been, and that seed of a story began to grow as an actual possibility for my own trip. Not only would it be great to have a place to stay for a time, but coupled with having an acquaintance in the cities to show me the ropes (so to speak) would be an experience that I hope to have.
      I am a writer in search of the time to do so. I am incredibly neat and travel light (only a regular backpack). I also possess the rare ability to sleep in a variety of conditions, from through whaling sirens to on floors and a variety of furniture. I like ALL sorts of music (my current addictions include blue eyes meets big stuy and Edith Piaf; the only kind I avoid is sea shanty). I am also a reader. I find that the more I read the more I learn, and the more I am able to identify my own voice. But really it is always difficult to briefly accurately describe who one is, so I leave it that I am a laugher and a lover; I am a liver. If you want to know more about me the best would be to read my blog. It's a little fiction, a little life, and written for no one else but myself (so if it's a little boring, abrasive, or surprising you'll know why).
     I hope this letter explains a little as to what it is I am doing, and hopefully offers a slight insight into who I am as well. I hope this note finds you well, and perhaps we can share a laugh together in person

One love


Sunday, July 3, 2011

A hop, skip, and jump

I'm going to Paris!

... France...

Seriously... I'm going to Paris! I can hardly think about anything else. Two and a half weeks from now I will begin my adventure. But Paris is only part...

The story goes that I was planning a month in Paris, no other place of destination. I hope to write, and since returning from India I have forsaken the time to do so by working both of my former (and now current for the next two weeks) jobs. Before classes resume I found now the opportunity to just go, but unlike India it is not with a mind to stay away forever. In fact it might be quite the opposite; it will be a trip, but a trip none-the-less to write.

Initially wanting American Airlines (you know... for the miles) I decided on KLM, and the Dutch have not let me down! I have a 7 hour layover in

I've never been, and the time between flights will provide me just enough time - an hour or so - to get into the city and hang out, hopefully with


From New York I fly to

To spend a glorious 6 days and five nights. The stay is longer than I initially anticipated, and I greatly look forward to spending some QT with family!

... (though I do not expect my end of the pictures to turn out quite as well) It should be enough time to write and speak and explore and hang out. Then it's the 

...and I couldn't think of any better way to travel. I am again thankful to KLM, as my flight allows me to fly out of

instead of having to return to London. After seeing this very photo I briefly considered looking into leaving from off of the actual Arc de Triomphe, but I imagine it would be slightly beyond my monetary means. So I have to fly out of 

just like the rest of the non-gazillionaires. I don't have a direct flight home, but instead have a 15 hour layover... in

before my flight back to Chicago.

NYC, London, Paris, Amsterdam for sure. A neighbor that became a friend, a friend made on an Indian train, and a cousin  (though at 5 she promised not to be anymore) to share my time and trip with. And a chance to simply write.

Things I'm looking forward to: seeing NYC for an hour and meeting up with friends, mostly to be able to say "just spent an hour in NYC with -----. NBD (Normal But Different or No Big Deal, depending on the authority =); Hanging out with Marla AGAIN in London, though this trip the time will be measured in days rather than hours; Speaking English in England, French in France; sitting in a cafe sipping an espresso and nibbling on a French pastry; listening to "Non, je ne regrette rien" by Edith Piaf as I arrive in Paris; flying - yet again - by the seat of my pants in countries I've never been; bringing home rocks for all my loved ones (as there's no way i can shop in Paris the way I shopped in India); taking an obscene amount of pictures and movies; speaking no English for the entirety of my time in France; smoking a square or two; enjoying the cafes in Amsterdam, the vibe everywhere, and the writing always; expanding my ever shrinking French vocabulary; picking up some local vernacular and idioms; doing whatever I may do, enjoying what I am doing, and all because it is what is... The list goes on...

Things I am not looking forward to: ...?

Five things I want to do in Paris (in no particular order as always): write a ----- (matters not what, so long as I write my face off), kiss a French girl, stay at Shakespeare & Company, effectively tell a joke in French, and eat a fresh croissant.