27 November 2006

Green Skies At Morning

I slept fitfully on Saturday night, which is to say barely at all. Not surprising, I guess, considering the way I'd spent the previous 24 hours.

After a happy Thanksgiving spent with 11 family members and a couple of stray neighbours, I set about packing for Friday's flight to London. First, however, I had to spend an hour and a half at the all-night laundromat on Solano Avenue, which apart from the maniacal bearded hippie intently playing some incessantly beeping handheld video game and who I soon vibed out the door, was completely empty. I highly recommend Thanksgiving night for those who prefer to do their laundry in solitude.

But the packing was presenting a problem. Normally my approach is to get either a mental picture or a written list of what I think I'll need to take, discover that only about half of it fits in my suitcase, and then proceed to remove all the things I really need and stuff my suitcase full of non-essentials, many of which I'll never even get around to unpacking. But this time I wasn't coming up with even the vaguest picture of what to pack. I wracked my brain again and again, but it came up resolutely blank.

So here it was 2 in the morning and I really had to get to bed if I hoped to get any sleep before setting off the airport, and all I'd accomplished was stuffing a smaller suitcase inside of a bigger one because I knew I'd need extra carrying capacity when I came back from London. Finally it sunk in: I didn't need to take anything. The main purpose of this trip was to retrieve the last of my belongings from my soon-to-be-former home. This would be my last trip to London, at least in the capacity of a resident. My dithering about what to pack had been little more than an escape mechanism to stop me brooding about that fact.

It seems like leaving London has been a foregone conclusion for so long now that it no longer needs thinking about, but I was startled to discover this morning while looking through my journal that I didn't make the final decision until September 30, not even two months ago. But events once set in motion take on a life of their own, and now I'm in no position to do anything other than go with the flow.

The flight over was smooth and uneventful, and were it not for (welcome home!) a complete cock-up on the Underground, I would have been in my flat and ready for bed by 8 am (we'd landed at 6:15). It ended up being closer to 9, and by the time I'd forced the door open over the two months' worth of mail that had accumulated, and started compulsively opening the mail to see if anyone had sent me money (hey, don't laugh, one other time when I came home there was a £100 cheque from my Premium Bond waiting for me), it was getting on for 11.

The reason I was so determined to get to bed - well, not really, I guess - was that I had to be up again shortly after 1 to go to the football. I made it, though a bit blearily, and had an excellent seat at centre pitch to watch my beloved and maddening Fulham lose a desultory match to Premiership newcomers Reading. Fulham's Ian Pearce gave away a penalty by lopping a Reading attacker's legs out from under him only a couple yards from goal; Reading converted to make it 1-0 after only 17 minutes, and that was the game. A 10-man Fulham squad - Pearce had been sent off - tried to make a go of it, but neither team looked much like scoring. If not for the penalty, it almost certainly would have ended up 0-0.

The 1+ mile each way between Craven Cottage and Hammersmith Station was the farthest I've walked since my foot operation, and that combined with the damp and blustery weather convinced me to spend the rest of the day in the house. I noticed that the Thames was fuller than usual, even lapping halfway up the trunks of some trees on the far side, and observed that the radio and newspapers were no longer talking about the drought that they'd been banging on about for the past two years. Now it was all about the floods.

Anyway, after napping off and on through most of the evening, waking up in time to watch Match Of The Day (the Fulham defeat didn't look any more appetising on TV than it had in real life), found at midnight that I was wide awake and couldn't get back to sleep. Until about 6 am, that is, and that lasted only until about 8, when I woke up as it was getting light outside.

But what a strange light it was. I want to say that sky was green - it sounds more picturesque, don't you agree? - but actually most of the sky, apart from one opalescent blue corner off to the east, was covered by sinister, menacing clouds, that though blueish-grey themselves, had the effect of casting an eerie green light over the city. The only time I'd ever seen the atmosphere turn that colour before was as a boy in Michigan, and that was right before a major tornado struck nearby.

We don't normally get tornadoes in the UK, however, so I didn't worry too much, and tried to go back to sleep. Spectacular bolts of lightning and crashing peals of thunder soon made that impossible, but no tornadoes, whirlwinds, hurricanes or other natural disasters ensued, and within another hour or three, the sun was smiling down on a lovely autumn day. The leaves still aren't gone from the trees, even though we're less than a week from December, and here and there you can find roses in bloom. But the storms of the past couple days have made a rather sweeping change, and it can finally be said that there are more leaves on the ground than hanging overhead. This morning the dustmen were out with their brooms, collecting innumerable bags of them and trundling them into trucks to be taken off to - well, who knows where, really?

Today it's warm again, following another bit of rain to help the leaves stick to the pavements and bedevil the sweepers. I went to the gym for the first time since my operation and was pleased to discover that my muscles hadn't completely atrophied from two months of inactivity, though they were certainly headed in that direction. Then off for a haircut from the taciturn Ukrainian (£8), a spot of shopping at Tesco (a lot more than £8), and home to begin the melancholy task of sorting out a dozen or more years of London life into boxes and bin bags. Given the cost of shipping things back to the States, little more than my favourite clothes and books are going to make the cut; almost everything else will remain here, either to find a good home or to clutter up the already overstretched British landfills.

And in between the tedium of packing, throwing things out, making calls to cut off the phone, electricity, internet, etc., and making calls and visits to say goodbye to all the people who've been a part of my life here, I expect I'll put in a fair bit of time just wandering the streets and trying to fix in my memory for all time just how magnificent and beautiful and maddening and strange this city has been, and how fortunate I feel to have had this chance to be a part of it.


Matt said...

If it's any help, I'd love to take anything vaguely interesting off your hands if you wanna post any of it (I love zines, old records, etc). I'll PayPal you postage costs if there's anything worth sending me?

Matt (in Leeds)

Crumbly said...

Is this opposite of Red Skies At Night? (you know, the Fixx) ???

Larry Livermore said...

No, more like, "Red skies at morning, sailors take warning." Or is that, "Grey skies at morning..."? Arrgh! I can never keep those two straight.