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The Electric Smack Shack

If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you'll never learn.

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An Update From London
dog says hello
smackshack
Brought to you by three-quarters of a bottle of Moet & Chandon, an unlimited supply of Walker's shortbread cookies, and a borrowed European laptop that puts all the \iu9u30 special keys in the wrong \9er987 places. I took more pictures! Some observations...

The Tube. I can see why citizens of Britain get fed up with the Tube during rush hour, but coming as I do from a nation where public transportation is regarded as a communist plot, I think it's wonderful. It's like being able to step into a goddamn transporter beam and come out someplace else new and wonderful every time. 

The Accents. The closest thing I've heard to a canonical Oxbridge or BBC accent was from a guy of Chinese ancestry who was touring the National Theatre with his English girlfriend/acquaintance. Otherwise, speech patterns are all over the map. But I'm beginning to see how they could be used to draw ethnic distinctions in the absence of clear physio-gnomic markers. That, and the hideous, hideous shoes.

The British Museum. A death-march of antiquities, the only question is whether you can see everything before you collapse in a heap and die. But you can't. You're dead. I'm not even typing this shit right now, I've had to possess the body of a Basque backpacker who's staying the night in a friend's room at this bed and breakfast. That said, I may have to go back to see the re-opening of the Japanese exhibit. And I love the room devoted to the Enlightenment---it's basically nonstop steampunk mad-science porn from top to bottom.

And the Rosetta Stone. That's kind of nice. Not to mention the gear from Sutton Hoo. And Babylon. Clean the wax out of your ears: Babylon. Assyria. We're talking some old, old shit here.

It's hilarious, really. You go from the Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Vikings, Saxons, and Renaissance Europe---not to mention the Africans, South Americans, Chinese, Japanese, and South Asians---to the art, design, and fashion of Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, and it's like: What the fuck happened? The human race used to have such good taste, and suddenly everything is embossed with cherubs and a riot of uselessly decorative crap. And you think, Holy Shit the elitist bastards were right, if you give the peasants a bunch of money and allow them to make art they'll ruin the whole fucking world! And then you shake your head and buy a copy of The Guardian, but the feeling lingers. I tell you, it lingers.

(Oops, I think I accidentally deleted the post referencing the trip to the British Museum. The pictures are still there in Google Plus, but not the post. Damn these drunk-posting fumbly-fingers!)

The British Library. Any culture that erects a six-story bookshelf of precious tomes and puts it in glass, just out of reach, is full of precisely the kind of sado-masochistic language nerds that give me a rampant bibliomaniac hard-on. I'm just sayin'. (And yes, there's an app for that.)

The Banner. I'm marking this photo for special treatment. It's a giant banner hanging from an apartment block behind Victoria Station, and it says, "Be Civil. Disobey." It was in twilight when I noticed it, and I wiggled my way into the parking lot behind the train station in order to find a vantage point from which I could get some kind of photo. The policeman/security guard who accosted me wasn't happy with my presence. "You there!" he shouted. I walked over to him. "Yes? Can I help you?" "No! Can I help you?" "Oh, I'm fine. I just thought the sign over there was charming, so I tried to get a photograph." "Oh ho." "Yes sir, that was all." "Is that it?" "...Yes, that's all it was." He didn't seem to be willing to tell me to go about my business, and I wasn't quite willing to ask if it was all right for me to go about my business. So we ended with a series of half-belligerent "That's all it was?"es and "Is that everything?"s as I slowly backed away and left the parking lot. The poor guy was probably just trying to make sure I didn't steal an employee's bicycle, but I found it hard to sympathize with him at the time.

The Used Book Stores. To call London a "college town" is like calling Moby Dick "a book with a boat." The place is full of interesting little bookstores, and although Sturdy Helpmeet and I have visited several, I expect we'll visit many more. Here's how bookish London is: on the south bank of the Thames between the National Theatre and the Eye---an area festooned with tourists, tourist attractions, and the buskers and tramps that follow---there's an open-air used book sale that has its own plaque mounted on the fucking railing. And not in plywood either. This is a thing.

More jogging. I think it's fair to say that my caloric intake has skyrocketed since I arrived. I'm trying to keep up the exercise---aside from walking around gawping at stuff like Another Goddamned Tourist---but it's difficult.

This evening I did planks and then went for a run in Belgravia. I didn't plan my route in advance, so the second time I found myself in front of Sloane Square Station---thinking that I'd made it back to my bed & breakfast instead---I started to actually pay attention to where I was.

There's a big difference between jogging in Hyde Park at 6 am and jogging on city streets at 7 pm, and that's the fear of death. At 6 am in the park the most dangerous things about appear to be health-conscious yuppies and sleepy geese. If violent perverts lurk in the bushes, then so far they've left the jogging Texan tourists alone. At 7 pm in the evening, by contrast, every vehicle in London actively wants to kill the stupid Yankee who can't remember where the traffic comes from. What started as an enjoyable jaunt became a slightly terrifying quest for recognizable landmarks as I attempted to find Ecclestone St. or Elizabeth St. before I was killed by an impatient cabbie or a growling Mercedes turning right from the (American) left-turn lane.

Nevertheless...I'm not dead yet! London gets to try again tomorrow. :-D

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Your British museum comments amused me in particular. A friend of mine just started a museum-admin certificate program, and her first paper is on whether the British Museum should return the Elgin Marbles. I sent her your quote and dared her to work it into her paper. ;-)

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