Saturday, December 6, 2008

And so, today goes like this:

So I prefer Blogger to Facebook--just so you know. I got on Facebook this morning (first time in a month), and I had no clue what to do with myself. I had a few friend requests, so I accepted them. I found a few new friends, so I requested them. Other than that, what do I do? I can't just write on people's walls; they'll think I'm weird! If you can't tell by that last statement, I'm no initiator. People have walls for a reason: you write on them. And I only accept Facebook friends that I really like, so there shouldn't be any reason why you'd think I'm weird. One of these days, I'll get over my ridiculous cyber anxieties, and we'll have lively conversation.

So I was late to work to day. We're not talking slap-on-the-wrists late. This is boot-you-rear-out-the-door late. As a senior operator, I was supposed to open the office this morning at 6am. I woke up at 7:30am. Lovely. I can't decide whether I'm more overcome with fear for the repercussions this will have on my employment, or if I'm more put out because I didn't get to shower before work.

Since getting tattoos, I like to wax my arms so that the tattoos look better. I haven't waxed them in a month, and now I look like this:

It's no wonder I haven't waxed them in a month. It's too hard to wax anything yourself, unless you can go like this:

I'm grateful to a lot of people for feeling like a burning monk (see last post), being accused of laziness, and telling me about it. Everyone's life sucks in some way, and I'm glad that some people can talk to me about their personal hells without feeling like their struggle is less or more important than the next guy's.

That little boy cannot take a drink without sticking his whole face in the water bucket. He comes out sopping wet everytime. He's always loved being wet. When I first brought him home as a 9 week old puppy, I shut off the sprinkler system so that he would get wet at night. Then, I thought to myself that he has to learn for himself to stay dry. But he never learned, and he never cared. I would come out every morning to feed and hug my boy, and his fur would be matted together from the moisture. He'd just sleep right through the sprinkler cycle right in the middle of the yard. And that one, horrible night that I spent at the old apartment, I took him out to use the bathroom in the morning, and the sprinklers were on. He just walked right through all of them, sniffing around, looking at everything. Pistol loves a good mud pile... he's such a pill. The only water he hasn't loved is bathtime, and this:

I decided that this post needed to have some kind of positive material, owing to the last post. So, I'm glad I could write about Pistol. There's no brighter spot in my life than that little boy.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Where did you go?

No posts for two months. No apologies. No excuse. No motivation.

Here's a brief update on how everything has been going. My body always feels like this:

But people think I'm this:

So my grades look like this:

This is always in my head:

While this is always in my heart:

And I can't believe that this got married:

I don't take all the exercise that I should, so I look like this:

That's how life is, so if you're inclined to judge, get the hell off my blog. Yes, my life and your life can be hard at the same time; it doesn't need to be a contest.

I'm failing school. I hate my grandparents because they choose not to do anything for themselves. My harp teacher refuses to give me the benefit of the doubt, and I always feel like a goober around her. Everybody wants something from me. I don't have a place to live or enough money to live off of. I'm tired of Utah. I hate being put in a box by most everyone around me. I don't respect myself because I'm playing the victim. And I hate not having my little boy with me.

Before the straw breaks the camel's back, I'm moving away. I don't know if it will be before the winter semester starts or after it ends. I'm still deciding on what place will be most affordable. Let me know what you guys think. Vote on a city from the list of places I've wanted to live in on the left.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Make time for life

Over a month since my last post...

It shouldn't get to me. It's no skin off my gluts if I don't write a thing or two for a while. But I get so frustrated when people don't update their blogs. This is the only way I keep in touch with some people, and seeing a new blog posting is like Christmas. I just about jumped up on my chair, screaming (nut-bag-Tom Cruise-on-Oprah style) when I saw that Crystal had updated her blog after moving to Florida. Granted, the woman had other priorities for a month and a half, but I was dying for any word on how she and her little family were doing. And TA-DA! One day, there it is.My dilemma? Life. It just gets in the way. That's interesting to me, how there are 30,000 students here on campus, and probably half of them hate what they do. You almost never hear school referred to in a positive light. People ask, "So how are your classes goin'?" And others respond with a look of death on their face. Why?!! Why the hell to we do this?!! It seems so stupid. We all only get one life; so why should we let one minute go by doing something that doesn't particularly make us happy? Somehow, we think that there's a trade-off. We have to slave away at school, trading our peace and health for a degree--a ruddy bit of paper and calligraphy. Those who think the trade-off is an acceptable one might end up doing the same thing for the rest of their lives: "I have to work this crappy job so that I can network and get a better job." Well, I'm done with it.

I felt so good about skipping class the past two days. On Wednesday, I woke up a little later than I wanted to. I had just enough time to shower, shave, and run out the door to class. Usually, I get up, get showered and dressed for the day, have a warm breakfast and hot tea while watching Frasier or The Golden Girls or Bargain Hunt, then I do my two and a half hour harp practice before leaving for classes. It's that unhurried morning time that gives me peace during the day, that leaves me feeling fulfilled with what I've done with my life. Now, when I have to rush out the door to make it to class in time, I just don't feel satisfied. I leave the house with anxiety, not hope.

I decided after a few minutes that there just wasn't time in my schedule for school, and I didn't go. Well, I did go to harp ensemble rehearsal yesterday, but that was only because I really wanted to.

It was so lovely. I gave my being what it needed in order to feel fulfilled. Perhaps on other days, school's not such a bad option--but only if I've taken care to give myself the essentials, and if I can be interested in the material.

How do you tell someone that you love "no?" Any suggestions? I would love to have them.

So, three weeks ago, I took my grandpa to have some minor, outpatient surgery. When we got him home, he was so loopy from the anesthetic that he ripped out his catheter and gave himself a near-fatal blood infection. We got him to the ER just in time to save him, and I threw my back out in the process of trying to lift him. He's been in rehab for the past three weeks trying to learn how to walk again.

This is the part where you think less of me, everyone. We'll just acknowledge that between us so there's no pretension in the rest of my post.

As a young person, I just don't have the time or energy to take care of these people like they want. It's not that they need everything done for them. They just want everything done for them. It's easy to see why; they think there's a big, strong man in the house that can pick up the slack. But, I have FMS, I'm going to school, I'm trying to work on my music. Young people are trying to establish lives for themselves so that they can support themselves financially and be very secure and happy occupationally. I just don't have what it takes to do everything that they want. It would serve them well to do more for themselves.

But could you say "no" if your grandma was asking you to do something for her in a desperate, weakened voice? See, it's just not that easy. It's a hole I've dug for myself that I have to get out of before it buries me alive.

My little boy weighs 48lbs. That's twice as much as he weighed when I got him. The family tells me that he no longer chews on his food; he just inhales--literally. He eats at three times the pace of his cousin, then he goes over to Tristan's bowl and starts eating his food too. I need to go home for a bit, just so I can see his face. I usually don't dream, I just nightmare. But when I do dream, he's always in them lately. I love my Pistol.

