Thursday, October 26, 2017

dundee arms, formerly aka foo fighters arms, formerly aka dundee arms

22 Sept. 2017

Dundee Arms. Thursday night, 11PM. A pub stood here for as long as anyone can remember. Over the past week, Foo Fighters (yes, the band) took over the pub and made it Foo Fighters Arms, a pop-up band pub. The band didn’t turn up but thousands of fans did, every single hour of every day of the week.

About a few hours ago, all the shenanigans have ended. I’m sat inside, hearing Ritchie Blackmore rip his riffs. A young couple asks for pints of Session IPA — pointing at the blue cans in the fridge behind the bar, she claims her stepfather loved that particular brand of beer. The bartender advises they go to the nearest off-license to buy some. She repeats directions given to her, an American pronunciation of “Bethnal Green Tube stop” sounds friendly out of place.

A group of long, curly, blonde haired dudes walk in. They’re not Deep Purple (who’re not blonde) and they’re asking for a club nearby. Strangely out of the era their looks represent.

A shy boy walks up to the bar and asks for a pint of “the Roadie”; my choice of IPA. I’ve always gone for roadies.

A man walks up and asks whether I’m writing a book. I tell him I’m writing semi-fictitious stuff. That I’m making up some of the stuff that I have or have not seen — as I’m typing it.

I gave the last new, Jane Austen £10 note I had in my wallet to the bartender. Why Foo Fighters didn’t turn up for their pop-up bar is because there’s no back door entry to the pub. Crowd mitigation out of order. It would be appropriate if the music mixer behind a bricked cubicle (with a massive TV overhead, probably showing rugby games on the weekends) queued up The Doors’ Back Door Man.

A man walks up to the bar with a bunch of brochures in his hands. He’s told Foo Fighters Arms is over. It sounds like a whole musical genre has been proclaimed over in a 90’s rock’n’roll roadie movie. I take the final sip of from my pint of The Roadie.

An Irish sounding girl walks up to the bar — she’s recently moved to London. A Celtic sounding folk tune is heard over on the stereo. My flatmate texts he can’t make it as he’s too tired while I get my 2nd pint served. Since each sip continues to taste like I’m chewing on a small branch of weed must mean it’s not the glass, it’s the actual drink.

Of the three blondes who’ve just walked in, one asked for red wine, another for a Corona (keeps the slice of lime intact) and the final one a prosecco. That’s what I call diversity; bar the equally standardised hair dying operation in place.

The very important information that they’ll close at 12:45AM relayed to me may be a curse or a blessing in disguise. I need to leave home at around 03:30 for my flight to Denmark.

The journey to the bathroom is a peculiar one: as I walk away from the dimmed Art Deco lighting up the Victorian stairs into an empty hall, the last thing that would cross my mind is to run into a group of Icelandic and British birthday crowd who took over my stool. Only one of the three Icanders isn’t shaven headed but they all smell of lavender amd sweat.

A dude was complaining in the toilets that someone walked out having not washed his hands. He claimed his OCD got the better of him. He proclaimed: “why not wash your hands? It’s free!”

The Icelandic crew are slightly disappointed no pastice is served. The sambuca alternative does not cut it.

The long anticipated Old Fashioned is ready. The dude who’s kindly asked for permission to ‘borrow my stool’ had long gone and once the Icelanders have left, I’m back on my stool. The noise level has gone up by a few notches and Nirvana is on stereo.

The more I write and observe, the more I get counter-observed. Is it the recently acquired self-proclaimed author’s gaze I’m receiving reactions to or is it just it’s getting very crowded?

I get wrongly served a pint of soda after I’d gotten served a G&T, by the same man. First single malt request comes in just as a super-oriental Rock The Casbah cover kicks into the stereos as the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club crew (had appeared while I was in the loo) go mad.

A super drunk local dude asks me about lagers.

Half an hour later.. suspecting his accent and acquainting all the while, he turns out a Mancunian. Construction, Principal Tower, the Queen, pension age, Spain, Montenegro, his daughters and family, 3AM shifts, are amongst 100s of stuff we talk about.

He’s missing few teeth. He rolls his o’s to u’s as a proper Northerner. He’s baffled to hear I’m Turkish. He’s obsessed with Spain. He only took a week off in the past 3 years. He doesn’t like the fancy lager offered on tap.

He hits up on one of the 3 Corona, Prosecco, Wine blondes and I’m relieved. I’m relieved I can write again. I’m relieved he subscribes to the standard — so, my prejudiced observsation stacks up. Shame on me. Shame on whom? They’re almost kissing and I couldn’t care a tiny less. But he’s cool. He’s a Danny Boyle character that didn’t make the silver screen.

He is hating his Camden Hells. He was here all along for Amstel. I’ve got 3 more hours to waste. A direct reverse correlation between alcohol level and striving to keep awake will play against me. Where do I cut it?

The blonde approached by my Mancunian takes up on the OCD guy. He runs away. She asks me how to get back to the bar. Her lips might exlpode. An Icelander walks past. I’m worried about my flight. The stomping on the timber stairs is mixed with vanilla. Vanilla came apparently from our Mancunian’s e-cigarette. So much for the pension scheme.

Nirvana’s on again. Smells Like Teen Spirit.
Feels like teen years.
Feels like I’m done.
This is Dundee Arms.
It’s 00:44.
London’s a tough place.
It’s not been easy.
I love London.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

pride in our parks

I received a message on LinkedIn asking me whether I wanted to share a regeneration project I was involved in to be promoted by some online publication. The request didn't appear anything much more than an attempt to aggregate some success stories for a self-proclaimed publisher and their blog/book/magnum opus.

Nonetheless, I tried to come up with something worthy of a mention and moments before I would receive a notification on my Twitter feed of a retweet by RioOnWatch, I reminisced of an emotional moment just about 4 years ago these days from Rio de Janeiro.

At the time, I was in charge of coordinating and running the floor for the Urban Age 2013 Conference -- as Rio was gearing up for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, we were investigating major investments (mainly in transport and regeneration) and whether they related to / tried to alleviate some of the chronic problems facing the city. We wanted to highlight Parque Madureira as one that gifted the city with a public asset in a once redundant / obsolete part of the city.

The architects in charge of the project presented the project at the conference. While prepping for the actual conference, testing A/V and lighting, we've run each presentation to the desired setup and presentation sequence. One of the technicians in charge for the technical desk first erupted to shouts, laughters and excitement which were then slowly left to a mix of emotions and tears. He later told me he grew up in the area of regeneration, and was now using the park and very proud of it being showcased as a prime example of regeneration at the Conference.

This, for us, was a testimony of a story of success and one that probably merits a narrative and a reminder at times when there's little appetite or faith left in mass regeneration. At a time when I've been desperately searching for some inspiration, how I recall the joy and pride in that man's eyes...