Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Wheatsheaf

London Road
Surrey, GU25 4QF

by Beau Cadiyo

Living abroad sucks sometimes.

Here are the things that are bothering me:

I don't speak the language.  I don't write it.  Every time I send an email, Google tells me I'm spelling "realize" or "color" or some other word incorrectly, and I'm like, no, that's how you spell it, except that's how you spell it IN AMERICA, and here it's different.

I can't tell when people are apologizing or when they're just being English-polite.  See, everyone - EVERYONE - says "sorry" all the time, for everything.  I could punch someone in the face and they'd say, "Sorry - didn't know your fist was moving in that direction, sorry, sorry, ta."  So I am always reassuring people that everything's fine, they don't need to apologize, and there's a moment where they look exasperated, like they're thinking, "I wasn't actually sorry, I just said it because that's what we say here."  Which then makes me feel socially awkward.  And then I question myself.  And then it's just this big spiral of self-doubt.

I have no job.  While I've been doing some job hunting and interviewing, there really isn't much point in trying to secure a full-time position until April, when I'll be in London full-time.  My sole source of income has been sharpening straight razors, which, while it definitely gets me in a Flow state, doesn't pay for Sipsmith and Laphroaig.

Getting to London is expensive.  Food's cheap, coffee is cheap, and now that I'm distance running, exercise is cheap, but to get into the city I have to pay about $20, and then there are Underground passes, drinks, coffee, meals, cigars, etc.  My life in Cleveland was manageable, even with Union Club dues.  London is different.

And...that's really about it.

Part of the problem with being human, it strikes me as I'm writing what was intended to be a list of serious complaints, is that we rarely look at the good things that are going on in our lives, and we blow these minor things up into major problems.  It's far too easy to look at the annoyances, or the little peas under 80 mattresses (or whatever it was in that children's story), than remember what's going swimmingly.

But my mentor, Frank, emailed me yesterday and asked me what I'd been up to.  After thinking for almost 20 seconds, I came up with this list:

Things I've done in the last ten days:
  • Ran a half-marathon in Paris; 
  • Foraged for plants and animals on the Jurassic Coast; 
  • Bought a pewter 1/2 pint tankard from the last King George reign for £2 and a leather-covered flask for £1 at an outdoor gypsy market; 
  • Interviewed for a dream job with a distillery; 
  • Even though working for a distillery would be awesome, I also set up another interview with a guy who seems like the older, Englisher version of me, and I kind of want to work for/learn from him more than I want to work for a distillery; 
  • Shaved my head for the first time in two years; 
  • Infused my own gin; 
  • Started organizing social media for a debate Club, the goal of which will be intense networking; 
  • Pulled "How Proust Can Change Your Life" from the shelf and packed it in my carry-on for a two week romp through California.  
Honestly, it's fairly difficult to imagine how I could ever complain about anything.

I will, however, suggest to the Wheatsheaf that they get their act together, burger-wise.  They have a six ounce gourmet burger on the menu, topped with an egg, bacon, etc.  It is basically an attempt to make something akin to the (actually quite excellent) gourmet burgers that are served in every city and many small towns in America, the height of which can be found at the Tremont Tap House.  At the Wheatsheaf, however, all of the ingredients are pretty good except the burger patty itself.  They apparently pull it out of a box in the freezer and drop it on the griddle to dehydrate; it is totally unimpressive.  In fact, it is worse than unimpressive; because the core and most basic element of the burger is sub-par, and it's combined with excellent toppings, the entire thing is more disappointing than if everything had been crappy.  They forget the foundation and focus on the accoutrements; they major in minor things.  For that, I give the Wheatsheaf three stars out of 47.  

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Seti's Polish Boys

Dean's Supply Parking Lot
3500 Woodland Ave
Cleveland, OH 44115

by Beau Cadiyo

I'm worried about Cleveland's reputation.

Here's what I mean: anyone who has lived in Cleveland in the last ten years should be able to feel - palpably feel - the change in how the city perceives itself.  We all know the story of its "Renaissance"; back in 2005, Ohio City was just the West Side Market; downtown was still dead; etc.  Ten years later, LeBron is back, jobs are up, and a national political party thinks that Cleveland would be a great place to hold its convention.