I'd like to always have posts that are upbeat, where I make especially clever jokes about how people are idiots, I write precious little haikus on the changing seasons, and I make observations that bring out the supraliminal in life. Be patient with me. We will get back to those.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A brief update

I'm feeling really irritated that I feel really guilty for still feeling crushed. I explained to my mother that I feel like a sixteen-year-old girl that got pregnant out of wed-lock and had to give her baby up for adoption; I made a choice that would make life better for the baby, but it doesn't mean that I won't feel like hell for a while.

Life is better for the baby, you know. My poor little boy had to endure an extra two and a half hours on the plane because of weather delays. When he finally landed in Amarillo and was signed for by my mother and sister, he was so happy. They let him out of his kennel to play for a bit, and he couldn't have been more excited to see familiar faces. He slept the whole way home on my sister's lap. My mother, being the good and conscious mother that she is, had to call me to ask if he normally snored.

This is Tristan--Pistol's new friend at home. They just sat and sniffed each other at their first introduction. There was some concern that the bigger dog wouldn't know how to play gently with a puppy. My little brother stood by the two of them, ready to pull Tristan off of Pistol or scoop Pistol up and take him away. But Pistol turned out to be quite the tease. He would wildly nip at the bigger dog's neck or leg, then dart back between my brother's legs for protection.

But Tristan is a champ. My mother texted me this morning to let me know that he shared his dog house with my little boy last night. I couldn't ask for more. He's such a patient soul. My family tells me that when the dogs aren't sleeping, they're playing. Tristan likes to come up to the rocks at the bay window, lay down, and feel the warmth that the rocks have absorbed from the sun as he sleeps. Yesterday, he did so with one leg hanging over the edge of the rocks. Apparently, my puppy wasn't ready to sleep yet, and he started nipping at Tristan's leg. Tristan just opened his eye (he's only got one), looked around to acknowledge the situation, then raised and released the leg to send Pistol rolling across the grass. Clearly, it was time to rest.

He's doing so well at home, just happy as much as he was unhappy here. He has great company, a twenty-four hour companion, and a back yard full of mischief to get into. That's all anyone can hope for.

It doesn't make it easier, though. There's too much I will miss out on with the kid. For now, I carry his leash in my backpack as a security blanket, just until the intensity of the loss can pass.

And as much as I hate directly addressing you readers in my blog, almost as though we were having a conversation (it just feels weird), I do have to thank everybody for sympathizing both verbally and in writing. Yes, all of this is just about a dog. But everyone has been so respectful enough to realize how important it's been to me. And every time I blog, I'm just going to expect Crystal to be reading it at the same time. You've commented on the last few posts as I've been writing the next one. It's great to have that little connection with another friend I miss.

Sorry for the disconnected writing and thinking. My form will improve as my head clears.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Requiem for my puppy

A friend of mine wrote letters to her unborn daughter on her blog. I think that's the only way that I know how to format this one and have it bring some type of consolation.

My dearest Pistol:

You're such a good little dog. Everyone that has seen you comments on what a cute puppy you are. I'm guaranteed at least five "precious puppy" comments every time we walk into the vet. You're always too stressed to notice. Even though you don't like the shots, the cold stainless-steel surfaces, and the rectal thermometer, you never fight; you just sit there very quietly and let everyone try to make you healthy. See? You're such a good puppy.

I absolutely love the way you stare at me through the sliding-glass door, following me with your eyes, waiting for me to come give you my attention. Sometimes you stand at the window, other times you lay down on the patio stairs, resting your little face on the top step. Other times you whine as you claw at the glass. I walk to the door and reach for the door handle. You know the routine, and your eyes follow me every step of the way. Then I open the door, and you go crazy. You make my heart melt, kid.

I laugh so hard when we get to play. I take your chew toys and drag them across the grass, and you pounce. It's such a simple game, but you just love it. You love to win. You just flop down on the grass and enjoy your victory... until I start dragging another toy across the grass. You keep the one toy in your mouth and try to catch the other. Never mind the fact that you already won; you just can't stand the idea that another chew toy would get away from you. You have to run at it with your front legs apart so that you don't trip on the toy you have in your teeth.

You're such a beautiful dog. I've wanted a St. Bernard since I was ten or eleven. I would check out books on Saints from the library and read up on their history as rescue dogs. I would beg my parents for one. I would draw them at school. I even had a piggy bank in the form of a St. Bernard. I loved their faces, I loved their form--I loved how they were like little bears. I've always wanted one. You're a dream come true, kid.

I love that just last week, you got so comfortable with sitting on my lap. We would go sit out on the front yard in the morning while you watched all the lovely people walk by on their morning walk. You love people, and if they wouldn't come to you, you'd always go to them. Then, you come galloping back to me, diving back into my lap. As humans get older, life holds fewer joys. Those moments when you came running back to me, almost tackling me as you jumped into my lap, will always be one of my fewer joys.

But kid, I failed you. Right now, we live with my granny and grandpa, and as much as they love you, they don't like dogs in the house. I looked for and found a place where we could live together. It took a while, though; not many people like the idea of a St. Bernard coming to live at their property. They put too much stock in movies like Beethoven and Cujo. They expect you to tear up the house and drool everywhere. They don't know that you only dribble when you eat or drink or when it's hot outside. They don't know how obedience is in your blood.

I spent last week moving in to our new place, and I got so excited about not having to close the door on you anymore, that I wouldn't have to draw a line that said, "Even though I love you, you have to stay there." After all, love isn't about drawing lines; it's about getting rid of them and feeling better for it.

Then, the weekend. Nobody could see that coming, kid. I had no idea how uncomfortable you would be with the place. Even though you liked watching TV, you just hated everything else. It was hell, buddy. It was absolute hell. I couldn't understand you to give you what you needed. And you couldn't seem to find a way to communicate with me. We tried, and tried, and tried to make it work. I cried so many times because I just wanted you to be happy. I cried when we went to sleep. I cried when we woke up. I cried when we went out for a walk. I cried when you wouldn't eat. I just couldn't help you at all. Everyone said, "Oh, give it time. He'll adjust. You just gotta give him time." I couldn't give it anymore time. I was cracking.

So, Pistol, Grandma, Grandpa, and I decided that it would be best to send you down to Texas to live with them and the dog at home. He's your cousin, Tristin. He's lonely for company too. You both whine when dogs walk by because you both want to play with them so badly. You're both such good dogs, and you'll be like two peas in a pod.

But kid, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry to put you through all this. I didn't think I was going to be the kind of pet owner that the Human Society targets when they say, "It's not just for Christmas; it's for life." I thought I was fully prepared to take care of you. I am such a fool--truly. Everything about this is a stressful and burdensome mess, except for you. I just can't seem to make you happy, and that makes me so sad. I tried to love and take care of you, I failed, and now I've lost a part of myself. We might say, "you're only a dog," but it meant so much to me to be able to take care of you and have you be a happy dog. I just feel so ashamed and so very sorry, kid.

