A Fleeting Love Affair with Comic-con

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There have never been so many people in one place. Like glistening beetle cars, they bottleneck around me before bursting free in a scurrying race across the road. Costumes jostle each other, boxed humans peering confusedly out of their cardboard helmets as they teeter on stilts or platform shoes. There is black body paint smeared on my elbow, residue from the dark shadow man that brushed past me; the rippling darkened muscles of his back as he walks away seem menacing, and passing children stare up at him in awe and horror.

Two hundred thousand bodies, probably more, in a throbbing heaving mass pushing towards convention doors. The building spans the length of five, six blocks, with pointed steeple roof and sheet metal windows. A single road and tram lines separate it from the outside world – and this is where I roam.

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Assault courses, laser tag, Mythbusters, all dotted in hotels, parks, and on street corners. Queue queue queue for snippets of video, panels with Avengers, illegible scrawls by famous illustrators. Duck and dive and swoop in between mothers with prams, their baby Thors clutching their hammers as they grip onto their guardians’ palm. You are spun around by a Prince Charming as he slurs a drunken ballad; stumbling, you bump into the Hulk and dodge his smash.

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Screech to a halt: there is no passing by here.

A hell march of zombies has consumed the streets, flesh dangling from faces, un-dead pets rotting in their arms as they lurch at cameras and terrify observers. You must wait for this reeking crowd to part before you can dart through them to the next street.

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Keep stuffing leaflets into hands and chanting your familiar mantra. You are a tiny dot of promotion, the smallest speck that does not belong with this fandom – but you must learn their language. It is a fascinating one. Wait for a pixelated sword made of blue diamond and pounce on the friendly icon. Twenty minutes of excited gameplay exchanged before you move on.

One day in the manic rush you are given the golden ticket to get inside: enter the cathedral of worship and see what all the fuss is about – one hour only.

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A strange buzz fills your veins when you step on the floor. You are different from everyone else: you cannot move with the lazy drag of their feet that shows this is their hundredth circuit, time is too precious.

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Unbeknownst to you, there are secret loves and passions for comics and characters and films and franchises that you never knew you had. You flit from one stand to the next, stuffing money into hands and cramming goodies into bags. Endless snaps of photos are taken, and mouths open so often it’s like a fish gaping for water as one extraordinary thing after another lines up in front of you.

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You emerge panting from the stands to find yourself in the artwork section. The most incredible work, you want it all but the empty purse is light in your hands and the clock is ticking.

Time is up, Cinderella.

You gather the bags like the hem of a skirt and run tripping from the room, pouting at the early exit. One last look back at your painted hero, Wolverine, before the doors swallow you whole and spit you out on to the road back home.

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Ribbon City

Along the side of the freeway is a strip of land, wedged in between racing cars and suburban yards. It is marked along its borders by chain link fences that ripple when they’re touched, the dull metallic scales undulating like the lazy swim of a fish.

It is its own city with rules and family. Tents are pitched, sheets of plastic tied around trees and stretched out to the pins in the dusty ground. Towels, grubby clothes, an umbrella, are piled on top of the makeshift roof, shrivelling in the sun.

The cool blast of air-con is whipping strands of hair back from my face as I zoom past and see an exhausted man in this ribbon city, bending over a small girl. He is topless, the folds of his stomach overlapping the waistband of his jeans and his pale skin gleaming in the harsh sunlight. He is holding a bottle in his hand; squirts white cream into his palm; rubs it onto the child’s nose. Before they disappear I see a grin hoist up the weight of the young child’s face.

A few meters along is a gathering of women, sitting around a small stove fire. They are perched on floral loungers, the rusted legs digging into the dirt. Limp cigarettes hang from their mouths and the soles of their feet are grey. One of them waves and shouts something to a person out of sight.

Along the side of the freeway is a strip of land marked by chain link fences. There is family and love and story telling here. There is dirt and poverty and blistered skin from the sun.

