I would begin at the beginning, but I feel a need to explain something first. I noticed back in autumn that homesickness seemed to be at its worst during times that are important to your culture but just a regular day where you live now. For example, I suspect that Canada Day, for a Canadian who now lives in Spain, is probably kind of a bummer since no one is saying "Happy Canada Day!" or pouring maple syrup all over their naked bodies (is this what you do on Canada Day? I don't know, I'm not omniscient). I felt it a bit at Halloween - because people do Halloween here, but not like it's done in America where everyone goes insane - but when it really jumped up and kicked me in the cunt was on Thanksgiving, which in this country is just known as "Thursday" and everyone goes to work just like a normal day. I had Thanksgiving dinner with my neighbors, but it was on Saturday, not Thursday, and they were all very excited about this novelty dish I made called "cornbread" - I mean, they raved about it (because of course they did, it's CORNBREAD) which was very nice, but delighted surprise is not a typical reaction to cornbread at Thanksgiving dinner. Also there wasn't a shitty Cowboys game going on in the background. It felt weird.
Having experienced this once already, I decided that I would try to head off the "boo-hoo everyone is having fun but meeeeee" feels by having a 4th of July party. Unfortunately this is the time of year that literally half the country goes on holiday so most of our closer friends couldn't make it and also our neighbor The Commodore, so called because he recently became commodore of the nearby yacht club, stole all of our neighbors and took them to a ball at said yacht club, so it ended up being a much smaller affair than I had intended. BUT! It actually worked out great because the people who did come were my American study buddy (hereafter known as the academic) from my masters program and his English husband, my childhood friend the turk, who now lives in London with her English husband, and another American classmate from my program who I don't have a blog name for yet. We did it up American style, with burgers and brat(wurst)s on the grill, florescent yellow mustard, America shaped cookies, buckeyes*, and an enormous pasta salad. I have never seen people so excited about a pasta salad. It's not like pasta salad doesn't exist here- I've eaten some from M&S myself. But it seems using an entire package of pasta to make a party snack is uncommon here. This arrangement turned out to be perfect. We sat in the garden (these people all live in the city and were absolutely knocked the fuck out by the sheer volume of wildlife available a mere 40 minutes from London) drinking beer and/or wine and/or margaritas playing rounds of Cultural Differences and debating the proper pronunciation of words. One I didn't know is the word skeletal is pronounced here as skhe-LEE-tal, which by the way is wrong as evidenced by the fact that He-Man's nemesis is not called "SkeLEEtor". Eventually it got dark (i.e. spiders were starting to surround us) and we went indoors to tell childhood stories of terrible camp songs, fencing lessons (the turk and me, 5th grade) and archery. In the midst of this we saw some flashy lights outside and upon opening the door realized they were accompanied by exploding sounds...IT WAS FIREWORKS YOU GUYS. WE GOT TO SEE FIREWORKS IN ENGLAND ON THE 4TH OF JULY. Having achieved a perfect day, I took some people back to the train station, the academic and his husband (potentially Mr Coffee???) stayed overnight and I went to bed happy and exhausted.
StereoNinja and I got up very early the next day and rudely left our guests to fend for themselves, because we had tickets to the British Grand Prix and it is well known that driving to and from Silverstone on race day is a colossal clusterfuck. Now, I know nothing at all about F1 or any racing really, mostly because I don't have any real interest in cars or going fast and in my country the popular racing to watch is NASCAR, an interest I find fucking hilarious in other people. Conversely, prior to my converting him into an ice hockey fan, F1 was literally the only sport StereoNinja followed or gave a single fetid shit about. I haven't been exposed to his F1 fandom however, because we don't get Sky on principle so he can only watch about one out of every three races which makes it hard to follow. I was excited to go because he was excited and because I got to do a new thing, but my excitement had little to do with with the race itself. We got there and inhaled a shitty hamburger before finding our seats in the grandstand. Which is about when the Red Arrows started flying their impossible formations of awesomeness, complete with red white and blue smoke and a fucking heart that they drew in the sky. I got some sand or something in both my eyes.
