Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Rushing to See August Rush

I managed to win tickets to see "August Rush," tonight, in an advanced preview. Instead of asking for two tickets as I usually do, then having the problem of not being able to find anyone to go with me, I only asked for one. I also managed to get a ticket to a cinema close by, for a change. The screening was in Slough, which is in the same county as Bracknell. However, things never work out for me with no hiccups. If I was still driving, then it would have been a simple matter to drive to Slough after work, for the 6:30PM screening. Riding the buses was a different matter.
Usually, the bus I take home gets me to the stop around the corner from my house by 5:35PM. If I stay on the same bus, it will take me to the Bracknell town centre, about ten minutes later. It would be 5:45 and I'd just be in Bracknell. There's no telling how close a connection I would manage with the bus onwards, to Slough. To make matters worse, all this would be happening in rush hour, when the traffic is bad. I could take the train, instead, but that would entail complicated connections, as Slough isn't on the same line as either Bracknell, Camberley, or Farnborough. Furthermore, buying a train ticket would entail extra expense. I can ride the buses for no extra charge, using my weekly bus ticket. I am so short of money these days, that this final consideration tipped the balance for me. I would make the epic journey by bus!
Unable to get out of work early, I departed at my usual time, starting with the 4:15 shuttle bus to Camberley. Being a Wednesday, I had managed to acquire a couple slices of pizza, left over from lunch. Having provisions with me would render it unnecessary to buy snacks from the cinema. Although the buses progressed at their normal plodding rate, I felt more anxious than usual, repeatedly checking my watch. When the 194 bus to Bracknell started pulling in to the Bracknell bus station, I looked through the windows, to see if the Slough bus was there. It was. Would I be able to make it onto the Slough bus before it pulled away? I willed the 194 driver to hurry up and open the doors.
As the doors opened, I leaped out of the bus I had arrived in. Dashing across the station, avoiding any of the mammoth buses that were in motion, I raced to the 191 to Slough. I made it! I couldn't have asked for a closer connection. However, whenever I have good news, it's usually accompanied by bad, it had started to rain. The rain would slow the traffic even more than usual. People in Britain seem to really have a tough time handling driving in the rain. Even Nando, my racist, Italian housemate, is bothered by driving in the rain. For Pete's sake! It's just a bit of water. My fate was now in the hands of the driver from First buses.
6:30PM came and went and we hadn't arrived at the Slough bus station. When we finally did arrive, I struggled to find the way to the cinema. The mall was partially closed, so instead of cutting through, I had to walk around. I kept hoping the film started late. If it was a normal showing, there would be about ten minutes of ads, followed by about ten minutes of coming attractions. These advanced previews usually don't have all that. Would they even let me in when I arrive late?
Finally, I rushed up to the box office twenty minutes after the screening was supposed to start. The man behind the counter informed me that the show had started already, but didn't object to me entering. I hate missing the beginning of a film, but I'd traveled so far, I might as well see as much as I could. After all, it was free. I don't know how much of the film I actually missed, as I have no idea if they started on time. I did manage to pick up the majority of the story.
"August Rush" is the story of a boy sent to an orphanage, as a baby. His parents are two unmarried, young musicians. The boy ends up on the streets of New York City, learning busking. He is a musical genius and his talent aids in his parents finding him, and each other. Directed by Kirsten Sheriden, the film has somewhat of a "female" feel to it. With a mother's bond with her long lost son triumphing over everything, I get the impression that this is the world the way a lot of women imagine it to be. It's Kirsten's seventh film as a director, although I haven't seen any of her other projects, nor even heard of them. The film is technically competent and the acting good, although some might feel that Robin Williams supporting role was a tad bit over-played. Freddie Highmore, who plays the starring role, is worthy of particular note. It's so hard to find good child actors, but he did an excellent job. I found it an enjoyable film that's suitable for families. It tugs at the heartstrings a bit and it may be slightly cheesy, but all in all, a nice story, well presented. The soundtrack is also quite good.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

