A Dragon in London
England is my father.
If you’re an American as I am, England is your father too, regardless of your racial nationality.
He’s truly my father, since not only am I an American, but despite a lot of Sicilian blood much of my ancestry is from English and Welsh families.
The UK is a very particular type of father, though. He’s the father who, in his prime, was the most powerful Alpha Male in the world. A man who ruled all. A man to be respected, feared, and emulated. Many years later, as an old man, he’s a quiet, near powerless old beta, sitting in the corner, being bullied by his wife. Every once and awhile he says some silly things, and he’s nothing like the man he was in his prime. He still has that glint in his eye though, and he has a shotgun leaning against the wall next to him, so he’s not completely unfeared, but many other younger, more Alpha men in the same room have machineguns and howitzers.
I love my father. Whenever I visit England, I feel a sense of connection, family and honor I don’t get anywhere else in the world, including my home America. At the same time, I have to look at the world objectively, and admit what my father has become. Going to England is always bittersweet.
The UK used to be the largest empire known to man. The British Empire controlled almost one-fourth of the entire planet Earth. Just think about that. One-fourth! A simple governor of a distant British colony had more power than the President of the United States. Utterly amazing.
Contrary to today’s Societal Programming, the British Empire, despite its problems, was largely a good thing in history that brought a lot of light to a largely dark world. With the world under the Crown, standards of living went up, technological advances increased, commerce and trade prospered, and many barbaric practices like human sacrifice were wiped from existence.
Today…well, it’s a little different to say the least. Today the UK yet another small, left-wing, politically correct, bank-ruled, socialist, near bankrupt European nation, with national debt that’s tripled in just the last ten years, a bankrupt government healthcare system, with London citizens burning up about Muslim immigrants while sitting in some of the world’s worst traffic, caused by eco-friendly bike lanes no one uses. With the recent pro-Brexit vote, which I supported, they took a small step in the right direction, but like with us in the collapsing US, it was too little, too late. Brexit can’t save the UK any more than Trump can save the US. In a few years, we’re all pitching off this waterfall together. (I use the royal “we” when I say that; when the shit hits the fan I’ll be long gone.)
This is the first time I’ve spent an extended period of time in London, a full week. I’m traveling in Europe for a few weeks with my with my mom (yeah, seriously), to take her on her first trip outside the US in order to see her distant relatives in Sicily before she gets too old to make trips like this. London is a stopover on the way to Italy. Because I’m with her, I’m not traveling with my usual efficiency, but I can still review the cites I’ll be spending time in. Today, it’s London. Let do this…
1. Rich culture. We Americans have no culture. We think we do. Nike and Spider-Man and double cheeseburgers and things like that, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Our nation is only 240 years old. We have a detailed history within those 240 years, but compared to England’s 2000 years and China’s 4000 years, we’re pathetic, cultural pygmies. As Americans, particularly those few Americans like me who bother to travel outside of their homeland, we sometimes feel this, seeking a deeper culture we never had, trying to fill a hole in our being that’s difficult to describe.
The UK doesn’t have this problem. Walking around London, seeing the fantastic architecture and the rich history behind it all is simply breathtaking, and I really mean that. Instead of the cookie cutter buildings of the US, London buildings (much like the rest of Europe and the Old World) are intricate, ornate, and full of character. Like in Washington DC, the buildings here are all squat and tiny, rarely going above five or six stories. They also have drab stone colors, not colorful at all like cities such as Melbourne or Dallas, but these are minor complaints. Here’s an example of a random building to illustrate what I’m talking about:
I sat inside Westminster Abbey, arguably the most important church in the world outside the Vatican, standing in the same spot where British kings have been coronated and married for over a thousand years. I stood just outside the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace, places where, at one time, one-fourth of the planet was ruled.
We Americans don’t have culture like this. We don’t have history like this. I’m jealous of my British brothers. You have what I never will.
I was constantly moved while in London, deeply.
My mom felt the same. However, as a former nun and Roman Catholic, she had mixed feelings about being around all these Episcopalian Brits, which Roman Catholics tend to think of as “fake” Catholics. I took her to mass in Westminster Abbey one morning, and as I took in all the wonderful medieval architecture around us, feeling a swell of pride for my ancestors, my mom said,
“Pssh. Episcopalians! These people are heretics. Jesus never wanted all this ornate shit.”
~BD’s Mom, former nun and sweet old lady
Normally I would remind her that Vatican City for “true” Catholics like her goes far beyond “ornate,” but when you’re over the age of about 70 or so (my mom is 73), any Societal Programming you haven’t cleaned out is permanently baked into your brain with a nice hard crust. That’s why talking to old people is so much fun.
2. The people. London is one of the most diverse and multinational cities in the world. Blacks and Asians are uncommon but present, but Middle Easterners, Indians, Russians, and non-British Europeans are not only common, but based on what I saw, easily outnumber native born Londoners. And just to be clear, I’m not talking about the touristy areas (of which there are many, more on this in a minute); I’m talking about just normal London neighborhoods.
