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Monica Bielanko
A chronicle since 2005 of my marriage & move to Brooklyn in my twenties; becoming a mother in my thirties; moving to Pennsylvania and learning to amicably coparent after divorce in my forties while living 3 doors down from my ex-husband in a small country town.
That's What She Said
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Wednesday
Oct052005

A Night To Remember

It's rare to meet someone who inspired you to do what you love. Musicians, artists, authors.. Mostly, you listen, watch, read their art and love them from afar. Let them lead you by example. Last night, I met one of mine.

I first read High Fidelity in my early twenties. It was the first book narrated by a man that really grabbed me, aside from classics like Dickens, Hemingway, and the like. I got my hands on High Fidelity, read about Rob, his life, his girlfriend, his music shop, and couldn't get enough. It was a brilliantly written novel about why men are the way they are. It opened up a whole insight about the opposite sex for me. Gave me a peek into their inner dialogue.. and yes, sometimes they are outright assholes.. but more often than not, they're just as confused as women are. I was blown away. I immediately searched out everything written by this Nick Hornby bloke. That ultimately lead me to Fever Pitch, How to Be Good and About A Boy. I had consumed all these books before I met The Surge.. And one night, as he saw my Hornby section of books he casually commented, 'I know him'..

Turns out Hornby is a fan of The Surge's. And so.. I got to spend my first anniversary dining with Nick Hornby and his beautiful family. And he's everything you'd want one of your favorite authors to be. Kind, funny, witty, intelligent, articulate, and a fantastic family man. At moments I would float above my body,remember my young self reading Nick Hornby and never in a thousand years think I'd be spending my first anniversary in London, at his dinner table. Wow.
Tuesday
Oct042005

One Year Ago Today...

One year ago today a girl took a chance on a guy. One year ago today that guy took a chance on the girl. One year ago today they bought ten dollar rings from a mall kiosk. One year ago today they drove into the Utah mountains and secretly got married. One year ago today the judge said (en francais) "you may now kiss the bride". One year ago today they honeymooned on gift certificates at the Red Lobster in Sugar House. One year ago today they made love for the first time as man and wife. One year ago today.
Tuesday
Oct042005

Hair of the Dog That Bit Ya

If that's the case, then I hope some enterprising Brit has Cosmopolitans for sale at 10 in the morning. Overdosed on the pink drink last night. Went poshing yesterday in Mayfair, the wealthiest most expensive neighborhood in London. Copped a squat at The Audley Arms on Mount Street, catty corner from where Madge buys her bird hunting gear when she goes riding with Guy. Ordered up fish&chips, poured a liberal dose of malted vinegar across the whole affair and went to town. Must admit I liked the chips more than the fish but it was all tasty. I even liked my side of mushy peas though that could be the most unappealing name for food ever, aside from spam.

After the fish feast we sauntered down Oxford street. Rush hour soon made sauntering an impossibility. The crushing crowd made us feel like little fish, swimming upstream, against the tide..

24/7 with the same person is an exercise in fortitude.. An exercise we failed on many occasions yesterday. The Surge and I were growling at each other a fair amount. One of us would say something the other one would jump on.. Then we'd spend the next half hour dissecting who said what.
"Where are we going?"
"You said you wanted to leave Queensway."
"No, I just said I was tired of crowds."
"Well, we're in London, deal with it."
"I know, but it's also my vacation and I don't want to be Ms. Tourist all week."
"Fine. Do your own thing then!"
We are improving. Neither of us stalked away in an effort to prove a stupid point. I think The Surge would feel bad abandoning me in a strange city. The griping and swiping didn't last long, however. I suppose that sort of thing is inevitable when you're with someone every second. The Surge is a remarkable tour guide and has a story for every corner. Stories about kings, queens, artists, musicians.. he knows London in a way that bored natives don't. I love seeing it for the first time through his eyes.
Monday
Oct032005

Loss

Just as I finished completing that last journal entry, the calm of the internet cafe was interrupted by a cacaphony of screams. Thinking someone was having a seizure The Surge and I rushed toward the young man to see if we could help. He was slouched over in his chair, screaming without breath. Jarring, struggling for air gasps. Tears were streaming down his face. The Surge yelled for an ambulance and water, I placed my palms on both sides of the man's face to force him to look at me, so I could see if he was all right.
"Are you okay? Are you okay?" I shouted.
"He just found out his mom died." A girl standing nearby, not helping uttered this.
Confused as to why she wasn't comforting the man I grabbed him and began hugging him as he cried. I rubbed his back as he sobbed. Then slowly faded back to my computer as others gathered round. I sit here sobbing. His Mom died. He just found out. I am jangled nerves and tears. I need to call my Mom.
Sunday
Oct022005

This Is London...

It's nearly midnight... am ensconced in a tiny internet cafe, blocks from Hyde Park. Tummy full of Indian curry (extra spicy!) and wine. Yes, my London travels have forced me into cheating on my liquid lover, Yagermeister. So. London. Mature, sophisticated, clever. She's well groomed and tidy in contrast with Manhattan's rough and tumble atmosphere. New York is chaos. London is organized and proper. Massive, yet quaint.

