Monday, February 16, 2009

London Calling: Day 5

Yes, I'm already back in the States, watching Law & Order reruns and wondering how long I can get away with dropping a u into favourite or an o into foetus before you guys call bullshit. I did want to bang out the details of my last UK day though, before returning to my regular intermittent rants about things I can't do and people I'll never wake up with.

Thursday started with a five mile run through twentysomething temperatures that left me with swollen eyes and the unavoidable facial paralysis you get from forty minutes of somehow always running into the wind. The route took me through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, which was almost enjoyable enough to justify spending the rest of the day looking like a ruddy cheeked stroke victim. I admittedly slacked on my Boston training a bit this week, choosing instead to fill five days with things that I can't do on American soil and ensuring that I'll be cramming extra miles into the weekend when I'll be jetlagged and cranky anyway.

I tried to open my watery eyes long enough to help myself to the hotel breakfast, a soggy set of Weetabix squares and a glass of OJ that was hosting the Pulp Olympics. Oh, and also a Cadbury Creme Egg. Since discovering them in a seasonal bin beneath the Tesco register, I've eaten at least 9 Eggs, and--even in public--I have no problem tonguing one like it's Homecoming and we're hiding behind the bleachers before the dance starts.

The day's first stop was at Tower Hill for more LOOKY I'M IN LONDON pics around the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and Tower Public Restrooms Where My Tower Stall Was Out of Tower Squares of Tower Toilet Paper, Causing Me To Briefly Considered Sacrificing My Tower Scarf for The Tower Cause.

I stepped back out to enjoy the sun's brief cameo and was setting up my lame looking tripod when a flourescent-vested copper came over to tell me that I couldn't use a 'pod to take snaps of the bridge. "That's...weird," I said--ever the wordmaster--dropping a hand onto my hip. He shrugged. "Can't you just hold it then?" I was going to explain about being by myself and how I just wanted to be in the picture but decided that wouldn't make me look anything except several shades of sad. So I nodded, pretended to be scanning the ground for wherever the last drippings of my dignity may have fallen and walked to the other side of the set up my tripod.

When my three-legged Threat to Society and I finished capturing my best PhotoFace, we wandered through the Borough Market where I stared at tumor-shaped root vegetables and sampled everything from fresh mozzarella to Turkish Delight which I'd always assumed was an option at a massage parlour. Because I hadn't shoved enough food in my gob, I went immediately to lunch at Mala where the Indian eats were placed on bamboo tables by tux wearing waiters. They get daps not only for the decor but also because they didn't hold the lunch special hostage if your accent was from the other side of the Atlantic. And what a special it was. At £15 it was the spendiest meal of the trip but it was well worth it for a pair of appetizers, an overflowing entree sampler, basmati rice, naan, dessert, and a complimentary food fetus (foetus) for you to sport for the rest of the day.

Pleased I could hide my distended stomach behind the toggles of my Paddington Bear coat, I took off toward the Royal College of Surgeons to swing through the Hunterian Museum, another creeptastic collection of skeletons, plastic models of pituitary glands and endless glass shelves of dead things in jars. As off-putting as it sounds, my interest in the collection was partially fueled by my attraction to all things medical (ahem, House) and because last week I'd finished reading The Knife Man, a bloody good (SEE WHAT I DID THERE) biography of John Hunter--the man whose name is etched onto the museum doors--described on the book jacket as "a medical innovator, an eccentric, and the person to whom anyone who has ever had surgery probably owes his or her life".

After blowing past the last set of amputation saws, I hustled back across town to grab beverages at The Crown and Two Chairmen with the insanely cool editor/founder/writer of a shiny new website I'm going to be writing for within the next few weeks (Stay tuned... ). By the time we'd finished covering, well, everything, I'd crunched my last ice cube and it was time to head north to Islington for the Robyn Hitchcock concert.

The show was at Union Chapel, which--I learned on my ill-fated trip to the loo--has a chunk of Plymouth Rock on display. That seems like an odd thing for an English church to hold on to, kind of like if I framed up a few pics of the woman my ex left me for, placed them in a shadow box and typed a few captions about how thrilled I was that she'd found a new home on my old pillow.

The opening act, American acoustic strummer Catherine Feeny, was very good and if you're a fan of Feist--both her music and her bangs--or Sheryl Crow before she discovered Kid Rock and Current Events, you may want to give her a listen. She played a solid set, including a kiss-off song called "He's Like You Only Better" that had the kind of lyrics I can see myself slurring into someone's voicemail when I'm drunk and sobbing after a trip to the wrong side of 3 a.m.

After Catherine cleared her own amps from the stage, it was finally time for me to see Robyn Hitchcock. FINALLY, after digging him for the better part of a decade. My iPod's been overfed with almost 500 of his songs, I can spit out his birthday faster than I can recall my own, and will gladly give you several soliloquies about his brilliance before you can leave the room but that Thursday night, in a cold church on the north side of London, was the first time I'd seen him live. THE FIRST TIME. And he did not disappoint. For almost two hours I sat on a pew totally transfixed--save for the rapid unfurling of my tongue--singing along to "The Museum of Sex", waiting for the lightning bolts and hoping they'd be aimed at the two-legged rhinovirus in front of me who dropped his used tissues onto the floor.*

After the Epic Fail of only finding the words "Good" and "Show" to say to him when he was standing close enough for me to tuck his hair behind his ear (and I was so tempted), I headed back to the hotel to reluctantly start chucking things toward my suitcase, which meant "eat a sandwich and watch a documentary about folk music until 2". Good show. Fuck.

