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 river...to 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.
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.