Oberlin-in-London Blogs

On meteors and Brussels sprouts
››› January 11, 2012 | Posted By Walter Gordon '14

Hey Everyone,

A couple nights ago there was this meteor shower, and also I made Brussels sprouts to go with take out pizza for dinner. Brussels sprouts are named after the capital of Belgium, and are not called brussel sprouts. I put the sprouts in a crock-pot with some olive oil, garlic, and cheese, and cooked them until they were burnt a little and sort of both crunchy and soft somehow.

This is what I have been doing for much of this month, learning to cook. I am learning to cook because next semester I'll be going to London, which is like a four and a half hour drive away from Brussels, which is crazy. In contrast, Brussels is like a completely undrivable distance from Berkeley, CA, according to Google Maps, which is where I am from, and where I'm spending my Winter Term reading, writing, and learning to cook.

My actual Winter Term project is called something like "Read Infinite Jest and Write Fict" because of the character limit on project titles, but it should read more like "Read Infinite Jest and Write Fiction and Mostly Sleep a Lot and Learn to Cook."

When I finished Infinite Jest late last week, I briefly got sort of down on my choice to go to London next semester because I had this feeling like "wow all I want to read is like massive post-modern experiments that scream at the reader, what am I doing spending a whole semester looking at stuff that predates this." This was a serious thought for me because deciding to go on the program was already a tough choice, for a few other reasons, like that I'm a sophomore, and that I love being at Oberlin, etc.

However, when I started The Secret Agent a couple days ago, I rediscovered my love for what I am studying next semester completely. I took David Walker's British and Irish lit class last spring and loved it, and starting Conrad's book gave me all kinds of great flashbacks.

And then of course the London Stage class. When I tell people that we are seeing twenty-something plays in the semester, the response is generally the same: a widening of the eyes, a raising of the eyebrows, a quick "wow," or a distended "ohhhh."

Another sort of unofficial part of my Winter Term has been thinking about being in London next spring. I've spent a serious amount of time on Yelp looking at all the different kinds of food that are available right around my flat. Food is very important to me, if that hasn't been made clear yet.

The night I thought about London the most was this night with the meteor shower and the sprouts from Brussels. I was up in the Berkeley hills with a few friends, sitting on a blue bench, our heads crooked back uncomfortably against the cold wood. We were ready for disappointment: the shower was supposed to be near Bo├Âtes, a constellation that was covered up pretty well by a wide slab of purple grey clouds to the north.

But I saw five in the fifteen minutes that we sat there, legs stretched out and necks craned North. To see them you really had to unfocus your eyes and just stare up at nothing, because if you looked at any individual star or dark point in the sky you would only see the shooting stars sort of peripherally.

But while I was sitting quiet, bordering on crossing my eyes, not-looking at the scene above me, I couldn't help but think about London, and next semester, and being incredibly far away from not only that bench that I've sat on so many times but also away from anything I've ever seen before.

I've never been to London. I've spent time in Europe twice, once in Greece and once in Italy, both with my family, when I was somewhere between like twelve and fifteen years old. I've traveled independently only once, in Japan my senior year of high school, with a friend who was born in Tokyo. There I spent a week almost in silence, talking only to my friend, and felt very much like I was some kind of voyeur. I also felt constantly watched. I was a camera lens and also a photo-op.

I think being in London will be different. There will still be a certain amount of sort of latent voyeurism, I think, but I think that comes with any kind of act of travel. I think. I don't know when travelling somewhere stops and living in that place begins. I think next semester may begin to answer that question a little.

I think.

Responses To This Entry:

I wouldn't try driving from London to Brussels. Not unless you have a very special car.

Posted by: David on January 11, 2012 9:38 PM

obviously you're reading dfw, your writing style reeks of his peccadilloes.

Posted by: Anonymous on January 12, 2012 3:26 PM

Miss you already, Walter!

Posted by: Mark Allain on February 7, 2012 1:07 PM

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