Blathr Wayne Lorentz

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Showing blathrs with the tag “London.”

I was saving it… for later

Wednesday, September 14th, 2022 Alive 18,768 days

Harrodʼs #08: Knightsbridge Roast.

Since Iʼm going to spend most of the morning watching Queen Elizabethʼs cortège on Sky News, I guess itʼs time to tuck into my Harrodʼs Knightsbridge Roast #08.

Unlike The Queen, who was a very strong woman, this coffee is rather weak. Itʼs very much diner coffee, similar to that which is served by the Omelete House in Las Vegas. Which was the last restaurant in which Jerry Lewis ate.

Perhaps it's only appropriate. The coffee is as weak as tea. And tea would have been a more appropriate choice this morning.

A still frame of the Queen's cortège from Sky News.
Iʼm watching on Sky because it is the only British broadcaster with an AppleTV app that's available in the United States.
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A life in transit

Sunday, August 7th, 2022 Alive 18,730 days

My retired transportation cards

I have a bad habit of holding on to transportation cards; especially if they have leftover money still loaded on them.

  • Ventra (Chicago)

    The grey Ventra card was the first one. It also functioned as a MasterCard debit card with the idea that it could be of benefit to poor people and the many thousands of Chicagoans who canʼt or donʼt have a bank account. That didn't really work out, and eventually it was migrated into the more common blue transit card.

    Amazingly, I was able to use the blue Ventra card on my most recent trip to Chicago. It had about eight dollars on it when I last used it, and 11 years later, that money was still available, and it worked fine. It turns out that it doesnʼt expire for 25 years.

  • Akbil (Istanbul)

    More durable than a card, and you can hang it on a keychain, I got an akbil to get around Istanbul. The akbil system has since transitioned to a boring plastic card like most of the rest of the world, and the money that I had left on this has now expired.

  • Amtrak (United States)

    This was just a rewards card, like a frequent flyer card. I earned quite a few points going back-and-forth between Chicago and Saint Louis; Seattle and Vancouver; Saint Paul and Chicago. But since Amtrak discontinued service to Las Vegas, I stopped using it and the points expired.

  • Oyster (London)

    I think this is the oldest of the bunch. I have no idea if thereʼs any money left on it.

  • Orca (Seattle)

    Orca bills itself as a single payment solution for getting around the entire Puget Sound area. But I seem to recall that it wasn't actually accepted everywhere. That may have been fixed by now, but I seem to recall that when I was using it, it was only valid on ferries, and Sound Transit buses and trains. I remember using paper transfer tickets on Seattle city buses.

    I have no idea if thereʼs any money on this one, either.

  • Do It All (Singapore)

    This card is supposed to do it all. I don't know if it did. I only used it on trains, and perhaps a cable car to Sentosa Island.

    Thereʼs probably money left on it, if it hasnʼt expired.

  • Octopus (Hong Kong)

    I've noticed that a lot of transit cards are named after sea creatures.

    I had money on it, but that was probably forcibly expired as Hong Kong was crushed under the mainlandʼs thumb. At least I still have my Hong Kong money with the image of Queen Elizabeth Ⅱ on it.

  • T-Money (Seoul)

    A good number of transit cards are also positioned as general-purpose payment cards. My observation was that T-Money achieved this most thoroughly, and early.

    It seemed like you could use T-Money anywhere in Seoul. Its acceptance was probably wider than even Visa or MasterCard.

    Since T-Money is more like a bank account than a transit card, there's probably money left on it.

  • Suica (Japan)

    Suica is one of two major transportation cards in use in Tokyo, and adjacent areas of Japan. The other one is Pasmo.

    How to choose between the two? Easy — Pick the one with the cute penguin on it.

    Suica has a unique set-up process, where you can create your account and login at the ticket vending machine, and it prints your name on the back of the card. Pretty nifty.

    Thereʼs very likely money on this one, since itʼs not that old.

