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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Matt and I arrived in London after a very fun flight with Eleanor, the party stewardess, who asked us if we wanted wine with our beer. Eleanor understands midnight ocean crossings. I watched a good movie about a bride falling in love with a woman at her wedding. That’s kind of how I felt about Eleanor.

On the ground, the tube was snafu. We ended up taking something like 3 buses and two trains and another bus. It took us two hours to get through the first line of directions to Battersea. But people were really nice to us, and Matt navigated beautifully. When we got to what I now refer to as my house in London, we were pretty wiped. Alicia met us at the door. Alicia is a Chicagoan who has fallen in love with a dashing Brit and his city. They live in an adorable pink house with a garden in the fabulous Battersea neighborhood of London, where I would live if I were to move to London. Or where I would have my city place when I wasn’t in Cornwall. More about that later. Alicia is wonderful fun, and was fully aghast when I suggested I might take a short nap. Instead she plied me with cappuccino and took Matt and me on a forced death march of Battersea Park. An operetta was being performed in the park, and there is a fountain that is a huge wall of water the wind blows onto you when you stand in the right place, and there is a big crazy Buddha temple and a gorgeous power station on the river. It was 100 degrees and I was wilting, so Alicia headed home to do work, and Matt and I stopped off for a $10 Sprite. London is expensive. That night we had tickets to an outdoor Midsummer Night’s Dream in Regent’s Park with Alicia and Phil. It was a semi-environmental production. The set was three mounds – exactly like Washington Square Park! And the fairies and lovers were all in white! And the first fairy wore EXACTLY what I wanted to wear when I played first fairy – a corset, a tutu, and combat boots. But Oberon made no sense and they missed a lot of the opportunities the park was providing them. It was fun, but it could have been better. I thought the lovers did exceptional text work, particularly Lysander. Helena was a bit of a drip, which I can’t stand. She has one of the best minds in Shakespeare, and the most lines in that play. I hardly think Shakespeare found her a loser. Sore spot.

The next day, we went to Covent Garden and bought Matt a little cap. We went to the Tower of London and took a tour narrated by the most English man in the world. A beefeater. At one point he was telling us the superstition about the ravens and the monarchy, and said, “You don’t really think we believe in this? How silly do you think we are?” And Matt muttered, “Have you looked in a mirror recently?” After the tower we made our way to the Royal Court where Tom Stoppard’s new play was closing its preview run. That shit blew us right out of the water. Everyone needs to see Rock’n’Roll when it comes here, or go there and see it. Unless you don’t like gorgeously acted plays about ideas and passion and the importance of Pink Floyd played really loud and the meadow Lord Pan. After the show, we went with Tim and Jenny who also caught the show next door for a Pimms. Tom Stoppard walked past us. That is a GOOD celebrity sighting, right up there with Lou Reed, and this time I didn’t humiliate myself. But then he didn’t have his dog with him.

Day three and I am feeling as tired as year three of grad school. At home, I have maybe two ounces of coffee in my decaf. In London, I probably had 6 espressos a day. I had extra shots. My head would literally blow off my neck if I did that under normal circumstances. In Cornwall, I would be reduced to drinking Nescafe, black. We’ll get to that. Anyway, that morning, we walked along the Thames and took pictures of each other to try and photoshop so it looks like we were standing together in front of Big Ben because no one was around to take our picture. We walked past the National, where I stopped to pee (see: all the espresso, above) and Matt had a look around the place. We were headed for the mothership. Upon arrival at the Globe, we had a fun tour, and I got pollen on my face that made me look like a crazy person because I leaned too far into a bucket of lilies. We went out for fish and chips and back to the Globe to stand in the pit for a 3-hour Coriolanus. It is probably not my favorite play, I don’t care much for the will to power or political machinations, but the relationship with the mother is pretty astounding. It feels like it was written tomorrow. I loved how all the politics was completely relevant to right this minute but they didn’t shove it down our throats setting the show at the White House or something. And the actress who played the Mom was so good that in one of her scenes, I was leaning so far over toward her that I LOST MY BALANCE a few times. If anybody wants to produce Coriolanus in 25 years, give me a call so I can audition for that part, OK? I’ll send you a headshot. After the show we rode the eye of London, unfortunately intruding on a date between a young London guy and this gorgeous girl. I think it probably worked out for him anyway.

Our last day in London we planned to spend in Notting Hill because I was at the end of being cultural. Sometimes I just like to screw around. OK, I always just like to screw around. So I put my foot down and picked a place that seemed like funky people might hang out there, actual English people. Like Hugh Grant. But when I woke up, and a soft breeze was blowing through the roses into our bedroom, I suggested not doing anything but lying around in the garden eating scones all morning. Matt pulled me out of bed ad forced me out into the world. Notting Hill was really great and we found an extraordinary wedding present for Cerris and Caley, and I bought a union jack t-shirt for myself, and we got to have a nice, laid back morning. We were schlepping all our luggage. At one point Matt had his backpack, his drag-along suitcase and my huge camera around his neck and someone stopped and asked him for directions. He was the most obvious tourist in like a 6-mileradius, so we figured the guy was fairly hard up. Next, we were slogging to Paddington, and I went through low blood sugar I hate food and you and everything moment. We solved this with the procurement from a grocery store of my favorite kind of biscuits (McVities Plain Chocolate), a good deal of prosciutto, a baguette, and a few other such provisions of picnicy goodness. Then we got to Paddington where a handsome fellow made me the best cappuccino of my life. The secret is the extra shot. I tend to not like hot milk very much, but I drink cafe au lait and cappuccino in Europe because they can’t make drip for shit there. Extra shot of Espresso makes everything wonderful. If I am talking about coffee a lot it is because I love it like a friend, sue me.

We met up with Tim and Jenny, got on our train which was thankfully not on fire, as we had originally thought, and reluctantly left London. I had been looking forward to the train ride with Tim and Jenny and Matt, and to the scenery, and I had been literally dreaming about Cornwall, but I still hated to leave London. According to Ben Brantley, the mood there is disenchanted and perversely nostalgic, and I feel that. A few days later, someone said to me, “The day’s not over yet, and you don’t even know all the wonderful things that are going to happen.” That is probably the best piece of advice I have ever gotten, even though it wasn’t said as advice. A big part of being disenchanted and perversely nostalgic is that you don’t believe the best is yet to come. But, indeed, good things were yet to come. Stay tuned for Part III: Cornwall.

posted by pinky 11:57 AM

beautiufl writing! you should write travel vovellas or something- I want to go those places and see theater and have aPimm's with jens and tims! thank you forhe blow-by-blow I can't wait for the next bit
aaah. so good to read your writing again! it's like i get to sit with you. okay, not that good, 'cause i really really really like sitting with you. but a tonic to be sure!

can't wait for part iii!
god damnit I've missed reading you!
I have always dreamed of writing travel vovellas.
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