Tomorrow, we'll take you to the vet to get your health certificate, then we'll put you on the plane to Texas to be with family. I'm sure you'll be a happy dog there. But me? My heart will break every time I walk by the back door, and I don't see you standing there, following me with your eyes. I'll cry every time I grill chicken, and I don't have you there to enjoy it. And my face will fall every time I go outside, and I don't hear the jingling of your ID tag against your collar as you come bounding up to meet me. I love you so much, buddy. You will always be in my heart.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

A moment or two to breathe...

I got the bad boy home last night. From Erda to Provo, it was quite a ride for both of us. He took the whole situation like a champ, bless his heart. It was his first time away from his siblings, his first car ride, his first time to wear a collar. It was my first time to be responsible for another life. I was so stressed out.

When we got home, I unloaded the pup and took him to the back yard. He wasn't too sure about his new surroundings. Even though I had things to unload from the car, I wanted to stick around for a minute or two while he adjusted. I laid down on the grass. Two seconds later, he was curled up beside me, panting away in the kind of deep, heavy breathing that comes from being tired out of your mind.

After feeding my grandpa, I turned off the nightly schedule on the sprinkler system, then I took my blankets and pillow out to the back yard. It was a while before we fell asleep; he kept opening his eyes to see if I was awake, and I kept opening my eyes to see if he was still there. Every time he'd move, I'd wake up. Every single noise seemed to alert him. He was just so scared.

I woke up on the lawn at about twenty minutes to six. It was still half dark, but I could see his eyes through his black mask staring back at me. I wonder if he really slept much at all. He was just so tired today. He didn't want to go on walks, he only played for about five minutes before taking a nap, and he didn't really look amused at anything. In the middle of all my worry, I kept having to remind myself that he's probably reeling from the big change.

I got so stressed out just thinking about him, whether or not he would have been better off back with the breeders. I've never felt so freaked by responsibility before.

We both need time to adjust.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Neurotic Parents

Picture a family of whacks, dressed up in their matching cashmere sweaters for a photo that will appear on their Christmas card, with some cheesy message about "Wise men still seek him" inside. The kids aren't allowed to eat anything that isn't organic. The children aren't allowed to sleep over at someone's house until they're 12. And none of them have seen a horror movie before they enter high school. It seems like a family situation straight out of a movie. Everyone rolls their eyes at the paranoid parents (quite often, just an overprotective mother) and wants to scream, "Back the hell off and let the kid grow up!"

I went shopping for Pistol on Wednesday night. I had to get a collar, dog food, crate, etc. in order to be able to bring him home today. As I started shopping, I found myself understanding those overprotective mothers. I looked at the ingredients on each of the doggy treats. I asked myself, is this organic? Are these ingredients going to make the kid overweight? I looked at the puppy foods and thought, is there too much calcium in this brand that will make him grow too fast and give him bone problems? Is the kibble small enough that he won't choke? I looked at the chew toys and put down the ones that he could choke on as well. I looked at the doggy crates and asked myself, is this one going to break his teeth or hurt his mouth if he starts chewing on it? Is there anything that will pinch his poor little body if he tries to get out? My mind ran through all of the dangerous possibilities.

I woke up today feeling really excited that I get to bring my boy home, but mostly, I just get so scared when I think about it. I've never been solely responsible for another life like this. Most people can accidentally kill a goldfish and not bat an eyelash, but this is a dog. There's more of a connection to a mammal of this kind. I just don't want to screw up another life. What if the poor boy gets lonely? What if I don't feed him the right stuff? What if I don't give him enough exercise? What if I spoil him and he never learns the kind of discipline that makes a truly happy dog?

I'm glad I'm being opened to new perspectives in life--the kind of perspectives that I used to scoff at. It's lovely to be able to develop that respect for different feelings and viewpoints.

Wish me luck. The kid is fully mine in less than three hours.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Baby Pistol

Has anyone ever heard of Erda? It's a quaint little place--a small gathering of farm homes rather than a city or town. Golden wheat fields wave in the wind, streets don't have gutters, homes have porches large enough that you can actually entertain on them, every one owns at least one horse and knows how to shoe it themselves. It's a nice place to see, then get the hell out of because it's too quiet and small. Places like that always seem to make me sad. Some personalities can feel so peaceful and beautiful in that kind of setting. I always feel really small and alone.

I'm tired of being alone. I live in my grandparents' basement, and I mostly sleep. I have goals and pursuits to carry me, but I don't feel quite as fulfilled as I'd like. I feel most fulfilled when I have someone to take care of. Rather than talk to myself all the time, I'd rather talk to a dog.

I remember begging my parents for a Saint Bernard since the time I was ten or eleven. Mind you, this was before that movie "Beethoven" came out. But my parents, remembering our latest and only family dog we had as a child, couldn't bear the thought that another dog might be neglected. Plus, they didn't like the bugs that animals sometimes attract.

I'm twenty-six, for kripes sake! What's holding me back?

As far as I know, there are only two Saint Bernard breeders in the state of Utah: one in Cache Valley and one out in Erda. Erda is a half-hour drive from Salt Lake. I usually have to go to Salt Lake on Tuesdays for my harp lessons, so I figured I would go out to Erda beforehand so that I could see the puppies.

I passed by the Salt Flats and the Great Salt Lake on my way. Can you believe that I had never seen either? It was really fascinating to see a place like that in Utah. It was also really dangerous; I was driving and talking to my mom on the phone at the same time. It doesn't make sense to stare and multi-task in the car. Don't do it, guys.

In the past two months, these breeders have had two different litters. He opened the gate to let them out of their kennel, and the twelve puppies scattered like mice--so intent to explore the world and play. I sat down on the grass, and two puppies came up to sit on my lap, one started nibbling at my hand, another started chewing on my shoe, and the rest just ran around me, chasing and tackling each other. You've never seen a cuter bunch of nuggets.

Anyway, this is my boy, and nine week old male that I'm bringing home this Friday. I get really irritated when breeders will name their puppies, only to sell them away. What right do they have to name a dog that will spend the rest of its life with someone else, just because they happened to be there when the litter was dropped? These breeders don't name their puppies. He's all mine, and I decide his name. He's Pistol.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Yesterday was my first harp lesson in over a month. I've missed them. I really need another pair of eyes and ears (an experienced set of eyes and ears) to help me identify those areas where I can improve. It's critical as a harpist. Most people, bless them, are so enchanted with the sound and the aesthetics of the instrument that they rarely identify poor playing. You have to be a harpist in order to appreciate the work another harpist has put into his or her presentation.

So Carolyn, with all her praise and sharp instruction, is my best asset for where I want to go. We're both acclimated to the charms of the harp. We're far less likely to be blinded by its intrinsic novel quality. We can examine my abilities for what they are, then find ways to improve them so that I can become far more able.

