Top British totty

Rachel Weisz

Rachel Weisz, British Hollywood star and Daniel Craig's wife

Steve, 44, was laid off from his job as a departmental head at an American pharmaceutical company. He went through crash and burn, wondering what he was going to do with the rest of his life. He moped at home for a while, worrying about the condo he couldn't sell, the bills he'd be unable to pay, and the girlfiend telling him she'd dump him if he didn't find another job quickly.

Funk out

He pulled himself out of his funk by opening an atlas and studying the cities of Europe. A week later he was on a plane to London, England. He had no plans to return in a hurry. For once, he was going to enjoy himself: explore at his own pace; hang out in cafes, visit galleries; sleep in budget hotels; and meet European women. This is his story.

Steve's story

American corporate culture has a way of sucking you dry and spitting you out. You give years to a company, you're on call 24/7, you sacrifice evenings and weekends so you can you climb the promotion ladder. Then the economy hits rock bottom and you realize the company has no loyalty to you.

It can take a while to accept that corporate capitalism doesn't care about individuals, only what those individuals can do for a company. It's all about how many clients you can bring in, how much product you move, how many millions you can make for the stockholders.

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The saddest and funniest part of the whole experience was the meetings with lifecoaches when I'd been laid off. They were straight out of the George Clooney movie Up In The Air.

This young, 30-something coach handed me a package and told me my life of opportunity and possibility was about to begin. I was now free to be the man I had always dreamed of being.

I looked at that coach and thought You idiot. You're turning personal disaster into opportunity by handing me a package with bullet points? Well, screw you!

Meaning of life

I knew the company did not owe me loyalty, nor did it provide the meaning of life. They employed me, that was all, and part of their bs for employing me was to get me to believe they valued me. Once I understood it was just corporate bull, I was ok and ready to leave.

The decision to go to Europe had nothing to do with work, nor sightseeing. It wasn't about visiting Buckingham Palace, the Coliseum in Rome, or the Eiffel Tower. I wasn't interested in any of that stuff. I wanted to see the Europe that appealed to me as a younger man, the daring, avant garde Europe, the liberal, liberated Europe, where work was something you did but it wasn't your whole life, it wasn't a religion.

I chose London first because it was where my favorite band, The Clash, was from. Joe Strummer, the lead singer of The Clash, is a hero of mine, a man of liberal politics, a generous, genuine man with a good heart. I was devastated when he died a few years ago. I wanted to visit London to be in the Clash's city, visit some of the clubs and venues where they played, maybe meet some folks who'd seen the band play or who'd met Strummer, and Mick Jones, Paul Simenon, and Topper Headon.

London pub

My first day in London, I'm sitting in a pub and a woman in her 30s with wild black hair, short skirt and army boots says to me, You're American, aren't you?

Yes, I say, how do you know?

The running shoes and the haircut, she says. The haircut makes you look like a bank owns you, and the running shoes are so American. Every American wears them.

Brits have a way of being very rude when they're being friendly. This is shocking to an American. But there's a streak of self-loathing about the Brits. They like to rubbish everything, even themselves. They're scathing and sarcastic people. But once you get used to it, you don't take it seriously. It's wordplay, just like their mad parliamentary debates.

Vintage clothes

The woman in the pub, her name was Kate, sold vintage clothes at a stall in the Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane, London. It used to be a poor part of town, very ethnic, home of the artists Gilbert and George, but it's now a trendy, a desirable place to live and work.

The vintage clothes stalls there are anarchic, messy, not very attractive at first glance, but there are some wonderful characters and a fantastic alternative atmosphere to the place.

Kate encouraged me to swap my Brooks sneakers for a pair of Crockett and Jones black, lace-up brogues she had on her stall. They were beautiful shoes. I was happy to have them, and she sold my sneakers within 15 minutes of them going on sale. It seems the Brits can't get enough of American footwear after all.

Gieves and Hawkes

I let Kate give me some items of Prada, Daniel Hechter, Alexander McQueen, and Gieves and Hawkes (the Savile Row tailors), but I had to curtail her enthusiasm to dress me when I felt I was beginning to look like Oscar Wilde.

I loved Kate. European women have a way of giving themselves to you that is so different from American women. European women are daring, individual, selfless, and liberated, as though there isn't a big bad world out there that's waiting to swallow you up.