There is a whole ribbon city, in the shadow of the free way to home.

Life in a New York Minute: Part 4

By Day Four in New York I had got this notion into my head: I HAD to go and see the flower market. With no real idea of what to expect there, I was largely basing this whim on all the travel blogs and tv shows I’ve seen that display glorious pictures of endless fields of flowers. So we hauled our tired behinds out of bed and braved the sweating, heaving metro filled with morning commuters to get to 28th Street.

1239929_10200548478856111_360140350_nIt was one of the strangest streets I’ve ever been on. Here in Britain, flower markets aren’t generally a tourist attraction. They take place in the early morning and they’re predominantly for business men and women to trawl in the hopes of finding stock. Like fish markets, they don’t seem to make the list for ‘must-see’ destinations.

But if you are ever in New York, you should go along to 28th Street. The pavements are literally lined with trees; orange bushes and buckets of firecracker flowers I had never before seen screening pedestrians from the road. I found myself reaching out to touch the beautiful velvety folds of a plant, transfixed by the pure alien-ness of it. We entered shops 1233629_10200548481336173_200418687_ncautiously, with men calling out in an Italian tongue that lay heavy and fast on our ears, and found ourselves in warehouses that reached back further than we could see. The colours were blazing, the shapes twisted and elegant, the stalks thick, proud and covered with dew.

Just before we left the street, emerging amazed at the other end, I saw a small shop with buckets lined outside the front door – the picture is just to the right. They were my favourite flowers of the day. Like fireworks frozen in nature, they simply popped. 

From there we wandered around countless streets, through Chinatown, before finding ourselves in Little Italy. It looked like Christmas to me, with red, white and green tinsel dangling from one side of the street to the other: a city ready for Santa Claus. Tanned, dark haired men beckoned you in to their restaurants, promises of pizza and pasta and an ice cold glass of water difficult to resist.

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But there was no way we would stop here for pizza. We had another goal in mind.

Finally, after what felt like miles, we found ourselves at the Brooklyn Bridge, joining the throngs of people on bikes, tourists clutching cameras, and determined women striding forward in suits. It sounds corny and obvious but it was JUST like all the movies: one of those moments when being in New York really hits you.

I never imagined I would really be here. (The one with the beard and the camera is obviously not me)

I never imagined I would really be here. (The one with the beard and the camera is obviously not me)

It’s a much longer bridge than you’d think. The wooden slats under feet start to burn in the extreme heat, but every step closer to Brooklyn feels like a success. You find yourself forever looking up and around you, wanting to absorb every brick, every wire suspending the giant structure, every bolt in the railings. The well-known skyline of New York unfolds behind you (though more of that later).

SO worth it.

SO worth it.

Remember our seemingly foolish refusal of pizza? Frank Sinatra was a pizza man. He was actually quite famous for being a pizza man. In fact, he liked a certain pizza so much that when on tour he would order it and have it flown out to him. This pizza came from the restaurant we made a beeline for on entering Brooklyn: Grimaldi’s Pizzeria. And on trying some for myself, I have to agree with Frank. It was some of the best pizza I had ever eaten. And the fact that it was huge and conveniently placed before me after our five hour trek down through New York city didn’t hurt.

* * *

Tummies full and hearts heavy with glutted sin, we left Grimaldi’s and wandered over the river bank. I loved this place. From here the skyline of New York spanned from left to right across the blue rippling ribbon. Yellow taxi boats skimmed from one shore to the next. Grass lined the bank where couples and students and families lounged back on their elbows with food scattered around them. And along the way, in the shadow of the beautiful, breath taking, industrial Manhattan Bridge, a dainty bride took the hand of her new husband and stood on the shore line for photos in front of an excited crowd.

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* * *

That evening was our last one in New York City. We spent it the way it should always be spent: in the front row of a broadway show, singing our hearts out and dancing for an encore.

