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Sprain: London’s calling, let it go to voicemail

Whadoop, govnah? It’s me Sprague, just lounging here in Londontown. Caroline Dewing and Jinjin Sun/YH

Whadoop, govnah? It’s me Sprague, just lounging here in Londontown. Caroline Dewing and Jinjin Sun/YH

Whadoop, govnah? It’s me Sprague, just lounging here in Londontown. Caroline Dewing and Jinjin Sun/YH

Whadoop, govnah? It’s me Sprain, just lounging here in Londontown. Caroline Dewing and Jinjin Sun/YH

Why hello there. It’s your boy Sprain, straight from across the pond (London, to be exact). I’ve got a tale or two to tell, that’s for sure. Come down to the old pub and have a chat wiv me. We’ll nurse a (legal) Guinness and watch Liverpool underachieve against Stoke. Oh, you’re back at old Yale, are ye? Okay then, well I’ll write a column for ye.

Here are a few crazy things about London life that I’ve crashed into these first few days:

Darkness

Who needs the sun, anyways? Vitamin D is for sissies. Here, it rains six out of seven days. You might think that’s a drag, but it’s actually a step towards eradicating racial prejudice, or, more accurately, towards propagating homogeneity. Pale is the new white, black, brown, and tan. Additionally, gray is the new blue…and nighttime is simply darker-time…

(K)Night Buses

Reminiscent of the Knight Bus that first appears in the literary masterwork Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, London late-night transport consists of the infamous “Night Bus” (once the tube closes). This mode of transport will certainly take any boring evening up a notch. The combination of waiting, stumbling, and trying not to vomit makes navigating a maze of fighting drunks, confusing transfers, mute drivers, and the notorious London Streets a true test of sobriety.

It’s not your mom’s Alpha Delta run, and don’t even think about calling the minibus. This journey takes every bit of resourcefulness you’ve got, but at the end of the night, when you lay your weary bones down to rest, you can sleep with the extreme satisfaction of knowing you confronted and vanquished Chance and her cadre of Night Bus minions.

The Tube

Late night adventures aside, Brits are the realest when it comes to transport. Londoners get their asses spoiled on the daily with the poshest patterned cushions. Verily, every depressing train ride to another boring-as-fuck day at the office turns into an acid flashback of that time your parents took you to Disneyworld. It’s all you can do to not plant your face against the spotless plexiglas windows and drool all over the unremarkable 30-something professional sitting adjacent. Even trippier are the vests that Tube workers wear: a neon so bright you see it every time you close your eyes.

Economic Desperation

Everyone’s pobre here. When a single tube ride costs four pounds (approximately seven dollars) it’s definitely not weird to cut corners… say, root around a dumpster or two. Or roll your own cigarettes. Or prefer to sit quite literally very still instead of going out, going to the store to buy food, or attempting to fulfill any of the most rudimentary human needs. No joke, finding some Subway—“Eat fresh!”—coupons on the bus is actually a huge deal. Hey, Americans might bring the street cred, but we also end up on the street.

Pounds

No, it’s not what you think. People are skinnier here, and they measure weight in kilos anyway. It’s the money, stupid! The bills are more colorful, fatter (all the better for coveting), and the coins, like the people, are so diverse—round, octagonal, silver, gold, copper—every Englishman is a numismatist at heart. Plus, all those coins in your wallet means a bigger wallet bulge, which means people think you’re rich when you’re not. Proven fact. Plus, there are no singles, and consequently nobody makes strip-club jokes.

No 40s

I have yet to find a 40 here. What a scam, right? Where the eff did Old English come from? Order beers at a pub, though, and you’ll get more than you bargained for. They’re huge! Unfortunately, they simply can’t be cradled and snuggled the way a precious 40 can. Loneliness is the bitterest of chasers.

Weird British People

Don’t get me wrong, I love Brits. But on the subway in New York or the bus in Los Angeles, I’m used to a certain breed of crazy. You know—mumbling, filthy dirty, matted hair—the depressing image is almost part of the landscape. This explains my surprise, when sitting down on the Bakerloo Line (that’s the poo-colored tube), I found myself across from what appeared to be a strung-out clown crossed with a feudal peon. Complete with a bowl-cut wig, white powdered face, frog-like proportions, and hairs growing out of unimaginable places, it was all I could do not to puke my latest bag of Cheese and Onion crisps all over the comfy padded tube seats. Not to mention that mustache-lady was sitting to my right. Never thought I’d miss my New Haven Green pals.

Music

I knew I was in a different country when I saw countless billboard ads for Vampire Weekend’s new album, Contra. A few realizations immediately ensued: First, that “alternative” American music is mainstream here, and second, that the country’s music tastes might be a little bit misguided. I mean, who seriously gives a flying FUCK about buying some Ivy Leaguers mildly annoying misappropriations of African culture? It’s totally download or have-someone-burn-it-for-you material. Granted, I might be over-reacting: The nation of the Beatles, Bowie, The Clash, Radiohead, and countless others pretty clearly knows what’s good musically. Wait ’til you hear more about the “Quiet Music Festival” I’m attending this weekend.

No, but real talk, London is great and all that. And while I certainly miss the Yale life while in London, around every Saarinenesque corner—’cause it’s ancient, there’s no grid with 90-degree angles—there’s another surprise waiting. And when you’re not sticking out like a big fat American sore thumb, it’s got a welcoming village feel that explains why so many different types of people call this huge city home.

For example, the other day I was buying a sausage on the street and I struck up a conversation with the vendor, who was from Mali. Also, recently I went to an Indian restaurant with friends and the waiter pleasantly asked us all about America while he calmly ripped us all off. The total: 12 pounds for bread, 3.25 for Diet Cokes. These figures will forever be etched upon my mind. There’s something to be said for polite service, you know?

So there you have it. Old Londontown is a city that will endlessly fascinate the imagination. Plus, one can never underestimate how freakin’ COOL it feels to buy booze legally. I gotta run off now, but I will make sure to fill you all in on more exciting discoveries as soon as they come about. As my hero Snoop Doggy Dogg says, “It ain’t no fun if the homies can’t have none.”

Love for my peeps,

Sprain