* Shortly after posting about my Hitchcrush, I got several emails expressing concern, confusion or just "Whuh?". Sorry guys. When you combine his wordplay with his worldview, hand it a Telecaster and put it inside that overtly English six foot two package, I'm helpless to resist. Robyn-with-a-Y aside, I've always had a Thing for musicians, even though you won't see any if you snorkel through the wreckage of my past relationships. Seriously. You could probably prop a shit-stained railroad hobo onstage, give him an amp and a gee-tar and he'd have me by the no-no place before he got to the chorus.

And here we have the last set of London-fueled snaps. Single tear.

I am almost 30. Just keep that in mind.

Yes, officer, I did hold the camera for this shot and was able to leave my Terrorism Starter Kit safely tucked in my messenger bag.

Hey, I like your boots and also the fact that we have the same haircut. That's a sentence that could be spoken by either person in this picture.

The sampler platter, I finished almost all of it with the quickness, summarized as NOM NOM NOM EW LAMB NOM NOM NOM.


sloaneclearv said...

delurking to announce that i totally went to high school with Cat Feeney. that is all.

*Akilah Sakai* said...

Great news about the website you'll be writing for! Good for you. But, about that shit-stained hobo...

Xenia said...

I've been to London dozens of times and never realized that statue of the emperor Claudius was there. I so have to go molest it now. Thanks for the heads up! :)

hoppster said...

i lived in london for the summer so you're five day adventure made me reminisce fondly and hate you with jealousy all at the same time. too bad the UK economy is in the loo, otherwise you probably would've inspired me to pack up my hybrid and sail across to the motherland (hybrids double as water crafts, right?)

hoppster said...

also, any male on a stage, no wait, make that with a microphone or musical instrument in front of them, is automatically ideal mate material.

got me in a lot of trouble at college band parties....

Scottsdale Girl said...


Mike said...

Searched - "london" "tripod" "security"
Found this about the tripod at the Tower Bridge.

You will find that there are tripod restrictions at many UK landmark properties due primarily to the perception that photographers with tripods are 'professional' and hence subject to a permit and paying a commerical fee to take shots. This is certainly true of all Crown Estates properties - i.e. All castles/parks/state properties. Expect an over zealous "security guard" or, parkie as they're affectionately known, to race up to you at the earliest opportunity to enforce this policy. Don't be surprised if they cite security concerns as well at the moment - it's nothing at all to do with security, just money.

shenanigans said...

If only I had something cleverer to say other than: I.Love.Your.Writing. And you make my days at work quite a bit less suicidal. Thanks.

Underfunded Heiress said...

I lol when I read what you wrote about your Cadbury Creme egg. Haha. Your so witty! Love your writing.

Becca the Brit! said...

I'm glad to see you're loving our Creme Eggs - they are truly awesome, huh? In fact, I sent a bunch of em to my friend in Chicago to unleash the goodness upon him too-hmmm quite fancy one myself now...

Alex said...

In Canada we spell words with a u like honour...we also have cadbury cream eggs! Just sayin...

The Imaginary Reviewer said...

Man, if I wasn't already getting married this year I'd be proposing to you like a flash. (Oh, and I'm six foot one, British, play guitar and enjoy wordplay, so you'd probably have to say 'yes', too).

Pgh'er said...

I love the pic of you and the ax that what you mean by giving good head :)?
I love your blog to death.

God said...

Dear J-Money,

For the next six years you will be telling people to "Please Mind the Gap" and snickering to yourself.



cappy said...

Mmmm...Cadbury Creme Eggs...I used to lie to myself and say I was being financially prudent when I bought the 3-pack for $2.69 rather than buying one for $0.99. Now they charge $0.99 for one or $2.99 for the 3-pack and I need to find a new justification for inhaling 3 eggs in one sitting.


J-Money said...

sloaneclearv: OK that? Is pretty rad. My only high school notable was a kid who ate a spoonful of Alum on a dare and puked into the sink in the science lab.

akilah: Well...yeah. It's probably best if I don't hang around abandoned railway stations where impromptu jam sessions might break out.

xenia: He's just down the stairs at the Tower Hill tube stop, right beside a big chunk of Roman wall.

hoppster: Yes, I'm pretty sure hybrids can be used for anything from sailing vessels to pressure cookers.

scottsdale girl: I totally thought of you when I was taking those pics because I, too, shot a brazillion angles of the bridge.

mike: Seriously? I like you so freaking much. Well played.

shenanigans: Aw, thanks! That's what I'm here for, and why I can't ever get a real job.

underfunded heiress: It's funny because it's true. My Cadbury & I could probably clear a restaurant.

becca the brit: Can you explain WHY they're so much better than the ones here? I picked one up at Walgreens and it tasted like dryer lint.

alex: Hmm... is this an invitation? Because I've never been to Canada...

imaginary reviewer: Yes, yes, yes., damn.

pgh'er: That's probably the best head he'll get. But then again, he's a wax figurine so I'd worry if he were getting much more than that.

god: But I ALREADY do that...

cappy: It's because they're seasonal. That's why I do it. I HAVE to eat all three RIGHT THIS MINUTE because they're not going to be around after Easter.

Jamie said...

Love your blog! Thanks for writing. Can't wait to read more.