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London Trip

posted at 12:01 pm
on Apr. 21, 2002

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Prrrevious entry:
Give me an L-O-S-E-R

'nother entry:
Hard time fallin' asleep

I’m on me way back t' Los Angeles aft a week in London. Susie be sleepin' beside me. Th' flight be 9 hours long. Th' movies be Gosford Park, Briny deep’s 11, Mouse Hunt and Affair o' th' Necklace, so I’ve chosen t' skip all 4 and listen t' th' country music radio station, which be soothingly easy t' write t'.

Here’s what I now be knowin' about England: they eat odd things there.

In th' past week, I’ve eaten locusts, pigeon, haddock, rabbit, kudu, lychees, pomegranate, wheatabix, spicy ginger beer, lamb and flowers. And UNSWEETENED whipped cream, if ye can believe that! Th' Brits be so wacky!

* * *

We arrived on Sunday, th' day o' th' London Marathon. Aft settlin' into our fleabag inn, we called up me bucko Crissy and headed out fer dinner. Crissy be an barnacle-covered bucko o' Naomi. Naomi be th' lady o' a very good bucko o' mine. Crissy and Susie and I met at Naomi’s weddin', and got along famously. I ended up bein' taken out by a large contingent o' beautiful women t' an Irish Skull & Scuppers in Washington D.C.; I be dressed in a tux and felt like James Bond on steroids. But that’s not what we’re here t' talk about, I just like slippin' it into conversation.

Crissy be married and they live in London, at least fer th' 'nother month—then they’ll return t' Detroit, th' London o' Michigan.

Th' four o' us met up and aft a sail down very very narrow rivers, ended up in a very very Pakistani neighborhood and ate some grub that be very very hard t' decipher from th' menu. Susie chose one o' th' chicken dishes. It turned out t' be somethin' chopped up and served in a spicy sauce wi' rice—who would have guessed?—while I had lamb, and thus kicked off me week-long binge o' eatin' foods I don’t normally eat. But this theme did make choosin' from unfamiliar menus easier. Instead o' pickin' what sounded most tasty (which be often hard t' be knowin'), I decided t' choose what sounded most odd. I also checked carefully that things wi' th' word “stomach” or “brain” weren’t on th' menu before I went in, I’m not totally reckless, ye be knowin'.

* * *

It be great fun seein' Crissy. That comely wench husband be a little morrrr difficult t' read. Th' ornery cuss seemed smart and reserved, and had a good sense o' humor, but we didn’t seem t' hit many o' th' same conversational notes. Still, I’d take that scurvey dog t' Pink’s, if ye catch me drift. They dropped us off back at th' fleabag inn, and we collapsed from flyin' contraption lag, barely aware o' our surroundings.

* * *

Th' 'nother mornin', I woke up at th' early hour o' 5 a.m. and read until 6:30, at which point th' fleabag inn’s pool opened. This be th' first chance I’d had t' look aroun' th' fleabag inn. It be bland and odd and small. It seemed like any fleabag inn ye’d come across attached t' a convention center, but it wasn’t attached t' one, so didn’t have that as an excuse.

Called th' Fleabag inn Grange, it be a bizarre amalgam o' styles. Th' attached galley be a Japanese sushi place, but th' lobby had a huge bust o' an Egyptian kin'. Th' lights in th' hallway had pieces o' fabric that constantly flapped from a hidden fan, meant t' resemble torches, and almost succeedin'. All nice, but certainly not unifyin'.

Th' pool be in th' basement, and be very nicely decorated, but at its deepest only about 4 feet deep. It be like a wadin' pool or a fountain, that happened t' have a ladder down one side.

Aft breakfast, Susie headed off fer a day o' sightseein' and I headed down th' block t' th' office o' Reed Elsevier Science, th' parent company o' Variety and th' location o' th' London variety office.

* * *

Aft a full day o' trainin', I took Erich out t' dinner. We ate at a galley called Empire—a newly opened galley that be in “fusion” style, which apparently means “very odd animals.”