Late that night, we strolled our way through Times Square and back to the hotel, the harsh lights of the plaza blinking behind our eyelids as we slipped into sleep.

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When words aren’t enough, dance around in your underwear and dance to bad music.

There are days when I can’t find the words for what has happened: for the thankfulness I feel in my heart or the stretch of the smile I have on my face. I am bursting with words, but none of them do justice to the wonder bottled up in the thunder of my drum beat heart. All I can voice is what was – what comes of it is the next bend in an enticing road stretching towards summer. And good lord, I can’t wait for that.

Keep your eyes peeled for some possibly exciting news here on elspod. In the meantime though, I invite you to share in the tiny nuggets of today that are all I can form on the scattered, iridescent platform of disbelief that is currently my brain.

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Today was a day of jostling trains, finished novels and sunken ships

Today was a day of scarf wearing and cheek burning and hair knotting winds.

Today was a day of big decisions and three hour long coffees and jacket potatoes gone cold.

Today was a day of nervous hope and voiced worries and silenced fears.

Today was the day I took the first step, made the first leap, and plunged into the deepest depths of the most magnificent pool.

Today was the day I said Yes, the day I shook off How, and the day I embraced New.

One more try

I am twenty six (or for some, twenty seven) days late in saying this – but New Years is so full of new-ness I feel a bit lost in this shiny new place. New clothes, new figure, new food, new you. New new.

Keep saying the same word over and over again and it starts to lose all meaning. New.

If you look back at the last post I wrote it was…well, it was a long time ago. But I think it’s because in the end, every word I typed felt old. There was no new-ness in my blog, because there was nothing new in me, and it was starting to show. I’m not entirely convinced there’s been much change but I have been writing again, and some opportunities are starting to present themselves that are really exciting and giving me a bit of a boost. The boost sounds like a that cliched train whistling the word ‘Neeewwww’ at me as it pulls into station.

So coming up I have a few creative pieces to share, and the last two installments of Life in a New York Minute (finally), along with some thrilling close-up shots of Adam Levine from when I went all fan girl and rocked up to my first ever gig.

Oh, and I promise, that crazy train won’t be whistling the word ‘new’ at you for a long time to come.

All aboard?

Just to prove I'm not lying.

Just to prove I’m not lying.

Life in a New York Minute: Part Three

There is no going to New York without eating breakfast in a god’s honest American Diner. Which is where you would have found us on our second morning: perusing a menu and revelling in the fact that eating pancakes WITH bacon wouldn’t be seen as weird in this magical place not called home.

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…I won’t lie. I had a distinctly uncomfortable feeling as though I was carrying a football around in my belly for the rest of the morning, but it was worth it. Bacon. And Pancakes. That is all.

dinosaurWe then headed Uptown to the Natural History Museum, just about managing to duck inside as the first warm droplets of rain splashed down on the sidewalk. It’s one of those buildings that you can get lost in. Everywhere you look there is marble and giant replicas of impressive dinosaurs and mammoth bones bigger than the tallest man in the room. Sweeping staircases lure you onto one floor, plunge you down to the next, tease you up to the top until your head is spinning and you are so dizzy you have to take a seat. Which we did. Somewhere deep in the bowels of the building under a domed starry sky, listening to Whoopi Goldberg as she took us through space and time.

When I was a child, I used to dream of being an astronaut. My dad bought me a planetarium, with plastic planets that you could paint and fit onto spikes that stretched out from the torch-sun, and that you could spin around in orbits. It even came with a cap for the sun, with constellations on it that you could project onto your ceiling at night. The show we watched catapulted me into space and reminded me of that dream, zoomed me into the void to come face to face with those constellations I had cooed over as a child. It was incredible.

Funnily enough, when we exited, if anything we were more dizzy than when we had entered.

