April 02, 2003

Day 3 of London.

At this point, Day 3 of London happened two weeks ago and change, and I'm still recapping and it's taking forever, but I figure hey, people still write about the Civil War, and that happened way more than two weeks ago. So here goes.

Day 3 of London was Official History Day. For days we'd watched history pass us by through a bus window. Now it was time to get our hands all dirty and dusty and historical.

The morning was free, and all the girls in our group wanted to go shopping. The fellas opted for a tourist trap called the London Dungeon, because it was bound to involve way more blood and people's intestines being eaten by rats than, say, Harrod's. We were not disappointed, although I was disappointed that my camera crapped out of batteries just before we got inside. You'll have to go without visual aids for this part. Just imagine a lot of dummies covered in red tempra paint, their computerized voice boxes screeching at regular intervals. Also imagine a bunch of theatrical types who, for whatever reason, can't get a gig in one of London's ten thousand play houses so they spend their days demonstrating ancient instruments of torture (an inordinate number of which seemed to focus on the testicles) on well-paying tourists. You'll have a pretty good idea of how we spent our morning.

That afternoon, we looked up History in the phone book, and we went and hit it up where it lives. The British Museum. I assure you, it was home with all the lights on.

I was still out of batteries, having had no real chance to recharge back at the hotel. But Ashley was nice enough to loan me her spare, because Alecia, Ashley and I all have the same camera (Brian does now, too). There are benefits to being in the cult of the Canon S200. The new battery was just in time, too, because slumping reluctantly towards the front gate, waving bloody placards, followed by a gaggle of museum security and police, were a bunch of real-live authentic...

HIPPIES!

I almost ran faster than I did after Martha Stewart to greet these brave voices of dissent. I swear I was giggling, which is I think why the bearded fellow is giving me that look. I was excited, these pictures are going in the scrapbook so I can say, Look, kids, there was a time when all the great idiocies of the world (radical Islam, oil paranoia, record store employees) congealed into one great mass and converged on the British Museum wearing bloody sheets! And your father was there to capture the whole thing!

I do like the font on that sign, though. Kind of reminds me of Thriller.

No, the guy holding one end of the official "Stop The War" bedsheet isn't Ralph Macchio, the Karate Kid, don't let the headwear fool ya. I was just as disappointed as you are. The young lady taking a bold stance on "Wars of Mass Destruction," despite the fact that this has been, so far, one of the least destructive conflicts in history to the civilian population (although granted, this was a couple days before the war started, and there was no way of knowing if Bush and Blair were just gonna go Wild Bunch on the motherfucker, YEE-HAW), is carrying a blanket. I later found out why. Apparently all these lone voices of reason in had gone and lied down in the Assyrian exhibit, near the museum entrance. Assyria, being, of course, where Iraq is today. They were supposed to be the civilian casualties we will no doubt inflict in our unilateralist oil thirst. Why they haven't been lying down in the Assyrian exhibit to protest the purposeful killing of 275,000 Iraqi citizens from the modern-day Assyrian emperor is beyond me, but hey, let's not talk politics here. What I love is that she brought her blankie. I want to show my solidarity for the helpless Iraqi people crushed beneath the wheels of imperialism, I want to feel their pain. But museum floors are so cold and Mummy says I must have proper lumbar support.'

I like the fact that if you "show solidarity" for imaginary Iraqis by laying down on a quilt and then getting nicely asked to leave by the cops, you're brave, but if you put your life on the line to feed, clothe, and free real Iraqis, you're a murderous bully.

But there I go again. Politics.

After the oppressed truth-speakers dispersed, we met up with our tour guide. She gestured with her hands A LOT. And when you have to have words to accompany your gestures, so as you may imagine she talked A LOT. But who can blame her. When you have to recap all of history in two hours for a bunch of teenagers, half of whom couldn't care less and just wanted to go back to the hotel and take a nap, you have to make those words count.

Saw a lot of this. The guide would charge through the crowds, duck in and out of a bunch of huge rooms, each containing things we wanted to see but didn't have time for, then would thrust this hand up in the air and wait for every last straggling unneccesary picture taking one of us to trickle in before she'd start talking.

Above: Fast-talking tour guide with frieze of The Parthenon. She explained the whole story, all etched in stone that stretched around one of mankind's greatest architectural achievements. I don't remember any of it now, but I'm reasonably certain it involved horses.

What they don't teach you in Art History: A good deal of Greek architecture was adorned with the upper torsos of older Korean ladies. Strange but true, kids. Strange but true.

After the Parthenon, guide lady let us free in the Egyptian section. It was big. You'd think these guys made irreplacable contributions to the world as we know it, or something.

This was a continuation of the surreality of the whole London experience. Here we were, inches away from the kind of history you usually only read about. Gold-plated sarcophagi. The Rosetta Stone. Objects the eyes of Antony and Cleopatra may have glanced over. Stuff that makes you seem temporary, or makes you want to make things worth putting behind glass and keeping for all time. Makes you wonder how people can devote their lives to this stuff, the whole time looking backwards when to you all these things say, look forward, go out, do. But then you're glad there are people who devote their lives to these things, who put them on pedestals and behind triple-thick glass, because what happened yesterday matters.

And then you realize the tour guide and your travel companions are three rooms ahead of you while you're still gaping at a bust of Marcus Aurilieus. And you start looking for that hand.

Also makes you thank Ra for proper dental care. Did I mention that?

I could've wandered around for hours, but others were less enthusiastic. Jack, Tim, Alecia, and Ashley split early and went back to the hotel. Then we went into another room, the guide babbled about a chest full of gold for five minutes, and said, that's the tour, see you later. So after a brief stop at the gift shop, we said goodbye to the British Museum and pretty much all the important objects mankind's produced, ever.

And the museum was like, See ya.

And the objects were all, Don't be a stranger.

And we were out.

That night, while my camera rested deservedly in the hotel room, we went across town for some stereotypical Brit food: Fish and chips! It was disturbing, not just because it wasn't very good, but because the place reminded me of an old-timey ice cream parlor and it just throws you for a loop when you're thinking ice cream and you're tasting mediocre fried whitefish.

Then we did what everybody back home kind of assumed was the whole purpose of the trip because we're, you know, theatre kids: We saw a play. My Fair Lady, to be exact. The parts I was awake for were stupendous. A highlight, (I don't know if it was ad-lib or in the original script, and it's been two weeks, so I'm paraphrasing): I told you not to go to those fancy French places. Why didn't you go to a nice English shop? At least there you can be certain everyone's on our side!

Uproarious applause, from everyone except the hot French girls sitting behind us. I was going to bust my extensive francais at intermission, but I didn't think they'd want to know where my baguette was in relation to the Eiffel Tower, or that I had a big fish. Oh well.

Not to backtrack, but at dinner, Kenzie took the only good picture of me in existence.

From right to left: Matt, Jack, SUAVEST MOTHERFUCKER ALIVE LOOKIN' ALL GQ AND SHIT, Tim.

I'd do me.


We saw a lot that third day. But the best of all the artifacts was sported by an Indian guy handing out flyers on Oxford Street. Not to generalize based on a small sample, but the Indian people in England rock. First Sanjay, greatest waiter alive, then this guy, rocking this hat:

Really kinda says it all, doesn't it?

Posted by DC at April 2, 2003 10:05 PM
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