  • Zipcard (United States)

    When I lived in cities where I didnʼt need a car all the time, I used ZipCar to bring home major purchases that wouldnʼt fit on transit, or to take longer trips.

    The interesting thing about the ZipCar process is that you tap the card on the car to unlock it and get the keys.

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Saturday, September 6th, 1997 Alive 9,629 days

Good news: The toiletries I bought at Harrodʼs work. Bad news: I didnʼt get up early enough to be first into the shared bathroom. Maybe I shouldnʼt have left my headboard tuned to classical music all night.

The soap is unremarkable, but the shampoo is great. Instead of coming in a cheap plastic tube like Iʼm used to, it comes in a tall, slender ceramic bottle with a metal screw-on cap. Very classy. The bottle is the same off-yellow/mustard color as my hotelʼs carpeting, but the label is a bit more orangish. It proclaims “Geo F. Trumper” which has apparently been around for over a hundred years.

In another surprise, the shampoo isnʼt a thick, viscous goo like American shampoo. It comes out freely, like water. But a tiny capful still lathers up as vigorously as a handful of American stuff. Iʼm starting to think that Iʼm paying for a bunch of filler when I buy Suave at home.

Todayʼs task: See London without being seen. Dianaʼs funeral is today, and Iʼm not sure what to expect from a nation in mourning. I expect lots of things will be closed, so itʼs probably a good day to go to parks and squares and other outdoor places.

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Thursday, September 4th, 1997 Alive 9,627 days

My hotel is… not quite what I expected it to be. But at the same time, it is familiar because I have been known to watch British shows on PBS.

Itʼs less of a “hotel” and more like a “rooming house.”

It looks like a converted brownstone, like the ones I know from Brooklyn. The main entrance brings you immediately into what can only be described as a shabby living room about the size of a small bedroom. Thereʼs a decrepit television teetering on a spindly-legged television cart. The cart is firmly embedded in what was once yellow shag carpeting, but is now a mustard-colored fluff with goat paths revealing the backing. The perimeter of the living room (I guess “sitting room” is the correct term) is lined with the kind of overstuffed armchairs you often see next to trash cans on the side of the road.

At the (not very) far end of the living room, a hole has been cut into the wall and thereʼs a counter with a small magazine and a lady with a better-formed mustache than I will ever produce. Whatever the British equivalent of an unlit Lucky Strike hangs from the corner of her mouth. Sheʼs not interested in my credit card, she wants British pounds, but we settle on American Express travelerʼs checks because thatʼs what I have, and I donʼt think sheʼs in a position to turn down someone staying as long as I am. I think I overpaid, but like with Grumpy Grammarian at the train station, I just have to take her word for it.

The room is fine. Itʼs not up to American standards, but I didnʼt expect it to be. However, itʼs not up to Austrian standards, either. I guess the same way a hotel in Mingo County, West Virginia isnʼt going to be of the same standard as one in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Still, this is London, so I expected it to look a little less like a 2am black-and-white movie.

Itʼs arranged galley-style, meaning deep and narrow. At the far end is a window. It doesnʼt open, and isnʼt clean enough for me to see through. For all I know, it may have a direct view into the private doings at Buckingham Palace. But more likely, itʼs a well-lit brick wall.

The bed is oddly narrow, like a college dorm bed. And thereʼs a radio conveniently built into the headboard. It has two knobs. One for power/volume. The other turns to positions labeled 1, 2, 3, and 4. Station 1 seems to be all about the weather in places Iʼve never heard of; which makes sense since Iʼve learned from PBS that the Brits are obsessed with the weather. Station 2 plays Duran Duran. Station 3 is classical music. Station 4 doesnʼt seem to work.

There is no television in the room. I guess Iʼm supposed to watch TV in the sitting room downstairs. Iʼll try to remember to bring a newspaper with me, because it appears the correct way to watch TV in a British boarding house is to lay back as far as you can and put a newspaper over your face while you snore.

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