It feels marvelous to be drifting away from simply spending my time dreaming and wanting to really practicing. Work will set you free. (I feel less apprehensive about using those exact words in English rather than German).

My teacher lives literally right around the corner from both The London Market and Elizabeth's English Tea Shop and Bakery in Salt Lake City. I went into The London Market to treat myself to some chocolate digestives (they're cookies, not laxatives), some blackcurrant jam, and a bag of sherbet lemons. I had the wildest flashback as I was walking out the door. The door surface is covered in magnets of Underground and London street signs of various sizes. Then I could hear Joanna Lumley's voice so clearly in my head, saying, "The next station is South Kensington. Change for the District and Circle lines to other destinations. Please mind the gap." The euphoric wave of memory was most welcome and pleasurable.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Near Comatose in the Morning

Death. I'm so put out. I wanted to keep the "morning" thing going. For two weeks in London, I was in the habit of going to bed early and getting up typically at about six. I loved that. I have never been a morning person, but that kind of habit, once developed, was heaven. I had the most quiet and uplifting hours of the day all to myself.

Now, this morning, I'm up early for work (we open at six), and I feel like I've been shot in the head at close range. Damn. Maybe I just need another week or two of visiting places that all close at five to get myself back into the divine routine. I really hate that "The Golden Girls" doesn't come on until 11. I'm sure that doesn't encourage my early bedtime much.

I'm trying to find a comfortable sleeping position in these office chairs. There's not really anything to support the head, so I find it's more comfortable to sit crooked in the chair and just let all my limbs hang dead over the side. It works, until someone comes in and I actually do look like I've been shot in the head at close range.

I bought a journal yesterday. A small one with lovely flourishes and ornamentation. I can't stand that I spent $15.95 on a blank book when I can make such beautiful ones myself. But I just won't write in my own. I've tried it. I can bookbind so beautifully--this, I know. But writing in a book I've made myself has just about as much appeal as eating a meal that you've made yourself; someone else's always tastes better.

Half of the reason my trip was so lovely was because I wrote everything. I didn't have to keep some enigmatic collection of feelings and thoughts in my head. I got to make them real by writing them. Aside from its utility, I don't care for it much. It just takes too long, and my hand can't keep up with my head. But like it or not, it's a cunning little exercise that makes my life better. I can spend $15.95 in a heart beat in order to improve and bring order to my life.

I detest infatuations. They ruin everything. I love a nice, peaceful, uninterrupted life. You really like someone, and it's all turned on its head. Most people like to run with their emotions, feed into their intrigue. Me? I'd just like to get back to my "To Do" list. Passion is so unproductive.

Friday, June 6, 2008

My procession...

Do you ever think about what it might be like to enter heaven? I'm not talking about feelings; we all know that it will be bloody wonderful. I'm talking about what it will look like.

I really hope heaven is plastic--that it becomes whatever people want it to be. I plan my own ascension just as one girl might plan her own wedding. I want it to have the feel and majesty of a stately procession or a coronation. I want to walk through rows and rows of gothic arches, as one might find in a cathedral. I want to be wearing white, naturally. And for kripes sake, I don't want my hair back. Heaven, to me, would simply be not having to shave my head. It will just stay shaved.

My sister had us siblings listen to some music in the car the other day when we were driving back from the airport in Texas. One of the songs was "Pie Jesu," a movement of Gabriel Faure's Requiem. Slow. Peaceful. It made the soul stand still in reverence. I thought to myself, "This is what I want sung as I meet the Lord."

Now, I just need to decide what we'll all have for refreshments afterward.

Big Headed Generation

So, my aunt says that technology has made us arrogant. We're diluted into the notion that the world is interested in our lives, our blogs, our Facebook and MySpace pages. Ouch! Two people at the most read my blog--this I know. Even most of my own siblings couldn't care less, each of them having browsed through my postings maybe once, only picking up on anything every third sentence. This I am okay with. But I've been tearing myself apart, trying to figure out if I've ever "diluted" myself into thinking that people are checking my blog every morning to see what Aaron's up to. Nobody wants to feel that stupid.

I hope I'm one of the people that just blogs anyway. I have a co-worker who is about to give birth soon. I don't check her blog every day. I wonder how few or how many people read it. Even if no one did, it's one of the most beautiful blogs. She periodically writes letters to her unborn daughter, mostly talking about her baby kicking, straining her system, her preparations for the birth, and how she is so excited to meet her daughter that she can hardly stand it. If no one read any of that, she'd blog anyway. And it'd still be one of the most beautiful blogs.

My boss is about to leave soon. She's one of the most wonderful and well-rounded people I know. If I were ever going to have children, I'd want a daughter just like her--happy, kind, and always seeking for the wisest path. Her blog is just about the only way I'll be able to keep tabs on her and her family. Her blog is always a joy, filled with stories of her darling children, details on the progression of her and her husband's life and career, marvelously punctuated with moments of truth. If no one ever took the time to check in on her life, I hope she'd blog anyway. She needs to write such beautiful things.

Then, some people hardly write; they just post photos and videos. A former coworker of mine had twin boys last March (his wife had them, but he pays for them). They post photos and videos every now and then to keep their families updated. I'm so glad they have a blog. I never really had much to do with this former co-worker, so there's no way that I'd otherwise get to follow the growing up of two of the most precious little boys you've ever seen (no politeness, no exaggeration). If no one ever checked in to see how big those little squirts were getting, I don't know if they'd blog anyway.

Another co-worker of mine is bursting with ideas. He always keeps his mind working on what can be done to improve his life, improve the future for his family, and improve the nation and world. Not everyone agrees with his ideas, but he suggests them anyway. He blogs these ideas (just the one's that he doesn't have to worry about someone stealing) to get them down, out of his head. He lets his mind take him all of the good places that it wants to both in learning and creativity. With such a busy mind, he has to get these thoughts and ideas out. If no one cared to see what he was thinking or inventing, he'd blog anyway.

You see, no one wants to inconvenience someone else for a relationship. I often wonder how those are formed anymore because there's just not time. We all have a routine for surviving the day. We most of us have an adequate safety net built up for when things crumble. Parents are only called if something's wrong. Friends are invited to come around only when we're bored. Siblings are for birthdays and Christmas. Any more than this and you feel like you're intruding. No one wants to ask for time anymore because we know from experience that everyone's just too busy trying to get ahead. We're working like heathens to get to a place where our "life can finally begin."

I'm glad people blog because I can still look in from time to time without taking away from what people want to do or who they want to be with most.

Me? I'll blog anyway.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Feeling Poetic

My Oyster Card is still in my pocket. I didn't realize until today that I hadn't taken it out. Yes, that means that I haven't washed my jeans. There are so many other habits that make me a sicko more than the fact that I have only one pair of jeans that fits me well, and I haven't washed them in a week. The point is I now know that the Oyster Card is in my pants pocket, and I haven't the heart to take it out. It just makes me happy to see it when I rifle through my credit cards to get to my student ID.

