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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Mo’ London, Mo’ London, Mo’ London

Evening, all. Sorry for being AWOL yesterday, but I had a bit of a full night. And I’ve decided not to be quite so uber-anal about posting every day. I’ll still do my best to pump out seven posts (or more) a week, but not necessarily one with each date stamped on it. I decided that I’ve got enough ridiculous and arbitrary rules in my life, without complicating my life myself. You understand, of course.

Also, I decided to give the ‘Punchline Fever‘ feature a rest, at least for a while. After twenty weeks of punchline fun, I was starting (starting?) to run out of clever ideas. And it seemed that interest was waning a bit, so let’s put that particular bit of amusement on the shelf for a while, and see whether or not we miss it. It’ll still be there, if we ever want it again.

For now, though, I’m gonna try and wrap up the story of the London trip the wife and I took last week. I’ve been having a good time playing travelogue author and all, but there are other things I’d like to write about, ya know. Like baseball, and Boston drivers, and Buddhist monks. Important shit like that.

So, let’s finish up the holiday recap. I believe we were up to Thursday in our week-long odyssey. Now, by this time, we were pretty much running out of interesting things to do. Or we’d drunk enough to permanently loopy-ize our brains. Something like that, apparently, because I can’t imagine any other way I’d allow my wife to talk me into accompanying her for… shopping.

Now, I like to think that in many regards, I’m not your ‘typical guy’. I remember my wife’s birthday, and I know when our anniversary date is. I even know how many years we’ve been together. I help around the house (a little). I don’t even mind admitting that, under the right set of circumstances — like a Red Sox loss to the Yankees, or a stripper putting on her clothes — I might even cry.

(Yeah, okay, fine — maybe I am a pretty typical guy. That stripper line gave me away, eh? Bitches.)

Anyway, the point is, I’m not always as predictable as some men might be. But when it comes to shopping? I’m a dog. I’m Homer Simpson. I’m Al Bundy. Just your typical, whiny, eye-rolling, ‘why are we here, and when can we leave?’ man. I can’t help it. It’s a genetic thing. You can’t fight genes, people.

On the good side, I was able to negotiate a breakfast before the shopping spree. I needed my strength for all that stomping around and wheedling, you know. We stopped a couple of blocks from the hotel at a place called Garfunkels, in South Kensington. The food was okay, I suppose, but I couldn’t help thinking we were sitting in some evil sort of ‘Denny’s International’ chain. A bit creepy.

The less said about the shopping itself, the better. My wife stopped in a few shops — sorry, that’s shoppes — along the way to the big prize — Harrod’s of London. I was as impressed with Harrod’s as a non-shopper could be in a six-story mini-mall, I suppose. Their legendary pet department left a bit to be desired — I saw mainly rabbits and fish, and little else — but maybe we just caught them on a bad day. Maybe they only trot out the lions and tigers and bears (oh my!) on the weekends. But hell — I’d have settled for a hippo, or a nice kangaroo. Apparently, that’s too much to ask.

After Harrod’s, we popped ’round to Cafe Rouge across the street for a snack. That shopping shit takes it out of you. After recharging with some caffeine and camembert (because the bestest kind of cheese is runny cheese, after all), we made our way to the subway, and on to the Tate Modern.

The ‘new Tate’ is an impressive affair — it’s built in the shell of an old power station of some kind, so it’s absolutely huge, and there are some positively enormous spaces where the old generators used to be. Me, I’d have filled them with gumballs and let people guess the number for a prize. These guys, though — they threw modern art and paintings and sculptures and avant garde shit all over. I still like my idea better, but the museumy stuff works, too. It’s all good.

The best thing in the Tate Modern might be the first piece we saw — a thirty-foot-or-higher ‘mother spider’ sculpture on the main floor. Creepy, impressive, unsettling, and touching all at once — a bit like watching ‘The Crying Game‘ without knowing ‘the secret’ first, I’m guessing. Only in a sculpture. It’s kind of hard to explain.

After Tatin’ it for a few hours, we had what my wife and I agreed was the best meal of the week — an ‘authentic Anatolian’ dinner at ‘Tas Pide‘. Now, right up front, I have to admit that I didn’t know what ‘authentic Anatolian’ meant, exactly. I figured maybe the chef’s name was Anatoly, or something. What the hell do I know? I eventually pieced together that it was a region in modern-day Turkey. Or maybe it was a guy from Turkey. Or my pide had turkey on it — I don’t really remember. Something like that.

We tried to get out of the restaurant in time to take the ‘Jack the Ripper tour’, but didn’t finish up in time. So, we went back to the hotel area to find a pub. Or in this case, two pubs. The first just wasn’t us at all — besides being stodgy, crowded and smoky, it also had a sign on the door proclaiming, ‘Smart Attire Only‘. Riiiight. My wife was probably okay in that regard, but I was wearing shorts, loafers, and a T-shirt that read, ‘The Queen Does It Beefeater-Style‘. Hardly ‘smart attire’, as far as I can tell.

