Wednesday, November 13, 2013

OMG Neil Gaiman

So after a rather short week (since I was leaving for Boston the next day) I was hitting my fake "Friday" and going out with a bang. I had purchased tickets to see one of the most coveted authors in the sci-fi/fantasy world: Neil Gaiman.

Luckily in Two's current bout of voluntary unemployment, she has time to look at what is going on in London and spotted the event. It definitely sold out not too much later after we bought our tickets. I feel fortunate that she even noticed it; usually by the time I read about things in the free weekly published magazines that I get coming off the train it is far too late for me to do anything about things. People find out about events early enough through means I'm still left mystified by. Clearly Two, in her ultimate free time and wisdom, has learned things already about London that I have not.

Anyway, it was the night of the big event and I was excited. I finished my work early and left to go to Westminster, where the big thing was happening.

Naturally, still being a noob after eight months of living here, I didn't realize it was in Westminster until I was getting off the tube and surfacing on the streets. Looking around at the majestic buildings, it took me awhile to realize where I was as I was mapping my way to the venue. "My god everything here looks amazing! What is...omg, I'm in Westminster."

The line to get in wrapped around the block twice. Clearly sold out. This guy is legendary. If you haven't heard of him, he's a bestselling author of books such as the Sandman series, American Gods, and Neverworld. I'm sure he's known for much more: go look him up on He's huge.

It was a good thing I was early and standing in line; seats were first come first served, so by the time I got to the front Two was just getting to the venue (plus time to get I almost did...this is what being a noob to London gets you...more time for navigation because you will, indeed, get lost).

We took our seats on the "common persons" balcony and caught up since last time seeing each other the previous Friday at an Internations event (Two's second and finally one where she was able to be social...she volunteered to help at her first event, which was an unfortunate mistake).

Eventually the event started and it was an interesting spectacle. I don't know why but I was expecting a lecture of sorts, perhaps a very formal book reading. I also hadn't really thought about what type of book his newest would be (it was titled, "Fortunately, the Milk.").

What we got instead was two openers, then the mighty Neil.

The first opener was a comedian of sorts. A rather skinny young Englishman wearing punk clothing and making jokes about what he should not say on stage (of which he read a list that contained things like, "bogey, fart, bum, etc") and delightful things that included audience participation, like having one side of the audience clap while the other stomped, eventually getting us to do a very excellent rendition of Queen's "We Will Rock You" without us realizing it.

The second opener was a pair of older gentlemen on guitars who sang hilarious songs about various humorous topics. I don't remember exactly what they were about but I believe they included fish. I think you get the gist though that these openers were anything but normal and the set up to Neil was...unusual at best.

Finally the man of the hour was introduced and he took his place at the podium. He has a rather unusually quiet and calming voice, a lot like Alan Rickman, actually, from Harry Potter (he plays Severus Snape, in case you are unfamiliar), but less sinister. He makes an excellent storyteller in any case, and it was hard not to be completely and utterly, entranced.

Very lucky for us, his newest story is actually a children's book. I guess this explained the number of children in the audience (most of whom I hadn't actually noticed, which is a great is also likely I was too into retelling my life's events from the past few days so just hadn't been paying attention). But also this meant that his story was short enough for him to read it in its entirety. Something completely unheard of in the past.

I was excited; he has such a nice voice and he's a great author and we were now going to hear him read his new book in its wholesome goodness. This was great.

He started reading and it was great. It was about two children sitting down to eat breakfast with their father because the mother was leaving for several days on a business trip. It is day two when the milk runs out and they are supposed to eat cereal for breakfast. This is a dire situation. The father goes out to the corner store to buy some milk but takes what the children feel, is an exorbitantly long time to return. When he does return with the milk they question him as to why it took him so long to return. He launches into a grand story as to what happened to him when he went to get the milk and the adventure that befell him.

The story includes things like a time-traveling stegosaurus, globby aliens, wumpires, volcanoes and tribal peoples, pirates, and prophecies. All in all a great story.

There was a surprise in the storytelling as well - multiple voice actors! As Neil was galloping through the story with his beautiful voice, suddenly others gathered around microphones and filled in the voices of other characters with uncanny diction and gumption. It was great. The best story hour I've attended in years. It was humorous and delightful and made me miss the times when things were easier and distraction was something more than tv. Ah, the power of a good story and books.

Before I knew it the story was over and we were all clapping. Another masterpiece by a fantastic writer. The line to buy his new and signed book was overwhelming, so Two and I decided to skip on that and get dinner wherever we could find it. Surprisingly or unsurprisingly, Westminster is oddly devoid of eating holes on a Tuesday night.

Finally we found a pub that served food and sat ourselves down. The dining area smelled of oily fish but we were hungry so didn't care.

Despite the fact that I knew I would be eating a ton the next week in Boston, I still went for the cheeseburger. I was hungry and you only live once.

Plus I've begun to realize that I am in fact, far too thin. All this first world worry about being the right's all for nothing. The right person won't care what shape you are and if they do...they're not the right person anyhow. Having said that I don't think I actively try to stay one shape but I do catch myself wondering too often whether I should do something healthier and I'm not sure if it's really necessary.

The cheeseburger was amazing, by the way. The meat was a bit too salty, but other than that, it was quite tasty. Melty cheese with bacon. The fries were just alright but I've started to enjoy them with ketchup so much.

And a hot chocolate. Just because. This one was surprisingly good. I knew I would be drinking a lot in Boston, so that I did plan for. I may not be worried so much about the fatty foods, but drinking too much is still something I try to go conservative on. The hot chocolate was the right call. So good.

And then we rode the tube home and parted ways at the appropriate junction. I finished packing and got ready to board my flight to Boston the next day.

Bachelorette party, here I come!

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