Last night, Friday, the start of the weekend, I decided to take a stroll around Shoreditch, which is the London neighborhood I’m residing in while I’m here performing. The area’s style is akin to Lower Eastside in NYC, Wicker Park in Chicago, Kreuzberg in Berlin or Södermalm in Stockholm. Part artsy, part hipster, with buildings plastered in graffiti. White people graffiti though, where it’s considered art, not colored people graffiti where it’s considered gangsta. Everything around here has a bit of an edge to it, and it captures the type of places and people I’m drawn to.
I don’t have many friends in London. I have more than most out of towners would, but not enough who I’ve made close personal relationships with. Since I’m only in London for a limited time I want to go do something whenever I’m free, but I find myself not having many friends here that would be down if I called. I guess since I travel a lot by myself it’s no different than most of the other cities I’ve visited. I’m used to it.
I walked down Brick Lane, Shoreditch High, Bethnal Green, Rivington, Old St. while observing all the humans. Some hanging at overcrowded bars with an overflow of people standing outside the establishment, drinking their pints, and engaged in conversation. Some waiting in line trying to enter a trendy venue with overpriced beverages. Others just playing on the streets.
Every so often in my journey a solicitor would try to pass me a flyer to whatever they were trying to advertise. If I was in NYC I would just keep walking without making eye contact, but I kept taking the flyers because I was interested in what types of information the locals write on the flesh of their dead trees. “New cool artists! Want to hear their sweet voices with instruments playing in the background? They are awesome, seriously! Go to somemusicsitedownloadtracks.com to listen for free.” “Feeling lonely? Come to blah blah blah strip club. Titties!!!” Nothing different than the other cities I’ve visited. I guess I’ll have to wait till I go to more third world countries to get unique flyers like, “Come watch a public hanging in the town square every Friday night at sunset.” “Have dysentery? Then you’re probably too poor and uneducated to read this stupid.”
I wasn’t planning on going to a bar last night, but recently I’ve had an itch to dance to hip-hop/r&B music. Coincidently while I walked down Old St. someone passes me a flyer for “Flashback Fridays, playing hip hop, r&b and pop from the 90s and 00s.” I thought I’d go for a bit so I worked my way out to Macbeth.
It was still early, 11pm. There were about 25 people there, all lounging around. The hippity hop was bumping from the speakers. The DJ, a white guy that looked like someone who’s from an affluent suburb, but dressed like he grew up on Detroit’s 8 Mile. I was probably the only person there by myself. I don’t drink alcohol, but psychologically, for the sake of others, I grabbed a tall glass of Coca-Cola so as to not give off too much of a creep vibe. As the night progressed, more people started pouring in and people’s inhibition was slowly succumbing to their alcohol intake where they were freely having fun and dancing.
I was there to dance as well, so I got out onto the floor and started moving to the rhythm. As the beats got better, so did my moves. Every so often a guy would nod their head at me in approval, and a woman would smile in a flirtatious way while using eye contact to instruct me to come over. One girl came up to me, “You’re a really good dancer…<wink wink smile wink smile smile>”, I replied “Thanks”, gave her a high five and kept dancing. Usually I would dance with others and make friends, but I just felt like dancing by myself. I was being a gay man on a night out in a straight club, or so I think that’s what it means when a straight man refuses to grind on any of the girls that so wanted it.
I also started missing my girlfriend. I’ve been away from home for a month now, and even though she met up with me in Stockholm for 5 days during this trip, I still haven’t seen her enough. Usually when I have free time I enjoy spending it with her: eating, exploring, cuddling, and bangbangbangskeetskeetskeeting.
Another thing about being in London is that there aren’t as many stand up sets you can do here compared to NYC. So even though I try to write and be productive in other ways, I’ve had a lot more free time than usual. Being away for so long outside of your environment and routine can eventually be mentally taxing.
I should get used to it because if I continue having success with stand up the next step will probably be going on long road trips to different cities in the US. I’ll perform at a club, then drive, then do another club and so on. It’s a long road from being a theater comic like Chappelle, Rock, or CK, where I could just go on the road for a few months and then be done with it. That’s if I ever even reach that point. Of course I feel like I will, just like any other comic, but those in comedy know that the chance are slim for 99.9% of us.
On the plus side of the loneliness, my girlfriend reminded me that most people wouldn’t travel alone, let alone go to a bar by themselves, dance in the middle of the dance floor while everyone had their eyes on them, all while being completely sober. I did have a lot of fun last night though. I love hanging with myself, but of course, with anything in life, it’s nice to have a balance. Where I can do my independent things, but also be able to hang out with friends and family.
Have you travelled alone? Where did you go and how did it go? Any tips or advice for others that travel alone?