So, we found a second place, and it turned out to be perfect. Two spots at the bar, ready and waiting. No crowds, and little smoke. Ooh, and the bartender poured a peace symbol into each pint of Guinness. Now that’s classy. Also, he told us that he was from another country, and offered us a free pint if we could guess from where. He ended up giving us three hints — the city he was born in is the country’s capital, the name of the city starts with ‘P’, and the name of the country also starts with ‘P’.

(Needless to say, we never figured it out. We’re American-educated, after all — we don’t get any sort of useful geography here. If it didn’t happen within a few hundred miles of the Mississippi River, apparently we’re not supposed to give a damn. Damned Americans, anyway.

Oh, and if you can’t guess the country either, I’ll tell you at the end of the post. But if you want a final hint — like we did — he gave us one more to help out. The country is not too far north of Australia. Now don’t gloat if you get it — wait until the whole class catches up, dammit.)

So, that was it for Thursday. Let’s rip through the rest of the week, and put this whole damned thing to bed.

On Friday, we checked out the British Museum. This was chock full of treasures from antiquity, including the Rosetta stone, friezes from the Parthenon, and hordes upon hordes of ancient, cranky Asian tourists. Check it out.

On the way there, we grabbed breakfast at Dom Vito by the Holborn tube stop, and took a whirlwind tour through the Sir John Sloane museum, which deserves a mention. This last place is basically a big-ass cluttered house where good Sir John lived quite a few years ago. When he died, he bequeathed the whole kingdom of valuable clutter to… I dunno, the city, or the government or something, with the stipulations that the place could be turned into a public museum, just so long as nothing was changed. The result is a bit like seeing what your senile old packrat aunt’s place might look like if she had a shitpile of money and a taste for rare antiquities. Interesting, in a really oddball sort of way.

After the British Museum (remember it, way up there somewhere?), we stopped by the ‘Pitcher and Piano‘ by the Tower of London. They turned me off at first by playing lots of old American music over the speaker system, but they redeemed themselves by pouring shamrocks on the pints of Guinness — as every self-respecting, Guinness-loving tapman or tapwoman should, of course. And the first pint was a frigging work of art — I’ve never seen such a perfect sham-foam-rock. It was almost too pretty to drink. Almost.

To top the evening off, we made it back to the Tower for the ‘Jack the Ripper tour’, which was extremely interesting. We’d heard that it would be eeeeerie, and spoooooky… even scaaaaary, but it wasn’t really any of that. Interesting, yes, but not frightening, exactly. Maybe we didn’t get the spooky guide. Or maybe I watch too much Law & Order, and I’ve been desensitized to that crap. I dunno. Go on the tour; see what you think. Maybe I’m just a monster. It’s possible.

On the way back to the hotel, we decided to stop into a restaurant that we’d noticed every night on the way back — the ‘Ristorante e Pizzeria Vecchiomondo‘.

(I know, I know — another Italian restaurant. There’s one on every damned corner in London. I would never have guessed.)

Anyway, my Italian’s not so good, but apparently ‘Vecchiomondo’ translates to ‘pissy, pissy, pissy’ — the waitress didn’t like us at all. And she didn’t go to any lengths to hide it; damn those over-expressive Italian servers! We grabbed some dessert and got the hell out before she cursed us out, or broke a chianti bottle over our heads, or lit us on fire or something. Seriously, she didn’t like us. At all.

All right, so that just leaves Saturday — we went back to Dino’s for breakfast, to see whether Gene Hackman was hanging out there. He wasn’t. Damned unpredictable celebrities. Or celebrity look-alikes. Whichever.

We spent the rest of our trip wandering around Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, killing time until the flight home. Still, we got some good work done — afternoon tea at the Orangery at Kensington Palace, the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens, and the newly opened Princess Diana memorial, over in Hyde Park. This last one was very odd — it’s a big oval trough, with various bumps and humps and curves along the path, with water running halfway around in each direction and pooling at one end. As a bird bath, it’s pretty damned cool — as a monument, it seems an odd choice, at least to me. I think its official name is the ‘Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Slip ‘n’ Slide‘. Or it should be.

Okay, that’s all — for real, this time. We’ve had a lot of fun here, and now the story is complete. Let’s remember this time fondly, and never speak of London again, shall we? Oh yes, let’s.

No, wait. One more thing — that bartender, remember? He was from Papau New Guinea. And here, just a week later, I can’t remember the capital. Just another product of the American public school system. Bah.

Okay, now we’re done. London over, and London out. Maybe tomorrow we’ll talk about baseball or something. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Permalink  |  2 Comments

2 Responses to “Mo’ London, Mo’ London, Mo’ London”

  1. TJ says:

    Charlie…dude. The Papua New Guinea thing? Try ‘Port Moresby’.

    We sometimes forget that they’re our really REALLY close neighbours. As in, stand on our northern most tip and you can see their southern most tip.

    Kinda rude of us really. (Us being Aussies, to be clear)

    Sorry. Just a random drive-by trivia hit. Cheers.

  2. GrumpyBunny says:

    We ate at a Garfunkel’s one day for lunch. It was near Trafalgar square. It is sorta like a denny’s.

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