The past three days have been gloomy and rainy. Guess we’re finally getting the real London weather I’ve always heard about. I stayed in Monday and Tuesday, fully intending to write, but instead ended up spending all of that time organizing little trips. It always surprises me how much time it takes to plan a trip, even the smallest ones! And most of that time is taken up with directions. Getting the right directions. How far is the hotel from the station? Can I walk or will I need a taxi? How far from the hotel to the places I want to see? What are the bus routes, how much fare? Do they take cash or do I need to buy a ticket? Especially if you’re traveling sans car, directions become the holy grail of the journey, and finding the right ones can be just as hard. I spend a lot of time peering at train timetables, plotting my every step through Google maps. But the upside to all this planning is, once I finally arrive at my destination, I can relax and enjoy it, knowing that I’ve covered all my bases. I still end up getting lost sometimes, but then I can always rely on the kindness of a stranger for guidance. It’s a lot like producing a film – it’s all about the PRE-production. The more of that you do, the smoother the production will be.
Anyway, I’ve planned a lovely journey to the tiny village of Haworth, out on the English moors, to see the home of the Bronte sisters. And a smaller jaunt to Oxford to see the university and the home of Mr. C.S. Lewis, my very favorite author. I just cannot tell you how much joy his writing brings me. Not just his more famous works, like the Narnia tales, but some lesser known stories and especially his writings on Christianity. No one else has ever been able to put into words so clearly and beautifully, what faith is, who God is, for me. And you should check out his science fiction trilogy, starting with OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET. So good!
So today, finally, I am able to dedicate to writing. Lovely, isn’t it, to have the blessing of a day doing nothing but putting words to paper – break for a yummy lunch – and then write some more? All day…. Sigh… :)
Since I’m not out and about today, I thought I’d give you a glimpse of my room, the view from my window, and talk a little about the METRO – the subway, the tube, the underground – that wonderful thing that gets so many people all over the world around.
The amazing thing about the New York City subway is that you can pay just $2.50 and ride it all day, all over the city, from the heights of Harlem to the borough of Brooklyn, and all over Manhattan, wherever your heart desires. As long as you never leave the subway system itself, that is. Now, I know not many people would want to be stuck on the subway all day, but it’s just the principle of the thing, you know? That you could if you wanted to! Not so in the London Underground. You can buy an Oyster card here, just put a bunch of money on it if you know you’re going to be traveling around a lot. Every time you enter the tube, you have to swipe your card over these yellow readers to get in. And THEN - here’s the sly genius of the system - you swipe AGAIN as you’re leaving the tube, and big brother figures out how far you traveled and deducts the amount from your Oyster card accordingly. Oh, ho ho. This I thought was just so mean when I first got here! Now I’m used to it and it seems perfectly reasonable. But I really, really hope New York City never gets wind of it.
In Paris, Callie and I could never figure out the logic behind their Metro. There you can purchase a batch of tickets, tiny little cards, easily lost if you’re not careful. You insert them into a slot at the gate to the train, and they pop back out at you through another slot at the top. Then the gates either open or they don’t. If they don’t open, your ticket is no longer valid and you have to buy another to get in. Callie and I just started keeping every ticket and trying them until they didn’t work anymore! But we never did figure out the logic of it all. There were times when one ticket would get me into the Metro up to four times, and others when I got through only once. And it didn’t seem to be based on any kind of a zone system. Sometimes I’d enter the same station twice in the day, within hours, and still have to buy two tickets.
But the beauty of the Paris Metro for me was the announcements. Just hearing those lovely Parisian voices announce the stations was like having a seductive Frenchwoman purr in your ear. Oo… And the station names! Wonderful! Rome (pronounced HOM with a purr at the beginning). Chateau Rouge. Cité. Maison Blanche. Ópera. Madeleine. Names that let you know you really are in Paris. In New York, the announcements squawk through the train in nervous bursts of static that make you jump and are completely incomprehensible, like the teacher in Charlie Brown. And it’s the same in London! Everyone looks around at each other in complete confusion – “What did they just say?” lol… What’s strange is that the stations in London are air-conditioned, not the cars, whereas in New York, it’s just the opposite.
I think if I had to choose, Paris’s Metro would be my favorite. Stations and cars that are still nostalgic, very easy to get around the city, and not once was there a line down. In New York there is always track work going on somewhere, disrupting your journey, which is reasonable to expect, I suppose. In London it’s the same – you have to check before you leave to make sure the line you need is operating on that day. But the London Underground wins the prize for cheerfulness - its stations and cars are so bright and clean.
There’s just one wonderful thing that connects each of these cities for me. When I entered Paris and London, and even New York back in the day, I felt like a foreigner – awkward and unsure - an imposter among the many who lived there. But as soon as I stepped down into the subway – the metro, the underground – all my uncertainty melted away, and I finally felt like I belonged. Just another someone trying to get somewhere.
GUEST WRITER'S BIO
Vicki Speegle is an award-winning screenwriter whose feature script LOVED ONES was in development at Amazon Studios and was a finalist for best screenplay. Her screenplay DEAREST was a finalist for the 2011 Sundance Screenwriters Lab, and her television pilot THE WAKES OF WILBUR POE recently placed in the finals of Slamdance.
Vicki grew up the daughter of a gay single mom turned pastor in Akron, Ohio, where she helped take care of her two younger brothers, an experience that provided fodder for a number of short stories and scripts. Her infatuation with storytelling began at the age of five when she sent a love letter to Donny Osmond, and since then she has worked an eclectic mix of jobs to support her writing habit, including 4 years in the U.S. Navy tracking nuclear submarines on a tiny island called Adak, Alaska, assistant to a very eccentric New York City artist, and a brief bout as the world’s worst waitress. Vicki studied music performance and education at Akron University before making the move to New York University, where she earned her BFA in Film & Television Production. During her studies at NYU she interned as assistant to the editor for Ken Burns’ production of THE WEST. She wrote, directed, and produced several shorts, including her thesis film OLDER, which went on to screen at the Tribeca Underground Film Festival and won 2nd place in the Pioneer Theatre Short Film Slam in New York City.
After graduating from NYU, Vicki joined Rigas Entertainment as assistant to the Director of Development, helping in the development of feature films with directors Peter Cattaneo (The Full Monty) and Maggie Greenwald (SongCatcher). In 2005 Vicki began shooting a documentary about her mother’s struggle to reconcile her faith as a pastor with her advancing Alzheimer’s. The project is currently in post-production and has garnered the support of GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation). In 2007 Vicki’s screenplay LOVED ONES placed in the top 5 of the Bluecat Screenplay Competition and won Screenplay Live at the Rochester Film Festival. Her works have placed in several other competitions, including Women in Film, Chesterfield, and American Zoetrope. Vicki’s credits include a teen comedy for Applause Films and radio scripts for Wynton Marsalis, Director of Jazz At Lincoln Center.
Vicki lives and works as a writer, filmmaker, and web producer in New Jersey. She is still waiting for Donny’s response.