NYC: Love, Love, Love

Zan and I had tickets for Saturday night to see Love, Love, Love, so Friday night was free. So of course we went to the Laura Pels Theater to see if they just happened to have any extra tickets. Lo and behold, they did. Guess where we spent our evening?

Afterwards we met up follow attendee bloggers and piled into O’Brien’s across the street. Much talk, food and and drink was had by all.

More tomorrow.

Oh, and have a picture.

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Still Topsy Turvy

Sorry for the false starts Dear Reader but I’m still acclimating to my new environment and finding some semblance of a schedule.  NaNoWriMo has started and I’m behind the eight-ball.  Because there wasn’t time to outline a new novel, I’m revising the psychological thriller from last year – only I started last night.  Ahem.  I promised the London recap that’s almost two months late as well as another The Man story. Both might take a little time.  I need to read the Crucible before delving deeply into an issue I have with the play and discussing Richard Armitage’s performance.  An “end” post has been drafted about the trip’s surprising effect on me, so I am working on things.  And as for poor The Man, I have to check in with him; he must be exhausted.

While I handle time management issues, here’s a video from RA’s last stage door on September 13, 2014.  Sadly my iPhone stuck in portrait mode while filming in landscape, hence the small picture.  I flipped the view so we can at least see him properly.  As you will see, the line extended down the street and around the front of the theater. People stayed calm until halfway down the line when things became a little rowdy.  More aggressive fans pushed my friend against the wall, blocking her filming my encounter with RA.  This was unfortunate since I will talk about that moment in the “end” post.

So here’s a taste of what it was like.  Enjoy.

RA at Crucible Stage Door

Richard Armitage runs the gauntlet at The Crucible’s last stage door – September 13, 2014. Sorry for the small portrait view. My iPhone refused to flip to landscape mode.

Happy New Year!

I don’t have a lovely photoshopped New Year’s picture of Richard Armitage for you but I send you all my best wishes.  I holidayed like a mad woman for the past week and half to make up for a bad start to the season, and actually made the proverbial silk purse out of a sow’s ear.  While on the way home happily contemplating my excesses, I observed a churlish conductor on the train who gave a disabled couple a hard time.   He seemed determined to spread his unhappiness around, which only compounded his problem because of the disapproving passenger witnesses.  He went so far as to call security on the couple but that backfired.

I wondered about the source of his unhappiness and the situation he’d created on the train to justify his surliness and thought about my own situation.  With a distressing job and depression behind me, the world lays open before me.  But just as the conductor created his own pocket of unhappiness on the train, I must remember that it’s up to me to find and nurture my own happiness in the coming year.

When the train pulled into the station, the snow was still coming down.  I snagged a cab and we fishtailed down a street.  A woman stood on a corner trying to flag the cab, but the driver shouted that it was taken.  The street appeared so desolate with no bus, cab or any other car in sight, that I agreed to share the cab with her and she joyfully hopped in.  We agreed I’d get dropped off first, then the driver would take her to work.  When we arrived at my door, I had “ATM Syndrome,” (no change for a $20 bill) and so did the driver.  To my surprise, the lady said, “I’ll pay for it.  Thank you so much for sharing the ride.”   We all beamed at each other and wished each other Happy New Year.

Nice start to the year, yes?

May your year bring peace, health, and happiness.

Golden-Sky-Happy-New-Year-2014-HD-Wallpapers

 

 

 

 

Merry Christmas Eve

RA_santa

Source: RichardArmitage.net

I left for friends’ house two days ago for a cookie bake.  The bake turned to elfing and then shopping and eating and  weathering a deep freeze and before I knew it, I just returned home today.  Goodness, do those friends know how to hustle and bustle.  Tomorrow, I return there for Christmas dinner, but today, I visit family.  It’s still very cold but tonight, we are getting SNOW! Whee!  My inner child is quite happy.   So it’s all good in my world.

Have a Merry Christmas if you celebrate it.  Enjoy yourselves and be a safe out there.

