The International Emmy Awards

No pics of Billy this week, just me I’m afraid. I got to go to the International Emmy Awards last night through my job.

When we got to the coat check my favorite cast member from The Wire, Lance Reddick, appeared right next to me. He is in Lost as well if you recognize him from somewhere else.

As always happens when I am near famous people, I had a panic attack, figuring my head was about to explode. I did this silly little dance with him trying to negotiate who should check their coat first, and then with a foolishly theatrical gesture, waved him ahead of me, blushing intensely. If only I’d had the balls to say “I’m a big fan” or something. But why? I don’t know. These are thoughts that make up the panic attack. My office mates were less reticent and got photos of themselves with him.

My next brush with fame was getting to watch David Suchet’s bottom as he rode the escalator right in front of me. He went on to win best actor for his role in Maxwell.

This was the International Emmy Awards, not the Emmy Awards. A much smaller less grand affair held in the Hilton. But it was still the grandest thing I’ve ever been to and I was loving it. I had 3 bottles of beer before I even sat down. I decided I’d be really mad at myself if I didn’t talk to at least one famous person. As luck would have it, sat 2 tables from us, was a hero of mine Graham Linehan. He co-wrote Father Ted and writes The IT Crowd. I consider both to be about as good as comedy gets, so seeing him there was quite something for me. As more luck would have it, he was very humble and nice and not at all scary.

He was also very excited about Lance Reddick. He suggested we pretend we were pals looking at him together, so I’d have a more impressive photo to show off with.

I continued to drink glass after glass of wine throughout the ceremony and the awards flew by. The IT crowd won, Shaun the Sheep won, the Brits kept winning and winning until I started to feel guilty. Many of my colleagues are from South America and when the new Telenovela category came up and it went to a Jordanian production I felt the atmosphere sour a bit. My boss informed me that I was evil and from then on I kept my fingers crossed the the UK would lose. Which they never did. Because America wasn’t in it to beat us.

At the very end I took to the stage for my own imaginary acceptance speech. I was pretty drunk at this stage as you can probably imagine. On leaving at around 11PM I was presented with a gift bag full of stuff Heidi can spread on herself, then I got drenched as I walked umbrellaless to the subway. Back to reality.

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Flushing, Queens

Traveling to Flushing was an exciting prospect for Billy as it meant riding the 7 train; a first for him. Flushing has a large Korean population and there are plenty of Korean restaurants to choose from. A bonus for Heidi and I. Last week Heidi had been to a work meeting in the area and found a shop that sells big fat frogs by the bucket. She thought this might interest Billy, so this morning we went to check it out.

As we arrived I told Billy that we were in Flushing.

“Flushing?” He said. “Like flushing the toilet?”

“Yes,” I said, “sort of.”

It was windy and cold so we rushed to find the shop with the bucket if frogs.

“It’s stinky in here.” Billy informed us as we wheeled him in.

We showed him the frogs and he looked for about 3 seconds and then sat down in his stroller again. We moved onto a tank densely populated with catfish and parked him in front of that.

“Let’s go,” he whined, “it’s stinky in here.”

So out we went, back onto icy Main Street. Main Street. It must have been the street they kept talking about during the election. The opposite of Wall Street. The heartland of America. It’s not quite how I pictured it:

Flushing, Queens

Airplanes fly over Flushing at great proximity and with great regularity. A few were so low they looked destined to land on the street we were walking on. This, at least, got Billy’s attention. It reminded me of Seoul; the constant barrage of noise and bustle from every conceivable angle. Cars, pedestrians, bikes, planes, trucks, buses. Billions of them. It’s a nightmare on the nerves.

Flushing, Queens

“Don’t take me in any more stinky shops,” Billy shouted from his stroller, as we dodged our way through the crowds.

We told him we were going for lunch and then we’d take him to a candy store. This shut him up for a while.

So as to avoid making a mistake, we had already found a restaurant on Google and we followed our printed directions. We were headed for Kum Gang Restaurant at 13828 Northern Blvd.