That last point is what worries me.  The Republican decision to come to Cleveland meant a lot to Clevelanders.  I mean, sure, it wasn't the Democrats, but one of the parties looked at what was happening in Northeast Ohio and said: "Yeah.  We want to be associated with that."  Cleveland told itself that this - this - was the opportunity to shine in the national spotlight, because even the NBA Finals wouldn't bring the world spotlight that a Convention would.  It was supposed to be positive publicity that money couldn't buy, and everyone would know that Cleveland was back, baby.


For the last two weeks, I've been mulling over the possibility that the Convention might be a Pyrrhic victory.  Cleveland beat all of the other cities in the country for the Convention, but a year later, we have to face the fact that it might instead be the site of a coronation.  America - and, really, the world - will, for decades, see Trump on that Cleveland stage; Trump will be surrounded by Cleveland confetti, and all right-thinking people will watch, aghast, as America's lowest, darkest moment occurred in Cleveland.  No fire on the Cuyahoga, no Decision, no industrial disaster could ever take the same negative toll on a city's reputation.

Then this morning, while I was bemoaning Trump's seemingly inevitable victory and the disastrous effect it would have on Cleveland's image, I had the thought that rather than be a mortal wound for the city, perhaps Cleveland could turn this into a victory after all.

Because what if Trump wasn't able to get to the convention at all?  What if, through the great tradition of civil disobedience, Clevelanders united to ruin his party?

I had a vision of Clevelanders taking to the streets - literally - in the same way that they blocked the Shoreway during the Tamir Rice protests, but for an entire week.  Imagine the streets of downtown filled with thousands of Cleveland citizens, mulling about, blocking traffic, getting arrested on international television, filling jails.  Eventually, there wouldn't be enough police or jail cells to detain them all, and, when they couldn't do any more, they'd have to just...let them go.  No vehicles would be able to move; Trump himself wouldn't be crazy enough to try to force his way through the surging crowds.  Sure, no work would be done, but let's face it - no work was going to be done that week anyway, since downtown was going to be effectively shut down.

And the convention would also be shut down.  None of the candidates or delegates would be able to get within miles of the Q, or the Convention Center; even getting around the perimeter of the city would be a nightmare for delegates.  The Republicans crowning Trump would be miserable, and, I suspect, many would just go home.

The best part: the world would see that Clevelanders cared, and united, and acted, and wouldn't back down in the face of a man who sees fascist dictators as role models.  If Clevelanders rose up and took the streets, they would earn the reputation of actually doing something to support our American Democracy when people elsewhere could not or would not.  The international image of the city would be enhanced instead of being destroyed, and the world would forever associate Cleveland not with the lowest moment of American history, when half the country united behind a proud and violent bigot, but with one of the highest points of our constitutional democracy since its founding, when we exercised our right to assemble, to speak, and, if necessary, to exercise other Constitutional rights in the first few Amendments.

It struck me that by destroying the convention, Cleveland and its citizens can protect our democracy.  It might be America's last, and best, chance.

Also, since Freddie's closed, Seti's has the best Polish Boys in the city.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Egham Best Kebab

138 Thorpe Lea Rd
Egham TW20 8BL
01784 463794

by Beau Cadiyo

Boris Johnson recently gave a speech advocating for Britain to leave the EU.  I'm not going to get into specifics, or take a side right now, but his reasoning ought to give hope to the Scottish Nationalists seeking to dissolve its ties from Great Britain.

Johnson argued that as part of the European Union, Britain was subject to control by a legislature from afar that didn't have Britain's best interests in mind.  Britain should leave this Union, he said, then renegotiate all of its relationships and pursue its own interests, independently of the rules and regulations its Union partners might want to impose on it.  It would be a lovely, peaceful, simple process.

I immediately thought: Well, what about Scotland and Wales?

Here's what I mean.  For a long time, Scotland and Wales were in a very similar situation that Britain finds itself in today: recognised independent countries, controlled by a legislature that met in a city - London - in another country - England, and subject to laws, rules and regulations that they had a voice in, but couldn't control.  They also paid taxes to this occupying force, and their money was spent on policies that benefitted the foreigners.

Scotland had a viciously contested referendum two years ago about whether to leave its Union with Great Britain and strike out on its own.  Most of England, including Conservative Borish Johnson, were petrified at the prospect of this rich area leaving and taking their wealth, then renegotiating all of the agreements that Scotland had with the rest of the UK.  They thought it was a crazy, idiotic idea to break up a union where London could dictate much of what went on in Scotland, taking in money and dishing out regulations like...well, like a Federal government.