This was echoed by many old guys I talked to, who bemoaned that the only true Londoners left are the taxi drivers. That may not be far from the truth. Sadly, this may have lead to much of the Brexit fervor, which is plastered over all the newspapers and magazines here. I favor Brexit for the UK for economic and sovereignty reasons, not for immigration or racial reasons, but I may be in the minority of Brexit supporters in this.
People like Italians, Germans, Indians, and many other nationalities and races are everywhere, and I mean everywhere. I was also very surprised to hear people speak with American accents as well (though I’d bet they were mostly Canadians, since Americans are quite insular and don’t travel outside their “number one” country very much). This is very unusual; London is perhaps the only city outside the US I’ve ever visited where you can hear any American/Canadian accents.
No one is fat here. Everyone is trim and skinny. It’s so odd for an American like myself to visit a massive city where overweight people are extremely rare, since fatsos are the norm where I live. I’ve been traveling the world and I’m still not used to this. Funny.
One disturbing thing is Londoners’ skin. Holy shit, it’s horrible. I can officially say that London people have the worst skin of any city in the world I’ve ever visited in my life. The landscape is filled with middle age women who have faces covered with deep, hard wrinkles, making them look much older (and uglier) than they should be. Young people aren’t immune either; young faces covered with huge red zits, pimples, rosacea and acne is shockingly common here. It’s very odd and a little off-putting.
My guess is this is a result of the combination of the prevalence of smoking cigarettes (it doesn’t look to be quite as demonized here as in the US), genetics, lack of sunscreen, and diet. But I’m only speculating. Something is very wrong with how Londoners take care of their damn skin. Holy crap.
Now let’s get to the stereotype of British people having bad teeth. There is some truth to this, but it’s not nearly as bad as American pop culture likes to poke fun about. Most people’s teeth are just as good/bad as American teeth, but there does seem to be an increased amount of crooked teeth, vampire fangs, and other oral weirdness here.
Case in point, I had a massage a few days ago here, and my massage girl was named Hailee. Hailee was young and super cute, and that sexy British accent…mmmmm. But when she smiled she looked like an orc. God dammit, Hailee. Why didn’t your parents fix those Mordor fangs? Or at least get you some invisialign?
The point is, few young, cute American women like Hailee would have teeth that bad. Interesting.
Speaking of women…
3. The women. You’ve probably heard that British women are ugly. Well, I tried to debunk that while I was here, but I’m sorry to say that’s not far from the truth. I wouldn’t go as far as to say they’re ugly, but spending time in London is just like spending time in China, where I see millions of women, don’t consider them ugly per se, but don’t see any I’d be happy about having sex with. Over a one or two day period of seeing bazillions of women, I might see one or two that I consider cute, and even then at least one of them will be a visiting tourist, not a true blue London woman.
To be fair, it’s all about perception and experience. If you’ve lived in London your entire life and have never traveled to other cities outside of the UK, you probably have a very different view of what I just said, and probably think there are plenty of hot women in London. But as a guy who’s seen women in cities all over the world, London ranks extremely low. On my city chart of female attractiveness, London ranks in the “below average” zone just below cities like Detroit and Philadelphia. (Yes, I see more attractive women in places like Detroit and Philly than in London, and considering London is a much larger city than both of those, that gives you an idea of how bad it is.)
This intrigued me, so I started to pay close attention to possible reasons why these women were less attractive than most other places. I came up with two theories:
– The eyes, noses, and mouths of British women (or should I say, London women, since it would be unfair of me to paint with too broad a brush) are all very close together. This gives their faces a scrunched look, where the face is small but the rest of the head is too big.
– Upturned and downturned noses are very common here. Unlike Sydney, Australia, where women’s noses are very different yet the women are still very hot, London noses give women a strange Queen Elizabeth look, which is not good (or at least not good to American eyes).
– The skin problem described above.
– The teeth problem described above.
4. The men. The men here, like in most of Europe, are small as compared to American, Canadian, and Australian men. Men in London are shorter, have smaller and more narrow shoulders, smaller torsos, and skinnier legs. Per the usual European fashion styles, they wear very tight, skinny pants that make their already skinny legs look even skinnier. I’m not tall, but I look like an ogre compared to these guys. I joked to my mom that I could pick up one of these little guys at random and snap him in half. (I joke, my UK brothers, I joke.)
While the women here aren’t very good looking, the men don’t seem to have that problem. It’s always been hard for me to judge male attractiveness, but it seems like the men are decent looking in London. Meaning they’re getting the shit end of the deal (better looking men, uglier women; not a good city for masculine living in my book).
5. The food. It’s pretty lame. They love their meat here, just like I do, but the overall tastiness of the food is pretty shitty as compared to other cultures. However, this is a good thing, because keeping on track with my diet has been very easy here. The odd British need to wrap everything in a pie hasn’t tempted me at all. Coolness.
6. Invaded by tourists. Good fucking god. There are certain parts of London, mostly around The Thames, that are absolutely overrun by mobs of tourists. I’ve never seen anything like it. My hotel was by the Westminster Bridge, which is a great spot, but every time we had to cross the damn thing we had to wade though mountains of European and Asian tourists, standing around, talking to each other, taking pictures, taking selfies, joking around, bumping into each other, and acting like idiots. It’s like this all the way down the river, on both sides, reaching into The City (London’s financial district) and beyond.
It’s like trying to navigate through Disneyland at high rush hour. I’m not sure what it is about London that attracts so many tourists above and beyond other cities. A testament to the honor people feel towards the old British Empire I guess. So take it as a compliment, Brits. Pain in the ass though.
7. Subpar European infrastructure. This is the part where I piss off a lot of you by complaining about the declining West and the inefficiency of Europe as compared to American and Asian standards. Before you freak out too much, I will say that London is clearly a few steps above the infrastructure of Australia (which was surprisingly bad) and I’m sure when I review Rome and Sicily next week the infrastructure there is going to be worse as well. Yet as always, I have to be objective about this stuff and tell you where London is failing as compared to other first world cultures.
I’ll start by saying something nice. The subway system in London is actually pretty good. I was expecting a shit show like Australia’s subways, but was surprised to see that London’s subways (called “the underground” or “the tube”) are very organized, well managed, and always have very clear signs. Never once did I have trouble navigating its system or have any trouble whatsoever getting from A to B. Well done.
The only two problems is A) it’s a little expensive, especially compared to Asia, and B) the subway cars are very small, smaller than any other city I’ve yet visited, creating a claustrophobic feel to them. (Again, if you’ve lived in London your whole life and have never traveled abroad, you may not even notice this).
Thertefore, London’s subways are a notch above most American cities, several notches above Australia, but still light-years behind Asia like the rest of the declining West. Not horrible, but being accustomed to Asia’s subways we in the West have a long way to go.
Now let’s get to the bad shit. Before we left for our big trip, I had to sit down my high energy, high extroverted mother, who has never been outside the country before, and explain to her that Europe is different than America. She had to expect that Europe moves slower and has more stuff that doesn’t work. I told her to expect trouble at places like the airport, hotels, taxis, and tourist areas, and to not freak out. Things that don’t work, things that are closed in the middle of the day for no reason, stupid rules that make no sense, etc.
Was I right? Yup. A few examples from London…
– Flying into London, our plane had to circle around the airport for 25 minutes for some reason. I’ve been in flights hundreds of times in the US and Asia and this almost never happens there.
– Flying out of London, we had to sit in our plane, on the runway, for 45 minutes because a part wasn’t working, then because “another plane was in our way.” I shit you not.
– The air conditioner in our hotel room didn’t work unless at least one light was turned on. The fan would blow, but no cold air would come out. That was fun to figure out.
– Taxi drivers here semi-regularly can’t take credit or debt cards because their “machine is broken” (or they’re lying). Irritating as fuck.
– Twice our hot water didn’t work, and this was in a nice, upscale hotel.
– One key subway station, located right in the financial district, was closed. I mean the entire station was closed. I’ve never seen any city close down an entire station before. Close down parts of a station, sure. Temporarily close down certain lines, yeah. But an entire station? Shit. Several mini-crowds of tour groups were milling around in front of the station in dazed confusion. Because of all this, my mom and I had to take a nice, long, unexpected, expensive cab ride in the middle of the night, and waste a day travel pass for the subway. Fun.
– There are no street signs here! Yes, you heard me right. WTF?!? This has been the most irritating part of my trip here. I’m always armed with a pocket map, a compass, and Google Maps, so I can always navigate any city, but not having street signs makes navigating at least five times more difficult and time consuming. Every once and a while, if you’re very lucky, there will be a white street sign plastered on a nearby building, but this is only in perhaps one out of 15 intersections. Man, it sucks. To be fair, there are some American cities that don’t have street signs on certain intersections, but nothing like this. Not cool, London.
Ah, Europe. (I can’t wait to see all the shit that doesn’t work in Italy.)
8. Friendly, polite people. Like with most Western, English speaking countries outside the United States, people here are extremely friendly. The British are also hugely polite, easily the most polite white people on planet Earth. Only the Japanese are more so (and even then, they’re full of shit, since the Japanese are also the most secretly racist people on Earth).
British Societal Programming emphasizes politeness and toned down emotions more so than American, Australian, and even Canadian cultures, and it shows. British people are hugely pleasant to talk to and I always thoroughly enjoy conversations with them. If London wasn’t so ridiculously expensive, and if the women here were a little hotter, it would be one of the most livable big cities in the world for this reason alone.
That wraps it up for London! Next up, Rome…