A Tale of Two Callers

This past Sunday morning, I had two people call in to my radio show. The first was my good friend, Mucky Sarah, also known as Miss Anjelika Jinx. Sarah writes a sex blog called "Naive London Girl." She also produces and co-presents a podcast by the same name. If you haven't checked out the blog and podcast, you should do so immediately. As a special bonus, you can sometimes hear me co-presenting with her, whenever her regular co-presenter, comedienne, Wanda, is unavailable. You can hear me on two recent episodes, "Cocaine and Hot Lesbian Sex," and "Menstruation and Oral Sex." The podcasts and blog are available at . Sarah's regular co-presenter, Wanda, is very funny, even if she does refuse to go out with me.
At first, I was pleased that Sarah was listening to my show again. That pleasure quickly faded when she admitted she wasn't listening. She was on "kind of a date," but was calling me anyway, from a secret location. Well, it was nice of her to think to call in, even if she wasn't listening. I wish she would record her dates and then let me play them on the air. That could be interesting.
Some time later, another woman called in to my show. It was a new listener, Melinda, from Quincy, Illinois. She was listening to me over the internet. This was the first time I have had a caller from outside the UK. Usually, people listening to me from abroad just email. I asked her if Quincy was named after the medical examiner, from that TV show by the same name? She claimed that the town was named before the TV show. Well, that's her story. I was curious as to how she had come to listen to my "Night Waves" show. Melinda told me that Dave, from Northern Ireland, had told her about me. This is the same Dave who had traveled with me and the Station Manager, to York. I love that word of mouth publicity. Immediately, I wondered if there was some sort of romantic thing going on between them. I hinted around, trying to find out, but, whether accidentally or deliberately, Melinda didn't take the hint. Not being one to give up so easily, I asked expressly. Melinda has a very nice voice and I wondered if she was "available." Finally, she admitted that there was "something" between Dave and her.
Apparently, Melinda had flown over to Northern Ireland to visit Dave, twice, but he has, as yet, not visited her in America. What's that all about? They originally met in an internet chat room. That's the same way me and my evil ex-wife, the Black Queen, met. Within a month I had flown over to meet the Black Queen. Melinda seemed frustrated with Dave's seeming unwillingness to visit her in return. I don't blame her. Is there something about her that puts Dave off? If he isn't serious about her, he should let her know, instead of stringing her along, shouldn't he? Now, if only I could get Dave to phone in. Then he and Melinda could fight out their relationship problems on my show. That would be great, radio entertainment. Don't miss out on the fun. Listen to my weekly show, "Night Waves," on Seaside Radio, 105.3 FM, Withernsea, England. If you're not local, you can listen over the net at . If you want help with your relationship problems, email me on my show, or call in. I love to help.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Old York

