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Garrett Takes on London

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I was sent to London on a mission: Capco. However, this doesn’t mean that I can’t go out in London and do what city dwellers do best: explore! I’m eager to become more familiar with London and experience all that is has to offer me. It’s a city that The Charles calls home, and that must mean that it’s a place for the posh and polished. But let’s not forget that London is also known for its vibrant alternative scenes, so my alter-mission is to explore the ins and outs of the alternative London scene.

My last week in London ended up in a whirlwind of activity, trying to spend as much time with the friends I’ve made along the way as well as getting to eat at as much Dishoom that I could possibly fit into my mouth.

Thanks to the complete transparency of the Internet, after posting a selfie, my friend Tamara messaged me that she was in London for work as well and proposed that we catch up over a drink (or three). I haven’t seen her since I lived in Austin seven years ago, so it was lovely to reconnect with an old friend I haven’t seen in forever only to pick things right up where we left off. The beauty of the internet always seems to amaze me.

While catching up, she told me that she was now an assistant and producer for an amazing artist named Robert Gober (who had an incredible retrospective at the MoMA last year). She was in town to help install some pieces named “Inside: Artists and Writers in Reading Prison” in the abandoned prison in Reading (pronounced “Redding,” located about 30 minutes north of London), which is infamously known as the prison where Oscar Wilde was imprisoned two years simply for being gay.

Tamara told me some of the other artists contributing original pieces to the exhibition, which read like a who’s who in the art world: Wolfgang TillmansFelix Gonzalez-Torres (a personal favorite), Nan Goldin, and Steve McQueen, among others. As a treat, she invited me as a plus one to the private premiere on Saturday.

I went to the premiere with my friend Derek, and the exhibition ended up being absolutely stunning. It was lovely to see all original work, some with site-specific installations, at an exhibit that doesn’t mirror a snooty Chelsea Gallery or an erudite museum. Tamara even took us behind the scenes to understand how much work actually goes into each Gober piece — dealing with drilling holes in the floor and foundations of walls — which was awesome to peek behind the curtain.

She proceeded to show us all the artwork, and one of the most stunning pieces was a recreation of Oscar Wilde’s cell in the chapel of the prison. Artist Jean-Michel Pancin recreated the size of his cell in concrete, and he found the original door that was in his cell while he was imprisoned. Maybe it could’ve been the free wine Tamara kept offering us, but it was awe-inspiring and humbling to experience the same view of such a hugely influential pioneer.

Since I can basically say that I’ve moved to London for a month, I’m finding some fresh perspectives on my life within and without New York City. It was nice to appreciate a slightly slower pace of life as well as the conversations with people that have heard about the U.S. and New York in general. While I don’t know if London is the next chapter in my life story, it’s definitely a destination along the way to wherever I will eventually end up in this world.

Image by The Charles
Image by The Charles
Image by The Charles

It’s my second-to-last weekend in London, and I’m exhausted. Between finishing up our portion of the CapCo project, and moving from one AirBnB (Redchurch Street), to another (Old Street), to another (Brick Lane), I was pretty tired from the long week and needed to recharge.

On Saturday morning, I paid another visit to the Zaha Hadid pool and I was able to swim a mile in under an hour. Other than that, I’ve just been taking the time to relax in the new AirBnB. Being on the 16th floor of the Avantgarde Tower has its benefits, including a balcony and a sick view of Central London. I enjoyed lots of the new Frank Ocean and sipping tea (or wine, depending on the time of day) on my new balcony, enjoying London rain from above.

It indeed feels like I’ve settled into the rhythm of the city. Meaning, I don’t need to go everywhere and do everything like a tourist. I have my routines, I have my neighborhood spots, and I have my new friends that I’ve made. I can definitely see myself living here (or another major city in Europe) in the near future.

UPDATE: I got to eat at Dishoom again for brunch with James, and let me tell you, it’s still delicious.

Image by The Charles
Image by The Charles
Image by The Charles

This week I finally began to feel like a resident of London. I no longer need Google Maps for my morning commutes, and now I’m well aware of the best spots to grab coffee along the way to work.

