Across the pond: From London, with love

Rich Jones

It was less than a week into my term in London and already I was overwhelmed by the place. Coming from Chicago, I assumed I would acclimate easily to another urban area. Upon arriving at the London Centre, I quickly realized I was a far distance away from my quiet little neighborhood in Chicago.
Maybe it was the impeccably kept apartment buildings that lined each street or just maybe it was the Bentley, Maserati and other luxury cars that were parked all around me. Despite my initial assumptions, the area of South Kensington where the London Centre is located is very upscale compared to where I have lived my last 20 years.
Now, staying in such a place is not necessarily a bad thing. However, there is a certain fantastical element to South Kensington that puts me off a bit. It is too perfect. Not that I couldn’t get used to living like this, but the areas I usually frequent have a bit more character.
The London I had seen up to the night I’m about to relate to you was pristine, but I knew that there was a more middle-class area to explore. Thanks to my RHD’s suggestions and a little bit of adventure on my part, I ventured out to a neighborhood called Hackney, an area of London with character and layers, forgotten by London’s elite. Upon leaving the tube station, a huge smile came upon my face, one that I could not wipe off.
Here was a real London neighborhood, a normal one at that. Its facades were not botoxed and well kept; they showed their scars. On top of that, we met real people as well, people our age with our interests. I immediately felt welcome and we made our way through the streets to a lounge with a DJ spinning and a vast outside area of live street art being made.
It was nice to see someone passionately creating something similar to what I see at home in Chicago. We were able to chat with the artist after he finished. We discussed the legality of his art, how he felt about it being covered up as the city gets gradually cleaned up for the 2012 Olympics, and eventually even talked about American politics.
This evening was exactly the one I needed to have, the kind of night out where I found common ground not only with the people I encountered but also with the landscape that greeted me. I look forward to the many more adventures in my new favorite spot in London!