Arrived around 9am this morning to The Surge, grinning from ear to ear. Flight was fantastic. Lucked out, the seat next to me being vacant, I was curled into a comma for most of the smooth plane ride, giggling at old episodes of Friends. Then it was directly to the tube ("mind the gap") and my first glimpse of London. First impressions: Crisp, vivid, brilliant blue sky, not the gray I've been taught to envision. Bright sunlight filtered through cottonball clouds, but chilly, a bit of a bite in the air. And white, bright buildings everywhere. Clean streets, even the traffic seemed to purr delicately as opposed to the raucous roar of Manhattan's commuters. Although it's October, green abounds. Lush landscapes of lawn and trees are everywhere. Checked into our hotel, blocks from Hyde Park, ditched our luggage and set out for coffee.

Sitting on the sidewalk, I strained to hear snatches of British conversation. From very posh accents, to the working class Eliza Dolittle enunciation. An hour of people watching later, we headed back for a quick nap and shower then we were off to Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens to check out Diana's old digs. Rolling green grass, dogs roaming free, manicured lawns.. Hyde Park knocked my socks off.. like Central Park but calmer, more relaxed and spacious. I could visit every day for a year and discover a new favorite spot each time.

It's about six o'clock now.. The sun is beginning it's lazy descent, so we decided to stop for a bit of coffee (again!) and crisps at a small cafe on the banks of Serpentine Pond. Crisps. A salt junkie's dream. Flavor: Lobster & Firecracker. Like spicy barbeque lays, but zestier. Yum! We decided to pay our respects to her Majesty and stopped to peer through the gates of Buckingham Palace at the stiff faced, redcoats vigilantly standing guard. Took the requisite photos and made our way to Trafalgar Square via St. James Park.

Twilight is beginning to creep in.. Stopped for some photos at Admiralty Arch and then Trafalgar Square roars to life. Ahhh...This is the London of my imagination. Lights glowing in azure twilight, Fire engine red double decker buses clamor past on the "wrong" side of the road. Blood red phone booths. Buildings perfectly lit, like a movie set.. The only thing missing? Pigeons. Apparently some eejit Mayor made it illegal to feed the birds, so now the Square is devoid of bird life.

After a brief "snog" with The Surge, amid buzzing traffic and tourists, we struck out for Big Ben and Parliament. There was minor embarrassment when I attempted to hop a turnstyle to a public loo and got busted. Paying for loos? That's the price of Socialism, I suppose.

We stood 'neath Big Ben..a monolithic building that can be seen from just about anywhere in London. Beautifully lit, the ol' boy began to boom and chime the eight o'clock hour. High on life, on London, we pressed on, past the fortress that is Parliament and Westminster Abby, strangely dark, hulking in shadow in the blue black night.

We strolled along the Thames, crossed at Lambeth Bridge where we stopped midway, to perch atop the structure. We sat for a time, reflecting on the day, on London at night, the path we'd just made through arguably the finest city in Europe. We each made wishes, and tossed a pence into the inky, slow moving Thames and continued to the other side.
We strolled back up along the Thames, past the London Eye - that strange ferris wheel contraption that looms on the embankment.. As we were passing the Eye, headed toward the Golden Jubilee foot bridge a "busker" began to sing "I Will Survive".. Quite odd actually, it wasn't the women's lib anthem version.. it was a slow, mournful ballad that floated across the bridge with us, following us until the West End swallowed us whole and drown out all noise but it's own innate bedlam. Black night by this time.. served a beautiful backdrop for twinkling lights, London ablaze across the Thames..

The Golden Jubilee dropped into the frenzied fuss that is the West End. Throngs of tourists mingling with West Enders.. Leicester Square, seemingly the Times Square of London.. Bright lights, big city baby. Rushing locals, bumbling tourists.. On the outskirts, we stumbled onto Herman Melville's one time abode. We conducted a bit of window spying on the natives, folks cozily tucked in for the night.. Then continued on in search of The Borderline, the club where The Surge has played many a gig.

Sore feet finally began to make themselves known and so we gave up for the night and caught the Central Line tube back to our hotel neighborhood in search of curry.. Turned up our noses at various Indian restaurants, too cold, bad lighting, too empty and then..just right. Spicy popadums with chutney and mint sauce to start, and yes, I ordered a white whine, Sauvignon Blanc.. Hurray for me.. Sooo cosmopolitan.. Heady atmosphere, intoxicating.. Steaming platters of spicy lamb curry and chicken vindaloo. So hot I had to surrepticiously wipe my nose every few minutes.. The waiters were fantastic. Materialized for a refill then just as quickly, vanished. At the end we were handed piping hot, damp washcloths to wipe our sticky paws.. Mmmm.. luxurious to The Girl Who is accustomed to Thai Tai take out.

Then it was on to the pub. Brightly lit, mahogany, pictures of hounds, horses and old football teams adorned the walls. Rowdy footballers adorned the chairs, with just the right sprinkling of elderly gents.. The night wears on.. Drunken footballers begin shouting strange English slang curse words.. One Cider in and before I know it, we're being informed it's time to go. Last call. Huh? In Brooklyn, the party is just getting started. But The Surge informs me last call is early in London.

The walk home is downright chilly.. I can see my breath, spiraling gently into the night.. We stop to top off our calling card, get late night snacks like biscuits and Diet Coke (what's with the warm soda?) Then we crowd into a phone booth to call Donny Pizza Sauce, Max's adopted dad for the week. He informs us he arrived safely, is already watching the Eagles game and making noodles & gravy (Philly for spaghetti sauce). Max has apparently introduced Donny to every toy he owns in an attempt to coerce him into play - undoubtedly hoping he'd get a little tug-of-war action with the new guy.

And then it's time for bed. I've now toured the whole of Manhattan and much of London these past three days. I am in love. With my husband and London.