Category Archives: Jordan Cregger

Streets of Sad Art

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(please forgive any oversimplifications or generalizations of stuff and things due to space constraints)

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The “Last Days of Shoreditch” have arrived, according to street artist Ben Eine (pronounced like benign).  Shoreditch and the famous road Brick Lane have been homes to Jewish and South Asian communities, most prominently the Bangladeshi community, since the 1950’s, and, moreover, they also boast the richest collection of street art anywhere in London.  Unfortunately, these areas are dying due to the arrival of entrepreneurs who take advantage of the cheap property value to open unique independent businesses such as cat cafes, cereal stores, and expensive chocolate stores.  They clean up a bit, attract upper-middle class consumers to help their businesses grow, and, when they succeed, the area is more promising for other entrepreneurs who want to open up new businesses.  One section of Shoreditch has developed such promising  businesses that it is even proclaimed to be London’s Silicon Valley.  Soon rows of chic modern stores line the newly renovated streets, and tourists flock to clog the sidewalks and streets with their clueless and careless standing around.

Except for the tourists, it might not sound so bad, but hence arises the controversy surrounding gentrification.  What many people either ignore or don’t understand is that this renovation and commercialization of poorer areas, particularly those that house immigrant communities, comes with a severe tradeoff:  you end up shoving these communities out of their homes and closing their own businesses by making it too expensive for them to live.  Where are they supposed to go?

Gentrification is the cause of the “Last Days of Shoreditch,” and it is evident all throughout Shoreditch and Brick Lane.  Where once stood Jewish and Bangladeshi homes and businesses, now fancy stores rear their flat, black-painted fronts (the black paint is to deter street art, because it’s easier to clean off).  Immigrant families who can still afford to own businesses in the area are forced to live in the far outskirts of London (like Zone 6, if you look at a TFL map and find it means anything to you) because the residential rooms on the floors above their businesses are now too expensive for them to rent, and food is no longer so affordable (unless you’re a fool and consider a £5.50, or $7+, bowl of cereal cheap—for real, ‘Cereal Killer Cafe’ is a tourist-attracting cereal cafe, and, although it’s cool and prosperous, such an expensive bowl of cereal really messes with the economy).  Along one stretch of Brick Lane, the only evidence of its former Bangladeshi community is a single Muslim trust company.  It was closed.

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new businesses all along the right, and one remaining Muslim store on the left

The street artists, however, fight against the rush of entrepreneurs and ensuing gentrification.  They paint murals on the sides of buildings (not unlike the murals in Philadelphia) whether they’re appreciated or not, they place little mushrooms on top of buildings, and, along walls beside the streets, they reflect the culture and opinions of the South Asian communities.  If opposed by the black-painted buildings of newer businesses, they find other surfaces to paint on, such as little pieces of flattened gum on the sidewalk.  Via their art, they ensure that, despite the growing presence of wealthy businesses, the South Asian presence in Shoreditch and Brick Lane will not be forgotten to capitalism and gentrification.

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the mushroom on the left is some dude’s street art

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A Fairyhunter’s Hunger

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I like the taste of fairies.  It’s like fruit and honey with a little bite of hot pepper on the tip of the tongue, and it pleases my tummy.  You put a fairy in your mouth, and it just dissolves, melts like European chocolate—not any of that chalky American garbage—and it buzzes the brain with the electric of a thousand cups of coffee, without the crash.  You’d think because fairies are these little humanoid creatures, there’d be a certain crunch when you bite into them, but no, they’re perfect little humanoid creatures of fudge.  I’ve developed a distaste for the wings, though.  The wings are like lettuce.  I don’t eat vegetables.  I like the taste of fairies.

I carry my fairy-catching net around London with me all the time.  I figured that, because this is the United Kingdom with all its Celtic and Arthurian myths and legends of magical beings, I’d basically be walking into an all-you-can-eat fairy buffet, but little did I know, imperialism and industrialization and urbanization (and tourism) seem to have scared the fairies into hiding.  I’ve looked up where to find them:  way up north in England and in Scotland, or over in remote regions of Ireland and Wales—they’re all inaccessible on my limited budget with limited means of transportation.  Being a fairyhunter for a living, I could make some big bucks selling my catches on the black market, but unfortunately, I eat everything I catch.

