Day 2: London
-Patrick S. Lasswell
This Post Describes Events from the Summer of 2006
The Summer of My Discontent
It is 1:30 AM and somebody in the hall is doing his personal best to vindicate every unkind thing that has ever been said about drama students. Knock, knock, knock, knock, knock, Knock, KNOCK, KNOCK, Knock, Knock, knock, knock, knock! “Let Me IN!” This has been going on for half and hour, two hours after I went to sleep. The nineteenth century masonry does its part by transmitting every acoustic element of the self-immersed fellow’s distress with advantage. No wonder Hollywood actors come here to the West End to perform in the theaters that infest this area. Who needs close-ups when the buildings amplify every expression to the creatures consigned to their embrace? Knock, knock, knock, knock, knock, Knock, KNOCK, KNOCK, Knock, Knock, knock, knock, knock! “Let Me IN!” A star is born.
Eventually his roommate comes up the lift and puts the knocking tosser out of my misery. The hotel resumes a kind of quiet, interrupted by the teenage meanderings of less diligent would-be thespians. My room is still small, unventilated due to a malfunctioning window, hot, cheap, and in the center of London. From around the world theatre programs spew their spawn at this very hotel, seeking to provide them with an appreciation of the origins of modern theatre. I greatly fear that the youths drunkenly yelling out on the street below are getting that very thing. It’s Monday night and I can’t imagine the hell of weekends in this place. I’m really looking forward to getting to decent, quiet lodgings in Iraq.
I was so excited to get this hotel. I knew when Michael sent me the information that it was going to be a bit rough, but the location a stone’s throw from Piccadilly Circus was worth the discomfort. I neglected to consider that it was the high season, the middle of summer break, and that the college drama students would be here. Every one of them with projection, energy, and raging hormones…
It is a magnificent location, though. Michael Totten and I have taken a two walks about the vicinity. Even though I did not prepare for the history of this part of the trip and we went without our maps, there is something about a brief jaunt past Whitehall, Big Ben, Covent Garden, Drury Lane, Leicester Square, and so on that gets to you.
I’ve resolved to be more energetic and alert than Michael for this trip. After our trans-Atlantic flight, I was able to meet this goal by my capacity to fog a mirror. For a man who so deeply loves to travel, Michael has no capacity to endure prolonged confinement in a jet. He doesn’t have any kind of flight anxiety, and even in a stupefied haze he can still navigate central London like a native, but taking a rest day between legs made a hell of a lot of sense. Michael has an epic jet lag susceptibility that makes his accomplishments in travel writing all the more impressive. I’m not looking forward to scooping the shattered remnants out of his seat after the 13 hour flight home.
We met with Norm, primary author of the Euston Manifesto, to begin the evening. I talked too much about the war. A lot of the time I feel like a dentist explaining the intricacies of root canal to the uninitiated. I know why the procedure has to take so long, cost so much, and cause such pain to restore function in the affected area. Civilians look at the problem and wonder why not use the biggest drill or yank the tooth entirely? Military nuance is lost to even the brightest civilian intellectuals, and I taper off with a lame excuse about the undesirability and fragility of dentures and other unattached solutions.
After meeting with Norm, we go for a jaunt around some of the most expensive and distinguished real estate in the world. The cool of the evening is fine to walk about this great city in and the long summer twilight (not an analogy, just the weather) was quite fine. We stop at a converted paddle steamer along the Thames to have a pint and a stop at the loo. Like everything here it is too expensive, but the bitter and cider are fine and we can use the rest. We talk about the upcoming job and plans. Michael discusses details and I make connections in the abstract. As the good ideas, beverages, and Thames flow, our earlier good humor about the job is restored. For the last week our manic laughter has been subdued as the weight of the task at hand and the last minute complexities pile on. Now that we are about it, we are getting back into stride. This makes me very hopeful for a good result.
It is now 4:00 AM and the drama spawn have all passed out or gained some sense of propriety. Alright, the drama spawn have all passed out. Light is coming into the sky and my laptop has turned on its daily scan for spyware. I will try to get a few more hours of sleep before we go out to the British Museum for an amazing day of research. I’ll probably need a nap this afternoon so that I don’t have to thin the herd of aspiring thespians in tonight’s production. Did I mention I’m looking forward to Iraq?