Saturday, May 22, 2010

London Calling!

In 1984, I was five years into an undergrad education at UC Berkeley, and still had no degree in sight. I was lost. I was heartbroken over a girl. I had no direction. My GPA was in the gutter and I didn't know why, or what I was doing. So I did what any red-blooded American would do: I ran away. I bought a Eurail pass and took off for Europe with my backpack, some clothes, a journal, and some music tapes for a few months. It was one of the greatest things I ever did.

I arrived in London in September 1984, soon to be 23 years old, and it was the first time I'd ever been out of the country. When I emerged from the Tube station in Piccadilly Circus, it was the first time I'd ever laid eyes on land or buildings or sky that was not part of the U.S. It was intoxicating. So much so, in fact, that I lost my camera right away, on that first day, in that first half hour. Which put all my romantic notions in check and reminded me again what a freakin' doofus I can be. It was just a minor setback.

I bought a new camera right away, and then set about exploring the city. And fell in love. I loved everything about it that was not the U.S. I loved everything about it that was not my life. I loved the accents, the clothes, the architecture, the atmosphere--even the weather. I loved the music in the record stores. I went to my first English pub and ordered a half-pint, only to be told by the bartender that that's not what men do, as he put a full Guinness in front of me. I met an expatriate American waitress in a cafe who said it was easy to get work and I should never go back. I read George Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London and Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer and felt more "European" for doing so. I bought a black overcoat and took my picture in front of the factory that's on the cover of Pink Floyd's Animals. I met other lost, excited, bewildered young travelers at the youth hostel for food and drink and random exploring. I met a Canadian woman in line at a phone booth, and she said to come with her and her English boyfriend to a pub, so I did. We played darts and got drunk, and then we piled into their VW bug and drove to Salisbury, where they said I could stay overnight with them at his parents' place. Except his parents didn't approve of them bringing home a drunk American kid, so I spent the night in the VW bug, freezing and drunk, and then had to take a bus back up to London the next morning where all my stuff was. I went to plays and museums and vintage shops and Indian restaurants. I bought U2's Unforgettable Fire on cassette tape and listened to it over and over in my hostel bed and on the buses. I read David Copperfield. I took a day trip to Brighton and sat on the beach and pretended I was a mod in Quadrophenia. It was all so romantic and silly and awesome. I wrote a line in my journal one night that was a direct quote from a David Byrne song: "There is nothing that is stronger than the feeling that you get when your eyes are wide open." It was me, alone, learning how to live.

I'm leaving for London tomorrow, 26 years later, a completely different person. I look back on that kid and I feel kinda bad for him, kinda embarrassed for him, but also with great fondness at the memories. That was just one stop on my four-month trip, but it was the beginning, and in many ways was the beginning of my adulthood and the person I became. It changed everything.

Now I'm a middle-aged dork representing a videogame company, and am traveling with my co-workers to do some filming, podcasting, and writing, in London just for a day, and then to Guildford for the rest of the week. It's so odd to me that for all the traveling I've done over the years, I've never once been back to London, except as a stopover. And though I only get one day in the city, I'm looking forward to coming up the Tube station, just like my earnest and naive and much skinnier younger self did 26 years ago, and marvel at the sights and sounds of London.


Lee Bradley said...

Lovely tale. Enjoy your stay here, fella.

Graham said...

At 37, I'm making my first visit to London, coincidentally, today. I'm not sure I ever had the wanderlust that came across so wonderfully in your story, but I'll definitely try to keep myself open to the magic of the city. Thanks.

Jon X. Porter said...

A tour round the Globe theatre is worth taking during the day, as is a visit to the Tate Modern and generally anything else on the southbank.

Enjoy your stay!

PS. Look up 'Oyster Cards' before you come if you're planning on setting foot on any public transport.

mcw said...

Thank you for sharing that memorable experience.

Stephen said...

Cool story, bro'!

Samit Sarkar said...

Man, that's an awesome story. Someday, I'll set foot on non-airport solid ground in Europe...

Jeff Green said...

Wait, are you allowed to "cool story, bro!" someone's blog entry?


Hummy said...

London's a fantastic city, you'll have a brilliant time.

CDM said...

This blog conveys that wonder of traveling so well Jeff! Thank you. I've just returned grudgingly from my overseas escape. Where you ran from the mighty USA I ran blindly to it, and I loved every excessive minute of it.

Now I'm back home, back at uni, back in the tertiary tunnel of doom, with no visible light at the end of it. It's depressing.