Until I can summon the willpower to sell a fairy instead of eating it, London’s parks are my only hopes for finding fairies.  Not the big parks like Hyde Park, whose fairy potential have been torn to shreds by commercialization, but rather smaller, lesser known parks, out of the way of Central London.  With my fairy-catching net slung over my shoulder, I ventured on an hour-long bus ride to Battersea, where I got some Chinese food in case I didn’t catch any fairies to eat, and went on a hunt in Battersea Park.

There were buttloads of ducks and geese floating in the huge pond that greeted me upon entering the park, but, as far as I could see, there were no fairies.  The only sign of fairy activity I found was a floofy little white puppy running and jumping everywhere at nothing in particular, which made me wonder if the fairies were all vibrating at a frequency invisible to my eye.  Upon walking deeper into the park, humankind’s shaping of the natural landscape became apparent—the park was confused.  It seemed the only pure nature was around the pond by the south entrance; deeper in, the park became a weird hodgepodge of attractions.  In addition to the forested pond, there was a garden, a lawn, a pool, a zoo, and a pagoda, among other things.  Nothing made sense.  It was like someone dumped together twenty-three different puzzles, removed seven-ninths of the pieces, and blindly put them together.  It was interesting, but there were no fairies.  I did, however, find what was presumably the vomit of an ogre or a troll.  It was green and chunky, but not nearly as tasty as a fairy.

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ogre and/or troll vomit served on a platter of water

My other excursion for fairies was to Kew Gardens in Richmond, but the only tiny edible critters I found there were mosquitoes and tons and tons of bees.  They don’t taste like fairies.  I didn’t want to waste the adventure, though, so I frolicked through the park like a gleeful moose, swinging my fairy-catching net at whatever I felt like, and admiring the largest collection of plants and trees in the world.  I almost ate a peacock, but I decided against it.  I didn’t exactly realize before I went to Kew, but the Gardens themselves are symbolic of the bane of fairies in England—imperialism.  Kew features gajillions of plants from all around the world, representing the imperial prowess of Great Britain, so basically, Kew, next to museums of stolen artifacts (such as the British Museum), is one of England’s many ways of bragging about itself.

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bumpy tree from China

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totally-not-anticlimactic treetop view of London’s skyline

I just wish I could have munched on some fairies, but instead I had to settle on eating Cadbury chocolate, which, fortunately, tastes and feels similarly enough to a mouthful of fairies that I’m convinced it has some fairy chunks in it.  It makes Hershey taste like chalky rubber.

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either a greenhouse, or a high-security fairy prison. I like to think it’s the latter

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“The Hive.” It buzzes with the deep rumble of a ginormous beehive

Some Wizards Went to Oxford

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(Disclaimer:  I am all the wizards.  Also, on a side note, a bunch of iconic Harry Potter scenes were filmed here.)

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The wizards were dummies. They just called themselves wizards because they were a bunch of goonballs. They went to Oxford and immediately got lost amongst the beige medieval spires and the beige stone walkways—it was actually quite marvelous once they were able to discern the beige buildings from the beige everything else.  There were tons of other dummies, too, wandering around and making it difficult to traverse the streets—tourists, of course; Oxford, for a city built by smarties, sure caters itself to dummies nowadays.  The wizards didn’t like being grouped in with the tourists, especially since they were on a class trip and not actually tourists, but, dwarfed by such great smartness and advanced magics, they didn’t really live up to Oxford’s non-dummy standards.