There was a beautiful tower somewhere on the ‘fossil floor’; a beautiful circular structure with curved benches that you could rest on. We took a pew and looked out over Central Park. How could anyone get tired of this view? It was just – and remains to this day – astounding to me that such a clear cut pocket of green can make such a unique and beautiful stamp on a city so big and so utterly consuming. It was as if I was watching the leafy green heart of the concrete body that is New York pulsing fiercely, churning out the life force of the city, pumping blood and oxygen through its veins.

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That afternoon was a splash through the northern part of the park, ducking under trees for shelter and ultimately giving up and rushing, drenched, to a local bar where Ma settled in for a beer, and us two girls smacked our parched lips over an ice cold water.

horse and carriage 2It wasn’t until dusk, when the rain had stopped, the streets were dry, and our feet had stopped throbbing with pain, that we hopped on the metro like locals so as to clamber aboard a horse and carriage like tourists, and get a royal view of the park. We trotted past runners and cyclists and goggle eyed children, bouncing slightly on our velveteen seats, and waving like the Queen of England before we realised probably no one would get the reference.

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And the day wasn’t over yet! We still made it to Ellen’s Stardust Diner, where we enjoyed our food whilst the waiters performed show songs, dancing on tables and shaking their collection hats for extra singing and dancing lessons. Each one of them were Broadway hopefuls, and I loved that they spent their evenings working to reach their dream, winning over the hearts of the customers and belting out their passions over mac and cheese. It was also the place where I had my first slice of red velvet cake, so naturally, I’m going to sing it’s praises.

dinerThe table to our left had four of the most friendly people I had ever met. They were all from Louisiana and were on a one day stopover between travelling – they’d been to Italy, Spain, France, and England, and were passing through the Big Apple on their way home. They told us fantastic stories about their travels and wished me a happy birthday over cake. One of the women told me to come back to the diner, that she had been three times and she loved it every time – and that I would one day see HER on Broadway. I can say with all the honesty in my heart, that I cannot wait for that day.

We rounded off the day with an evening at the very top of the Empire State Building. Yet another maze to pass through, the view once you get to the top speaks for itself. There is a reason it is a landmark of New York. And a reason it became one of the landmarks of our holiday.

For this one though, I’ll let the picture do the talking.

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If you missed the other instalments of Life in a New York Minute and want to catch up, you can start with the very first page of the story here.

Riding my pink bicycle into tomorrow

I have been struggling recently. I have been struggling with deadlines; with moving into a new flat and trying to make it feel like home; with exhaustion; with people; with myself. I am tired. And because of that, I have been neglecting this blog. 

I won’t pretend that I’ve been super busy and haven’t possibly been able to write. I’ve had the time. I’ve been able. But I’ve chosen not to, largely because I simply haven’t felt inspired in a long time. I’m not really inspired today, not to write anyway. 

But I have just got back from a firework display at the seafront. My cheeks are cold and my nose is red and I ate some of those ‘fresh donuts’ and now I feel like my heart is about to explode from sugar overdose. I wore my yellow wellies for the first time all season, I sang along to the music in the middle of a crowd that couldn’t hear me, and I felt spirit. That kind of spirit you feel when you know christmas is coming. That kind of something that just makes you smile. 

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I love Winter. I love the cold and having to wrap up warm. I love sitting wrapped in blankets, nose pressed to the window as rain splatters against it. I love hot chocolate. I love casseroles. I love Halloween and firework night. I love pantomimes and snow ball fights. I love family at christmas. I LOVE Winter.

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I found a card in a shop the other day. It’s silly: it has a glittery pink bicycle on the front with one of those ‘life’ quotes. 

A pink bike isn’t just a pink bike.

A pink bike is a portal to another world,

A world of freedom and fun!

Told you. Completely silly. But for some reason, when I saw it in the shop, I had to buy it. It’s sitting on top of my bookshelf, lit up by some fairylights.

So yes, I’m exhausted and tired and want to shut my eyes for the next few days and hope they don’t happen.

But.

I bought myself a picture of a pink bicycle.

I think Winter might be here.

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