But this post gives me hope. I did the right thing and opened my eyes to the world. I'm stronger for it.

So maybe one day when I enter the great halls of middle-agedom I'll find my self flying back across the pacific, watching the morning sun pierce through L.A's smog blanket, and I'll think of this post. The 'middle-aged dork' did it and seems pretty happy, so this middle-aged nerd must doing alright too!

Anonymous said...

So you're telling us that you're going to London, but won't actually be seeing much of London.

A guy I know came back from a business trip and lamented that this was the second time he had been to Rome and hadn't seen Rome.

I said to him, what do you mean!

He said he had an extremely busy agenda and couldn't go anywhere or do anything. Rome, he said, was just a thing outside the window tantalizing him - a bit like being sick with the flu on a beautiful summer's day, I would imagine, in that you can see your garden through the window, and the fields beyond, but you can't go out and enjoy it.


It's full of sadness.

I think I'll write some poetry now:

Ode to Green In London:

Damn you god.
When I was young I was troubled.
You sent me to London.
And I had a beautiful taste.
But then I had to come back home and find myself.
Find my life.
Went to work for Computer Gaming World.
Loved it.
Changed the name to GFW.
Hated it.
Lost my job.
My sanity.
My life.
Then a halfway beautiful thing.
Got a job at EA.
Going around the world.
Always working.
All that shit.
And now you send me back.
Back to London.
And yet somehow not back.
All at the same time.
It's always passing me by and I can only see it through the window.
Never able to get there.
Always just beyond my reach.
Damn you God.

The Goose

James Benson said...

Hey Jeff, I live in Guildford ( I work for Lionhead). Huge fan of your podcasting work (I dont believe the magazine existed in UK right?) I recently listened to the entire run of GFW radio to get me through Fable 3 crunch, and in the last few days I caught up on the run of Out of the game. Just wanted to say it's cool that you're coming to Guildford and that if I see you up the highstreet or something I'll probably come over and say cheers for all the entertainment.

Roman said...

Hi Jeff!! You are awesome. I think I met you at least 4 times at PAX East. This blog made me think. It is one of the most confusing feeling in life when you don't know what you want to do.... I think I should go somewhere.

Tristessa said...

Ah, London! I'm a little jealous every time I hear people talk about getting out of the USA.

I've actually never been out of my country. Before anyone gets the wrong idea, I'm usually quick to point out that I'm not all that poorly traveled. I've been in 29 US States. I've used a train or take bus rides between states. Many times I had the same weird romantic feeling that people have when they talk about leaving the country. I prefer to stay in lesser hotels and slum about in restaurants and places off the trail. Kooky quirk of mine: I don't usually take a camera on trips. And when I do, I often leave it in my bag.

I plan to make trip to Japan sometime soon(ish)...then it'll be London's turn. And France.

Have a great time. And remember to bring along a sense of wide eyed wonder. Too many 'grown ups' leave it at home =p

i38warhawk said...

Nice to know I'm not the first 23 year old, five years into a college degree with no end in sight. Hope I come out of it with such a cool story.

Bobby K said...

This is weird timing reading your blog. I'm 41, soon to be 42 in July, and I've been thinking a lot about my early 20s these past few weeks. I can't get some of those experiences out of my head and I wonder where time has gone. In the summer of 1989, I took a 2 week trip to Europe with my family and while it wasn't the type of life changing adventure you had, it was a great experience none the less that I still remember and the experiences that summer back home with old friends and new friends was an amazing time.

Great blog Jeff. Sounds like an amazing time.

Squall said...

I sometimes long to go on a crazy adventure such as that...

At the very least, you did give me a day or two of listening to lots of The Clash. And a desire to sell it all for a motorcycle & a month of open road.

Kevin Elgar said...

Pretty uplifting story. Especially considering I'm also a lost college kid who has wanted so much to run away and travel, but I'm using every fiber of my will to resist instead. Which brings me to my complaint: You didn't explain how this experience got you to finish college and brought you're life in America on track! :)

Jeff said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff said...

As a 25-year-old male, this blog post really spoke to me. I look at people who go to college right after high school and graduate with a bachelor's degree at 22, and feel like I missed something. Then I read something like this from a person whom I admire, and I realize the end of the world isn't quite here yet.

Thanks for the post, man.

Mick said...

Jeff, you're amazing. Your earnestness and self-awareness combine to form a really funny, really honest, really interesting, and always-striving-to-be-better dude who I just love reading.

Anonymous said...

It would have been cool if you came up out of the London tube station and saw your younger self across the street.