Anything to preserve the bit of maturity and euphoria I felt at having been in the UK. Nothing helps more with that than my tea. The imagination always needs help, one bit of sensory stimulation to open a window for the mind to follow. I sit down with a pot of Fortnum & Mason Earl Grey, with some Pushkin blend from Harrod's, or some Twining's Earl Grey, and it just rockets me back to any place I loved on my journey. It's all at my fingertips when I take my tea.

I'm not one for poetry. I know there's some beautiful stuff out there, but you sure have to weed through a lot of crap. Any fool can rhyme, any man or woman can write meaningfully. But it takes such sharpness of mind and incredible deliberation to write words that resonate with a stranger. And so I'm very pleased that John Donne fell in my lap, because I wouldn't have gone looking for him.

He fell in my lap at St. Paul's Cathedral. Only one effigy from the original cathedral survived the Great Fire and the Blitz in one piece, and it's his. He stands toward the southeast end of the interior. The audio tour quoted probably his most famous lines:

"No man is an island unto himself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the Sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a Promontory were... Any man's death diminishes me because I am involved in Mankind. And therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

I edited it a bit to take out some of the Old English spellings that might distract. I might have intended to include a lot more of his work here, but I think that people are just too bored with blogs anyway. If you find yourself wanting more, you won't need my invitation. You'll go after it. You'll drink in every word. You'll seclude yourself so that you can enjoy his words uninterrupted. His poems are the most prayerful, the most erotic, the most contemplative, the most love sick, the most religious. Or for your personality, he might just be more of the kind of crap that you have to weed through to get to someone who writes for you.

My shift is almost over. One should never have to work six hours straight.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Phantom Limb

I'm beginning to love mornings. I used to stay awake forever at night because I needed some alone time. Actually, I've mostly just had the worst time trying to go to sleep. I couldn't turn my mind off, or I had a little too much FMS pain to relax, or I just didn't feel like the day should be over. Regardless, I think that's changed recently, especially in light of the summer. I enjoy the mornings now. I have better alone time in the morning than I do at night. In the morning, the alone time is always solitary, never lonely. It's fresh, never heavy. It's brilliant, never empty. And the tea always tastes better.

So, I went to bed early last night. I just couldn't see straight. I had taken two Dramamine two hours before my transatlantic flight, and the antihistamines put me out for the whole day. They were only supposed to last for eight hours, but they spilled over into the next ten. Yuck. I got lost of needed sleep. But since I went to sleep early, I was so able to get up early.

It seems like every morning when I woke up over the past two weeks, I had to talk myself into the fact that I was in London. This is what a boy who has never been out of the country before must do for reality to set in. And this morning? I had to talk myself into the fact that I wasn't in London anymore. Such a rude awakening! I made the morning beautiful by having some of my Earl Grey tea I bought from Fortnum & Mason, some toast and jam, and watching BBC World News. It was always on the plasma screen downstairs in the breakfast room. And then, when I had shaved and showered, I did it all over again. Tea, toast, news. It made the morning lovely.

I had to get on the internet this morning to check my scheduled work time. While I was on, I decided to go to this blog page and look at the camera in Trafalgar Square. I could hear the noises in my head. I could smell the smells. I could see myself walking the areas right where I was looking. It was like I had Phantom Limb Syndrome. A huge piece of my body has been hacked off, and for some reason, it still feels like it's there.

Some have said, "It was only two weeks." Others might say, "Well, you're not British. This was your first time to go there." It doesn't take long for something to grow on you that just feels right. Everyone has the need to feel a part of something bigger, and we all define our "bigger" in different ways. Some choose a club. Some choose service. Indeed, we would all do well to choose service. Some choose sports teams, ensembles, or casts. London, while never romantically feeling so, fit that for me. Plunged into a circumstance where there is no one to take care of you but yourself, I felt grown up... for once.

I'm amazed at how I can drink the Fortnum & Mason Earl Grey tea with no sugar.

I've turned out to be something of a novelty at work. I should say that my tattoo has turned out to be something of a novelty at work. In a place where such boldness is startling, most were pleased, some just fascinated to see my tattoo. Yes, even I am still fascinated that I actually have a tattoo. Mostly I am please to have a permanent reminder of a life experience and a life change on my arm. Truly pleased.

I hate to think what I look like every time an airline stewardess walks by. I wanted to sleep, but I was really hungry. So I allowed myself to be startled by every attendant that walked past. Eyelids sticking to each other. A touch of drool on the left corner of my mouth. Top lip dried and stuck to the upper gums, exposing my teeth. A quick uptake of breath as I stir. And quick panicky speech, like I'm in a hurry to save someone's life. Was it really worth it to make a fool of myself in order to eat? I think so. Even for pesto hummus with limp peppers and a pint-size, undressed salad.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

In the evening...

More time.

I'm coming to the end of my trip, and mentally and emotionally, I feel like I'm scrambling to think of what I haven't done or seen yet. What a mess. I knew that this might happen. Instead of just feeling (like I wrote about--that was going to be my goal), I think that there is something I should be doing or seeing. To tell you the truth, a few places that I wanted to go see, like the Theatre Museum and the BBC Shop and some others, have been closed, and I moved some days around to accommodate for my FMS. And truthfully, other than the scheduled events like the concerts and the masterclass tomorrow, I'm done. I've done absolutely everything on my list already (except for waving to a select people from the web cam in Leicester Square). Everything. That's pretty lucky considering that I'm panicky about leaving. I have a whole two days now where I get to take things slow.

For practice, I tried taking everything really slowly after The Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garrett today. By the way, that's a really, really small but fascinating place. Apparently one of the most common--very common in fact--surgeries performed in the area of old was a lithotomy (where they remove bladder and kidney stones). The stones they had on display were huge, most of them two inches in length. These days, they can pulse your insides with hypersonic noise, pulverizing the stone so that you can pass it. Back then (oh, how I wish you could see the painful diagram), they had a tool with clamps that they inserted into the urethra--yes, even a man's urethra--to locate and clamp down on the stone while they made another incision to pull it out. Yikes! Poor guys. You ladies have enough room to pass a human child, if you need to. But shoving that kind of a metal tool through a man?! Well, they were barbarians back then. Everyone knows that.

I got done early with that museum, and that was it for my list. Most everything was closing in the next hour, and I thought, 'Holy crap! I have to hurry and catch something!' Nope, I just had to sit. The restaurants here seem to help you with that. The waiters, they leave you alone. It's not that their lazy. Most of them have more tables than you might have as a waiter in the US. But no one demands attention. No one. They even seem to consider an attentive waiter as bothersome. They dine out in order to have so much stillness, conversation, and relaxation. That's really been interesting to watch my eating habits adjust with the routine of dining out. Because it takes longer, I leave feeling more satisfied. And when I think I should be hungry later, I think to myself, 'No. I don't want to eat right now.' As far as that's concerned, all good things must come to an end--sadly.

