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« Day 3: London | Main | Day Five: Entering Iraq, Keep Your Talcum Dry »

February 27, 2007

Day 3 Into 4: London

-Patrick S Lasswell

This Post Describes Events from the Summer of 2006

Lack of Civility is the Death of Hope

Royal Institute of Justifying Conspiracy Theories.jpg

Royal Institute of Justifying Conspiracy Theories

It may seem extremely strange to some people who know me to find that I’m extolling the virtue of civility. I value civility so much that I try not to squander it on those it is lost upon. Hormonal drama students who like to run up and down the halls of cheap West End hotels at all hours are not deserving of civility, but your travel partner is. Giving someone who is going to go through any number of checkpoints with you an excuse to look up the local phrase for “He's carrying drugs/weapons/pornography” is an exceptionally bad plan. I was deeply worried that my deteriorating physical condition from staying an extremely hot, humid, and unventilated hotel (hostel) room would affect my conviviality with Michael. I have spent too many years living on big gray boats not to understand exactly how badly things can go when the mood turns sour. People in the Navy are actually pretty good about avoiding invitations to walk home from the middle of the ocean.

So far, Michael and I have been having a lot of fun with this trip. One month ago today we were laughing our heads off in gleeful appreciation of the notion that we could get away with traveling, talking to interesting people, and get paid well for it. Implicit was the notion that we could make this work because it would be fun for the two of us. As we drank ale and dreamed great dreams, we knew that the camaraderie was what made this possible. The kinds of inspiration and mental agility needed to accomplish this kind of feat were only possible with a strong friendly trust. This was more than the practiced solidity of trained acrobats; this was the inspired trust of improvisational acrobatics. If we’ve learned anything from the intimate portrayals in “The Amazing Race”, we’ve learned how badly things can go once a team stops wanting to be there.

We go out that evening seeking comfortable accommodations and a traditional English pub. We're in the West End and the theater district and end up in a pub that proudly proclaims its connections to the great Charlie Chaplin. It's a nice enough place, but I make the critical error of ordering a hamburger. Heat exhaustion is my only excuse for this folly, instead of a reasonable patty of ground beef on a soft bun, I get English interpretation of American food. Arriving on my plate is a charred lump of chopped steak on a stiff roll, with chips (fries). The previous night we were smart and had Indian cuisine, a diet designed for hot, muggy weather. Now I'm trying to recover from a day of hyperthermia with indigestible chunks of gristly bovine product. The beer is alright, but nothing to write home about when you come from the city with the best ale in the world.

Italy Fans Showing World Cup Madness at Picadilly Circus.jpg

Italy Fans Showing World Cup Madness at Picadilly Circus

After dinner we continue wandering around London seeking cool refreshment and relief from the heat. At the next pub, the place is packed with people watching Italy beat Germany in the World Cup. It was a close game to the end and the noise is considerable. After the end of the game, the Italy fans do their best to show that they have Italian spirit by driving like idiots through the streets honking their horns endlessly. We wander back towards Piccadilly and the place really is a Circus. Italy fans are mobbed around the Eros statue, climbing the Victorian monstrosity and otherwise going nuts. Others are gathered around, watching the festivities and taking pictures with their camera phones. After a while the police show up and gently break up the party. We head to a nice night club because we can and it is still open. Before long that bar closes and we reluctantly leave its air conditioning to go back to the steaming embrace of our unfortunate lodgings.

I get a couple of hours sleep in before dehydration wakes me up. I re-hydrate with the help of the Gatorade powder I didn't expect to need until we got to Iraq. A shower seems like a good idea and helps me cool down for a while. I make a critical mistake in wetting down a shirt to remove the wrinkles and then hang it up in my room while I try to get more sleep. The humidity in that chamber climbed the rest of the way to 100% as the shirt “dried” and sleep moved further and further away. I'm getting fussy, a condition not conducive to good travel.

Light creeps through the window, the cursed, sealed window, and I go out to greet the dawn and hope for some reduction of temperature. It is pleasant and not hot in Piccadilly, the mess from the evening's riot has been mostly cleaned up. The McDonald's has a glass door that's been smashed by anti-globalizationists swept up in the fervor of the World Cup. Or maybe some drunken idiot got rowdy, it's hard to tell the difference, really. Neither kind of person can be expected to be able to articulate intelligently, act coherently, or show useful results.


Not to Blame for Unsolicited Commercial Emails [Spam]

I explore and take pictures of St. James' Square, a nice little neighborhood that used to rule the known world. On one corner is the East India Club where they invented Ghandi. The opposite corner holds Norfolk House where General Eisenhower and some friends put together the largest, most complex amphibious invasion in human history, two or three times in a row. Scattered around the buildings are historical markers indicating some of the resident's. Here lived the woman who sponsored the invention of computing. The home of the first woman Member of Parliament has it's windows open, a sight that fills me with schadenfreude. I'm weak, I blame it on the heat exhaustion. Normally I wouldn't be mean to people with millions of dollars of real estate if I couldn't do it to their faces. My father, who never let genetic reality get in the way of thinking he was Irish, would pale with shame to know that I stood in the center of English power while they were laid prostrate and didn't put the boot in.

Hot St James Square.jpg

Location is Not Everything

After a very long time Michael woke up and we went to breakfast. For the last week I had been extolling the virtues of breakfast at Fortnum and Mason, the great department store on Piccadilly. For decades, Michael's best friend has been a fascinating man named Sean. Over a decade ago they ran out of things to argue about, a sport they both loved, and so they started quibbling with intensity. The only thing I can figure is that he mistook me for Sean for a moment and thought that I had taken an extreme position over a minor point. I assured him that Fortnam and Mason was the truly great, and he was reluctant to believe me. Perhaps I shouldn't have extolled the virtues of blood pudding as part of my pitch for what composed a perfect breakfast. That may have been what caused the confusion. In the end, we had a delightful breakfast, even if only one of us chose to enjoy the blood pudding. Civility was restored through the good graces of excellent hospitality and hope for the adventure escaped death by steambath.


Gentility and Great Coffee

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