Friday, July 08, 2005

Memories of London

I can't even begin to think of what to say about the attacks. Many other bloggers are doing a far better job than I could. So far, the best post I've read is from Jason at Positive Liberty in which he discusses the absurdity of terrorism.

I can't quote from it because you really have to read the whole thing.

I have very little to add about the attacks, but this incident did prompt me to think about the week I visited London during my senior year of high school. I am finding it hard to remember. 1989 seems like a terribly long time ago, but 16 years is really not that long. Somewhere, probably buried in my parents' house someplace, are the prints from the six rolls of film I shot over there. Other details are fuzzy, but the six rolls of film are not. I am positive it was six. Strange how that detail is so solid and clear when the rest is a blur. Perhaps it is because the camera was new, a gift specifically desired for this trip, and I worried about taking that damn film through airport security on the way there and back. That camera held up pretty well -- I still have it, it still works just fine, and I only replaced it this past October because I wanted to go digital.

We crammed a great deal into one week. It was a trip with others from my English and World Literature class, led by our teacher and her husband who had been doing this for years and knew London as well as their own backyard. My mother was there as well, as one of the adult chaperones, mostly because she loved British history. At one point she was a member of the The Richard III Society. I shared my hotel room with one of my classmates.

I remember visiting St. Paul's Cathedral and climbing steps forever to the top. I remember Westminster Abbey. We had a terrific tour guide at one of those places, but now I can't remember which one. I think we went to several museums. We saw four plays. I don't remember the name of the first one, but the others were "Chess," "Starlight Express," and "Metropolis." I think I was the only one in our group who liked "Metropolis." I have the London cast recording of it loaded on my iPod and still listen to it occasionally. I never claimed to have normal taste in theatre.

We took the tube everywhere. It was the first time I had ever been on a subway. After college I lived in Chicago for a few years and took the Red Line to work everyday and riding a subway became a boring, everyday experience to be endured. In London it was all new and exciting, an experience to be relished. Somewhere I have a tea towel with a map of the London Underground on it. I'm amazed we were able to find our way through that maze of colorful lines and never once get lost. The Chicago CTA map is pathetic in comparison, with its few train lines all going into the Loop, nothing but buses everywhere else, and constant service cuts.

My mom discovered tea time in the hotel restaurant. We discovered pubs and fish and chips and some sort of sparkling lemonade that I still remember fondly. Once we ate in a Greek restaurant near the hotel and I remember an appetizer that looked like small fish, with the heads still on. We had continental breakfast delivered to the room every morning -- big, crusty rolls and hot tea. Or did I drink hot chocolate instead? I think that was before my caffeine addiction. I do remember giving the delivery person an excessively large tip the first day because I was in a hurry to make him leave before my classmate came out of the shower and flustered with the exchange rates and the unfamiliar heavy coins that seemed quite aptly named "pounds."

I wish I could remember more specifics. We saw the
crown jewels. We saw the changing of the guard, I think. We walked for what seemed like miles and we ate once at the Hard Rock Cafe, London. I have long since lost the T-shirt and it wouldn't fit now anyway. I mailed postcards to my high school boyfriend back home and the hardware store where I worked. I never imagined that sixteen years later I would love another woman and plan to move to Montana with her.

At the time, I thought I would remember the trip forever. I attempted to keep a travel journal but failed, writing only the first entry about the flight from O'Hare to Heathrow. I constantly worried about losing my passport, which has long since expired and not been renewed. We bought books. A group of my classmates wanted to go out to a club one night. I spent the evening with the only other two who weren't interested in an expensive cover charge and loud music and we browsed in bookstores. Alright, I don't remember what kind of store it was, just that we went there and I strongly suspected that at least one of my companions was gay. I remember their high school faces, but not their names.

I wish I could find all those pictures. Perhaps then I would be able to remember more.

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