And then it was race time. I was all ready to experience my first F1 race and excitedly awaited the first time they would go flying past me. I wound up waiting a long time, since 58 seconds in there was an enormous crash that knocked three cars out before it had even really started and damaged the barriers to a degree that took and hour to replace. But eventually the race got underway again and...You guys. The last thing I needed was another sport to follow, particularly another sport that it was difficult for me to be able to watch due to limited availability. However. FORMULA ONE IS FUCKING AWESOME. It wasn't even a particularly good race as it was clear from about halfway through who the winner was going to be and the only thing in question was who would win the battle for fifth place. But. For serious. Driving inches from each other at those speeds, making a play to get past someone in a corner by breaking later, which is pretty much challenging them to a game of high stakes chicken...I don't know how these cars can even go that fast with how much their balls must weigh. Next thing I know I'm reading in the program about innovations in engine design and strategies for dealing with the new limit of 100kg of fuel per race. So apparently I'm now both a racing fan and burgeoning petrol head. WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ME I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHO I AM ANYMORE.
The race ended with with a British racing driver as the winner making everyone mad with joy and patriotism, and me bewildered at myself and realizing that I had a sunburn for the first time in over 10 years (it's all coming back to me now. Having a sunburn SUUUUUUUHHKS). StereoNinja and I hightailed it back to the car in order to drive all the way to London to see Ben Folds with the Heritage Orchestra at Barbican. I've seen Ben Folds with an orchestra before. What I had not seen before was Ben Folds' new piano concerto which he'd spent a year writing and which was a highly unusual mix of classical and modern styles. Nor had I seen him lead an entire orchestra in a spontaneous episode of Rock This Bitch. For the uninitiated, Rock This Bitch is a thing that happens at many Ben Folds shows in which someone in the audience waits til a quiet moment to shout "ROCK THIS BITCH!" and then Ben Folds makes up a song on the spot containing the words "rock this bitch" that is completely different from any version of Rock This Bitch he's played before. This is not the first orchestra he's convinced to play Rock This Bitch with him, but it is the first time I'd seen it live, so I can pretty much go ahead and die now. If you'd like to be ready to die also, here's a video of the whole process:
Once Ben Folds had finished blowing my fucking mind again, we headed home. After a concert, an F1 race, and a brilliant party, I was completely exhausted (also crispy and pink as all fuck) and not looking forward to going home and cleaning up the mess we'd made on Saturday. So imagine my total fucking delight when we finally got home only to find that the guests we had abandoned in our house had cleaned up absolutely EVERYTHING before they left like a couple of magical party debris erasing genies, thus making the entire thing into a PERFECT weekend. Or indeed, the Epic Weekend of Pasta Salad and Loud Noises.
Update: I have just remembered another conversation from my 4th of July party between the four Americans that occurred when the turk mentioned she had gone somewhere that had REAL rye bread and the other three of us all sat up and went "Get out. Seriously? With the seeds and everything? WHERE? WHERE IS THIS RYE BREAD?" The reason we all reacted so strongly is that we've all had a common experience, shared I suspect by almost all Americans living here, of having ordered a sandwich on rye or rye toast somewhere and being served instead with bread that is actually white bread and pumpernickel swirled together. Listen, because I cannot stress this enough: that is not rye bread. There's not even any caraway seeds in it, which while some real rye bread doesn't have caraway seeds either, that kind of rye is pointless. If there is one food I miss from America more than any other food it is rye toast to go with my omelette. Without rye toast, an omelette is just eggs with some other shit in it. Rye toast is the shit, man.
I now return you to you irregularly scheduled self deprecation and spider freak outs.
*These were specifically for the benefit of the turk since as a native Ohioan she was the only one likely to have had them before. If you don't know what a buckeye is, as far as I can tell it is a nut (or seed? I'm too lazy to google which one it technically is but I think of it as nut) that is either exactly the same as or indistinguishably close to a conker. The tree it grows on is the state tree of Ohio and it is the mascot of the state's largest institution for secondary education, The Ohio State University. Somewhere along the line, some total fucking snack genius got the idea to make balls of candied peanut butter and dip them in chocolate, which is both delicious and looks exactly like a buckeye. Despite not encountering them before, the group ate the crap out of them and now I don't have any more.