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beige, beige, and more beige

A quasi-arch-mage (a.k.a., tour guide, whom the wizards, slightly jealous of all the smartness, kind of doubted to be a true Oxford man, because I don’t think you can specialize in tour-guide-ism at Oxford—but maybe he is actually super duper smart and just spends his time bragging about Oxford to tourists as a side gig, because, admit it, if you had an Oxford degree, wouldn’t you want to spend your free time bragging about it, too?) met them after they stopped being lost, but he almost lost them again as soon as he started the tour.  His shoulders were hunched due to either years of slouching or years of prolific magicking (depends whether he was an actual Oxford man-wizard or not), but, despite his age and his wizardly long grey hair, he had long legs, and he moved way too fast and never looked back to check if the dummy wizards were still following him.  They were, but only barely.  It was very difficult to keep up with his fast pace and shove through static gaping tourists blocking the streets at the same time.

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Oscar Wilde specialized in making fun of people at this college

As the mage-of-questionable-merit sped along, he pointed out all kinds of intricately crafted beige blurs along the way—the wizards, hustling behind him, could see his hands pointing and his mouth moving in the distance, but they couldn’t really tell what he was saying because he was so far ahead of them.  Whenever he paused a sufficient amount of time for the wizards to catch up, he would mention some historic Oxford-mage or some great piece of magic conceived at Oxford, and he would be all like, “You know this man/spell, yes?” and the wizards would nod and be all like, “uh sure?” and the tour-mage would be all like, “of course you do, everyone who’s anyone knows this man/spell” and the wizards would smile and continue not knowing what the heck man/spell he was talking about.

The last thing the mage bragged about was how all the academic buildings in Oxford are themselves so smart and magical that they each, in their design and architecture, symbolize some transcendent moral value or whatnot.  Then the wizards were let free to roam the city, so they went to a book store and looked at all the legendary books of magic that were beyond both their magical abilities and their wallets’/purses’ abilities.

At the end of the day, the wizards went to an old tavern where Bill Clinton reportedly “did not inhale” any illicit greens in the 60’s.  They snagged an empty table with someone’s abandoned, but barely touched pint on it (don’t worry, it was definitely abandoned and not awaiting the return of whomever had been drinking it; the wizards waited to make sure nobody came back), and, after purchasing their own drinks to wind down from all the sprinting, they felt bold enough to push the limits of stupidity.

The universe must have balance, and the scales of Oxford lean too far in favor of genius.  It was a valiant sacrifice for the greater good that the wizards, driven by sorcerous intoxication and, once again, a lack of cash in the wallet/purse, decided to finish off the abandoned pint on the table.  Their ghosts haunt the tavern to this day, daring natural dummies, who might feel pressured by Oxford’s smarties, to give in to their nature and be dumb.  For the universe’s sake, be dumb sometimes.  But also, still be respectful.  The dummy wizards were respectful.  The end.

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where little boys sell their souls to be in the famous boys choir until their voices crack

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where smart people go to lather themselves in butter when they’re bored

The Temptress Tourism

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The affair began on Thursday, July 13th, at approximately 9:10 pm (UK time).  I had just emerged from the National Theatre after seeing Yaël Farber’s Salomé for class, and, upon stepping out, I was greeted with a cool evening breeze flowing along the River Thames.  The sun’s blue impression still marked the sky to the west, while to the east, the purple shades of night wiped clear the light’s trail.  I stood at the edge of the river and witnessed the awakening of the night’s crowd, starting beneath Waterloo Bridge and spreading along the southwestward curve of the Thames beyond sight.  I heard a mysterious song then, sweet and seducing, drifting toward me from the other side of the bridge.  It brushed my cheek and kissed my neck, and pulled me along, a helpless romantic lost in spontaneous love.  I followed the song past a riverside saxophonist playing for spare change and a BBQ street vendor blaring music, and, as the gathered crowd along the river transitioned from local teens to frenzied tourists, I found its source:  the temptress herself.