Randy Drouin said...

I'm amazed at how nicely your writing flows in the absence of an editor. I felt like I was right there with you, wide-eyed and filled with wonder.

It's funny - I'm only 25 but that story you told made me feel old - made me want to go do something. It's a nice feeling when you can read someones blog not because you care about what they are writing about, but because the writing is of such high quality that it just kind of sucks you in. Great stuff Jeff!

Sully said...

We're so proud of who you've become!

Gentry said...

delightfully written blog post my good sir!

Michelle said...

I just came across your blog and loved your entry! I currently live in the US, but I was stationed in England for 2 years, fell in love with it, and a year later (this August), I am moving back to England to go to school! I loved reading about your adventures there-it brought back so many lovely memories. People need to leave their comfort zone and discover this amazing country, and all of Europe! So kudos to you for just packing up and going there! I know I wouldn't have done it if I wasn't forced to go!! But now I know where I'm meant to be :)

Anonymous said...

So where's the follow up? Did London suck?

Anonymous said...

Hey, look at that.

A non-Green enthusiast read the blog, having arrived here randomly.

Jesus, now Green's got people who don't even know him reading his stuff.

Rax Nahali said...

Been reading your blog for a long time Jeff, and this is my favourite post. I'm only 6 yrs younger then you, and I understand what you wrote here. That understanding is rare for someone as obtuse as myself hehe.
I hope the walk out of the tube this time around fills you with the same feeling of wonder :)

Colin J Smith said...

Jeff, I loved it when you did the back pages of CGW. It was almost torture waiting to go through the pages so I could read your article but like some ice cream dessert, I saved it for the last.
Then it would be over. And I'd have to get out of the bathroom.

Cliff said...

Jeff how was your trip to London?

Anonymous said...

Hey Jeff,
Thank you for sharing that story with us.

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Remember when Green moved over to Twitter? He did so reluctantly.

Now that he's completely gone over to the dark side he seems to have forgotten how to write more than 50 words at a time.

Twitter has shriveled his brain. He no longer thinks big. All we ever get from the guy are these little Greenspeak sound bites... ooh, somebody left a box of cookies on his desk, and he ate some... ooh, he woke up too early this morning, which was apparently a bad thing, and started listening to some old music, which was apparently a good thing ... or ooh, he claims he's going to be doing a second Dragon Age run through... blah, blah, blah...

I'd like to see something a little bit more substantial here.

At least let's see a gaming related blog about non EA titles! Or something to do with the sate of the gaming business! Something! Anything!

I mean, it's like the guy has no life all of a sudden?

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Jeff Green
What podcast and episode of that podcast did you complain about the parking meters taking only quarters. I really enjoyed that rant. Thank You in advance

Sincerely a long time fan

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Anonymous said...

And that is why I hate fucking twitter and stupid ass facebook.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Custom-logo-designs guy, if you're not selling us cheap Nike shoes then you can fuck off.

Jeff, are you aware that you're de-evolving as a writer?

The jump to Twitter was bad enough - and it was doubly bad that you started to ignore your own blog page - but now your Twitter page has become a sort of communications log in which you're responding publicly to people who have sent you messages.

It just feels like I have to be a member of your inner circle to follow what you're Twittering about these days.

It actually wasn't like that in the beginning. In the beginning it was easy to follow your Twitter feed, since you were making little observations about what you were encountering in your daily life. Now it feels more like you're using Twitter for social networking purposes... and maybe that's the whole point of Twitter... but for those of us who just like to read your stuff, it's kind of disheartening.

You need to blog about the summer, or about gaming, or about something. Just write a damned blog.

Anonymous said...

How come you never write to us any more, Jeff?

You used to come by, hang out, and act really cool and caring.

Now you leave for months at a time.

I feel like we're growing apart.

At least we'll always have the GFW podcasts.

*wipes away a single, perfect teardrop*

Anonymous said...

Twitter shitter.

Miffy said...

I've lived in England all my life and yet I feel just as much of a stranger to London and many other parts of the UK as you Americans do. In fact really, as anyone does because we can't all visit every part of our countries.

I drove through London for the first time the other month and my key to having a good time was just talking to people. You'll find that actually people in real life are friendly and want to be kind to each other. I ended up staying in a hotel that was managed by a guy I met on the streets asking for directions at 1am in the morning lol.

I often find myself and everyone else being scared to travel because it is like the dark... unknown. Yet what I find is we're all the same and we shouldn't be scare of what each other thinks, just go for it or you'll regret it.

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