 

Mental Rehab: Day 1

In case anybody was wondering “whither Judiang,” I’ve journeyed to the wilds of Ohio for an annual get-together with friends at a cabin in the woods by a lake.  My friend has just finished showing me around the new school where she teaches. It’s a very lovely 21st century school with all the bells and whistles but in a location so rural there’s no phone reception.  This causes a cognitive dissonance in my citified, always connected mind.  But it gets better: the cabin has dicey phone reception and no wi-fi.  I will spend a week not cruising the internet, not playing Borderlands 2, not obsessively viewing strange crap on YouTube, not tweeting at 2AM instead of sleeping, not NOT.  Instead I will engage in unfamiliar activities like talking with live people in the same room, walking about, pointing at unusual animals (read: horsies and piggies), eating nutritious food, and letting the sun touch me.  My iPad has a tethered keyboard, so I could like – write – with no internet distractions.  My friend thinks I can do this for a week.  Uh huh.  She also promises that she’ll take me to an internet cafe if I start seem unhinged.

I wonder how she’ll be able to tell.

Uh oh, she’s finished closing her classroom for the school year.  Wish me luck.  I’ll post when I can.

Oh, and Happy Guy Day.

Richard Armitage as Guy of Gisborne, realizing he has no competition in the series.

Richard Armitage as Guy of Gisborne, realizing he has no competition in the series.

The Redo; or Happy New New Year

Recently at home

2:13PM

My eyes open slowly.  Three faces hover fuzzily over me. Eventually, the faces of my id, superego, and ego (Jada, Jodi, and Quiet One) sharpen into view.

Jodi grins and chirps. “Hey, she’s coming around!”

Jodi nods warily.

Quiet One sighs in apparent relief.

I blink.  Something about the light… it’s much brighter.  Things feel lighter again.

My Pomeranian Patty’s face suddenly fills my field of vision.  She’s wearing a little white nurse’s smock and matching cap.  I notice that the trio is also wearing smocks of various colors with Jodi’s being the loudest.  Neon rainbow.  Naturally.

Patty barks sharply to get my attention again and eyes me critically.  Little paws clack away on her iDog beside me. She speaks into the microphone, listening obviously to responses.   She rapid fires a series of questions at me.

I blink.  “Yes, I feel much better … no, I feel neutral … you were born in 2005 and came to live with me Thanksgiving weekend, 2008.  Homicidal urges? Gosh… no, no homicidal urges.”

I sit up and glance around apprehensively for blood on the walls.  Nope.

Jodi gives a thumbs up sign.  “We had to check.  Remember the flight to Mayo Clinic with the coughing, puking, whining tot behind you, and obsessive Chatty Cathy next to you? And you finally arrived starving at the hotel at 1:00AM?  You showed such restraint.  We were so proud of you!”

Jada sighs again happily.

Quiet One snickers.

I remember. “That’s because I couldn’t think how to fashion my plastic cup into a deadly weapon.”

Patty continues chattering into the mic.  I arch a brow at the trio.

Jada explains. “Patty is skyping with Dr. F. on your progress.”

I lie back against the pillows.  My anti-depressive medication had seemingly stopped working six weeks ago. After a alarming downward spiral since New Year’s Eve, I sought tertiary care at Mayo Clinic with Dr. F.  Acting on a hunch from Dr. G., Dr. F. sprang into action.  Within hours, she ascertained that my medication had been effected by severe hormonal changes caused by perimenopause.   She zipped the prescriptions to my local pharmacy, saying that if this wasn’t the answer, I had to return in two months.

I blink again.  By George, I think she got it in one.  I felt absolutely fine.  Wow.

I smile at Patty, who smiles back and ends the call.  So, Dr. F. understands Canine too?  Brilliant.

I throw back the covers and leap out of bed, grinning at the quartet.  “Right!  So, where were we?”

They look at each other.

Jada’s smile turns lopsided.  “Erm, about the tree and stuff …”

I notice finally the sound of music from the living room.  Is that Christmas music on a loop?

Patty throws her head back and howls agonizingly.

Oh.  Right.

 

2012 New Year’s Non-Resolutions

Of course, you’ve all read, made, or discussed New Year’s resolution lists for the coming year.

