Thursday, June 26, 2014

Tricked by a 4 minute sell

Two had bought me another wowcher for speed dating, but since I'd already done that I decided to take a look at their other events. There were things like singles mixers and things called "lock and key" events where all the women are given keys and men locks and the idea is to force you to talk to one another at the very least to see if your key and lock fit. Don't worry, just because you found your match doesn't mean that you're supposed to be with them.

Anyway after browsing the list I decided on a wine tasting event. That sounded innocuous enough, and more like a real life event rather than something so strangely staged (like speed dating). I signed up and forgot about it for awhile.

The night finally rolled around yesterday. I treated myself to some Poncho 8, a casual Mexican restaurant near my work that resembles Chipotle (which I miss terribly...they have it here but I feel like I'm cheating myself by eating something I could easily get at home):

God it was good. I got pulled pork and beef and all the trimmings (and I mean all the trimmings, I even spent the ridiculous £1 extra to get guacamole, which I lust after in strange ways now). It was glorious and I was full. The only thing missing from its otherwise similar Chipotle-like experience was the glorious glorious corn salsa. When I go to Chipotle in the States I'll always get a carnitas bowl with as much corn salsa as they will give me. Oh I get the other trimmings too (though never paid for the extra guac)...but there's something just so genuinely cracky about that corn salsa. My god the corn salsa.


I make my way there, only to be waylaid by someone throwing themselves onto the tube tracks at King's Cross Station (which was between where I was when it happened and my stop for this wine tasting). I know this is a regular occurrence in London (apparently people throw themselves on train or tube tracks around 160 times a year...really), but it still strikes me as slightly horrible and the way Londoners deal with it is:

I jest. But this was made by an agency for the London Underground (which naturally they rejected but I thought would have been great to see in real life).

So I took a bus. This made me 20 minutes late but I figured better late than never. And I texted the event coordinator to tell them I was on my way. No response.

I get there and it's in the basement of a bar called All Bar One. It's a chain set of bars that sell half-price cocktails and other forms of surprisingly nice but relatively cheap boozing and eating. I've enjoyed them on more than one occasion. The coordinator was obviously in the middle of explaining how things were done as I walked in.

...that's when I figured out that this was once again another speed dating event. Damnit! I thought I was going for easy wine tasting and mingling rather than being bamboozled into this strangely constructed social necessity.

And the wine was all gone by the time I arrived. Things were not particularly looking up.

But I did not let that deter me, instead I took it with a grain of salt. I've done this before, I'll get to meet new people, and whatever, I could go home straight after and feel fine with the way I used my £8. Not a terrible night by any means. And I had been strangely calm and fine with being so late (whereas normally I would be stressing out). Priorities in life. Remain calm.

And so the 4 minute conversations started. There were only 14 pairs this time. The basement was surprisingly well-lit and it was a comfortable environment, unlike Funky Buddha. I settled in for easy conversation and that's exactly what I got. Because I was calm and relaxed, they were calm and relaxed.

And what an interesting bunch they were. Three Bulgarians, one Italian, a Norwegian, an Aussie, a few from the UAE, two British guys, a Canadian, and perhaps a few others. It was especially interesting to me that it seemed the neighborhood of the venue made a huge difference on the demographics of our participants. Perhaps this is just a fluke though; two sets of data is hardly a conclusive finding.

Some interesting tidbits from the night before I continue my story:
  • The Norwegian wrote me a poem. It eventually ended in the word "ass." It was kind of hilarious.
  • The Italian was very Italian (from Sicily, I understand they're technically different), but looked very much the British hipster part. Small very circular black specs, neatly dressed, articulate. He wasn't my type but he seemed nice enough. Sort of like a mole rat. But not terrifying.
  • The Bulgarians were all large tall men with a strange stiffness about them. Most of them were friendly, some of them were shy to the point of untalkative. Not the best for a 4 minute sell situation.
  • One guy, who was fantastically nice, gushed about how much he loved his job directing children's films. It was one of the nicest talks I had that night. It was great to see someone so happy about their work.
The last person I had was the Canadian, who I'll call Future Justin, or just FJ. His name was not in fact Justin, but reminded me of a Justin I knew in high school that one of my friends dated for awhile. Tall, fit, strangely tan for a white guy (though not in a fake bake kind of way), intensely feminine blue eyes...strange way of talking that's almost like he had too many teeth in his mouth (which makes him sort of sound like a surfer). A surfer with a slight Kentucky accent.

He apparently thought my business was fascinating. After two and a half hours of conversation it became obvious that he is very much a philosopher. We talked about the future of humanity and how he believed it would come down to all of us being part of a collective consciousness. I didn't buy it for a number of reasons but it was an interesting idea. Very much bordering on a spirituality that could be crazy. But he was interesting, and it was certainly the deepest talk I'd had with someone in a very long while.