I loved the London Eye this morning. It's been a foggy day in London Town today. Delicious! I wanted one of those days. At least one. Some people might think it a waste not to be able to see for miles and miles on the London Eye because of poor weather, but it was the ideal day for me. I wanted the city to be blanketed in mystery. I wanted London to be connected to the rest of the world only by its diverse, multicultural population. Everyone else in my capsule was snapping pictures, but I just sat, looked, and pondered. Other people need to take pictures in order to remember. If my eyes are always looking through a lens and my mind is always on what might be a good camera angle, I will miss everything and take home nothing. I think in pictures, and I think in feelings. I've tried to get as many of both as I could. Though, I must say: for my mother, who I constantly think 'I wish she could see this,' I feel so badly for all the pictures she won't get. For her, I wish that there would have been more people obliging to take a moment for my photo. I wish that I would have been able to capture more atmosphere that I could somehow take home for her.

I walked around slowly. I took a stroll over to Pudding Lane to the spot where the Great Fire started in 1666. I sat and thought. I walked back by St. Paul's Cathedral. Awesome sight from the outside. I secluded myself so that I would worry about looking like a tourist. And I just looked at the building. I just stood there and looked and thought. And now I'm here, typing away so that you and I both can feel better about life because there are experiences like this to be had in life. That the world is so much bigger and smaller than we think. That this life is so short, yet it takes forever. That we each are worth everything, yet we mean nothing. I didn't mean to sound poetic. Quite the reverse. The truth of these statements just makes me think, 'Oh, shit.'

I bought an hour of internet at an internet cafe, just to write a few things before turning in early for tomorrow. I want to make sure that I have enough energy for my second to last day here. So, I'm done writing. I've said everything I want to say. But when I put things through exchange rates, I can't believe I just spent two dollars to use the internet when I can steal it from the neighbors for free back home! So out of principle, I'm using the time that I have left.

I'm glad that I bought a little notebook at Paddington Station before I went to French & Saunders last Tuesday. It's small. It was cheap. No fancy decoration. A simple, brown cover with lined pages. I've been writing everything. I think it's my favorite souvenir because it has all my thoughts, everything I've tasted, everything I've seen, everything I want to remember in it.

Twinings has never been my favorite tea. My favorite brand of Earl Grey (I always end up backspacing when I accidentally type 'Early Gery'--always) is Harney and Sons. But everyone serves Twinings here. When you order tea at a restaurant, 9 times out of 10, they will bring you Twinings. And it's grown on me. I do love my tea, and sometimes the best fix in the day is when I sit down somewhere to take tea. It's just bliss, I tell you.

Oh my goodness! Let me tell you about the show last night! Never in your life have you seen such a show! I've never seen so many pains taken to make a show that absolutely sucks you in like that. 'Lord of the Rings: the Musical.' Sounds ridiculous, right? Well, the music and the acting was rather mediocre. But I was riveted. Absolutely riveted. The whole theatre was covered in forest overgrowth. You remember from Jumanji when the house grows into a forest? That was this theatre. They had old tree branches (fake, of course) growing over the balconies and up through the ceiling. About fifteen minutes before curtain, when staff is selling ice cream and programs in the isles, hobbits start to trickle in--completely in costume and character. One starts trying to catch a firefly (not imaginary, a real floating light), another jumps under your chair trying to find insects, another starts walking through the isles collecting their apples, and over your shoulder comes another one walking toward the stage on your seat backs! It's absolute entertaining chaos in the theatre. Then seamlessly, the production begins. They have all kinds of puppeteers on stilts that control the heads of their horses (ring wrathes), and in the scene where Gandalf fights the Belroc, the whole house, and I mean the whole house is a whirlwind of smoke and debris. I'm not kidding. You are always in the thick of the action.

Ooop. I wish I could write more about it, but my computer just gave me the one minute warning. I'll write more about it later. In the meantime, you should follow my link on the posting where I talk about it, and watch their 'Lothlorien' video to get a taste of what it was like.

Anyway, good night.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

In the morning...

I'm getting so tired lately. My FMS treated me very well at first, keeping most of the pain and fatigue at bay, but now it's all catching up with me. I came home early after my trip to Dover yesterday (so wonderful to see the sea), and I went right to sleep. I needed it. I didn't even have my caffine pills with me yesterday to help ward off most of the fatigue. I did enjoy my time anyway. At one point, I was the only one in the Medieval tunnels. It was so creepy. It's exactly one of those scenes where everything is almost completely dark but bathed in a eerie blue light, and something satanic bolts out to suck out your soul. I scrambled out.

I really liked seeing the White Cliffs of Dover, though. No one tells you this, but it's kinda difficult to see the White Cliffs when you are actually walking on the White Cliffs. Yep, I didn't think about that before I came.

Libera was so wonderful. I didn't think that it would be my favorite performance so far, but it was. I can't tell you how heavenly (quite literally heavenly) it was to hear their voices live. One of the most beautiful sounds that can fall on one's ears. It brought tears to my eyes several times during the performance. Their voices do a better job at reaching the soul than the harp does.

I really hate this hostel. I really, really do.

I'm out of time. I know this post was short, but I have to go. Love you all!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

After Day 3

So, my third day here. Rough start at first. I couldn't sleep one bit on the plane over, but I wanted to so very badly. They said on their travel tips (personal video on the seatback in front of you) not to fight it; just catch up on a few movies and try periodically to relax. When I arrived, I was sick to my stomach. I can't stand flying. I wanted to yack all over.

The hostel didn't let me lock my bags up early. Damn. I thought for sure I'd have to drag it around everywhere with me. The very idea was stressful. But, I remembered reading that the cloakrooms at the British Museum allows you to check oversized bags. Perfect! I knew I could move things around.

I noticed that the British Museum brought out my prejudices. Why? I just wasn't interested in the Asian or African exhibits. Everything that I wanted to see had to do with Western culture (Egyptian exhibits excepted). On top of that, I only started asking Americans and Brits (or those who looked like Americans and Brits), to take pictures for me. I got enough people who didn't understand what I wanted a picture of, so I have a lot of cut off photos and such. Stupid and inaccurate assessment to make, but there you are. Interesting to see the prejudice so pronounced. Now I know how it shows up, I can work on it.

All the time, my anxiety was at a high. I just needed more sleep. I got it that night.

My tattoo appointment is scheduled for next Friday afternoon. Frith Street couldn't fit me in, so I had to go to a shop in Camden Town. Still a really nice shop, and they seemed a little more friendly.

I got done early with my day today, so I went to the British Museum again. I thought up the most wonderful joke. I saw too many Roman or Greek figures missing their privates.

Q:What do you call a Roman male whose penis has been broken off.