I’ve been working out of The Ace Hotel in Shoreditch for a majority of the week. I honestly feel like there is no better place for people watching than a hotel or airport. People on the go — either coming in, or going out — you just never know what you’ll come across. So much #Jetset. The people watching provided a good distraction from my computer screen every once in a while.

London has treated me so well thus far… that is until I came home on Monday night. It seems that someone staying in my Airbnb flat has been stealing personal items from other flat-mates while they’re away. While it was discouraging to discover this, one of the things I’ve learned is that you can’t control most situations, but you can control how you react to them. I contacted #NYHQ and got the hell out of there as soon as I could. Bullet. Dodged. They can steal my fanny-pack but I will NEVER let them steal my pride!

I am now in a new flat that’s closer to the train and comes with a private balcony fit for watching the sun set. I’m really looking forward to spending the rest of my trip at this flat.

Image by The Charles
Image by The Charles
Image by The Charles

The conclusion of this last week culminated in a huge milestone for the project I was working on. I was ready to hand over files for development.

It seems like handing over files is as easy as forking over a USB stick, but it actually requires extremely meticulous detail, especially when dealing with a third party. After working so hard with the New York team, we finally were able to finish the design process, and to thank us for all our hard work, Frank Ocean released his visual album “Endless.

It’s always so weird how introspective I become when I’m abroad, but I have to say, Frank Ocean has incredible talent. I’ve been waiting for what seems like a lifetime to hear any new material from him. Needless to say, I spent Friday night exhausted in bed, listening and watching “Endless” on loop with my FEELINGS. I’m finding that these juggernaut artists like Frank Ocean are steering away from making club bangers to making more interesting, thoughtful, and introspective music…. Do you agree, or am i just getting old?

Saturday, I got a tip that the London Aquatics Center was open to the public for lap swimming, so I jumped at the chance to (A), finally get some exercise while abroad because I was going insane and (B), get to see and be inside a Zaha Hadid building. The facilities were stunning. Rather than opting for hard lines and intricate, aggressive details that were typical of British architecture, the Aquatics Center building is a swooping curve of concrete and glass.

After the gym, I took a long walk around the Holborn area, which led me to the British Museum. While I prefer more art museums to anthropology, it was still a beautiful building. Unfortunately it was filled with some INCREDIBLY INSENSITIVE tourists so I had to duck out early.

That night, my friend Derek wanted to have a proper night on the town. We got one super bougie martini at Claridge’s in Mayfair and dinner at a place in Soho called Dean’s Townhouse where I had fish and chips because…#London. Then we danced the night away at a club called Heaven, filled with novelty and irony. It had a raw Berlin warehouse vibe that I was really into though the Top 40 didn’t reflect that at all.

Earlier in the week, Derek received free VIP tickets to V Festival in Chelmsford, Essex. He invited me to go because Rihanna was performing, and because I missed out on seeing her in Brooklyn. I jumped at the chance to see her for free in a completely foreign country. The festival was a good hour out of London by train, so for once I got to see some of the suburbs of London.

Though there were many “I’m too old for this” moments at the festival among drunk teenagers and the spitting rain, Rihanna poured her heart and soul into her show. By channeling a Selina Kyle look via Batman Returns, I’d say she slayed the last show of her world tour.

Overall, the weekend was much more eventful than I thought it was going to be. It’s nice to be able to experience London as someone that is technically living here. I’m grateful for the new friends I’ve made and the new music now dedicated to being the soundtrack of my life in London.

Image by The Charles
Image by The Charles
Image by The Charles

Working in London has been amazing. Though it took some time adjusting to new people and the GMT time zone, I’ve really enjoyed traversing the city and settling into a new routine. For example, as a runner back in NYC, I couldn’t care to jog on city streets for that endorphin rush. I had to hit the gym in the early AM. In London, it’s a completely different story. I actually enjoy walking through the city so much I basically get Runner’s high.

I’ve always had an interest in discovering unique aspects of life within each neighborhood I visit. Whether its Shoreditch, Mayfair, or Notting Hill, I definitely try to take away some characteristics new place, and it leads me toward inspiration.

Aaron and I put some time aside for him to give me a walking tour of his old stomping grounds in Shoreditch. I found this walk to be a particularly interesting one as I was not only learning more about my neighborhood, I also got to see my bosses face light up with every block we walked.

