Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Creative Class

Oxford, October 13th

As I’m writing this, I am sitting at The Crown pub, the oldest in Oxford. Shakespeare stayed here and shagged his friend’s wife according to the plaque at the entrance.

The lighting in pubs is of a warm, dim, golden quality, almost like candlelight although everything is electric. This makes taking photographs inside pubs impossible; they don’t turn out at all. Which is why you won’t see any here. I’ve tried to take pictures of the outsides of pubs. However, that leaves you – and me, when my fuzzy memories fade – on the outside looking in.

The last few days have been a blur. I feel like I should have been taking notes the whole time, but according to my SD card and run-down camera battery, all I’ve been taking is pictures. Much of my time has been spent in pubs with my hosts, Xander and Miranda. The pub culture here is unlike anything in America since the Founding Fathers drew up the Declaration of Independence on a bender.

Part of the reason for the culture of the pub is that drinks are large, cheap, and only moderately alcoholic: beer, cider, and perhaps watered down whiskey. Try to order a martini in a pub and you may end up with a gin and tonic if you’re lucky. Pub music is quiet enough to talk over. It is a place for conversation, the sharing of ideas, and the making of big plans. Xander and his friends hatch their most creative schemes at the pub. In fact, they are currently buying plane tickets to New York for a December Beatles Tribute concert that his musician friend, Ben, will play in – along with other musical and literary endeavors by all three of them along the way. They explain it better than I can – I wasn’t quite drunk enough to follow the conversation.

Xander and Miranda move in a world of creative people: writers, musicians, poets, novelists and comedians. East Oxford has quite an active music scene on Cowley Road. I haven’t spent much time with musicians to be honest, but they do come with a reputation, don’t they? The musicians I’ve met here (other than Ben, who is very nice and relatively normal) are very cool with their leather jackets, skinny jeans and combed-forward emo hair. They look sexy until they begin to speak—true of almost all men in my experience. But conversation among musicians is limited to the minutia of recording, recording technology, the music business in general, and the last time they came down the stairs wearing nothing but a tight thong that pushed their large, hairy balls out on either side of the G-string. True story. And I was not nearly drunk enough to appreciate it.

It is a glamorous lifestyle. Hanging out with musicians, traveling, being the struggling writer. Yep, I’m envious of Miranda. She is surrounded by creativity. She can talk shop about writing and getting published with her friends. No one looks at her like she’s crazy for not following a more conventional career path because none of them are following conventional career paths. There is camaraderie there and a sharing of joy in being artists. That’s Oxford in a nutshell: creative people constantly striving to do big things. I can relate.

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