Day 3: London
-Patrick S Lasswell
This Post Describes Events from the Summer of 2006
Heat at the British Museum
Every few years it gets a bit warm in England, and this is one of them. The downside to a nation that is under a perpetual gloomy cloud…other than the morbid depression and all that…is that air conditioning is more of a concept than an actuality. After a night in a small room with no air conditioning, no functioning window, 100% humidity, and a cast of thousands of juvenile thespians outside, I am functioning on two hours sleep. Perhaps functioning is too strong a word.
The plan for today is to do research at one of the great troves of erudition in the modern world, the British Museum. Michael is greatly restored due to his window functioning, and I am the one struggling to fog a mirror now. We arrive just after 9:00 to confirm something we’ve been noticing all morning, Central London gets a late start to the day. For two people with extensive experience in high technology, the notion that you can’t get a half-caf triple hazelnut latte at every hour of the day and night is frightening. There isn’t even competition for serious caffeine abuse until 7:30 AM. On the other hand, when you can walk from the center of the banking, through the center of men’s fashion, to the center of political power in about 15 minutes, first thing in the morning; the pressure to commute wired just isn’t there. The British Museum will be opening at 10:00, and I am having difficulty staying up that long.
How I Felt at the British Museum
Michael and I have our new cameras out, looking to fill our memory cards with images of Mesopotamian glory to take back to the people we’ll be talking to. As an icebreaker, I think this will carry more weight than the traditional lame joke and a handshake. “Here’s the history of your people, preserved despite the worst ravages of the Hussein regime. Sorry about the unpleasantness just after the invasion, but as you can clearly see the best stuff left here long before we arrived.” Everybody likes local color, especially when their old stuff defines the beginning of human civilization, is my theory. Also, it’s a chance to go through the British Museum!
Why does our primitive art stink compared to real primitive art?
Regrettably, I am the walking dead, a condition that precludes distinguished scholarship. Michael and I power through the Near East exhibits in an hour. Our cameras are clicking constantly in a drive-by photo shooting of antiquity. The image stabilization feature on my camera is really coming in handy since I am staggering through the exhibit like a zombie. (The British Museum staff is remarkably tolerant of animated corpses, which raises a number of questions best answered in a movie critics are not invited to review.) I hate not having the energy and enthusiasm to give this place its due. I hold onto my camera like a lifeline, willing its recordings to capture more than my sleep-deprived head can.
Michael Going Crazy with his Spiffy New Camera at the British Museum
Michael is having a great time with his incredibly spiffy new camera, and does a lot to keep me going. He’s shooting like a wild man, an expensive camera owning marauder, hell-bent on capturing all the glorious details of the architecture. I am familiar with all of the arguments against the extravagance of the British Empire and the hubris that was recorded in stone for the ages. Screw all that. London has lots of great buildings that I would love to live in and see every day. The anti-imperialist puritan jerks can take their inhuman stone monoliths and get bent. Even in my dilapidated state, my spirit is lifted enough that I can get back to the hotel.
The Spice of Life
Michael is convinced that our amazingly central and despicably cheap lodgings should be called a hostel, not a hotel. I’m too tired to argue the point. He takes pity on me and lets me nap in his room while he goes out shooting pictures of everything imaginable. I take my liner bag, lay it on top of his bedcovers, and get four blessed hours of rest in a room with air. I’m sure that this hotel is a fine place when London is not in the middle of a heat wave. The lack of amenities really doesn’t matter when you are in the center of such a great city. During a heat wave, the small airless, windowless, cells are the black hole of Piccadilly, and they are killing me. Even worse than death, this experience may be making me whine.