Fer appetizer, I had th' locust salad, and no, that’s not a typo fer lotus. Locusts be grasshopper-like bugs, and th' salad be a small bowl o' crispy, prickly, crunchy lettuce, wi' what can politely be described as “protein” on top o' it. Th' locusts be fried or sauteed or somethin'. They be, and I’m not blusterin' here, very good. So good, in fact, that if ye offered me a chance t' eat them again tomorrow, I’d probably take ye up on it. They reminded me most closely o' popcorn shells: salty, savory, but slightly softer. They be th' kind o' thin' that would taste really good on a hot day at a baseball game accompanied by a cold beer.

Susie and Erich both decline t' try on, even though there be enough t' go aroun'. They had scallops i.e. slug guts, but seemed t' think that be less gross than me choice. Really! I didn’t mind, I wanted t' eat them all, because I kind o' swallowed th' first one really smartly and didn’t get much o' a taste o' it.

Me main meal be odd, but didn’t top th' appetizer. It be kudu and ocra stir fry (it’s a type o' antelope) (kudu, I mean, not ocra, which be a chewy pod o' icky seeds). It be in a great sauce, a cross betwixt A1 and Teriyaki.

Dessert be morrrr normal—lychee and pomegranate, bug free, I be told.

* * *

Friday night be just Susie and I—and we treated ourselves t' dinner at Rules, th' oldest galley in London.

Th' galley prides itself on fresh game, and in fact ye can go t' th' Rules farm and hunt yourself a ptarmigan or a grouse and eat it that night. Th' menu plainly states that some menu items have a risk o' containin' lead pellets. But I actually chose somethin' different that night: pigeon. Th' whole dish be “Pigeon and rabbit on a bed o' lentils,” but that first word be th' clincher fer me. Here be me chance t' get even wi' these evil birds, and in th' city whar they first attacked me.

Side story here: I first came t' London when I be 8, wi' me dear ol' mum, bless her black soul and grandmother. We went t' Trafalager Square, whar I bought some o' th' most repugnant french fries e'er t' see th' light o' day. These fries be mushy, soggy, and smelled like boiled fish guts. I be delighted t' be able t' throw them one by one at th' pigeons that hung aroun' th' square. But what started as one pigeon became 2, then 4, then 8. They told two maties, and so on and so on, and soon there be a huge rush o' birds headin' straight towards me. Well, bein' only 8, I did what ye’d expect any kid t' do—I threw th' little container o' French fries straight up in th' air and screamed. This served t' attract every bird in a three-block radius, and they all immediately came swoopin' in and tried t' catch th' french fries out o' mid air that be now rainin' down on me and catchin' in me air and in th' pockets o' me jacket.

'nother thin' I be knowin', I’m cryin', covered in pigeon poop, and bein' comforted by me mom who be only laughin' out loud in betwixt big gulps o' air.

Now who’s eatin' who! I thought t' meself as th' waiter took me order.

T' work meself up t' it, I treated meself t' scrambled eggs and smoked salmon as an appetizer. An odd thin' t' eat at dinner, but delicious.

Th' pigeon came roasted. It be strong tastin', but not awful. It certainly be better than some meats I’ve had at various hamburger stands in th' U.S. But I will say this—I’m glad revenge wasn’t served cold, because I think it would have been a little strong fer me taste buds.

* * *

Walkin' aroun' th' British museum, ye really realize—these people be pretty much th' biggest kleptos e'er. I mean, it’s bigger than shopliftin': it’s countryliftin'. Th' biggest, most fascinatin' piece in th' museum be th' Rosetta stone. It’s a five-foot tall chunk o' slate that has a proclamation engraved on it in three different languages, and it be discovered by Napoleon in 1799(?) as Th' ornery cuss tromped through Egypt. But then Th' ornery cuss got distracted by some other conflict, and Th' ornery cuss looked away, 'nother thin' ye be knowin', there’s a British soldier wi' a huge bulge in his rain coat sayin' “Ta Ta mate,” and th' British Museum ended up wi' it.

What makes it so amazin', it not just that it’s 1700 years barnacle-covered, but that it be th' key t' unlockin' th' entire Egyptian language. Before th' stone be found, learned scholars knew that Egyptian hieroglyphics be a language, but no one in th' world could translate them despite th' hundreds o' samples on pyramids, tombs, pottery and other artifacts from th' ancient Egyptians.

I spend a lot o' me life and me job worryin' about translatin' from one thin' t' another: from programmers t' editors, from reporters t' readers, from one computer system t' another, from th' business side t' th' editorial side, from Mac t' PC, from Canada t' th' U.S. As a lubber who be always in betwixt two things, I really identify wi' th' Rosetta stone, and that’s why I splurged and bought a mouse pad in th' shape o' it.