I don't like curry. It's like the UK's version of Mexican food. Everyone in the states seems to love Mexican food, and they pass around the names of all the good and authentic restaurants. It's like that with Indian curry over here. I don't like Mexican food, and I really don't like curry.

I'm getting more used to the city people. You have to butter them up. Some people don't give a damn, but most, when you are so genuine to them, follow you around museums telling you what things not to miss, offer you all the good deals on merchandise, find merchandise for you in the back, smile so big at you when you come back to ask for a spoon or napkin... They just love you if you treat them kindly. Otherwise, they appear so very cold. They're definitely not an emotional people.

I loved being able to see French & Saunders. They announced last night (as I'm sure they've told everyone over the course of the tour) that they're retiring from 'French & Saunders.' So, I feel so very privileged to have seen their last live performance together. It was the last night of their tour, and the very last night of French & Saunders. Period. Lucky SOB to get in just under the wire.

I hate that no one ever has paper towels in the bathroom. Nope, you gots to stick your hands under the dryer. I've always hated those. Sure they save trees, but they never get your hands dry. And what if I want to blow my nose or dry off my sweaty head? It's just too bad. But, on an interesting note: you've all seen the commercials for Dyson, the one where he introduces his airblade technology? Well, they had them in the pay bathroom in Paddington Station. I got to try them. I wanted to have someone take my picture, but I figured we'd both be arrested if we've got a camera out in a public toilet.

I loved the Tower of London. That's been my favorite place so far. Everything there is so fascinating, and there is so much to see and do. You'd never be able to take it all in. You can see everything in a half-day just fine, but you couldn't take it all in. I find that I get in that mode sometimes. You see so many interesting and historically significant things, and after a while, you're on overload. You can't really appreciate the significance of everything because your mental energy is spent already. So, I try not to force appreciation. I just save it for the unique or attention catching things.

And this? This is a trip in and of itself. I'm sitting in an internet cafe (never done that before) in Bloomsbury, listening to the city buses and pedestrians go by as I type away. We all like to pretend that we're tough and metro enough to be city people. We think that there is some kind of status in what big cities we can fit in with. I've been to very few big cities before, and I'm just as interested and amused as can be. No pretensions--I stick out like a sore thumb, I'm sure.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Two Weeks in London

So I had it in mind to involve people in my trip; those who couldn't come with me would still have some sense of where I was going and what I'd be able to experience. I thought it would be a great idea to blog for each day that I was gone, but soon after I decided it just doesn't make sense to spend time on the computer while I'm in London. I may have time once or twice to type a few words, but for the most part, I just won't want to waste the time.

The alternative has been to post my itinerary online. A few directions for you: Where possible, I've hyperlinked the time of each planned event to an official website. If you want to know more than what I've stated in each time slot, just click on the posted time and explore the website.

You'll notice that I say "we" and "us" a lot. I seem to have a Gollum complex because I'm simply referring to myself singularly. Yep, I'm going alone. It's quite alluring. I get to see what I want, I get to do what I want, I don't have to wait on or hurry for anyone, and if I get kidnapped by terrorists, why then I don't have to worry about it ruining anyone's trip but my own. Just curious--I wonder if I did get kidnapped by terrorists, would they take kindly to my asking for a copy of the ransom photos so that I could scrapbook them later? After all, that would be quite an experience, and you'd want evidence of it to show all your friends back home (assuming you would make it back with your head).

What do I want most to take from this trip? I'm not very good with "quick." I never have been. I like to take my time because if things go by too quickly, I can't think. I can't process. I'm so interested in getting a small taste of how other people live or have lived, and I've planned almost all of my trip around that idea. And on previous trips, I've simply been so overbooked that I never get a chance to really feel or experience. I get too eager to go back to the hotel and sleep. So, this time, I'm drinkin' it in. I really want it to become a part of me, however small.

I'm not too fussed about food, really. There are other priorities for me, and I feel like food is one of the bits of the trip that should largely be spontaneous. I have a few restaurants I would like to hit, and those are mentioned. But I mostly don't have exact times or places planned for meals.

For those of you that stumble upon my blog and have been to London, for heavens sake, tell me if I'm missing anything particularly grand on my itinerary. For everyone else, check back here in the days following my trip for stories, photos, musings, etc.


London Itinerary: Tuesday, 6 May 2008

6:35a I fly into London Heathrow. It’s rather early in the morning—I hope the jetlag doesn’t kill me. On top of that, I can’t check into my hostel until 2:00p, so I’ll have to cart my luggage around with me. Most places don’t open until 9:00a or 10:00a, so I’ll have some time to kill. After I catch the tube into the city, I’ll find some place to have breakfast.

9:00a The Royal Academy of Music. I’m going to go to school here, you know; it’s just a matter of time. It’s not just because it’s the Royal Academy. I really like the way their harp department is set up. You’ve got one professor (among many) for your personal instruction, then you’ve got separate teachers for orchestral, opera/ballet, and jazz studies. On top of that, they have many big-name professionals that come in to do masterclasses many times a year. If you’re going to learn something in the arts, you might as well have exposure to as many ideas and people as possible. That’s why I want to go here.

So, I’m taking the oppor-tunafish to look over the facilities, walk through the area, look at the international student house, talk to the admissions counselors, etc. There’s really no sense in spending all the time and money to come back for auditions if I just have a really bad feeling about the place. Better to check it out before hand. Let’s hope that they’re kind enough to let me stick my bag in the office while I look around. If not, I’ll pop over to the British Museum; their webpage says I can check oversized bags in the cloakroom for £1.

2:00p I’m ready to check into the Ace Hotel in West Kensington and shed this heavy and awkward bag. Then it’s back out on the street A.S.A.P.

3:00p Handel lived in London for the last twenty or so years of his life. Did you know that? They’ve since restored his house and opened it to the public as a museum. Every so often they even hold concerts in the recital hall. Handel isn’t my top favorite. That place belongs to Bach. My cello teacher used to say, “If you’re a Christian, you read the New Testament. If you’re a musician, you play Bach.” But oh my goodness! Handel is an oh-so-close second. Rock stars just go crazy with their guitar solos. Playing Handel on the harp is just like that, if you can believe it. I move my hands in patterns that are just so different than with anything else I play. He lived in London, and I have to stop by to pay homage. For everyone who doesn’t like classical, the house still holds some interest—Jimi Hendrix lived on the top floor in the 1970s.

8:00p Every so often, you hear about such-and-such actor playing in such-and-such play on the West End theatre district (the London equivalent of Broadway). So, I wondered if anything like that would be playing while I was in London. My first choice was to see Vanessa Redgrave playing in The Year of Magical Thinking in the National Theatre. But wouldn’t you know it—they’re sold out until June. It’s a bloody shame. I rather prefer Vanessa Redgrave as an actress. But the next best that I could find is Ralph Fiennes playing in God of Carnage at the Gielgud Theatre. It’s a bit of a stretch for me just to go see a play just because it has a celebrity in it; I would rather go see a play simply because of its story. But this is part of the London flavor that I wanted to sample while over there.

