Red’s birthday was this past weekend.
On Friday I surprised him with a dinner out at Red Dog Saloon, a new BBQ joint that opened in Hoxton Square that I’d mentioned to him a couple months ago and he’s been vaguely referencing since. Unfortunately, Red Dog’s smoker wasn’t working all week, so there was no smoked BBQ to be had. It was still enjoyable; they still sold draft beer in pitchers; I still ate some delicious macaroni and cheese. But the absence of smoked BBQ at a smoked BBQ joint didn’t escape me.
Before that, though, I took Red to a basement cocktail bar – also on Hoxton Square – called Happiness Forgets. It was super cool in the we’re-just-a-downbeat-basement-cocktail-bar way. The lack of a theme – the fact that this wasn’t a Prohibition bar* – was refreshing, even if the drinks weren’t. Yeah, the drinks? TOTALLY FOR GROWNUPS. Not that alcoholic beverages are for kids, kids! But these were proper grownup cocktails. Think, like, that one time you tried to drink a martini to look all cool and adult and shit and you struggled to even palate little sips at a time without wanting to vom all over yourself. Yeah, they were like that. The unique ingredients listings of the cocktails on the somewhat limited drinks menu sounded, er, intriguing. But not in the hm-this-sounds-like-it-could-be-a-delicious-taste-explosion sort of way. No, more in the eugh-I-hate-absinthe-but-it’s-in-every-drink-so-I-guess-I’ll-go-for-it sort of way. Let’s just say, I took three sips of my ‘gin cocktail’ and left its boozy remains to die in the champagne saucer it was served in – along with its substantial lemon rind that made the entire drink smell deceptively of delicious lemons while it tasted only of aniseed gone wrong.
Laura and Jonny stopped in on us while we were eating at Red Dog Saloon, as I’d mentioned my surprise birthday plans to Laura earlier in the week, but they didn’t stay. We tried to find them at the new Vietnamese restaurant they mentioned they might go to on Old Street – Kêu! – afterwards, but no dice. So instead – stuffed full of meat (Red) and macaroni and cheese (me) – we waited for the 243 bus to take us to Waterloo so we could just go home.** But after 15 minutes of waiting and seeing other potential bus riders bail on the bus-waiting one by one, I got pretty annoyed and just hailed a cab like everyone else.
That’s one thing I’ve noticed about getting older. You unabashedly take a lot more cabs. I NEVER used to take cabs. Like, ever. The first time I got in a cab I think I’d been in London for at least a year and a half – and that was after visiting London on holidays no fewer than 6 times. I blame the expendable income. I took a £40 cab ride home from Canary Wharf the other week, although that wasn’t so much a luxury as a necessity, being that I accidentally stayed out drinking in Canary Wharf after the Tube stopped running. Oops.
Anyway. So we just came home. Because the next day – Red’s actual birthday – we were going to Hyper Japan, the convention of all things, er, Japanese. We got there early and still stood in a queue to get in. We had a wander around all the stalls and shit. It was pretty cool. We watched a few of the presentations. And I felt compelled to buy some weird hair fascinators that a girl (not Japanese) was selling. Mostly, I was drawn to the ridiculous parrot.
And then the enormous yellow swallow. And then the motherfucking sailboat. I bought all three and decided to wear the sailboat straight away. We left the convention and found the queue of people waiting to get into Olympia 2 stretched all the way down the street and around the corner and then all the way down that street. I tell you what – I’m just glad we got there early. Because – birthday or not – I’m not sure I could have waited in that queue. Just putting that out there…
We headed into Central London for a mooch about. I went to Monmouth to get a piccolo, and as soon as I walked in, the guy behind the counter said, ‘Nice sailboat!’ and gave me a high five. I love high fives. I am an American. The woman behind the counter also told me how much she liked my sailboat, as did the girl next to me in the queue. I told them what the ‘brand’ name was, and the girl waiting for her coffee next to me took a picture. Next thing you know, we’ll all be wearing sailboats in our hair. Red remarked on how every woman we passed while walking on the pavement in Covent Garden was looking at my sailboat – most were smiling, some had vague looks of envy. Because, you know, who wouldn’t want a fucking sailboat in her hair?
Coffee consumed, retail compulsions assuaged – we headed home. Mostly because it was really fucking cold and I was woefully underdressed. Thinking it was summer and all, I wore a sundress and a small cardigan, not expecting it to be 15C, overcast and windy as hell. Stupid England.
Back home, we decided to see Harry Potter. And the whole film all I could think about was how I really wanted to eat some chicken, Nando’s in particular. Red asked me if I was sure I wanted chicken – since I’m a vegetarian – and I was sure. But the queue at Nando’s was ridiculously long and I wanted it to take away. So instead I insisted on getting KFC. All classy-like. Neither one of us knew what to get, not being regular patrons of Kentucky Fried Chicken, so – in a blind panic – I asked for a BUCKET OF CHICKEN. This, naturally, came with 4 portions of fries, 2 coleslaws and an entire bottle of Coke – not really a meal for 2 people, but hey ho. We got our chicken feast home and I tucked in. It was really quite delicious, and I forwent the fries, coleslaw and Coke just so I could eat more chicken. I was a chicken-eating machine. And, as I was eating this chicken, all I was thinking about was what kind of meat I might consume the following day. Steak? Bacon? Hamburgers? I finished eating and me and my chicken stomach reclined on the couch and watched banal television before going to sleep.
I woke up the next day, thought about the idea of eating chicken and felt vaguely sick. My meat-eating – it was short-lived.
*Disclaimer: I do love a good Prohibition-style bar. I won’t lie.
**I know, I know – we’re rockstars