When I heard the Station Manager of Seaside Radio mention going to a museum of trains, I couldn't contain myself. Turning my reaction to this overheard bit of information into a joke, I berated him, mildly of course, for never telling me about this museum. His reaction? He promised to take me to it. Yesterday, that promise was fulfilled.
After I arranged myself in the back seat of my boss' car, the Manager's acquaintance, Dave, climbed into the front seat. With minimal delay, we were on our way. Dave, who was visiting from Northern Ireland, was quiet at first, but my constant banter eventually got through to him. On the way to York, we stopped in a small town, to visit another station. It seems Dave is a bit of a radiophile, not to mention a borderline train spotter. My boss talked tech with the station's management, while Dave looked on, seemingly enraptured. My interest waned after a few minutes. Once you've seen one bunch of radio equipment, you've seen them all, right? Besides, no one was paying any attention to me. It became a bit more interesting when they finally took us to see the studio. That would be the bit where I would work. The guy on air was about 100 years older than I thought he would be, listening to him in the car. The show he was doing sounded awful, to me. While technically competent, it was just the same old thing: a tired top 40 clone. A robot could have performed just as well.
Back on the road, we covered the rest of the distance to York fairly quickly. I have never been to the city before. It's an old, walled city. Founded in the year 71, the walls are older than New York, where I come from. We found the cheaper parking, across the street from the National Railway Museum, that one of the guys at the radio station we visited had recommended. It was almost full, but we managed to come across a space. On the grounds of the museum, a very large Ferris wheel was glistening in the sunlight. Known as the Yorkshire Wheel, it's a smaller imitation of the London Eye. Once in the entrance hall to the museum, we were pleased to discover that entrance to the museum is free. My boss asked if Dave and I wanted to go on the wheel. With his Northern Ireland accent, this sounded like "whale." I was trying to figure out what whale he was talking about, when it finally dawned on me that he meant the wheel. Since he was paying, I said yes. So did Dave. We all agreed that we would tour the museum first, then ride on the "whale." My boss acquired our "whale" tickets as well as our free museum tickets, then we immersed ourselves in railway hardware.
If you like trains, then the National Railway Museum is for you. I've always had a love affair with trains, since the earliest days of my childhood. I was interested in going to the museum, because my old friends, the husband and wife couple, Tim and Barbara, are due to visit me for Christmas. Tim is more into trains than I am, so I wanted to scout out this attraction, with a view toward taking them there in December. The National Railway Museum is home to many old locomotives, including famous ones, like the Flying Scotsman and the Mallard. If your taste runs more toward the modern, there are life-sized models of a Japanese Bullet train as well as the Eurostar. The museum offers more than just locomotives. There are railway cars, including retired carriages for the royal train, used by British kings and queens. On display are all sorts of items relating to railroads. Signs, signals, promotional material, plates, and furniture. I expect Tim will love it.
Once we had our fill of the trains, we made our way to the "whale." It may seem like a naff imitation of the London Eye, but rather than crawling around once, like the Eye, it is run at normal speed, like a traditional Ferris wheel. The view is wonderful. From the top, you can see not only the entire city of York, but the surrounding countryside. There's also a bird's eye view of the working, city train station. The rail lines run right by the Railway Museum. Another plus to the Yorkshire wheel is that the price is a fraction of the cost of the London Eye.
When our "whale" ride had finished, we set off to see the city centre. All of us were feeling a bit lazy, so we decided to ride a "free," miniature tram into town, made up to look like a steam train. One was waiting to depart just as we came out of the museum. My boss soon discovered that there was a charge to ride the tram he thought was "free." We were looking forward to riding into town too much to quibble, at that point, so we paid up. I was starving and my boss promised to take us to a restaurant which had great hamburgers. We set off in search of this culinary paradise. During the ensuing search, we wandered the streets of the old town. The old buildings now house modern shops, pubs, and restaurants. Narrow roads are bordered on either side by Tudor style architecture. This will appeal more to Barbara. Just when my boss was about to give up and settle for any old restaurant, we stumbled across it. I was so hungry, I didn't even notice the name. I'd had nothing since my train ride in to Hull that morning and by this point, darkness had fallen. I think all I could manage to mumble by that point was "food, food, food!" When the waiter came to take our order, I opted for a "Cajun Burger," and a Coke. Our timing was great, because as we waited for our food to arrive, the restaurant, which was nearly empty when we came in, filled up in a matter of minutes.
After dinner, which was tasty, we agreed we'd walk back to the car. Having rested our tired feet during dinner, the walk didn't seem too bad. I fell asleep during the drive back to Withernsea. I needed to get some rest before my marathon, seven hour radio show, starting at Midnight. My boss paid me quite a compliment by telling Dave that he must listen to my show. He even offered to loan Dave a radio to enable him to do so. You can also listen, via the internet, at . My show, "Night Waves," starts at Midnight, Saturday night and runs till 7AM, Sunday morning, UK time. Those times are five hours earlier on the east coast of the US, and eight hours earlier on the west coast.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Stranded in Staines

