Beginning a story is always hard. Especially when you’ve elected to create many stories, and consequent beginnings, within a larger narrative. I always endeavour to avoid starting a story with “I”, as in “I did this or that” or “after”, as in “after doing this or that I did this or that”. Such commencements are banal and unimaginative, but I encourage anyone reading this to resist not reading anything because it leads off in such ways. You never know what you might be missing. Ah, beginnings. Even literature greats have struggled with it, until they broke through that figurative ice with their classic work creating pick. By now you probably think I’m simply stalling, so I’ll get to the point: this story’s beginning will set off from way back at an interesting particular moment I forgot to mention in Las Vegas – even though I am presently with regard to this blog post about to land at London’s Heathrow Airport. Vegas. Shudder. Just thinking about that cultural quagmire makes my soul sigh. It was my last night, at the Luxor Hotel and Casino, astride one of its roulette tables. I was sitting there losing money, as you do, when an Aussie bloke foursome joined me. They were young professionals out for no good away from their too attractive girlfriends. Not bogans. I would have preferred bogans. These cobbers (Australian term for pal), or at least one of them, were sharks. I’d had a fair bit to drink, but so help me God I swear to his crucified son Jesus that one of them slipped three $5 poker chips on top of my one, which was sitting on red. I’d experienced this sleazy tactic before at Melbourne’s Crown Casino, in which some grizzled old bastard won red through chips he put on mine, but took the whole lot. In that case I notified the dealer and eventually, through the cameras above us, the offender was found to have been a charlatan – but had disappeared when the time came to give me my rightful winnings. In this Luxor Casino instance, red did not come up. So we both lost. I turned and eyed the guy who had placed his now gone into the casino’s coffers chips on mine, while keeping in mind that I was outnumbered. Then I told the dealer that I wanted to go to the cameras if I suspected he tried his trick again and we won. He snaked me again! But again, we both lost, I gave him more eye-contact, then got up and left. If you’re grasping for context please simply read the post in question. Needless to say the experience made me think of home, Australia, for not overly fond reasons. Which leads me to segue into the next paragraph in a manner which you may argue is not smooth, but I reckon it is.
Home. It’s where the heart is, as is said. This complicated things for me, as my plane touched down in the UK. Most people I truly loved were on the other side of the world. Yet I was visiting a place that culturally, due to my interest in it, and based on DNA, due to my Irish and Scottish heritage, was homely for me. Plus, I was partly there to visit a woman who I was in whatever quantity or quality becoming to love. Though I wasn’t in love with her, to use a juvenile clarification. So all things being equal I was home – and I’m not even really a monarchist. England’s lights made it seem a giant horizontal Christmas tree on approach from the air, which was appropriate as it was December and I would spend Jesus’ pagan-borrowed birthday in Scotland. The fascist at customs detained me for almost 30 minutes with lots of fucking ridiculous questions. He even wanted to see my bank details, despite the fact I don’t carry bank statements around with me and I couldn’t connect to the airport’s wifi. I tried greasing the wheels by saying I expected the UK to be more classy, or some better word I can’t remember, than the US. Eventually he let me go after saying I was “doing what he’d done”, by which he meant travelling. He was nostalgically jealous. Fine, great, you fat, balding, time wasting prick. See you later. Even while in the areas of the airport in which it’s more common to spend a lot of time, I couldn’t get a wifi signal with which to find a hostel. I tried using one of their computers, on whose keyboard I couldn’t find an @ symbol. After considering crying, I instead Googled the symbol, then copied and pasted it. It was while at this computer I received discouraging news from Emma. I can’t find the Facebook message, so she must have emailed me. That would explain my need for the @ symbol. But I can’t find an email, either. Can you actually delete Facebook messages? Goddamn technology. Anyway, she basically expressed concern that I had greater expectations of my visiting her than she might have been able to accommodate. Of course this wasn’t my first experience with this type of thing, and I wasn’t exactly going to soon again be in her neighbourhood after returning to Australia with an all but dry bank account, so I persisted. I reassured her that my entire trip had been engaged in under the expectation that I had no expectations, and that though my fondness for her was an extra incentive I’d loosely planned on visiting the UK regardless of her. I should also state I had before this point probably come on a little too strong too early with her, basically by saying that I wished to kiss her through a Facebook or email message or whatever. I wanted to clear up just how concerned she was about my cold sore history, and she actually didn’t respond with much concern. But I’d made a romantic tactical blunder, I admit it, and she was probably just being polite. Like I said: I persisted anyway, at least until she finally decided to make it in no uncertain terms clear that she was no longer interested. In the meantime, it was late and I had to get to my outer-suburban London hostel. I took a 50 pound including 5 pound tip black cab, instead of the Tube because I’m a fucking moron, and checked in to that sucker.