London Itinerary: Wednesday, 7 May 2008

9:00a First few through the gate at the Tower of London. I don’t want to have to fight the huge crowds that could accumulate later in the day, so I’ll jump in on one of the free tours given by the yeoman warders right when I walk in. I'm not sure if they let people just roam freely if they're not on a tour, but I'd like to do that afterward. There's only so much that one can soak in while they're on a half-hour tour, so I'll take the time to revisit some of the places within the compound. Plus, I promised Kaitlin (most willingly) from work that I'd lay a rose for Anne Boleyn.

Very normal people with huge names have been inside these walls on less pleasant terms: Anne Boleyn, Lady Jane Grey, Elizabeth I… I’d be stupid not to visit a place so thick with history. Let’s hope the tour group is small enough and that the guide goes slowly enough for me to picture how I might react to spending my last few hours here. That’s a piece of life I want to take with me.

1:30p After eating, we’ll stop by the Museum of London. They’ve collected hundreds of years of history—all about England’s capital city. They even have a simulation of The Great Fire. I’m in London, so I must learn about what it must be like to live in one of the worlds oldest and largest cities through its many faces. I'd like to have this time to sample those little slices of life.

5:18p My train leaves for Oxford. I decided not to make a day trip out of Oxford. There’s not really anything there that I want to make a priority out of seeing, except…

7:30p The highlight of my trip! Before I saw this show advertised, I had it in my mind that I was going to save money on the trip and not go to any shows. I can't keep such resolve in the face of Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders. This is their first live show since 2000. I can't tell you how much I love these ladies. If they weren't married, why then I would marry both of them so that I could always have the pleasure of their company and wit. If you haven't watched British television at all, then you probably don't know who or what I'm talking about. If you find yourself excessively bored with life one day, check out Absolutely Fabulous or any of the French & Saunders specials or The Vicar of Dibley. I can't say that any of you will, but that's okay. Just trust me--they're hilarious. Some of you might recognize Dawn as The Fat Lady on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban or as the voice of Mrs. Beaver on The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe. Others might recognize Jennifer from Muppet Treasure Island or as the voice of the Fairy Godmother from Shrek 2. Other than that, they don't cross over much.

Anytime I get tired of anything or everything, I can watch Absolutely Fabulous and somehow, metaphysically, I just feel so good about life. I feel comfortable in my own skin. These ladies have a knack for creating characters and stories and jokes that just fit "me" so incredibly well. I couldn't be more excited that I get to see them.

10:30p Time to catch the train back into town. I have to make sure to sleep on the way back so that I'm not zapped for Stratford-upon-Avon tomorrow.

Stratford-Upon-Avon Itinerary: Thursday, 8 May 2008

7:20a Unless you want to leave the night before, 7:20 arriving at 9:37 is the best you can do for getting to Stratford-upon-Avon (almost typed "Stratford-upon-Acorn"). It's not too much of a problem but for the fact that I wanted to walk around a little before things open. We make do.

10:00a Shakespeare's Birthplace, along with the attached Shakespeare Center, opens. My travel guide says: "You can visit the bedroom where Shakespeare was born, the living room, the fully restored Tudor-style kitchen." I'm inclined to insert on the end (knowing the disposition of hard-core Shakespeare scholars and fans): "...the bed that Shakespeare was conceived on, the place where Mary Arden's water broke, the pot that Shakespeare was toilet-trained on..." Shakespeare is revered as a god to some; there's bound to be bronze plaques everywhere, commemorating where he took a piss.

I'll dispense with the negativity. I give the impression that I don't want to see any of this, and I do. Who doesn't love Shakespeare?

11:30a I've had an early day. I'll have myself an early lunch. But get this: to make it quite unique, let's get the meal a-la-carte and rent a boat. Rather than take one of the half-hour cruises on the river Avon, I'll rent a row boat (I have it on good authority that there are at least a few rental places nearby) and paddle to some secluded part of the river where I can eat and think away from the crowds.

1:00p Most everyone is still thinking about lunch, so I'll walk on over to Anne Hathaway's Cottage. This is Anne Hathaway the wife of Shakespeare we're talking about, not the Anne Hathaway that felt like she had to show her boobies in an Ang Lee film (Brokeback Mountain) just to have a serious acting career. Here, Anne lived for her early years until she married Shakespeare at age 25 (he was 18, folks).

3:00p It's a mile walk back to the remains of New Place, Shakespeare's retirement dwelling for the last six years of his life. Some nut tore the place down in the 1700s in order to avoid property taxes and the crowds that showed up at his door to see "Shakespeare's House." Yep, he's now on more than a few dirt lists. It's a good thing he's dead because someone would kill him, no doubt.

4:00p I must end the Stratford trip with a walk over to Holy Trinity Church, where Shakespeare is buried. Who that spends a day all about Shakespeare can avoid looking at his famous gravestone: "Good frend for Iesvs sake forbeare, To digg the dvst encloased heare. Blest be ye man yt spares thes stones, And cvrst be he yt moves my bones." (No, those aren't typos. That's how the bloke wrote it).

5:42p Catch the train back into town. I might get there in time to go by some shop, as all the museums and historical sites will have closed.

Side note: You ever wonder why we can call Shakespeare "The Bard," but nobody else seems to have a similar kind of pop-star name. Why don't we call Jane Austen "The Dame" or Charlotte Bronte "The Wench" or Oscar Wilde "The Queen"?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

London Itinerary: Friday, 9 May 2008

10:00a I always hear everyone come back from London and say, "Oh, that British Museum! You could spend a whole day in there!" Why the hell not? "The sun never sets on the British Empire": you can see evidence of this archaic saying in the British Museum. Having had a white-knuckled grip on almost every land of ancient peoples and artifacts at one time or another, they've chipped off a piece here and there and carted it back to the island with them. We can roll our eyes, thinking "how unfair," but we probably owe a lot to them. Look at the Parthenon in its current state. Years of warfare and exposure to the elements/pollution have made the ancient temple an absolute wreck. So, if the British hadn't had the sense or nonsense to remove the friezes and sculptures of deity from it, we'd have so much less than we do now. So no need to complain. They may have been imperialistic culture-thieves at one time, but now we have the marvelous convenience of seeing so much of the world's history in one place.

The British Museum has some 3 or 4 cafes and restaurants located within its walls. You have no reason to leave before the museum closes at 8:30p. I can get there right at 10a, look at exhibits. When I feel peckish (I'm going to London, so now I have license to use those Britishisms without seeming pretentious), I can just go to the eating facility appropriate to my price bracket. When I feel intellectually drained, I can go browse the gift shop until I feel like hitting the exhibits again. I can always leave and see something else in town if I get bored, but it's much harder to add a whole day that I haven't planned for the museum. But I don't think I'll have that problem.