Posts Tagged ‘London


In Greenwich, Sicker, and Embarrassment on the Tube

July 3, 1997

It rained while we were at Greenwich today. Crummy weather. You’d never know it’s July. Damp and cold as a Michigan November. It kinda brings you down, and I’m already tired. I need to sleep. I’ve done a lot of walking, but I am really excited about everything. I think I have a cold or something. My throat feels worse now.

We couldn’t decide if people living in Greenwich divided their houses into two time zones if the Meridian ran through their living rooms or if the whole town was on one clock. No one here should be late, ever, to anything. ₤3 for admission to see the longitude line!

Continue reading ‘In Greenwich, Sicker, and Embarrassment on the Tube’


A Little Bit About the People I’m With

July 2, 1997

Recovering from a pint of Guinness and two pints of Fosters last night. I tried the eggs this morning at breakfast. Feh.

Decided to stay awake and do something instead of going back to bed as I’d originally planned. Throat was raw, probably from the dry ice at the club and shouting over the music and everyone around me smoking. I could have smoked a whole pack myself second-hand! I was wearing Courtney’s sweater. (I hope it doesn’t smell too bad.)

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In Which We Hitch a Ride with Firefighters, I Get a Crush, and We Get Misled in Central London

July 1, 1997

First day of class. Met Sarah and Lisa for breakfast, walked to Birkbeck Col. for class. Not a bad first day. I feel confident I can do as well as or better than others in the class. I had written an essay about how my initial ideas of London came almost entirely from films like Mary Poppins. A little trite, but not untrue. And probably not uncommon.

We found out that the prof will pay for us all to see the “Reduced Skspre Co.,” which Lisa, Sarah and I had planned on seeing anyway. Feels good to be saving money already.

After class, Sarah and I tubed to Piccadilly and walked around for about an hour before we met Lisa back at Birkbeck. We flew back because we were already five minutes late — and her class had gotten out 20 minutes early anyway! The three of us bought lunch at Safeway and ate quickly at Lisa’s room. Then we had to run back to Birkbeck because we were late  (again!) for the guest speaker, Brian Bates, who talked about Celtic mythology. Made it just on time — whew!

Then prof. Penn took us to some used book stores in the vicinity of the British Museum. Lots of old stuff. Saw a Herb Ritts photo album with quite a few early shots of Madonna. Yum! But S, L, and I got separated from everyone else. We walked around like we knew where the hell we were. Stumbled onto Holborn Station and tubed back to Piccadilly.

I whipped out my map and led the girls to some shops, pubs and cafes Michael wanted me to visit. They were in Soho, somewhere near Old Compton St. and Dean St. Saw a lot of pretentious but hilarious (and intimidating!) gay clothing stores (expensive!), an insanely queer salon called Cut/Uncut, and a few cute pubs and cafes. Got a latte at a little Greek cafe whose name I can’t remember. Wanted to pick up a Pride ’97 t-shirt, but they didn’t have any large size (just S, M, XL), so I’ll wait. Picked up a Gay Times to learn a bit about this weekend’s P97 stuff.

Tubed back home and got dinner. No mistakes this time!

Continue reading ‘In Which We Hitch a Ride with Firefighters, I Get a Crush, and We Get Misled in Central London’


A One-Apple Day: Our Intro to the Tube and Half-Price Tickets

June 30, 1997

Lisa had an episode in the cafeteria this morning. She wanted two apples, but one of the workers said, “No, only one.” It was mildly embarrassing, as any mistake would be. It felt like being scolded, and none of us was prepared for that. Ah, this is Europe — not the land of all you can eat. And apparently not the land of cafeteria workers who don’t give a shit.

After my shower and breakfast, the first order of business was to get a Tube pass for the next six weeks. Unfortunately, we got to Russell Square Station during the rush hour. Sarah still needed a photo, and we waited in line to be told so. So we decided to go get the photo and let the crowds die down a bit.

Continue reading ‘A One-Apple Day: Our Intro to the Tube and Half-Price Tickets’


Arriving in London, 1997, Part 1 of Several

A journal can be like a tightly bound coil. You start to unwind it, and it springs outward faster and faster until you have a big, jumbled mess. So many memories are compacted into precious few words. Most of the important stuff isn’t in the pages of the journal at all but in the head of the writer.

I’m going to start rewriting some (maybe all) of the journal entries I kept while I was in London on an overseas study program in 1997. I’ve been having trouble finishing any posts recently, so I’m hoping that looking back on something I already wrote might give me more fertile ground.

Recopying an unedited journal is tediously self-indulgent, not to mention unpardonably boring. Who cares about the contents of someone else’s journal, right? My duty now is not to relive my memories from 13 years ago, but to make a story out of them worth reading today. So, some light editing is definitely in order. I can’t resist correcting myself, so it’s actually easier for me this way. Besides, I was 20 at the time, it was a creative writing program, and I was trying very, very hard. There are plenty of youthful linguistic indulgences I can now take the opportunity to stamp out. i’ll let a few of them slip through — for effect. I don’t promise good writing, but I do promise, at the very least, the truth.

Continue reading ‘Arriving in London, 1997, Part 1 of Several’


“If you wanna save the planet, let me see you jumping…”

My friends and I waited most of the afternoon yesterday to catch the Madonna concert on TV. Clever of her to conceal it in a worldwide series of concerts designed to raise awareness about — and presumably money to help combat — global warming.

We streamed it online live from London and displayed it on my friend’s wide screen TV. After some downloading and installing and rudimentary hacking, he got it set up just in time for the announcer to say, “Ladies and gentlemen… Madonna!”

She started with her new song, “Hey You,” which I’m not entirely sure I like a whole lot. But she was stunning and angelic in that simple black dress, her platinum-colored hair flowing in waves, her voice fine, soft and strong. With that children’s choir backing her up and the the arms of thousands swaying, it was a very Michael-Jackson-Heal-the-World moment. But better, because it was Madonna. Or maybe, to be more precise, because it was not Michael Jackson.

Then she sent the kids off and got down the business. She strapped on a guitar, took a wide stance, and called out to the cheering masses:
If you wanna save the planet, let me see you jumping up and down! Come on, motherfuckers!

Maybe not the message Al Gore had in mind, but it was easy advice for the obliging audience to follow. But who cares about messages? Madonna probably has one of the largest carbon footprints of the performers on the bill.

What was essentially the Confessions Tour version of “Ray of Light” was followed by the strangest version of “La Isla Bonita” I have ever witnessed in my life. The Romani Gypsies she called out to tear up the joint were totally weird and wild and crazy … and an absolutely perfect accompaniment to the song. My friends and I shot quizzical glances at each other at first, but then it suddenly seemed OK. Madonna wills it, and it is so.

She wrapped it up with “Hung Up,” just like her last tour. Countless performers and celebrities had taken that London stage throughout the day. They had all occupied the space and put in their time, and said kind and sometimes inspirational words and made pretty music. But when Madonna took that stage, she owned it. Duran Duran, Genesis, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Snow Patrol, Keane, Back Eyed Peas, Foo Fighters — all an elaborate opening act for one person.

Madonna brought the party that closed that show. I don’t know if it did much to stop global warming, but it sent the spectators out of Wembley feeling pretty darn good. Maybe it’s just what they needed after a day full of bad news.

the untallied hours