Yesterday, I had an audition in London, at 11AM. I didn't want to ask the restaurant manager for an entire day off, so I came up with a more enticing proposal. I would come in to work early, at 6AM. I would work till 9:30AM, doing all of the food prep I usually do before noon. Then I would leave work, drive a rented car to London, do my audition, then race back to work and finish the day. I wouldn't need the day off, so everybody would be happy, right? As I expected, the manager accepted my deal.
In order to pull this off, I had to rent a car for a day. Unfortunately, the nearest car rental locations to where I live, like the ones in Bracknell town centre, close at 5:30PM. That's earlier than my bus brings me home. However, the rental agency locations at Heathrow Airport stay open late. I reserved a car at Heathrow. After work Thursday evening, I took the bus from Bracknell to Hammersmith. There, I caught the Piccadilly Line to Heathrow. At terminal 4, I picked up the Hertz courtesy bus, which deposited me at their offices on the airport ring road.
I had reserved a pre-paid rental online, at Hertz's website. They had quoted me the same rate for their smallest car, a Ford Ka or similar, as for the next size up, a Ford Fiesta or similar. With the price the same, I opted for the Fiesta. I might as well get as much car as I can for my money. Besides, I hate the Ka, which looks like a giant Flymo, electric lawnmower, to me. When I walked into the Hertz office at Heathrow, there were no other customers. Two guys were sat behind the counter, looking at me expectantly. Walking up, I said, "is it always this busy? Do I have to wait in queue?" They just laughed. I produced my voucher, license, and credit card, then waited while the inevitable computer records were filled out. To pass the time, I mentioned that I used to work for Hertz, back in 1986. They also noticed the button I wear, promoting Seaside Radio. I confessed that I do a weekly radio show. After a bit, the one processing my rental handed me the rental agreement. I initialed and signed in all the right places. He gave me the keys and told me the car was a Volkswagen.
As I walked outside, looking for my car, I wondered which Volkswagen model I would have. Something equivalent to a Ford Fiesta, I figured. I just hoped it wasn't a Polo. Reaching my spot, I thought something was wrong. I had the keys to a Volkswagen Beetle, convertible. When I opened the car door, I found out it was an automatic, as well. In Britain, you normally have to pay extra for an automatic and for a convertible. Here I had both. The rental agent must have upgraded me. This was a far cry from a Ford Fiesta. Okay, so I probably wouldn't need a convertible in Britain, in the middle of November. Still the car was peppy, had power everything, as well as a good stereo. I drove home enjoying being behind the wheel again. I wondered, did they upgrade me because I do radio, or because I used to work for Hertz?
The next day, things went pretty smoothly. I did my audition, as planned. I then went back to the restaurant and finished my afternoon work. When I got home for work, I was exhausted. The car was due back at 10PM. I decided to have a nap. I could sleep for a bit, then wake up, watch "Eastenders," then get the car back by 10. After setting my alarm, I went to bed. I really enjoyed sleeping. Suddenly, I sat up in bed. "What time is it?" I thought. Checking my clock, I discovered, to my horror, that it was a quarter to ten.. Panic struck. "How could I make it to the airport in time?
Throwing on some clothes, I raced to Heathrow. By the time I returned the car, it was 10:30PM. I was a half an hour late, but nothing was said. I then faced the challenge of getting back to Bracknell. Originally, I expected to be at Heathrow early, so I could take the bus back. The bus is cheaper, but the last bus leaves at 10:30. There is a train that leaves Waterloo Station at 11:30PM. I planned on intercepting it at Richmond, which would buy me a little more time.
When I got off the District Line train, at Richmond, there was a train already waiting going westbound. I ran over the overpass and managed to just make it in the doors as they were closing, I was home free, or so I thought. The display board indicated this train was terminating at Staines. I figured they must be doing some night track work further on and would send us by coaches. When we reached Staines, I saw railway staff putting passengers into cabs. Getting in queue and listening, I discovered that all the passengers seemed to be heading toward London. When it was my turn, I asked about arrangements for passengers headed toward Reading. One of the staff members told me the last train for Reading had gone already. They were putting eastbound passengers into taxis, at the train company's expense, because there was a security alert at Reading station. No eastbound trains were leaving the station. The taxis were being provided for eastbound people only. If I wanted one, I'd have to pay myself. Upon my enquiry, I was quoted more money than I had.
Since his return from Italy, Nando had bought another car. I tried sending him a text. "Where are you?" I asked. He sent me a text back, stating that he was over his girlfriend's for the night. No way he would help, then. I then tried to work out how far Bracknell is from Staines. Surely it couldn't be that far? I decided to try walking. While I walked along the roadside, I tried hitch hiking. I felt hungry, as I hadn't had my dinner. When I stumbled on the Staines McDonald's. I treated myself to a Big Mac meal. Hunger abated, I resumed walking.
Over an hour went by, when I started seeing signs for Eggham, the next town along the rail line, after Staines. Walking the paths late at night had been surprisingly enjoyable, but it was getting late and I felt tired. I'd have a rest when I got to Eggham. By the time I finally reached Eggham train station, I was exhausted. It had also taken me over an hour and a half. I decided to give up my ambition to walk to Bracknell. There was no choice but to stay there till the trains started running again, in the morning. Just my luck, the weather was freezing cold. I put up with the cold as long as I could, then strolled over to a convenience store which was still open. I spent ages in there, trying to get warm. On my way back to the train station, I slept in a phone booth, in order to save myself from freezing. At least it was dry in there, as it started to rain while I was in the booth.
Once the trains started running again, I caught the first one west. I took it all the way to Reading and commenced my northward ride to Yorkshire. I didn't have my usual food with me, but I did have my CDs. The show must go on!