Have no fear, this is not one of them. I’ve given up that nonsense.

Year after year, I lemming-like would draw up a list of resolutions.  Usually they involved becoming more thin, smart, compassionate, sociable and thrifty, and less selfish, judgmental,  isolated, cynical and snarky.  Each year I would fail miserable, having promptly forgotten most of them by the next day, only to remember finally when time to draw up new resolutions for the following year.

So, instead of concerted efforts of self-improvement, I simply seize the opportunities as they arise.  My depression pudge will diminish with Winston properly coraled; I’ll be able to get out more, meet more people and expand my horizons.  If a book seems interesting, I’ll download it.  If a situation arises, I’ll look at both sides of the conflict.  If I feel moved by a charitable effort, I’ll give.  The point is not to tie myself to lists or tests to pass or fail, but improve life as it happens.  I’ve found that I actually do get things done if I view them as an opportunities, rather than obligations.

Looking back on this past year I worked on getting Winston under control, journeyed to London alone, met new people, gave more to charity, started this blog, and explored my creativity all because the opportunities presented themselves.  They might be small, but they still feel like accomplishments.  This year, I won’t resolve to do more of the same.

But I’ll stay snarky.

Happy Turkey Day!

Ah, Thanksgiving, the day when we pause to commemorate the story of the Pilgrims and the Indians breaking fish and maize together, and give thanks for all we have -on some other blog.  On my blog, I believe in getting down to what really matters – the FOOD.

For most of my childhood and adolescence, food was a big deal in my family.  My mother prepared the meal with me acting as second chef. This continued until I was old enough to take over the whole meal.  Preparation started at the stroke of 3:00PM with cleaning of the giant 20+ pound turkey. (Yes, we cooked enough for an army).  It had to have a high breast and plump legs or it couldn’t darken the door of my mother’s kitchen.   We extracted the giblets and neck, putting them on cook with chicken thighs, while thoroughly cleaning, drying and salting the bird, and storing it in the fridge.  My mother mixed the cornbread batter while I chopped and cried over a bag of onions, green peppers, and stalks of celery, first by hand and then with a food processor when they came into vogue. ( Then I cried for joy over the Cuisinart.)  The cornbread mixture was poured into cast iron skillets to bake.   Two hours later, we had enough cornbread dressing to fill the bird and a small pan besides.  We stored this away.

Thanksgiving-Charlie-Brown-SnoopyNext came mustard potato salad made with 10 pounds of red potatoes, celery, onions, and green peppers.  Did you know that the right amount of mustard, sugar and vinegar produce the taste of eggs?  It’s true.  The potatoes had to be peeled and cut while still hot.  Over the years, we acquired hands like asbestos although we always had ice cold water to dip our fingers on hand. The Making of Potato Salad was a family secret with my mother and I huddled over the pan, sampling for The Right Taste, adding a bit of this, a tad of that until BINGO! it was finished.

Then I would put on the sweet potatoes to boil.  These would be cooked until tender and left in the giant pot until the next day for the candied sweets.  Then we would take a break, mop our brows and plan dessert.  When I was small, my mother made sweet potato pies from scratch.  Sadly I never learned the secret of the tender, flakey crust.  She had to bake at least six pies because everybody wanted one to take home, they were that good.  She also made a three layer pineapple cake from scratch which I eventually took over.  My cakes were always moist and light, I must say.  Eventually dessert became just the cake.  After 6-7 hours of straight cooking we called it a night.

The next morning, we rose at 7AM  to dress the monster turkey and stuff it. The thing would be so heavy my dad would muscle it into the oven.  Then I made the macaroni and cheese from scratch while my mother prepared the candied sweets.  Then we fixed the vegetables, usually, broccoli and cheese, asparagus, and green beans to balance out all those starches.  The giblet gravy was the last dish prepared.  We never did casseroles or mashed potatoes since most of the dishes were southern.  In my grandmother’s time, there was also a Virginia honey baked ham and probably a capon.  Like I said, enough food for an army.