She manifested as a sight across the river, the glowing yellow eye of perhaps the world’s most famous clock tower and the ornate spires of Westminster Palace.  On my side of the river, the London Eye towered before me, revolving slowly as tourists less frugal than I crawled in and out of its carriages.  I forgot how to breathe.  I had been on my way to meet Josie, but now I couldn’t move—I was in awe.  When I finally rediscovered my legs, I walked onward into the arms of the temptress.  Bent to her will, I moved with her worshipping tourists, following her song and chasing after my breath.  I felt like a fool as I filled my phone with photos of her; I never wanted to be counted among the tourists, but, faced with sights of such grandeur and breathtaking beauty, how could I not?

 

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My affair with the temptress didn’t last much longer that night, for it was getting late.  As I crossed Waterloo Bridge to find the underground, she fastened her marvelous lips, glittering with the lights of a city both old and new, against mine in a farewell kiss, and sucked my breath away.  She still hasn’t given it back.  I don’t find myself easily awed (except by fathomless heights and really really big things), but I have never been quite so literally, and consistently, breathless.

I met with Josie later than I’d intended that night after a little debacle involving Google lying to me about train and bus departures, and, being an honest person, I immediately told her about my evening with the temptress and showed her my scandalous photos.  Josie smiled at me and nodded.  I awaited punishment for my crime.  Then she suggested we go meet the temptress together, and I got all excited and grateful that she’d be so enthusiastic to welcome the temptress into our relationship.

Josie and I spent the 15th, the Saturday of our second anniversary weekend, walking hand in hand with the temptress around the City of Westminster (within London).  We started at the National Galleries, where annoying people who just wanted to be able to say they saw some art pushed and shoved through people like us who genuinely wanted to experience the art, and we made our rounds past St. James Park (where we found an isolated little hut I like to think is a witch’s den full of hapless children who came for pretty flowers, birds, and candy, but got a whole lot more) to Big Ben, Westminster Palace (the Houses of Parliament), and Westminster Abbey.  To conclude our adventure, we took a trek (guided by yours truly, me, without the use of mobile pathfinding apps) to spy on Her Majesty the Queen herself.  We used our X-Ray vision to see through the gates and walls of Buckingham Palace (which was actually quite boring compared to Westminster Palace).

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super uncomfortable thumb

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good ole Monet

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the witch is roasting up some children inside

 

Admittedly, it was somewhat embarrassing being a tourist for a day (although, unlike many other tourists, who think the world is all about them, we were considerate and un-intrusive), but there’s a reason tourism is a thing.  Sometimes life isn’t truly lived if you don’t go and see the sights.  Every wanderer will one day behold the Temptress Tourism, and she will call to you, plucking your heartstrings with her lovely song.  Don’t resist.  Embrace her.  Bring your friends and lovers, too—she’s totally into that.

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Queen Victoria statue in front of Buckingham Palace

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Mild Culture Shock for Dummies or Something

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Mild Culture Shock for Dummies or Something

I.

Walk into a public bathroom to the suspicious greeting of silence.  There’s a buzz in the air, like a rawness, and a tang tickling your nose that hints you may not be alone.  The stalls all appear closed.  If any is occupied, you cannot tell.  Let’s say you’re in America, so the gap between the stall door and the floor is like anywhere between 3 and 15 feet high, but you don’t see the legs of any squatting person to signal occupancy.  And yet, all signs point to someone other than you being in this bathroom.  No silence is so thick unless someone is hiding nearby.

A smile crosses your face, and you interlace your fingers diabolically.  As a certain English sleuth would say, the game is afoot!  You pull a clay pipe, already lit, out of a mysterious pocket somewhere on the overcoat you’re suddenly wearing, and stick it in your mouth.  Get down on your hands and knees and crawl to the first stall.  Peek your head underneath.  Nothing.  Scooch over to the second stall.  Peek your head underneath.  There’s a person standing shivering in fear on the seat of the toilet.  You yell, “Surprise!!!”  The person spontaneously combusts (medical cause:  overload of public-bathroom-anxiety, and also fear I guess, because you’re dressed like Sherlock Holmes and grinning all wide eyed up at them from underneath their locked bathroom stall door.  Just so you know, that’s not a cool thing to do, no matter what country you’re in).  Good times.