And so the night ended and I tubed it home. Not a wasted night after all.

I'm completely done with speed dating now, time to do something else.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Three months clean

It has now been three months since I got off all my medications. I mean all my medications. I now take absolutely nothing on a regular basis. I am as pure as I can be, and have been, since about the age of 15.

It has been...hard.

A few things that have changed for me:

I have emotions now.
I know this sounds like a stupid thing to say because I'm human and should have emotions...but really, I had very little feelings about most things I did, previously. Things were still exciting or happy...but pretty much anything outside the realm of neutral didn't register. It allowed me to become hyper logical and stay out of the pits that so many people seem to dig themselves into.

No more. Rationality still exists but there are no bars on my emotions anymore. I get filled with such delight and appreciation for beauty now, about the simplest things. I was watching a Blue Planet documentary about the ocean and could not contain my absolute heartfelt feelings about something as mundane (and yet excellent) as a certain species of squid going to shore to mate, lay eggs, then go back down to the deep. No creatures died, nothing was sacrificed...I didn't even see the babies hatch in this particular segment. But the beauty of it was awe-inspiring and that confused me. What a wonderful place we live.

Then there is the not so pleasant other side of emotions. Reactive feelings of extreme irritation and impatience. Anger, like no one's business. I would like to say still that generally speaking I am a positive and happy person, but man when negative feelings take me over, they take me over hard. And even though logically I know this is stupid or unhelpful, I cannot help but feel these feelings course through me, and I have very little control over them. Only in how I act on the outside, which sometimes matches and other times, more successfully, not.

So now I understand what all these people have been talking about for so long. My god the emotions. Great but also terrible.

I really enjoy food again.
One of the biggest side effects of being on an anti-seizure medication is having complete control over how you feel about food. You don't feel like eating when you're not hungry, and despite things tasting good, they don't taste good enough for you to continue beyond reason.

Again, no longer. I am returning to my normal body shape (this is also to do with settling for a little while in London, I have no doubt) and feel great about it. I look like an almost-30 year old woman now instead of a bony teenager. Well, as much as I can, given my genes. I think people react better to this; I've noticed how thin people make others uncomfortable. Really it's true; think about how many times you look at a super thin girl and have thoughts versus looking at a normal-sized person. I don't want that kind of attention and so it is shifting away from me. I also have started to wonder if people were staring because I just looked unhealthy.

Anyway, I enjoy food again and sometimes I eat now, even when I'm not hungry. Food tastes really really good.

I feel creative.
Again, maybe a silly thing to say because of my scrimshaw tendencies and other things, but now I'm much more about crafting and colors, learning and doing more things than just what is necessary (scrimshaw was a means to an end, really: making gifts for those I loved in a way that I could do).

Now I have several craft projects going on at home. I'm painting champagne and bottle corks into mushrooms, I learned to knit on my birthday and am now making a hideous scarf, I have little self-improvement and home-improvement projects in a list on my phone. Cooking is a complete joy again.

I also find it a lot easier to see things, to start crafts. The painted mushrooms projects came completely out of nowhere as I was staring at the cork of my large Patron silver bottle and suddenly saw it as I have now made it. It was perfect, and I felt compelled to do it. I have no idea what I am going to do with them after I've finished, but I felt it had to be done.

Exercise has taken a back seat.
As it should for someone who can get manic about things. But really, I feel a lot less interested in going to the gym and just working out. I do sometimes still, of course, because I believe in physical fitness and health, but it's no longer a compulsion. Or at least I try to let it not be.

I'm returning to things like yoga and classes, where it's not all up to me to have the motivation. I simply don't have it anymore. I'd rather walk the mile from Ealing Broadway to my home and get my exercise that way than simply run on a treadmill.

I get bored now, when exercising. It's simply not interesting unless I have something actively happening. My mind has a much harder time concentrating and just getting the task done.

Same goes for work.
As much as I still enjoy my team and my office and the culture, I find myself a lot less interested in work. My mind wanders, I find things I've done before boring rather than comfortably repetitious. I find myself finding excuses not to be around anymore if there really is no need. Gone is the busy bee that feels the need to stay ridiculous hours in the office. This is likely because I know my limits here too, there is a sense of comfortable familiarity.

I'd like to think of this as working smarter instead of harder. My boss certainly seems to think so; she doesn't mind my flexible schedule at all and has consistently commented on my continued excellent work.

