Just a few snippets from the trip to London...
* After the first few days of rain, the weather became incredible -- 75 and sunny, with air that felt fresh and clean (particularly in comparison to Atlanta). One minor moment on the trip, but one that will be treasured like the Patrick Leigh Fermor read of a previous visit -- waking up, getting coffee and a copy of the Guardian, and sitting under a tree in Kensington Gardens to read and relax. For someone who doesn't let himself relax much, that was a nice interlude.
* Between visits, I forget just how much I love the London pub culture. I don't see anything comparable in the States -- sitting outside some little place, drinking beer and talking, as a variety of interesting and/or weird people drop by and join in, later replaced by someone else interesting/odd. As much as I like some of the bars near my place, they're home to decrepit drunks during the day and frat guys at night -- there's precious few witty intelligent types like, uh, me.
* During the trip, my friend Susanne arrived to begin her new life in London. I realize that I'm rapidly reaching a sort of sad tipping point, where more of my friends live in London than here.
* Encounter with weirdos dept.: I'm watching a little Nike promo/soccer demonstration in Leicester Square, when rheumy-eyed old English guy stumbles up next to me. "They never work," he mumbles to me. "Wha?" I respond, uncomprehending. "Them," he spits, gesturing at the players -- who, I note with a sinking feeling, are all black. "They just play. They should be on a building site. They all make the women do the real work."
I don't say anything, hoping he'll go away -- "do you speak English?" he asks. "Where are you from?" Looking for ways to extricate myself, I say "America."
"I went to New York once. Left my hotel, bunch of blacks started following me. But then some undercover cops jumped on them and beat the shit outta them!" It was the only time I saw him express anything approaching joy during this whole exchange.
I left, him shouting/mumbling "they oughta be doing REAL WORK!" as I wished myself far, far away.
* Fidel's birthday was part of the festivities during the trip. After a posh dinner, marathon drinking session, and me deciding to walk from Soho to St. John's Wood at 3 a.m. (a plan that was aborted), I woke up the next morning with a splitting headache and the following message scrawled on my notebook:
Forever a puzzle, most likely.