Friday, 31 October 2008

Village of the damned

Whoa - Halloween is HUGE here. Hundreds walked the streets of university village, mindlessy chanting one word: "candy". In anticipation I'd bought a ton of the stuff, but few ventured up to our third floor. Those who did filled their boots, including a number of people who are old enough to know better...

Princess Hannah charms sweets out of all who come near.

Princess Maya does the same.

Sophia drew the short straw, and had to dress up as a porcupine. Next year: princess.

Tomorrow I'm going to contact maintenance about our rodent problem.

The Parker family braved the stairs, and were richly rewarded.

Amir caught red handed and blue tongued.

But the scariest thing stalking the village this Halloween was Elliot. Please, just take the candy and go!

All-American day

It's Halloween! To celebrate this most American of holidays Mat and I went out to The Royal Cafe for brunch ("king of breakfast, lunch and kitsch," according to its reviews). From there we continued the fun with some ten-pin bowling, once again embarrassing ourselves while the day trippers from the local old people's home reeled off strike after strike beside us.

In the wider world, politics is hotting up with the election scant days away. Down the road a volunteer call centre has been set up where you can call innocent people in far away swing states and try to get them to vote Democrat. I'm tempted. I'm sure a British accent telling them to vote Obama would do wonders for his campaign.

The Royal Cafe, lost in the 50s.

Mat and his breakfast.

My cheddar, bacon and avocado omelete. "All omeletes are steamed and not fried," the menu proclaims, so that's alright.

The dude.

Nice technique.

We're trying to!

Not long now.

The pumpkins have come out against Prop 8. Could they swing it?

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Peace and love

Mat got into the Berkeley spirit and joined a protest on Thursday! It was a peace vigil, initiated by the Quakers of San Francisco, that has taken place every week since October 2001.

In true Quaker style the protest finished with an invitation to lunch, where he got chatting with some radical environmentalists from LA who had refused to turn their air conditioning on all summer despite temperatures in the mid-30Cs. He didn't find out whether they'd flown to SF to attend the demo...

Mat's still working on the beard.

Monday, 27 October 2008


In an attempt to further indoctrinate ourselves into American ways, tonight we attended a pumpkin carving party. This being Berkeley there's probably an "against cruelty to pumpkins" march going on somewhere, but thankfully this evening we were able to disembowel our gourds in peace.

Children frolic over the pumpkins at Monterey Market.

All shapes and sizes!

No more burgers for you!

Pumpkinmasters Christine and Vince lead a carving workshop.

Inside. Nice.

Dana smiles as she twists the knife.

Three ambitious, focused and single-minded women.

Miss Pumpkin 2008

Amir with an impressive pair. For more evidence (and to find out what Haas students really get up to on weekends), check out Dana's video.

Dr Elise. "To perform the perfect lobotomy, make a delicate first incision..."

They say a pumpkin looks like its owner.

My effort. I'm quite proud of it!

OK, Amir's is pretty good too.

But wow. This is the real thing. Go bears!

Happy Halloween!

Back to where they once belong

I bid a tearful goodbye to Emily yesterday. I like to think that she was crying too...somewhere deep down inside. After a whirlwind two weeks of sightseeing and state-hopping it's back to the humdrum reality of life on the ever sunny and wonderful Californian coast of America. It's tough.

Luckily Mat's still here! Tonight he was introduced to the charms of the Hotsy Totsy Club, where the Yorktown Cup was once again contested. This time it was over shuffleboard - a far more subtle and interesting game than ten pin bowling, and one I've had far more luck winning. Needless to say, the plaque is back in the hands of its rightful owner.

Somewhere inbetween all this Hannah, Amanda, Sagy and I attended a picnic in Golden Gate Park in SF. Down there by the Pacific coast temperatures dipped to near zero, and a steely grey sky hung ominously overhead, but we were not going to be deterred. Although the invitation to this Haas event had gone out to 120+ people we were among the dozen or so who actually showed up.

Of course, back in Berkeley the temperatures hovered around the mid-20s they've been all month. But where's the fun in eating outside if you're not forced to play frisbee to avoid hypothermia (would anyone ever play frisbee out of choice)? Ah, the happy memories of an English childhood...

Mat finds that little bit of Texas inside.

Some are born great, some achieve greatness, etc.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Walking in (and around) Memphis

We opened the door this morning to torrential rain. "English weather," Emily commented, to the amusement of a group of Americans stepping out of the room next to ours.

But what weather could be more appropriate to stand by the Graceland graveside of the King, so cruelly taken from us by "prescription medication" if you listen to the official audio tour. Fried banana and peanut butter sandwiches might have been partly to blame too...which we were able to sample at the on-site cafe.

One spiritual experience led to another when we moved on to Sun Studios. Here we walked the same floors as Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Otis Redding and Carl Perkins. We even got to sing into the actual microphone that Sam Phillips used to record Elvis. Wow.

The rain hadn't let up, so we went to get advice from some ducks. The Peabody ducks! They live in a penthouse at the top of the Peabody Hotel and process down every morning to sit in the fountain in the middle of the lounge, only to process right back up again in the evening. And hundreds of easily amused people turn up to watch. Including us.

Today it was the first day of a new set of ducks (the hotel restaurant's canard a l'orange was excellent last night, I hear) and they did really well. The Duckmaster had to coax them a little more than usual but no feathers flew.

After all the excitement we went out for Memphis barbecue and catfish, then returned to the motel to finally dry off. Tomorrow we're following the rain all the way back to Nashville. This is the danger of three British people being in the same place.

The motel's swimming pool. A few hours later it overflowed.

Mat and Emily in Elvis's sitting room. He didn't mind.

The infamous jungle room.

A corridor of hits.

And some more.

Who's the Lord and Saviour of mankind again?

David contemplates the eternal.

Mat contemplates a fried banana and peanut butter sandwich - an Elvis favourite.

In Sun Studios, a record cutter. "Think of it as a prehistoric CD burner," the guide advised.

B.B. King's favourite guitar. Maybe.

David takes over the Sun Studio front office. (Who's Marion Keisker? Only one of the most important people in the history of rock'n'roll!)

Who's that with David and Emily?

Mat strikes a curled lip rock pose.

David...not so much.

Emily and a Peabody duck.

Here's the Duckmaster (that's honestly his title!) getting ready to corral his ducks.

And there they go along the carpet!

Emily finally gets her hands on the barbecued ribs she's been craving since arriving in the States.

Beale Street in the rain.