After a month in London, most of it spent with my head down in the library and half an ear to the nonsense going on back home, things are coming into focus. Having several friends here has made the transition exciting and being back in school is a reminder of the lack of daily, educational curiosity that can exist in the ‘real world’, as well as the overemphasis on careers that can permeate throughout school. Moving between jobs, locations, and friendships seems to put a spotlight on the importance of decision making, but reminiscing makes me wonder how often I choose the path of least resistance. As part of the many choices I’ve set out to make in this new chapter, I’ll be writing more consistently going forward; about my world, decisions, and opinions. Certainly, feel free to ignore my writing if it doesn’t suit you. Better yet, please respond with thoughts of your own, whether through public articles or personal messages to me ([email protected]).
Having never received much formal writing education, I decided it’s best to imitate my favorites in an attempt to produce interesting and relevant work. To keep things on track, I’ll begin with a move taken from Paul Theroux’s Riding the Iron Rooster, focusing on specific interactions, encounters, and details which may hopefully shed light on something larger. Theroux describes his travels around China in the late ‘80’s through a host of chance encounters and unique conversations. Surely this will evolve over time and I’m looking forward to hearing preferences and requests.
I’m currently living in South Kensington, one of the nicest areas of the city and a quick stroll from many of the most expensive parts of London and the world. The beginning of my stay here was spent in an Airbnb in the more exclusive, adjacent neighborhood of Chelsea. I’d previously sought to distance myself from the upper class and yuppies that litter the streets and fill the restaurants in urban neighborhoods like these, but proximity to school is the focus right now, and moving in with a friend was impossible to pass up.
Anyone who comes here quickly experiences the same shock as I did. Nothing stands out more than the cars. The high end British carmakers, Bentley, Rolls Royce, and Aston Martin, have a surprising hold on the luxury car market, but the Germans and Italians are doing just fine. I haven’t noticed more than a handful of American cars in the last month, maybe some midpriced Fords, a few Mustangs, and a handful of Teslas, but do American auto makers produce (non electric) luxury cars?
I frequently — as in nearly a dozen times each day — see an extremely photogenic ride parked on the side of a nearby street. And by photogenic, I mean sexy, expensive, and very new. There’s a bit more safety on the streets here than other cities, an £11 Congestion Charge on cars from outside London coupled with CCTV makes the streets far more manageable than Manhattan. But more than anything, I’ve learned, the infrastructure simply doesn’t exist to afford garages for everyone. It’s something that really sinks in when being in a place like this, there’s really only one Chelsea, and if people are willing to pay top dollar to live there, the garage will be sacrificed. Besides, with the rate that real estate is moving, it’s not a huge surprise that nearly all of the homeowners can afford the nicest cars. Car prices can’t possibly rise by 50% in 5 years (but home prices can). My first weekend here, I was strolling around town and noticed a gorgeous, new, top of the line Rolls Royce Phantom parked outside an embassy/mansion/apartment building and had to stop for a picture.
I picked up my head, and literally two cars away was the exact same car. Take the picture again? That’s a million dollars sitting in front of me.
Obviously there’s silly money around here, from oil riches that comes north for the summer and finance fat cats with servants for their servants. But mostly, I think about all of the people that live in this town and don’t own an amazing car, as I fit that group quite well. I catch myself daydreaming about a new Bentley coupe, or staring at Ferraris in the nearby dealership. In reality I’ve never owned anything more powerful than a bike and I’ve never been happier. Hopefully I’ll stop noticing them at some point. But by then, the leases should be up and next year’s models will be on their way.
Like most people, I have opinions on nearly everything with which I interact. I’m not convinced that most people are doing things right, but I also don’t believe there is ‘right’ for most things. I make decisions based on my own interactions, not what I hear from others, so rather than try to change your beliefs, I hope I can encourage your own interactions to shape them.
And now…with less than a week left in this misery, I leave you with this bit of hope: