Greetings from London. I am sitting in a pub in the financial district nursing a hangover with the absolute worst cheeseburger I have ever fucking eaten. And I lived in China as a kid and we ate water buffalo burgers there, true story. You know how they say the "bad British food" thing is a misnomer? It is not. I have had exactly one meal here to which McDonald's would not be preferable. And I don't even actually like food. But being here is sort of throwing into doubt a lot of my Marxist sensibilities, I realized yesterday the second time I walked past a house where Friederich Engels lived during a long and winding and near-abortive search for a newsstand that was open at seven p.m. on a Sunday. The night before last I arrived back to a hotel at midnight and asked where I could get a drink to put me to sleep; nowhere was the answer I got from the concierge. Two couples standing next to me seemed confused.
"But this is London!" marveled one guy, an agreeable but astonished Australian. Admittedly, I am in the financial district, and I realize there are neighborhoods where alcohol and food can be found after eleven p.m., or where you can get a tampon of your preferred absorbency on a Sunday morning, but a rather epic walk through numerous neighborhoods on Saturday evening became almost spookily quiet at times, and yeah, it's enough to make you appreciate New York, but if it weren't there would also be: the hackery-smothered newspapers, the $8 public transportation fare and the weird almost compulsive devotion to being "green," which began with an offer to offset my carbon emissions through the Virgin Airways Duty Free service — I actually would have done this, but after takeoff was delayed five hours I slept through it — and even riddles the menu at this pub, where the rolls are all organic and the tuna is allegedly "sustainable"…you would think it would not be a sustainable business model to serve food this crap, but whatever. Anyway, I should point out here that I don't really have a problem with the environment, nor do I have a problem with London, but in the same way that I wonder why people so slavishly devote themselves to something as vast and nebulous as the environment with so little mention of its inhabitants, I feel like London would be better if it felt more inhabited. Maybe it's the weather; even Primrose Hill on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon felt a bit desolate.
Anyway, I'm here for a Guardian-sponsored panel on Tuesday, and until Wednesday I'll be doing this job from unseasonably cool Brittania. Please don't whine about how this post is biased and unfair to the empire because obviously there are a lot of good things about London if you can get past the whole "no grid" thing, such as: it's obviously fucking gorgeous and shit; I will get to that later. In the meantime, London Jezebels, if you have anything you'd like me to weigh in on now that I'm here, or any thoughts about the future of journalism I should incorporate into my talk tomorrow, you know how to reach me.