I'm no longer an early riser.
Mornings are now considerably more painful for me. I like sleeping in and getting up at the mid-morning times (8am-9:30am). Before getting up really early was no big deal, I'd suddenly be wide awake and ready to go.

No more. In fact I've slept past 10am a few times lately and it felt like glory rather than horrible.

I have a feeling this is tied to the fact that I'm not exercising as much and eating more now, but I feel like this is how things should be. Not bare minimum sleep and still wide awake, but actually being able to see the effects of less sleep and more food, less exercise. Instead of a consistent energizer bunny.

Embracing my inner dork.
This likely has to do with finally settling my score with Don and feeling I can be myself without ridicule (or a level of ridicule I'm okay with accepting), but still changed, all the same. I feel great about dorky shows I watch, ridiculous clothes I wear (really, all the colors and patterns in the world make me happy, no more of this monochrome business that Londoners seem to love so much). I wear silly shoes and feel great about it. Colors, accessories, pretty things. Pretty things make me so happy now. And crafting, crafting makes me happy.

I like writing myself.
Naturally this blog has gone by the wayside, but I've actually kicked up journal-writing again. I used to do this everyday, religiously. Over the last few years it took a serious dive. Again, more likely to do with life circumstances than anything else but all the same, I can now write to myself again and feel good about it. Not just bored.

And now for some of the not as nice.
My balance has really started to go, as is the stereotype for migraine sufferers. I feel unsteady sometimes and I've never had problems with my balance before. When I was in Wales for my birthday and we were crossing some rocky patches (these were extreme rock patches), though I was wearing sandals that were wrong for the occasion, my balance was so bad I could barely move forward. Olive had to come back and let me use his arm as a guide. I had very little control. I think this also has to do with the amount of weight I've lost over the years and the resulting negative effects of that.

I've had consistent and persistent pains in my neck. I think something is swollen back there and for now it just means discomfort and an inability to turn in all directions. I've gotten it checked out once by a useless doctor and so I am going back again tomorrow morning to get it checked by my real, and faithfully intelligent, doctor. I am hoping she has a better suggestion or cure than "take two ibuprofen a day and it'll be fine." Thank you, Doctor #1 that is extremely unhelpful and is not treating the problem.

I feel more impulsive and it's harder to control things, just in general. This goes with buying things, thinking things, reacting to things. Less control, more all-controlling from somewhere within.

...but really, at the end of the day, I am much happier with how things are now. I feel things and this is supposed to be good. The highs are much higher but the lows also much lower. I think someone once said something about how life is only worth living if you can really feel it.

Well I do now. I'm just like every other human. So I'll continue my journey, with its extreme goods and bads.

Wish me luck, this is going to take some more time to adjust to. :)

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Drowned Man

It's not that often I get really taken by surprise by theater. That isn't to say I don't enjoy most productions, but it takes something really unique to impress me now. I hate to sound pretentious, but I've seen quite a bit in my life.

So when Churches told me about a production last year, called Punchdrunk, that blew her mind, I was a little skeptical. When she started describing it to me, I just couldn't put the descriptions into a cohesive image: everyone wearing masks, you interact with the actors, all very different.

I didn't know what that meant.

I happened to be searching yPlan when it showed up on my lists - Punchdrunk: The Drowned Man. I read the description but it was also pretty meager:

Theater just got ripped a new one with this experience set in the golden age of film.

Now this is big. After a sell-out run in summer 2013, here's your chance to grab tix to one of the most extraordinary events in theater. We say theater, but if you've heard of Punchdrunk, you'll know it's not your usual sit 'n' nod affair. The fourth wall has been tossed aside for the company's latest theatrical adventure, where a roughed-up soldier is thrust into '60s Hollywood, fuming and ready to take his fury out on his lover.

Follow his murderous intentions as you don a mask and chase the characters around, in the process exploring several floors of a seemingly endless building, discovering hidden rooms and witnessing remarkable solo performances. Curious cats are encouraged...the more you explore, the more you'll see.

Okay, so there is a theme, and I got that. You're warned ahead of time to wear comfortable shoes and that you'll be wearing a mask (so please wear contacts if you wear glasses, etc).

I showed up at the theater (right outside Paddington Station, a convenient 5 minute walk from work for me) after getting a little tipsy at our resident photographer's upcoming nuptials celebration. We were saluting him before he leaves singledom.

So I was a little drunk by the time I walked over, the line for the will call not starting until around 7:15pm. I noticed immediately that I was the only person in line who was alone. Most people had come in groups of 2-4. This would be interesting.

First thing I noticed as soon as I got in was how much darker it was inside. Dimly lit, strange music, already starting the scene, the atmosphere. It was spooky. 1960's Hollywood glamour turned dingy. It was meant to be this way: it definitely set the sultry murderous mood.