At precisely 2PM dinner was served, and the horde would descend, usually eating in shifts around the large table.  They made short shrift of all that food, leaving a quarter of the monster turkey, a small pan of stuffing, another pan of candied sweets I’d have hidden away, and a spoonful of all the vegetables. Mom and I never ate much because we tasted it already while cooking.  It was exhausting work, but we always had a sense of satisfaction having cooked a great meal.

Today, my parents are gone and the family is dispersed around the country, so I usually visit a friend’s house for Thanksgiving.  I haven’t cooked a Thanksgiving dinner in at least 14 years.  But sometimes when I’m walking down the hall of my building, I smell the aroma of onions and celery sauteeing and it all comes back, the Thanksgivings of days gone by.

 

 

 

The Holidays Are Coming! The Holidays Are Coming!

For me, the countdown to Thanksgiving (the last Thursday in November in the US) means officially  heralding in the Christmas season.  This has always been the way things have been done in my family.  But for the last 15 years or so, the holiday season  seems to creep earlier and earlier in sales land.  Pre-lit Christmas trees compete for space with jack o lanterns now.  This past year, I actually saw garland being strung right after Labor Day (the first Monday in September).  I know stores feeling the pinch of the recession want the longest shopping season possible, but I don’t *really* want to shop for tree lights while preparing for a July 4th barbecue.  Do you?

All that being said, I’ve also been guilty of the Christmas Creep, only not with shopping but with music.  I started listening to my all Christmas radio station on November 11th.   In an interesting creep of its own,  the radio station asked its listeners to vote when the holiday music should start.  Each year, the audience voted earlier and earlier until the station determined it should start no sooner than Veteran’s Day.  It’s a bit strange listening to “Have A Holly Jolly Christmas” interspersed with commercials for Veteran’s charities, but there it is.

You might think I would be tired of holiday music even before the season starts, and you would be wrong. The holidays ordinarily infuse me with a sense of contentment and well bearing, like the smell of jet fuel does for travel. (What, you didn’t read my London travelogue?)  I say ordinarily because at times the stress of the holidays, with shopping, deadlines, and the need to be jolly even when I may not feel that way, gets in the way of actually enjoying the season.  So I try to celebrate with things, like Christmas tunes, before the holidays get underway.  I changed my computer and iPhone wallpaper over to holiday themes.  My ringtone is “Grandma Got Run Over by A Reindeer.”

I even thought about putting up my tree, but something stopped me – have to wait for Thanksgiving first.

 

On Meeting Yet Another Fan

Airscape

Michigan countryside

This past weekend I headed out of town to visit one of my buddies, Elsa (she of the Trina, Elsa, and me trio of 15 years and counting.  She’s also Patty’s godmother.)  Elsa snagged a day off and I seized the opportunity to head to the suburbs for some autumn fun. City girl that I am,  I’ve never done any of the fall activities like picking apples in orchards, going on hay rides, carving pumpkins or seeing a cider mill.  Elsa offered to take me to Blake’s Farm and Yates Cider Mill.   It just so happened that Dhana (she of ArmitageWorld) also lives in the same area.  We arranged to meet for Sunday dinner, then sight see at Yates.

As luck would have it, my travel mojo was *still* broken.  Everything that could happen did: I forgot my phone and had to retrieve it; the train was late then sat on the tracks; TSA decided to hold up the security line, etc.  I missed my plane.  But I got a ticket for the next one.  However the delay made it too late to visit the orchard. So Elsa and I met with her brother and his SO at Famous Dave’s.  I have no clue if this franchise is in Chicago, but it’s a great place for BBQ done the right way, slow cooked with smokey flavor.  The desserts were heavenly (Be sure and try the bread pudding or Kahlua chocolate brownie.  Mmm.)

Beef stew

Carbonado en Zapalla

Dhana’s travel mojo worked just fine.  She bravely drove to Elsa’s house, risking the possibilities we were either ax murderers or would have made her watch the entire tenure of David Tennant in Doctor Who.  (Well, I might have done the latter but we didn’t have enough time.)  She told me she wasn’t troubled due to experience in meeting members of her quilting group.  Dhana sews gorgeous quilts by the way.  Dhana is a lovely woman; she is soft-spoken but friendly.  She’s also not as quiet as she thinks she is. (I’m looking at you, Dhana.). She showed more of her arts and crafts talents: little converted figurines.  She’s transforming RA action figures into other characters and doing quite an amazing job.