Image by The Charles
Image by The Charles
Image by The Charles

Whenever a project starts wrapping up, it always gets really intense, so after clocking in nearly 60 hours this week I had to let loose after work on Friday. I was mentally and physically exhausted, but I knew I was in London, and I had to take advantage of my weekend. I called up my friend Derek (who’s always down to explore) in hopes of a good night with good company.

Dalston, Shoreditch, Soho — I was dragged out and about between people and places. It was crazy that settled in such a blur that ended up with my friends and I going back to someone’s apartment in Mayfair. I definitely got to see the spectrum of dirty queer London to feeling like Eve and Gwen Stefani rolling up to a bougie rooftop bar London.

After a night of raging, I ended up hungover most of that next day. Most of it was spent eating delicious pastries and takeout from Albion, my local bakery, and watching THE OUTS online.

Around 5pm-ish, I was able to rejoin society, and I decided to check out the newly renovated Tate Modern. It was very much under construction the last time I was in London, so being a sucker for interiors, I wanted to check out the facelift.

Whenever I’m in a new place, I really enjoy solitude. In New York, it was hard to have quiet introspective moments in public because of having to constantly dodge millions of people. When I heard the Tate Modern would be open until 10pm, I thought it’d be perfect to go during dinner hours, to avoid a crazy mob that museums of this caliber draw in.

I enjoyed the night wind off of the Thames, and walked over the Millennium Bridge to the Tate Modern.

The Tate Modern had a few exhibits I was already aware of: Mona Hataum (incredible) and the Georgia O’Keefe exhibit. I had already seen the Mona Hataum show, and bypassed the Gerogia O’Keefe exhibit. Don’t get me wrong, O’Keefe is great, but, I guess you could say I filled up my lifetime quota of seeing her work, and there were new things to see.

It was worth it. I spent the night exploring the expansive newly renovated space, with my jaw suspended in the air with every corner I turned.

I stumbled across an ‘Artist Room’ series featuring one of my favorites, Louise Bourgeois. I hadn’t seen a large amount of her work in one space, so it was incredibly powerful to see them all within reach of each other. From the massively oppressive spiders to her hanging textile figures, it made me appreciate the variety and breadth of her work. Her odes to her mother, her femininity, and her family permeated her work.

The night at the Tate was amazing; it helped me realize that I like going to museums outside of the states. In an interesting way, the excursions help to ground me. I’m in a completely new environment, and that coupled with seeing and contemplating familiar work, resonates with me. I see the experiences there as a reflection of my head at the time, and believe me, it be difficult to experience this in New York.

Image by The Charles
Image by The Charles
Image by The Charles

Although I was sad to cut short a beach-filled New York City summer, getting to experience London again as a temporary resident was something I was thrilled to do. I threw out my speedo for the season and transitioned into my sensible work outfits for the month I was to spend in London.

I’m currently staying at an Airbnb flat in Shoreditch. The room is lovely, with classic English architecture hidden in the details. Shoreditch is to London what Williamsburg is to Brooklyn. It’s filled with cute shops, delicious food, coffee, and some people who just try too damn hard.

This past weekend, I met up with a friend I made the last time I was in London. He’s another creative, so we instantly talked about London in terms of design and aesthetic. He and I went to The Glory, a popular gay nightclub where some of my favorite Brooklyn Queens were performing as a part of their collective called “Bushwig.” I was greeted with an unforgettable “WHO THE FUCK IS TOUCHING ME” by my friend, and Brooklyn Queen, Merrie Cherrie. I then surprised my other friend Horrorchata, as they were both there while on their European tour stopping in London. I couldn’t help but feel so much pride when I saw Brooklyn representing hard in London on a Saturday night. The reunion was sick as I embraced the buzzing noise at the nightclub and danced the night away. I oddly felt right back in New York City.

That next day, I had my first proper brunch in London at a place called Dishoon. Dishoon is basically Wes Anderson’s Darjeeling Limited warped into a restaurant, and as soon as I walked in, my jaw dropped. I’ve heard everybody raving about how incredible their menu was, and I have to agree that the fresh, crisp, and delicious Bombay-inspired food was one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time.

Image by The Charles
Image by The Charles
Image by The Charles