John Newman and Sam Smith seemed to gently emerge at the same time, and I always got confused between the two of them (one might say they merged at the same time they emerged), but then Sam Smith went stratospheric, and John Newman just stayed where he was, I don’t know why. A tragedy on both counts, no doubt. Calvin Harris’s stratospheric rise is also a mystery to me. His songs are so weak, and his beats as well, and yet not a week seems to go by without another chart-topping Calvin Harris track. Some people have the incredible skill of making immense capital out of very little discernible talent. Every Calvin Harris track is so forgettable and weak, yet he rakes in millions nonetheless. The Orient Express barmaid is probably the best memory of this holiday.
Something I discovered, or re-discovered, last night, drinking in the Ibis bar even after they turned the lights off, till 1AM, is that I DO feel more like doing naughty things late at night—and those post-midnight Brussels expeditions and Berlin Walks to Stuttgarter Platz were for a good reason. I am a nocturnal creature, and I do feel more alive in the dead of night; I shall resume my very late night visits to Gare du Nord in Brussels; I felt completely safe last night and was completely unaccosted both in the Rue d’Aerschot itself and on the long walk back. That bizaree 4-trips-in-a-row sequence of being targetted by pickpockets or necklace snatchers seems a long time ago. And by the time I got to the Rue d’Aerschot, 130AM, it was PACKED. Busy, busy, with people. Like Oxford Street. I felt so comfortable sitting in Le Cigalle and the Derniere Minute drinking, watching the men passing to & fro. I will resume my late evening trips to the Rue d’Aerschot and I think Stuttgarter Platz in Berlin, if anything is left. But my KEENNESS to go out after 1AM last night was a very notable realisation. I feel more at ease in the early hours of the morning; more alive. I look forward to drinking in the Berlin Plaza bar till they close, and then walking at 1AM in the morning along the silent empty Berlin streets—christ, you could NEVER find a central London street quiet and empty at any hour of the night—to Stuttgarter Platz. Though for little point—as Hanky Panky is gone, Mon Cheri is gone, Startlight, Night Dreams, Golden Gate, Blue Bananas are all gone. By the time I get back maybe even the last couple will be gone too—Sissi Bar, and Monte Carlo. And over the road Bon Bon (I never liked) and around the corner Club 77 (no good since Angelique decamped far across town). Le Coin is just a short stroll away, but I don’t even think of going there.
The Orient Express has an absolutely fantastic selection of music channels—they can take their choice. Trace, MTV Dance, now turning it to MCM. This is how hotel TVs used to be, a large selection of music channels. At least 3 or 4. Oh the manager has just changed the channel to MTV Dance. I preferred MCM to be honest. Got to see some French/Belgian music on there. Maybe he did it because he knows I am English and might prefer a more English channel. On the contrary. The Orient Express also charges just 1,80 for a small (25cl) beer—that seems to be the standard for Brussels. I can’t wait to come back to Brussels; but next time I really will have to go to Saint-Idesbald to go to the Delvaux Museum, or Namur for the Rops Museum.
Yes, indeed my hotel TV has music videos only from 2am to 6am. Late at night the Orient Express usually puts the music channel on, and in those two Rue d’Aerschot bars I went in they both had music channels on their TV, though silent and music actually coming from some jukebox. The only music videos I ever see in Vienna these days are in the Manhattan brothel.
I feel like Greece, lurching from one payment deadline to the next, and it always looks like I will not be able to make the payment, but somehow I just about manage it. If I didn’t travel I could slowly return to financial well-being, but without travel I don’t see any point to life. Why is sitting in a Brussels bar staring out the window so much better than sitting in a London bar staring out the window? I don’t know, but it is. If Soho hadn’t been wiped out, Astral Cinema, Carnival Strip, Sunset Cinema, in particular, maybe I would not need to travel; but if Soho is dead then I must travel for those kind of jollies. Almost 2 o’clock already; I don’t think I’ll be going anywhere. 2 o’clock now and I think I’m getting to the point now where I think I will NOT be going anywhere–I was planning on going up to Gare du Nord and checking out the windows again and this time the porn kinos up there; but I don’t think I will bother going all that way now. I wish I could stay in Brussels forever; so close to home, a wonderful suspension, and always the possibility of naughtiness if you want it (I haven’t on this trip) (but it makes you feel so relaxed to know that there are whores available if you want them).
That is the thing about hotel bars: the bar maid or bar man never seems to be there. They are off doing god knows what, smoking outside, chatting shit with the kitchen staff. I had to wait a full EIGHT MINUTES last night before the bar man appeared. I want a Brussels Grill steak, I want chicken & chips, I want pizza slices from Sbaro, I want ham & egg rolls from the station. I used to feel this passionate about strippers and whores but now it is just for food. I have spent about 50% of this stay sitting at the Ibis bar staring at the rather Stalinist brutalist Gare du Midi, at the trams & buses rolling in & out, and this makes me happy. One of the notable things about Brussels is the lack of traffic lights at really very big junctions and the chaotic free-for-all that results. No wonder you so rarely see cyclists in Brussels.
Not enjoying this beer at all. If I have to go home I would much rather just get straight on the train and go but I have 4 hours to kill unfortunately. Central railway stations in Europe are amazing, there are SO MANY food outlets, you want to buy something from every one. So. Much. Food. It is unbelievable. Best memories of this holiday? Nothing at all really, except the food. The gorgeous pizza slices and rolls from the station. That is all I have eaten. I never went for my chicken & chips in the restaurant next to L’Orient Express; never went for a Brussels Grill steak; just bought all my food from the station and had it in my room. I wish I had not checked out so I could take some more food back to my room again. The De Brouckere Brussels Grill is closed for a “technical reason” but peeping through a crack in the covering it looks like it is being completely ripped out. There is another one by Grand Place apparently; I never saw that one. Maybe I will look for it later. 1.10 already.