I admit to not being concerned as well.  Like her, I’m also an old hand at meeting strangers from fandoms and most of them have been good experiences.  Meeting Servetus was more daunting because I had to travel alone to a strange city and it would just be her and me.  Here, I was on familiar turf with friends.  Dhana definitely had the riskier task. Also, since I earlier had gotten the issue of race out of the way by discussing it on my blog, I didn’t have to worry about it anymore.

Apple tart

Apple Tart

Sunday dinner was amazing.  Elsa loves to cook (she gets upset if she doesn’t get to cook when she visits) and she opted to cook Carbonado en Zapallo , beef stew in a pumpkin.  It’s a South American dish that is both slightly sweet and spicy.  The ending flourish is cooking the stew the last hour inside a pumpkin and serving it that way.  It was a great presentation and an excellent stew.  It was so good that I want to make it myself which will be a minor miracle.  Dessert was a scrumptious homemade apple custard torte.  Every bit of it was gone by the time I left for home.

Conversation was an interesting experience:  Elsa was from Doctor Who fandom, Dhana, from AW, and Tom and Ardath from none.  I was the only one who linked all of them.  What do you talk about when one doesn’t know anything much (or at all) about the other?  I felt like Oprah.  Happily all the guests didn’t have much trouble finding common ground and the chat went smoothly.

Yates Cider Mill

Yates Cider Mill

After dinner, we waddled to our cars to drove to Yates Cider Mill.  Elsa and Dhana tell me it used to be in the country but urban sprawl has caught up to it.  However it’s located next to a city park that looks like a forest preserve so the area was still woodsy.  The mill is what I had expected: a large barn straddling a stream with a giant wheel.  The wheel has been turning every season since 1863.  The building itself is smaller than expected.  It’s still a working mill; workers moved the huge press which churned out pure unpasteurized apple juice.  The building also contained a store where you can purchase anything made from apples: cider, donuts, turnovers, pies, and caramel apples.  The mill’s grounds  were quite crowded with both people and their four legged friends.  I’ve never seen so many dogs in one place.  So, I was happy camper, sipping cider, eating donuts and chatting with Elsa and Dhana.  (Winston was back at the house, being cowered by Ollie and Floyd, Elsa’s Jack Russel terrier and black Labrador.)  Finally we bid Dhana adieu and later went to see The Debt with Dame Helen Mirren.

Overall, it was a lovely weekend. My Master Plan proceeds apace.  Oh, you don’t know about my Master Plan?  Alright, I suppose I’ll have to tell – in another blog post.

Judi and Dhana

The unveiling: me (l) and Dhana (r)

 

 

Much Ado about Nothing – A Fan’s Review

Much Ado Sign BlackAs you may already know, the whole purpose of the London saga was to see David Tennant in Much Ado about Nothing. I talked about the astonishing karma I experienced there but didn’t say much about the play itself.  Here is the review.

I’ll admit right off that I’m not a Shakespearean expert.  I didn’t study him in school, have not seen all his plays and cannot tell which quarto should have been included or not.  The intrinsic discovery of the Bard didn’t occur until my late 30s when my mind clicked with both the language and the plots and I acquired a better appreciation through live performance rather than dry text.  I vaguely remember the film version with Kenneth Branaugh so there’s no comparison being made in this review.

The action was set in 1980’s Gibraltar with Don Pedro (and his men stationed there including Benedick (David Tennant).  Beatrice (Catherine Tate) was the niece of Governor Don Leonato (Jonathon Coy).  The production solved the issue of how to get uber famous Tennant on the stage by having him drive on honking a golf cart festooned in Union Jacks.  The comedy was slapstick and wrung for the most laughs it could get including a fancy dress disco ball with Tennant dressed in black fishnet stockings and a mini skirt, and swinging Tate in the air from a harness. It also got surprisingly raunchy with a stag party blow up doll and stand up sex in an alley.

