Thursday, July 24, 2008

Dateline London, part 2

More sunny weather in London. Yesterday we walked around parts of the East End, with a coffee break at the new Rough Trade shop. I'd only been to the old one, near Portobello Road if I remember correctly, and the difference between the two is like that between a tenement and a boutique hotel. The new store is really spacious, with a little stage in the back for free performances (Neon Neon tonight, Daniel Johnston Saturday), a row of computers with free internet access, and of course the now-de rigueur café. I couldn't help but wonder how they sustain themselves, with that much real estate in a happening neighborhood--aren't record stores supposed to be dying?

Much less impressive: accompanying the Sheila to a business meeting this morning, we had to take the tube at rush hour. I'll never whine about the NY subway at rush hour after that miserable experience. We had to let three trains go by before we could even get on one. Then being tall-ish, I had to stoop slightly, crammed against one of the curving sides. And we were so packed that of course reading was out of the question.

We've been using an Oyster card to get around. It's a magnetic card that you just press against readers as you enter and leave the tube, or as you board a bus. Recharging them is a breeze. Still, the price is high and getting around adds up quickly. And despite this snazzy technology, Stockholm still had the best innovation: you can buy bus tickets on your cell phone, then you just show the cell's screen to the driver as you board. Again, America looks completely stuck in the 20th century there. But since Americans don't travel abroad all that much, they don't even realize how antiquated their infrastructure is. And don't get me started on the rail situation!

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