But doesn't the same reasoning apply in both cases?  Let's substitute a few words in the above paragraph.
Johnson argued that as part of the United Kingdom, Scotland was subject to control by a legislature from afar that didn't have Scotland's best interests in mind.  Scotland should leave the UK, he said, then renegotiate all of its relationships and pursue its own interests, independently of the rules and regulations its UK partners might want to impose on it.  It would be a lovely, peaceful, simple process.  
Emotionally, I'm sure there's a great difference in the minds of the "Brexit" crowd, but intellectually, I'm struggling to see how the reasoning would differ.  Scotland, independent, should be able to look entirely after Scotland, and only subscribe to policies that Scotland wants to adopt - and a complete break from the United Kingdom would make that not both easier and better.  Anyone supporting Brexit should also support Scoxit and Walxit, if they have even a passing interest in intellectual honesty, integrity and consistency, for these independent entities should be able to look after themselves without meddling from afar.

Speaking of independent entities, the kebab at Egham Best Kebab is the polar opposite of the kebab at Corniche that I reviewed yesterday.  Massive, delicious, fresh and cheap, with healthy portions of both meat and veg, I'd recommend it to anyone looking for good food in Egham.  In fact, my mouth is watering; I think I'll go get one now.  

Monday, March 14, 2016


32 Coventry St, London W1D 6BR
020 7581 4296

by Beau Cadiyo

Since moving to London three months ago, I've noticed a strange trend.  There are small plastic bags everywhere - on sidewalks, on the side of the road, on trails in parks, hanging from the branches of trees, washed up on the shores of Britain's beautiful lakes.  They are tied at the top, and, trapped inside, is dog shit.  It seems like there is an emerging trend among dog owners in England to let their dogs defecate, pick it up in small bags, tie the bags up, toss them in the street  - and then prance off, proudly, as if they are doing other walkers a favour.  "You other pedestrians should thank us!" they seem to be saying.  "We put our dog's shit in a non-biodegradable container and left it here so that as it decomposes, it won't get on your shoes - that is, unless you step on it and it explodes!  Ah, no problem, you're welcome."

I brought this up to a few of my English friends here, both dog-owners and non-dog-owners alike, and the sentiment is always the same.  "I have no clue why they do that," one said.  "It makes no fucking sense."

As a runner who has seen hundreds, if not thousands, of these bags, and who has also read Kate Fox's incredible book Watching The English, I was initially puzzled and infuriated by dog owners who would do this.  But then I began to think, why would people - English people, that is - do such a thing?  And I came up with a theory.

The reason that English people bag up their dog shit comes down to the English rule for politeness - that is, they feel obligated to do something with their English dog's shit, since, after all, it's dog shit.  At the same time, English people are incredibly self-conscious about how other people perceive them, and terribly socially awkward; carrying around a small bag of dog shit both brings attention to them and emphasises that yes, their dog shits, and yes, they do it outside, and no, not everything is perfect in their lives, and immediately they end up regretting getting a dog that is so much trouble that it shits IN PUBLIC.  Plus, if they carry it around and see someone else that they know, the other person will immediately know that THEY TOUCHED SOMETHING THAT TOUCHED DOG SHIT, and isn't that disgusting, even if it's responsible?  So the solution is to drop the bag of dog shit as soon as nobody else is looking (because it would be more socially embarrassing if they were actually caught) and then go on their merry little English way, secure in their social standing and also feeling as if they did something toward doing their D-U-T-Y.

I'm open to other theories, but that's the one I'm going with right now.  It makes sense, in a peculiarly English sort of way.

If there's any restaurant that deserves to be closely identified with dog shit, it's Corniche, between Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus.  I went there with Frank, a Dutch friend visiting for a few days.  First, their kebabs are tiny.  Second, they have varying prices; a take-away kebab costs almost a pound less than one to eat in.  Third, when we went to pay, they charged my friend almost five pounds for a Coca-Cola, and added an extra pound onto the price of each kebab.  "The price in the menu was £6.49," I said.  The man behind the counter started wringing his hands nervously.  He muttered something, the only word of which I understood was, "taxes."  Now, one of the nice things about bars, restaurants and shops in the UK is that when they quote prices, taxes are already included, and people make purchasing choices based on that.  He was in a tight spot; he didn't think we'd know that, and, caught in his lie, had to lie more.

I don't know how many tourists they've stolen from, but in a country with a greater class action litigation system, someone would likely have sued them already - making a bundle for attorneys and putting these scam artists out of business.  Corniche deserves nothing less, and the people behind the counter should be set on an honest road before they become a UKIP commercial.