For those who don’t know Much Ado: Beatrice and Benedick, confirmed cynical bachelors, are duped into believing they are in love with each other.  Their story runs parallel to that of Claudio and Hero who have a more traditional courtship.  This is against the backdrop of political intrigue between brothers Don Pedro and Don Leonato.

Tennant was fantastically cynical, funny and smitten with Beatrice.  He was clearly at home with Shakespeare and during the scene where he’s tricked into thinking Beatrice was in love with him, he played directly to the audience for all it was worth.  There clearly were Doctor Who (Tennant played the 10 Doctor, aka the Lonely God) fans during the evening performance; when Tennant uttered the line “I’ll be like a god!”  the audience laughed and groaned.  He played that for all it was worth, breaking character for a moment, “Not that god!”   His scene contained much slapstick and tomfoolery but he smoothly pulled it off with panache, leaving the audience gasping with laughter.  Too bad his duping scene preceded Tate’s because by the time she’s dangling from the ceiling in a painter’s harness, it just wasn’t as funny.  Ironic for a woman whose profession is comedic acting.

david tennat and catherine tateTate was very humorous in her funny scenes but somehow missed the mark when poignancy and wistfulness were required.  She mostly appeared distant and sarcastic until she heard that Benedick was in love with her.  Tate also had difficulty during the scene where they acknowledged their love and she suddenly ordered Benedick to “Kill Claudio!”  This scene required an almost instant transitional moment between hilarity and deadly seriousness which Tate didn’t hit consistently during the two performances I saw.  That’s not to say Tate didn’t hold her own; it’s that it was apparent to me she was not the same acting caliber as Tennant.  I can honestly say this without bias.  Had Tennant turned in less than a stellar performance, I certainly would point it out.  I believe in saying the emperor has no clothes, if necessary, even about my crushes.

The rest of the cast was quite good with Claudio and Hero (newcomers Tom Bateman and Sarah Macrae).  Don John (Elliot Levey) was more of a cardboard villain than a flawed individual which might have been a mistake in characterization.  The cast breakout was Dogberry (John Ramm) played as a very funny bumbling Rambo type.

Overall, it was an excellent but flawed production staged by Josie Rourke. Since I can’t recall Branaugh’s version, I can’t say whether it favorably compared.  However, I can say that this adaption worked for me.  I enjoyed it and found the trip worth it.

 

London and Me or Play It Again Sam Part 8

[This post is reconstructed from semi-coherent posts and tweets on Facebook and Twitter.  Social medial experts call it microblogging.  I call it leaving a trail to remember I was there.   If you forgot who or what Winston is, click hereIf you want to read past installments click here.]

June 26

11:00 AM

There’s not much time to be a tourist today; I have a matinee performance of Much Ado and an evening staging of Butley.  Exhaustion is catching up with me.  So after a breakfast becoming more Continental than English, I opt to stay in and relax as much as I can on the sloping bed.  I doze off and dream.

*****

black pug

Winston wonders when the good times will roll. Courtesy of Uglyduckling on Deviant Art

I’m vaguely aware of a soft cold nose nudging me.  It’s Winston again.  Only he’s being stroked by flashy grinning version of myself.  It’s Jodi. As a child, I called Jodi the evil twin I wish I had.  As an adult I realize she’s my id, according to good ole Sigmund, one of the three parts of my psyche- id, ego, and super ego.  (It’s good to read a lot of psychology.)  Usually it’s Jada, the super ego, who does all the thinking and talking.  But ever since Winston discovered Happy Pills, Jodi has had more to say.  Knowing pleasure loving uninhibited Jodi, this is probably not good.

“Ah, sleeping beauty finally awakes,” says Jodi.

Winston drools.

Jada is as practical as ever.  “She really does need her rest. Don’t want to get sick do we?

“Yes, but look at the missed opportunities.  We could be shopping on High Street or at least finding Lords of the North!

I hate when theses chats happen as if I’m not here.  “Look, you weren’t awake for almost two days and sleeping on a bed that feels like it might tip over.  And stop spoiling that dog!”

Jodi flops Winston on his back and rubs his belly.  “Oh, but he’s such a cutie.”