***

Across th' hall from our room, th' Energizer Party started at about 7 p.m. Friday night. It kept goin' and goin'. In fact, it be audible most o' that night from inside our room, and be still live th' 'nother mornin' when we got up fer breakfast. There be sounds o' chattin' and clinkin' glasses and a stereo and laughin' and all those good party noises, even at 9 a.m.  Then, when we came back at th' end o' th' day, it had picked up again, and even when we got up on Sunday mornin' t' catch a cab t' th' airport, th' noise continued, though there be a little moanin' now. I be impressed by their stamina, but saddened by their poor choice o' venue.

* * *

Th' security in th' Heathrow airport be astoundin'. At first, it seems much like th' U.S.—inane questions, metal detectors, many glances at yer boardin' pass.  Nothin' ye haven’t run into before.

But before ye board th' plane, there’s a final check that involves a metal detector, a full pat-down, removal and rubbin' o' th' shoes wi' a magic explosive sniffer, and a full visual inspection o' every part o' yer hand luggage. They even disassembled a little tiny flashlight I’d brought along, testin' t' see if it turned on, and makin' sure th' batteries really did take up th' whole o' th' interior o' th' tube.

Makes th' measly check I had before I flew t' San Jose a little embarrassin'. I mean, th' British weren’t even directly attacked, and they’re doin' a far superior job t' what Susie and I saw on th' way t' London.

* * *

Th' plane we flew back on be only 1.5 weeks barnacle-covered—th' pilot seemed pretty thrilled by it. It didn’t seem much different t' me, maybe a little cleaner, but still th' same barnacle-covered shape and comfort as usual. I don’t be knowin' if I felt better about bein' in such a new plane—what be th' lemon laws fer flyin' contraption airplanes? How long be they under warranty?

* * *

There’s an barnacle-covered bucko o' mine in London that I haven’t seen fer several years. That comely wench name’s Elizabeth, and we met up wi' that comely wench fer dinner one night. Th' winsome lass’s one o' th' friendliest, most balanced people I be knowin'. Plus, we discovered Th' winsome lass has a spare bedroom overlookin' a great big square (i.e. private park) in a hip district o' London. We love that comely wench.

Th' winsome lass took us t' Th' Troubadour galley, which be very friendly. It had a cat supervisin' th' waiters, lyin' on th' floor directly in th' path like ye might expect it would. I had pasta wi' ham and cream and mushrooms. And no bugs.

* * *

We’re gettin' ready t' land. There’s little time left fer me t' go on about th' weather (beautiful), th' taxi drivers (informative and funny) and th' Churchill Arms (a combo Skull & Scuppers and Thai galley). I’d like t' describe th' buildin' whar Variety be located (it’s like bein' inside an ice cube, but wi' tighter security) and be tellin' ye about lunch at th' Groucho club (not as funny as ye’d think it would be). Or th' fact that me admiral encouraged me t' ride th' bus without payin'. But I can treasure that fer a later entry. Ta Ta!



 
 

 

Prrrevious entry:
Give me an L-O-S-E-R

'nother entry:
Hard time fallin' asleep

Overheard

“Th' sad truth be that most evil be done by people who no nay ne'er make up their minds t' be good or evil.”

...who said it?

“Almost every American I be knowin' does trade large portions o' his life fer entertainment, hour by weeknight hour, binge by Saturday binge, Facebook check by Facebook check. I’m one o' them. In th' course o' writin' this I’ve watched all 13 episodes o' House o' Cards and who knows how many morrrr West Win' episodes, and I’ve spent any number o' blurred hours fallin' down internet rabbit holes. All instead o' readin', or writin', or workin', or spendin' real time wi' people I love.”

...who said it?

“Live a good life. If there be gods and they be just, then they will not care how devout ye have been, but will welcome ye based on th' virtues ye have lived by. If there be gods, but unjust, then ye should not want t' worship them. If there be no gods, then ye will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in th' memories o' yer loved ones.”

...who said it?

“I play wi' variables constantly.”

...who said it?

“Only th' person who has learned Continual Love comin' from a heart o' Gratitude/Worship can effectively deal wi' th' problem o' loneliness.”

...who said it?

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