Yeah, so sucks for you, because you’re actually in England (I lied about America), and English public stalls are impenetrable to fun-loving sleuths like you.  The stall doors and walls go all the way to the ground, so it’s like you’re sitting in your own little mini dungeon, except not made of stone, and with toilet paper.

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very private

II.

Imagine a character named Jordan (oops, that’s my name).  Jordan is walking toward an intersection, a hot coffee steaming in his hand.  Traffic is flitting by, all kinds of boring silver and beige colors, with the occasional flashy red sportscar designed for rich men trying to compensate for something; Jordan can feel the gentle push of the traffic’s wind as he steps up to the edge of the streetHe looks left.  No traffic.  He sips coffee and scalds his mouth.  His tongue feels itty bitty blisters already forming.  Then he steps out and gets squashed by a car.

Why?  He looked the wrong way.

112% of Americans will look the wrong way when crossing traffic (statistic courtesy of My Butt, a very, very scholarly journal with authority on all kinds of relevant things).  On the contrary, Londoners never look the wrong way.  The streets have your back.  They tell you which way to look.

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the road saves people from getting run over

III.

It’s a shame I’m over 21 because otherwise purchasing certain liquids with inebriating side effects (legal age in the UK to purchase is 18) would be much more exhilarating.  Pubs are everywhere, and after work, Londoners flock to them like cat hair on a dark sweater.  Apparently it’s the thing.  Americans go out at night.  Londoners go out after work.

IV.

I found Baker Street and Fleet Street.  On Fleet Street, although I couldn’t find the infamous Demon Barber, there’s a smashing pub, converted partially from a 13th century monastery.  Apparently Charles Dickens was a regular at this pub, as well as at 7.2 million other pubs located around London.  In other words, many of the older pubs here brag about Charles Dickens, but really it’s nothing special.

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V.

Air conditioning isn’t too common in London, so everyone ends up shrouded in sweet, sticky sweat and packed like mules in the underground or in a pub.  Despite that, London still smells infinitely better than Philly.  If Philly is a toilet clogged with rotting fast food, London is a half full trash can equipped with an air-freshener.  I don’t have to pinch my nose shut walking around here.

VI.

Before Jordan got squashed by a car, he was just thinking how he really likes London.

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taken from the top of a bus

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King Henry VIII’s Royal Pooper

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Hampton Court Palace Gardens

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The Banqueting House, where King Charles I had his head chopped off.

 

Anticipation and Hyper-Imagination

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My impending journey to the airport haunts my hyperactive imagination—

You’re driving someplace you’ve never driven before with two overly-worried parents, crammed in the back of the car with your overstuffed backpack and suitcase so big you know it’s going to make you self conscious walking through the airport with all those people staring at you as you wander aimlessly under pressure of a deadline, knowing only that your time is ticking, dripping its fickle sands out of your hands to fall into the open air below the high wire on which you just barely balance, preparing to fall.  The high wire is always more difficult to cross than the bridge.

In the car, the pink and yellow afternoon light provides a fast-paced slide show, dappling your eyes with purple and gold blind spots which invert when you close your eyes.  Your hand squeezes your backpack’s left shoulder strap.  You can feel your sweat seeping through the fabric; soon you know it’ll be drenched.  Sure it’s heavy and bulky on your back, but you don’t feel bad about the backpack like you do about the suitcase.  If anything, your backpack is the only center of comfort in the whole world right now, besides the thought of your girlfriend overseas, awaiting your arrival.  Inside your backpack you have a schoolbook and a fun book, and a book for your girlfriend; you have your laptop with its memories and—for a moment your heart bursts and you almost explode as you fear you may have forgotten to pack your laptop charger, but then you remember it’s in there, tucked in the front pocket with your electric plug adapter and your phone charger and some other crap you can’t remember off the bat but know you’ll need—and your notebook with its dumb little poems and some white space for class notes.  Your backpack is your friend, and you feel confident in everything you’ve packed in it.  It’s a lot easier to pack a backpack than a suitcase.

