after i graduated from college, i moved into manhattan for a few months, saving my sheckles from a waitressing gig i had at the once famous cafe wha? and comedy cellar (some of our regulars were ray romano, dave chappell and jon stewart - it was a very amusing place to work). i had a vague plan of travel, but it was pretty abstract. i didn't particularly know where i wanted to go, what i wanted to see or when i wanted to begin. such is the headspace of the recent college graduate.
a few happy accidents helped push me in the direction of moving to london. again, no plan, but at least it was action and vaguely exotic, being across the ocean and all.
my first living situation was in a stoke newington house with twenty aussies and kiwis, all transients. no one stayed at the house for more than four weeks. this was my first real look at the life of a vagabond - i liked it! my housemates introduced me to mr. bean on the telly, walked me to the best local for sunday roast/lock in (pubs in london closed between 2pm and 5pm on sunday afternoons, they got around the law by locking their doors, with folks inside, and those folk could continue to drink, on a tab that they would pay at 5pm - at the right place, this was a lot of fun) and told me the best places to go hunting for a job.
one of my favorite moments from this time was when i learned that my modesty was more powerful than my desperation. i had moved to a house in brixton, a hood with a slightly unsavory reputation. i'd had a miserable job at a coffee shop, where the owner felt he didn't have to pay me, i finally realized, as i kept dipping further and further into my meager savings, that i had to quit, and fast, to find a job where i actually got money in exchange for my time and effort. i had been job hunting for a month, and despite being legal, i was having no luck. i was down to my last ten quid (approximately $15 at the time), i didn't have my rent which was already a couple days past due, i hadn't eaten anything but rice for two weeks and i was getting depressed and desperate, a terrible combination.
i found an ad in one of the locals about a bar looking for a waitress. i called, made an appointment and showed up on time and crisply attired. i had my first tingle of apprehension when i saw the big glittery sign above the door, 'toppers'. too desperate to make snap judgments, i walked in. the main room was really dark but there was a little light over the bar and the man loading cases of beer behind the counter told me to 'go on down'. there was a second floor to this bar below street level. as i headed for the stairs my eyes adjusted and allowed me to catch a glimpse of a lady carrying a tray wearing black shorts, tights, dark shoes and nothing else. i am pretty smart so it only took a second for me to understand why this place was called 'toppers'. i fervently hoped that she was a performer and not a waitress. my need for a job and near pennilessness pushed me down the steps. i met mona, a large, fiftyish, no nonsense woman, thankfully totally clothed. she gave me an appraising look and asked 'do you have a problem with nudity?' i answered honestly 'not with other people's nudity.' she told me that the position require that i go topless. before i could respond she went on to say that while she thought i had "talent", she could tell that i would not be working there and that if i changed my mind, to come in any time.
i walked out slightly dazed and thinking, rashly, that maybe i could do the job, ignoring the years of high necked shirts and oversized sweaters that i had used as camouflage, trying to deflect attention.
and then i started laughing, really laughing. i felt lighter than i had in weeks. no way was i taking that job, i simply don't have the guts to do it, not to mention i don't think i'd last long in an environment where men were being encouraged to objectify me - i'd be sure to slap someone and fast.
desperation doesn't rule me!
i went home and cooked myself a bowl of rice and began scouring the days want ads and there it was - the shuckburgh arms needed a barmaid and i was the gal they were looking for!
|my home for 6 wonderful months|