I woke for my last full day in London with a steady mind to stay in bed. I’d done so much already — it’s felt like I’ve been walking around the city for weeks, shows, shopping, art! — that I just didn’t have that push to jump out into the streets like I did the other days. It’s a big city but a tiny room and I was content to stay in it for a bit. There was plenty of instant coffee and biscuits to keep me entertained so I wrote for a spell while watching pigeons flutter to my open window to insult me and move on back to Regent’s Park. Big, fat, mean pigeons.
Eventually I made my way down to the Continental Breakfast where I learned that just because the cheese package says Easy To Open, it doesn’t mean they’re talking to you.
How boring it must be to work a continental breakfast setup everyday! Stacking the croissants into tiers. Picking up a thousand little saucers all the time. Checking on the orange juice. Setting out the cereal boxes. It would tire on my soul, I was thinking as a couple of older Scandinavian women walked in and stood there dumbly like some dust-collecting coat racks while they looked for a place to sit. There were no windows down there in the basement so I don’t know what caused their careful deliberation but from what I can tell they chose a spot with easy access to the cafe machine and a view of the kitchen. Maybe they thought there might be omelets coming out of there shortly, I don’t know.
It was odd. And so was I. Sitting there wondering about such things as stacking small plastic containers of cream when lovely, old London was waiting for me right outside my hotel.
Harrods was calling my name. Not to buy anything, I had already done some of that the day before on the way back from the Tate, but just to ride the escalator, gawk at all the fancy and expensive stuff and marvel at their food court with all the other yahoos.
On a Saturday afternoon you can count on it being busy, and it was booty to booty on the escalators, so it’s no curious feat that Harrod’s exhausted me in record-breaking fashion. Some people probably end up taking longer to cycle through a revolving door than the speed I went through that department store, still, I managed to check out the sports section which provided me the pleasure of standing there scratching my chin, wondering why one would go to the middle of London and ride five escalators to buy a mountain bike that has a sign on that says ‘do not touch’?
That seemed odd! How should one decide on which mountain bike to buy, in the middle of London, up five escalators, without being allowed to touch it? Needless to say, (and perhaps not so needless if I’m saying it) Harrods was not my cup of tea.
Yo Sushi!, (I didn’t put the exclamation there, by the way — they did) a sushi joint across the street from Harrods, but in some forgettable, nebulous way was part of Harrods, or at least inside some kind of annex, was more my speed. I took a seat next to the conveyor belt and watched the delicious pieces of fish twirl around the counter in circles. It was tempting to grab every colored-plate that passed but I held out for the good ones while sipping my Asahi and catching up on my food-induced drooling.
I don’t know why there aren’t more sushi conveyor belts in America. I don’t know why there’s not more food on conveyor belts, period. Pizza. Burgers. Nachos. Candy bars.
Next I wandered through Hyde Park and scared some ducks. I took pictures of my feet and then the sky began to spit on me ever so gently — like angelic baby spittle it was. I pulled up my hood and kept marching to the Tube, keeping up the happy sushi spirits headed homeward. And by homeward I mean to Oxford Circus, to do some shopping. It was close to my hotel and therefore I didn’t have too long to walk with bulky bags. I scooped up two pairs of shoes, because I know I have a lot of walking to do in this life of mine and don’t want to be unprepared — plus they have styles we don’t back in the States. I also got some jeans just because I got legs and they need to be covered.
I dumped the bags on the couch and turned away from an afternoon nap to to venture down Gough Street. looking for a suitable place to place before me a beer, fancying some suds to relieve the stressful day of shopping. Life really is tough sometimes. I charged it all anyway so I’m sure it’ll actually turn out to be way more than I estimated in the first place, and that was with the rounding down and a more favorable exchange rate in my head, or else the willingness at a certain place and time to suspend my ability to compute and purposely screw up the math.
So it goes. Money. Money. Money. Comes and goes…
Someone should write a song about it.
But back to the topic, which wasn’t economics, but traveling, and that usually doesn’t mix well with economics, while traveling the money goes only in one direction, right out the door usually. I picked a pub to plant the backside and hunker down with my palm under my chin and my gaze streetward. The point is, London is a great city, its monuments and museums, its bars, its riverbank, it’s architecture, the people, the fasion, the crappy beds and all. It’s a great place to run around for a week, catch some shows, do some shopping, walk in a park.
Oh God! I just realized I had a total travel brochure vacation. The only thing that was missing was going to the theatre — spelled all fancy. Really, am I this kind of tourist? Then I remembered Tayyabs and Brick Lane, that was kind of offbeat and local — but how original was that? I found it on the Internet. Was I becoming a Bermuda short-wearing, camera strap strangling my neck all day, reading the tourist pamphlets, booking rooms online, tripadvisor, expedia, eating croissants in the basement, traveler?
I guess so…
Oh well. I ordered a hamburger to remind me of home, and another Stella to remind me of beer, and sat there flipping through my memories, thinking about what I would write about this trip, and then promptly forgetting it and moving on to different ruminations as time was measured by the banging of doors and rattling of plates. It was a pleasant time.
With my notebook stranded behind at the hotel I would forget half the stuff I pondered silently about or else needlessly prattled to whoever was around me: the way life kicks its hind legs at you sometimes when you think you got it by the reigns, and how the world is so much more interesting and vast than we give it credit for when we’re in our own heads all the time, and how you think you might know the answers but then realize you weren’t even standing at the right chalkboard. I had all these thoughts and ideas and emotions but most of it went right through my like the third beer.
The burger came and it was marginal, edible at least, and so I ate it methodically and then patted my lips dry with indifference. It took me the remaining quarter of my beer trying to decide whether there should be a followup to this one, I’d already had four now and was wondering if I should make it a domino point before deciding ‘of course I’m going to have another one! I’m in London.’
The bar felt so cozy and timeless, how could I just leave after just four?
And so it was, my fifth beer of the night and last beer in London. Night was coming on quick. The city was coming alive.
I would walk out of the pub, leaving behind the warmth and laughter, before darkness draped the city. When the sky was peachy and pink. I wanted to walk back to the hotel with shifting colors in the sky and people venturing out to greet the night happy and upbeat. I wanted to leave town right then, right on the verge of Saturday night. When things were all beginning. What a romantic time to flee and capture a feeling of joyful society.
But of course, I didn’t. I went home and watched Eminem rap on some late night British talk show — it was awkward — and suffered through one more night on the lumpy, springy mattress from hell. I think Ben Stiller was on it too. The talk show, not the mattress. At eight in the morning I paid for my phone calls, bid adieu to Mr. Glumface behind the counter and dragged my bloated suitcase out of the hotel. I also skipped the breakfast.
It was six days later and leaving felt like Deja Vu, but in reverse and a lot achier. Hotel to the Tube to the other Tube to Heathrow. This time, though, I didn’t get lost or almost run over by a double-decker bus. You can teach an old dog new tricks.