You hate your suitcase.  It stares at you across the dirty beige backseat like a duplicitous jerkface.  What might it do?  It might abandon you for someone else overseas.  It might simply vanish.  You have no confidence concerning what you’ve packed in that godforsaken suitcase.  It’s probably too much stuff, because your parents always end up convincing you that you’ll need a crapton more stuff than you thought you’d need, and you’re never confident enough to object.  But it might, very possibly, not contain enough stuff.  Or maybe none of the right stuff.  Who knows.  You could be at a seedy pub in London, having some really interesting fish and chips, when, in an unanticipated turn of events, the fried fish comes back to life and eats you because somehow all the clothes you brought had the ability to awaken dead, vengeful fish, and maybe you had normal clothes that would’ve let you eat fish in peace, and you almost brought them, but because of the manipulative suitcase, you left the clothes at home, where you’ll never get to wear them again because you’re dead now, eaten by a zombie fish.

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Am I packing the right stuff?

But it’s too late to go repack now.  Now you’re basically at the airport. Your parents are reminding you of all the ways you’ll probably die, your suitcase is intent on world domination, and you can’t even care anymore.  You’re just hoping you make it through customs and get to the plane on time.  London is where things will get good—

I’m just barely prepared for the future to be happening now.

My Ungrateful Cat

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(Distant thoughts from March)

The world slips between fantasy and reality more often than we know, every day.  One day you’re slathering butter on toast, fending off the hungry glares of your ungrateful cat and waiting for your delicious and delightfully unhealthy Spam to finish frying, dreaming of seeing some part of the world beyond your water-stained apartment, and the next day, your dream is reality.  You’ve been accepted into a program through which you will begin your first steps to journeying the world.

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It’s real, but it doesn’t feel real, even though I’ve completed every pre-departure requirement, made all my payments, signed all my signatures.  It’s as real as it can legally be, yet I sit here pestering my ungrateful cat as if it’s any other day, back when reality was still fantasy.  It doesn’t feel real, but in the distance I see it stampeding towards me.  Its vanguard, the empty horde of time between now and July, still feels so massive, even though, sitting amidst its onslaught, I can already see the last line of attack.  I can already feel the ground quaking beneath the footsteps of this fantasy become reality.  Yet all that roils in my chest is excitement.  Excitement to face the unknown.  Excitement to leave behind my ungrateful cat (in the care of those she loves more than me), and find my place in a world wider than my water-stained apartment.

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Stinky Evil Kitty

 

 

But excitement forgets my fear.  It’s a fear I don’t have yet, but I foretell its growth as the departure date grows nearer.  I need to purchase flight tickets soon.  I fear doing this.  I need to figure out how to move stuff out of my apartment.  I fear doing this.  I need to make sure all the money I need will be ready.  I fear doing this.  Researching international cellular things.  I fear it.  Anything that makes this real.  Fear.  But why?  I look at my ungrateful cat, and she trots through every day fearlessly.  Her greatest fantasy is her next treat, which she’ll accept without gratitude.  Why are we so different (minus species)?  Well, I’m grateful.  My ungrateful cat would never be so excited and thankful to have the opportunity to study in London.  My ungrateful cat would never be so dedicated to making the most out of travelling to London.  My ungrateful cat also doesn’t have any responsibilities.  I do.  All those fears I mentioned—fear of responsibility.

This trip presents me with some of the greatest responsibilities I’ve ever faced, but facing responsibility is crucial for independence.  Today I conquer one responsibility.  Tomorrow I’ll conquer another.  Every day London will become more real, and, as I tackle these responsibilities, my fears will dissolve.  But I’m not yet ready.  I live like I lived before, shamefully unimpacted by any of this, even though I know I will be soon enough.  I cook my breakfast, I chase my ungrateful cat, I write my stories and procrastinate on writing my stories, and I imagine the thrill of adventure in London.  It’s all very unreal.  It’s fantasy.  But not for long.  Soon I will be ready, and I can’t procrastinate on that.  We can’t be like our ungrateful cats.

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She can be cute sometimes, I guess