Winston snorts in delight.

“He’s a cute horror. *You* don’t have to deal with him.  What are you guys doing out anyway?”

Jada begins. “We do need to talk about Winston.”

Jodi protests.  “What,  here, in London?”

Jada begins again. “We need to plan-”

Jodi interrupts. “We need to plan what we’re doing tonight.  Evening performance. Saturday night.  A night on the town… ”   She wiggles her hips. “There’s a club next to Hagen Daz in Leicester Square.  You saw last night.  Looked like where the beautiful people in black go. And there were some sexy guys…”

Jada pales.  “We didn’t come prepared for that – sort of thing.”

Jodi grins. “Oh, you even remember what that – sort of thing- is?”

I laugh.  “Beautiful? Well that leaves me out.”

Jodi is not phased. “You should have brought that little black dress.  It’s not too late to hit Marks & Spencer and buy another one.”

“C’mon, I’m really tired.”

Another voice pipes up.  “Yeah, me too.”

Winston sits up.

Oh.  I haven’t heard that voice in a while.  The three of us turn to look at a figure sitting in the shadowy corner.  I peer harder since I’ve never actually seen her.  She’s a younger version of me, much younger than expected, perhaps twenty years.  Oh my, she seems to be lagging behind.  She’s the third element of my psyche, the ego.  She rarely talks so we call her Quiet One.

“I think we should rest and take care of Winston.  We have two shows to sit through so let’s just plan where to eat and take it easy.”

The three of us gape.  That’s the most she’s said in a long time.

Jada coos.  “Hello dear.  That makes a lot of sense.”

Jodi sags.  “Well, she speaks and I’m voted down, naturally.”

I smile. “Good to see you.”

Quiet One smiles back.  “It’s good to be here.  Really.”

Jodi teases. “Oh, we *are* feeling good, aren’t we?”

Winston huffs.

*****

DT and CT in Much Ado

DT knows the good time are rolling.

I awake feeling a bit more refreshed. Winston whines it’s time for lunch so we head back to Leicester Square. There’s an Italian franchise restaurant with a 10% off tourist coupon.  Good enough for me. Finally back at the theater, on time and with a hearing device, I attend the matinee performance of Much Ado. I’m again shocked to find my seat in the 4th row a little off center.  Did Mr. Awesome give me another lottery ticket?  I can’t think enough kind thoughts about that man.  David Tennant is still in fine form although the afternoon audience seems a bit subdued.  He soldiers on and I’m not disappointed.  The audience peps up enough to give the ensemble three curtain calls.

4:50 PM

I debate heading to the backstage door even as I find my feet taking me there.  Lo and behold I locate a spot only three people deep and slide in.  I’ve already gotten footage for his fan club so there’s no purpose to being there except to get his autograph.  However I already got that hard won signature after his Stratford performance as Hamlet in 2008.  What do to? I notice I’m a bit taller than most of the people around me.  I am considered tall but seriously, this crowd is short.  Catherine Tate makes her way around the cordoned area and I impulsively hold out my program over everybody’s heads.  She immediately grabs and signs it.  Cool!

Well, should I go for a matched pair?  DT follows behind Tate and the crowd gets a bit wilder.  He smiles and chats and dives down for photo ops with a child.  He’s nearly in front of me and again stoops for a child.  A handler whispers it’s time to go in.  What the hell.  I shoot my arm out just as he rises.  Tall DT grabs the program from tall me and signs.  He turns to go.  He’s done.  Groans erupt around me.  I walk away grinning like a fool.

Winston chuffs.

Jodi is jubilant.  “SCORE!”

Jada tuts. “You should have allowed somebody else to get that you know.”

“But I wanted a matched pair!”

Quiet One laughs.  “Still that was cool.”

Jada isn’t finished. “You already have  one, why do you need two?”

“Awww, oh c’mon!   Jada, you’re really no fun.”

Winston snorfles.

Quiet One compromises.  “Look, why don’t you got back to the stage door. If you don’t see a needy child to give the program, then you can keep it. Okay?”

I don’t and keep it.

WIN.