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Pritam's Notice

Pritam, my Nepalese co-worker, has given his notice. He's quitting! For months, he's been saying to me that he wanted to leave, but he never seemed to act on it. I had started thinking this was just talk. Now, he's finally gone and done it. This is his last week at the restaurant where I work as my day job. Most struggling actors have a "day job," which provides us with the means to live, until we get our "big break." I am excited at the prospect of him leaving, because of the two of us, he has the easier, more pleasant work duties. I end up with all the crap jobs. I am hoping, when they hire his replacement, the new person will take my old responsibilities and I will take over Pritam's. There's no more money involved, but I like his work much more. It would reduce the likelihood of having to work late, as well. I'm almost in a good mood, now.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Nando Returns

Tonight, I was sitting in the lounge, watching TV, when I started wondering when Nando would return from his trip to Italy. He said he'd be gone for twelve days, I think. He left on October 28th, so...ummmm...he should be back any moment, I thought to myself. Maybe, even tonight. Within a few minutes of me thinking that, there was the sound of someone putting a key into the front door lock. Who would it be coming in? Hitler's Nephew? The Landlord? Nando?
I looked to my right, towards the door. Nando stepped through the threshold, with a large suitcase. He looked well rested. Even though I have enjoyed having undisputed control over the TV remote, while Nando's been away, I am pleased to see him return. "What are you doing here?" he asked, in heavily accented English.
"I live here," I responded.
"You're not going up to do the radio, this weekend?" he probed further.
"I got a good price on a Saturday train, this week," I explained. After hearing my explanation, Nando adopted the look of someone satisfied. I asked if he enjoyed his trip and how his mama, and sister, were. "Yes," "good," and "good," were the replies I got back. He proceeded to take his heavy suitcase upstairs, to his room. It would be full of food, as his mama always sends him back to England with loads of food. I don't think she realizes that they have invented supermarkets, here in England. She's more like Christopher Columbus' mother, sending him off to explore. "Christopho, taka dis meat wid you, fa da tripa. Youse neva know wat mite appen," I imagine Columbus' mother saying. Wait a minute...why would she speak English with an Italian accent? She wouldn't. Like Nando's mama, she'd only speak Italian.

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

No Treat

On my way home from work, yesterday, I wondered if I should stop at the supermarket, to buy some chocolate bars to give to trick or treaters. As usual when it comes to spending money, I managed to talk myself out of it. Kids, here in England, don't do the trick or treat thing as much as they do in America. I almost made it through Halloween without any of the little monsters ringing the doorbell. I had every light in the house off, except the glow from my computer. I was sitting at it, doing something internetish, when I heard youthful voices mumbling to each other. Suddenly, the doorbell rang. Oh for Pete's sake!

I sat thinking if there was anything in the house I could give them. A bottle of beer each? Nah! I wasn't about to give up any beer. It sounded like a lot of them. I couldn't come up with anything, but as I hesitated, a solution presented itself. They gave up and went away. Thankfully, today's British youth don't show the dogged determination that I had, when I was a lad. I spent the rest of the night undisturbed.

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