“It’s stinky in here.” Billy said as we entered the restaurant. “I don’t like it, I wanna go home, it’s stinky.”

We pushed him to a table and gave him a bag of glass pebbles and a Cars pencil case we’d just bought in a 99 cent store. $2 for 10 minutes silence – quite the bargain. The waiter poured us some barley tea and handed us the menus.

“It smells like garbage.” Billy said when offered some tea. “No, it smells like pee-pee! Garbage and pee-pee garbage and pee-pee,” he sang.

We ordered Kimchee Tchigae and Sundubu Tchigae, our favorites. (Spicy cabbage stew and spicy tofu stew).

The waiter carpeted our table with side dishes and moments later brought us our meals. We hadn’t ordered anything for Billy, but the waiter brought him food anyway. A bowl of silky tofu with a sweet raspberry sauce, a bowl of rice, and cubes of jello/jelly with strawberries and oranges inside. Billy surveyed the table and stated that there was an ‘increble’ amount of food. He sniffed his offerings, said they were all ‘sgusting,’ and refused to try anything.

Flushing, Queens

We took his pre-made peanut butter and jelly sandwich from his stroller, put it on his plate, and concentrated on our spicy steaming stews. It was the perfect food for a cold Sunday morning in November.

Billy grabbed this copy of a Christian Korean paper from the foyer as we were leaving. I was thankful he didn’t want one of the free choir CDs they had on display. I can just see him getting into Korean hymns and driving us round the bend with them.

Flushing, Queens

Afterwards, we went to a deli and bought some snacks. It wasn’t too crowded, so we let Billy loose in the store.

Flushing, Queens

Flushing, Queens

Then we made good on our promise and let him at the pick ‘n’ mix. He couldn’t believe his luck in this place:

Flushing, Queens

Flushing, Queens

And one more picture of the Flushing:

Flushing, Queens

It amazes me how you can catch a train in New York and effectively visit a foreign land in a morning. It’s much easier than traveling to the actual places and almost as authentic an experience.

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Patriotism in the Unreal America

Seeing the Stars and Stripes hanging from flagpoles outside peoples’ houses has always seemed creepy to me. These feelings are due to my unpatriotic British nature mixed with my revulsion for the Bush administration. If there was ever a time when the flags needed taking down, it has to have been the last 8 years. I mean what exactly were these people proud of their country for? Was it the high infant mortality rates? The torture? The wanton destruction of the planet? America is still a shining light compared to a many parts of the world, but there is so much to be downright ashamed of, waving flags around seemed totally inappropriate to me.

Until now of course.

Just 3 blocks from where we live, Obama supporters have draped their entire house in one huge Stars and Stripes:

"Real" American Patriotism

The flag was put there the day after the election and the words below it read, “Today we take our country back.”

"Real" American Patriotism

Finally, I both understand and have experienced patriotism. That thing Michelle Obama said, about not having felt proud of her country until now, the thing the Republicans jumped all over her for, is very true for me. I’ve been here for over 5 years and everything great about this country has existed solely in the past. It has been great living here learning about all the amazing things this country has done, but my overriding sense has been that the country, and as a consequence the planet, is going down the toilet. It feels so unexpected and fantastic to imagine that we might now actually have a future. A future in which people like me, people ‘doomed’ never to be multi-millionaires, can play an active role. A future where decisions will be made based on what will benefit society and the planet, rather than what will make the top 1% of the population slightly richer.

Of course, I’m not so naive that I think Obama will cure the planet of all its evils. I clearly remember prancing around with joy when Blair won in 97 and everything I hated about Britain in 97 survives today.

What I am happy about, and what I think this flag expresses, is that we belong in our own country at last. Our leader is one of us. He thinks before he acts, he values education, he cares about the environment, he believes in evolution (for Christ sakes), he understands that this is a secular nation, he reads Philip Roth and he watches The Wire…….. The list is endless and I don’t have any time. I am just so happy that the country I chose to make my home and to raise my son is a place I can be proud to live. It is, like I said, unexpected and fantastic.

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