far too much writing, far too many photos

I’ve needed time to absorb the recent happenings in London. And what I want to do now is simply appreciate the bejeezus out of that city and its people. Because it’s a place I love.

I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time in London on a bunch of different occasions, each visit packed with adventures and sensory input, leaving me with more images/memories and tales to tell than any sane reader would want to subject him- or herself to, beginning with the moment the bus from Heathrow let me out on Kensington High Street on my first visit in ‘86, my foot touching the sidewalk, an intense, visceral feeling of coming home immediately sweeping my body. Unexpected. And disorienting.

What did it mean? Don’t know — didn’t surprise me, though, that I wound up going back so many times or that I’ve spent much of the last several years living in another part of Europe.

Hungerford Bridge, London (between Embankment and the South Bank) — December, 2003:

That first trip happened in December, a fine time to be London. By chance/coincidence (or maybe not), my best friend and his sister wound up going to London at the exact same time. My buddy and I had become a bit estranged after working together on two productions of my first full-length stage play, a long, difficult haul. We wound up sharing a flat during the London stay, it turned out to be a time that reconstituted the friendship.

We went to what was called an alternative cabaret at a nearly empty union hall in a neighborhood somewhere way the hell out from the city center. Four performers: a bizarre, heavily mannered weirdo called Mr. Nasty who played the ukelele and told jokes (the best: A: Why was Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet like scotch broth? Q: ‘Cause it was rich, thick and full of vegetables.), a 20-something cockney homosexual who blathered about very private aspects of his life (listening to him trying to wrap his cockney tongue around words like ‘erotic’ was worth the price of admission); a 20-something lesbian, also delivering a stream of consciousness talk about her life (smart, interesting, funny); and a guitar-playing, harmonica-blowing singer-songwriter named Rory McLeod who turned out to be a kick in the ass, giving one of the greatest solo performances I’ve ever had the dumb luck to stumble across.

We fell in with a bunch of folks singing Christmas carols in the district of Crouch End, another neighborhood way the hell out from the city center.

We rented a flat from an eccentric theatrical agent whose big gig seemed to be Christmas pantos featuring Sooty. The bed in the single bedroom had bedbugs, I slept in the living room and remained biteless. The proprietor, Vincent, described himself as further to the political right than Genghis Khan and dragged us out to dinner one night at the Royal Overseas League, which, turned out to be strange, stuffy, with pretty good food and a harp player hidden away behind thick maroon draperies. The flat had a kitchen with a refrigerator and washing machine. The upside: we got to buy groceries at local shops and eat in now and then. The downside: Vincent was always doing laundry.

We went to see shows every single day, a pattern that’s mostly held for me in all subsequent stays in the city. Little-known fact: the National Theater saves seats for each performance of every play — no matter how popular the show — often the first row or two of seats, so that if you get up early, haul your sleepy ass down to theater to wait outside the door until tickets go on sale at 10 a.m., you can pick up seats at £10 a pop. That first visit we went for returns, hanging out at theater box offices an hour or two before showtime, waiting for unsold tickets to become available at half-price.

[continued in next entry]

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Spillway, post-rain — North Montpelier, Vermont:

Madrid, te echo de menos.

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