We rode a short elevator to the bottom floor before being given white masks. Rules state that you're not allowed to speak or remove your mask until you hit the bar in Studio 3 - the end of the production. The masks were terrifyingly plain on their own:

We were then allowed to set off on our own. We were encouraged to do the journey alone.

Instantly the room was darker, barely lit. Loud rhythmic moody music floated over speakers unseen.

The entire thing was set to period - it was exactly what old Hollywood looked like. If you've ever been to the Tower of Terror in Disneyland's California Adventure theme park, this was exactly that. But not done in a family-way.

The detail was incredible.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. My thoughts as soon as I put on the mask was: I've made a mistake. I should have come with others.

Perhaps it was the mixture of being a little tipsy, being alone, and being in a dark place with loud music and no idea what is going to happen - I was genuinely scared. I had no expectations, no grounding point at which to say to myself, you'll be fine.

It took me another half an hour to feel comfortable enough to wander into rooms that did not have other people. Before that, I was following others around, using them as a constant to feel safe.

I eventually realized that there was no one waiting in the dark corners for me, to scare me. The actors were seamlessly integrated into the environment - you'd see them, suddenly, among you, maskless. They'd start into their scene as though you weren't there, as though you are a ghost merely observing the entire thing. Sometimes they had dialogue, other times they simply did choreographed dances, furthering the general storyline that there was much sex and sultriness, passion and violence. Lots of emotions.

It took me another half an hour to realize when an actor was going to be in the room with me. The lights would go on in certain rooms, the music growing louder and different. As more people came in you started to notice when large groups of people were chasing the actors to their next scenes.

Yes, the audience literally ran after actors. Following the storyline, seeing what could be gleaned. It occurred to me after awhile that there was no way I could see the entire thing, even if I tried my hardest. There were at least 8-10 actors that I saw, each with their own part and scenes, each switching anywhere between the four floors we were allowed to wander. The storyline only carrying on for that particular actor as they acted out their part. It following the theme but not necessarily a fluid storyline.

The entire thing was ingenious. Whenever actors needed or had a break between their scenes (which could go on for a long time...I'm not quite sure because I never followed one actor to more than a few rooms), they would run into a set and lock themselves in, not allowing observers to follow. Or they would simply vanish - I saw one actor, as part of his set, close the doors to a phone booth door, only to disappear after another actor opened it again. I checked out the booth myself - there was no trap door that I could detect. After the crowd became assured that there was nothing more to see that moment, they would disperse, and like us, the actors would don masks, walking among us until it was time to return to their next role. The only way I figured this out is sometimes I would see people in masks that seemed slightly out of place (if you were looking): period clothing that even the most fabulous of hipsters would not wear to a venue like this. Masked folk who were a little too interested in fooling around with the props and sets (I'm assuming these were stage assistants who put the set back in order for the next scene).

Eventually I got a little claustrophobic. It's not hard to imagine this, after wearing a full-face mask for over two hours and not being able to take it off. Staff members in black masks were posted near the walls of each major section, and anytime anyone took their mask off they would silently walk up to that person and wag their fingers or shake their heads: masks stay on.

So I tried to leave.

Unfortunately, as you all know, I have horrible navigation skills. And since we took an elevator down into the first scene instead of walking, I got quickly lost.

It is scary to be on your own, in a dark and loud place, wearing a mask among other masked people, and not being able to figure out your way back to reality.

I finally broke one of the rules by talking to a staff member in black.

I need to find the exit.
Oh but the final scene is almost coming.
Soon. But if you want to get out, it's up a floor and through Studio 3.
Okay, I guess I'll try and stay for the final scene.

I was a little worried I'd miss the last train to my home station that night. I could walk from Ealing Broadway but even though it was warm, I was feeling a little green around the gills from the drinks and then adrenaline from walking around in a spooky place.

I did follow a few of the actors for the next 15 minutes, waiting for them to have their final scenes and finally lead us to Studio 3.

It never happened. I started to feel claustrophobic again, a little panicked.

This time I made it to Studio 3 on my own. Back into a place where I could take the mask off and breathe again.

I rushed home after that; catching a train and then bus to get home.

To be honest I felt a little foolish, having been so scared. But that was the effect the production had on me. It was almost done too well in its atmosphere and uniqueness. Absolutely nothing like I had experienced before.

It was mind-blowing, just as Churches had said. I would heartily recommend it. I would also say it is not for the faint of heart.

Here are some photos that are taken from the internet about it, since I wasn't allowed to bring in my phone. This gives somewhat of the atmosphere and feeling:

It's nice to know you haven't seen everything yet. :)