No. 32: Get my own local
Halloween in London sucks.
Lauren and I spent the early part of our evening at a noir club in Shepard’s Bush that promised a costume party with a twist. By twist they meant an opening act of a girl sitting in a tub slathering herself with baked beans, and Lauren and I decided to leave before she skipped to the main dish.
I’m disappointed by this, as I assumed the city would be a Pandora’s box of Halloween fun. Every other street lays claim to being the most haunted spot in Britain, and if there are no ghosts flying about, London should at least prove successful in providing some murder-mystery bingo or fancy-dress rave. Instead, my queries to work mates about what they would be doing for the holiday were met with blank stares and questions like “Halloween’s the one with the pumpkins, right?”
Apparently, it’s a Yankee thing.
We’ve dipped into a local pub near our flat called O’Neill’s, which turns into a throbbing disco-tech after11 pm. We discovered the place a few weeks ago at the suggestion of two shifty looking blokes sitting on the corner of our street. Always ask shifty looking blokes where to hang out, they know the best spots to do the heavy drinking.
The first time we visited Lauren became friends with an Essex boy named Matt, who does freelance video editing and looks like he hasn’t eaten a sandwich since Mariah Carey wore clothes. But in the attractive way.
Walking into the place tonight we discover Matt’s what you’d call a regular. Of course, it’s possible it’s only his second time in the joint as well, in which case Lauren and I look like the locals. Either way, it’s beginning to feel a bit like Cheers in the place and I nonchalantly scan the room for Woody Harrelson.
Matt introduces us to his friends Michael and Paul. Michael is bouncing on the balls of his feet too quickly for a proper hello, but Paul decently shakes my hand and begins asking me if America is really like "The O.C."
It is now that I learn what an Essex accent means. Essex is a county of England two steps from Leyton and is generally considered a rougher bit of area than posh West Londoners would ever find themselves in. The speech pattern sounds like a mix between Bert from “Mary Poppins” and the villain in a Bugsy Malone movie.
I’m enjoying the music and the company, even though none of the people around me are dressed in costumes. Paul’s wearing a cardigan and tie, a cute look with his blonde hair and dimples. He looks like a very impetuous history professor. Lauren’s wearing a black and silver mask we bought in Covent Garden from an antique toy shop, and her cheeks are covered with pretty swirls she let me draw on with dark eyeliner. I also shoved a few Styrofoam birds and butterflies in her hair. The effect is whimsical, though she’s garnered a lot of questions about what she’s supposed to be.
“What are you supposed to be?” Paul asks me loudly. I’m wearing a cowboy hat, a sticker that says Bush/Cheney, and I’m carrying an orange plastic gun.
“I’m an American!” I shout back happily.
“Wicked.” Paul’s impressed, and dashes off to order some drinks as a toast to my costuming triumph. I look over to the bar where Lauren is chatting animatedly with Matt. She’s not wearing her mask, a mystery that is answered as Michael dances past me wearing Lauren’s costume piece as well as a dark red cape. Apparently, my friend isn’t the only person he’s thieved from.
Paul is back at my side proudly holding two glasses of liquid. The drinks look purple, but I assume my eyesight’s gone shoddy. Drinks aren’t purple. The only time drinks are purple are if they’re going to cure a cold or are sold in a 7-11.
“It’s a Snakebite and Black,” he says eagerly, as if this is supposed to make me more confident in what I’m about to pour down my throat. The mystery drink is sweet and bitter at the same time. It tastes like lavender bubble bath.
A Justin Timberlake song comes on and Paul begins jerking his shoulders left and right like he’s auditioning for the new revival of “Rent.” He’s tipping an invisible hat and wiggling his legs as he asks me if I want to dance. I’m not really fussed either way, but I’m curious to see what spasm he’s able to twist his body into next, and I follow him to the middle of the bar where a mob of people are promising to help bring sexy back.
I’m bopping my head and squinting for Lauren through synthetic smoke, wondering why the British government would ban cigarettes in bars but allow this glycerine-based fog, when a balding guy with a belly hanging out of his too small T-shirt drops a glass on my foot.
“Hey, watchit man,” Paul insists from beside me.
“No, no, I’m fine,” I insist, hopping off the dance floor with a sticky mess dripping from my foot. I find some soggy paper napkins on a pub table and dab them at my toes. Paul has stayed behind and is now grooving JT style to Whitney belting out “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.” I snort and laugh, taking another sip from my rattlesnake drink.
“Hey, what’s in a Snakebite and Black?” I ask a lazy-eyed gentleman leaning on the counter next to me.
“Um, I think it’s a mix of lager, cider and blackcurrant cordial.”