 

7:30 PM

 

http://www.jagrant.com/chat/

Paul McGann remembers when the good times rolled.

Still filled with joy from the DT caper, I set out for the Duchess Theatre to see Dominic West in Butley.  Actually, I’m seeing an old crush, Paul McGann in the cast for old time’s sake.  My paper maps fail me as I can’t make out the odd side streets of this part of the West End.  I wander in circles until finally remembering to use Google GPS to find the damn place.  Butley it turns out is a two act biting comedy written by Simon Gray.  Butley is a washed up professor at a college who signals his disillusionment by being a slob, profligate and total bully.  Paul McGann plays Reg Nutall, the closeted boyfriend of Butley’s much abused closeted protege, Joseph Keyston.  Reg is a guy who doesn’t take abuse lightly and sees right through Butley.  PM plays him smooth, calculating and tough. It was a good performance and worth the ticket.

Almost immediately I realize I can’t hear the actors from my seat near the back. Winston stirs and sticks his head up in interest.  I approach the head usher at intermission and ask for a hearing device.  Let’s call him Mr. Nice.

Mr. Nice: I’m sorry but this theater wasn’t outfitted for hearing devices.  That is a problem.

Winston: Ruh roh.

Me: *crestfallen and about to ask for my money back*  Oh, so there’s nothing you can do?

Mr. N:  *thinking*  Come back to me after intermission is over.

Winston: Rawr?

After intermission.

Me:  I’m back.

Mr. N:  Follow me.

Mr. Nice take me down to the front row and whispers to a patron to move his stuff from a spare seat.  The man looks a little affronted.

Mr. N: This is her seat please.

Me: Thank you.

Winston sighs in disappointment

From that point on, I could hear the actors just fine;  they are right there.

I sit inwardly smiling.  Maybe I should find how to get an Irish Sweepstakes ticket.  Does that still exist?

Surreal Saturday: London Edition

London is famous for curious sights from frozen human statues covered in cold and silver to odd scuptures on corners.  However for this edition I videoed a busker in Covent Garden.  I’d seen him before several years ago and he’s still there. He had a new trick this year.   He’s funny, silly, and really quite amazing since his trick involves balancing on very uneven cobblestones.  I’ve forgotten his name, but perhaps you can catch it for me.

Enjoy!

London Busker in Covent Garden

A London busker in Covent Garden shows a new trick. Very difficult to do on uneven cobblestones. Enjoy!

 

London and Me: Intermission or Can I Order Indian Instead?

This is the perfect time to talk about a serious food issue in London.   I never run into this problem at home but as soon as I touch soil in the UK, I have to deal with it – pub grub.  Specifically the phenomenon of fish and chips.  Even if a pub doesn’t have something edible like bangers and mash, there is always fish and chips with those malt packets on the side.

Fish and Chips!I’m not a fan of fish and chips.   In the US, I enjoy fish with flavor.  Perch can be tasty and if seasoned properly, white fish might even pass my inspection.  But in the UK, the fish of choice is usually haddock, something I consider quite bland.  No wonder they offer packets of malted vinegar for taste. There is no catfish, buffalo, or any other flavorful fish. It’s haddock or bugger off.   To make matters worse, the plentiful chip shops on every corner serve theirs up in lovely greasy paper to ensure you enjoy every greasy bite.  The fish’s greasiness is directly proportionate to the greasiness of the chips.   This is considered really good eats.

Fish and chips and mushy peasThere’s something else.  I’ve seen it on plates with fish and chips.  It’s green and mushy and …well, it’s mushy peas.  Wiki says mushy peas are dried marrowfat peas which are first soaked overnight in water and then simmered with a little sugar and salt until they form a thick green lumpy soup. They are a traditional British accompaniment to fish and chips.  They are actually sold in tinned cans and sold as batter in pea fritter.  Okaaay. To me, it looks like peas pureed and then cooked down into glop.  In the US, it’s called baby food.  Why is this served at meals?  Why do people eat it, much less with fish and chips?  I just don’t get it.

 

Dublin, Ireland (Temple Bar)And let’s talk about the beer. Yes, this is utter heresy territory.  I’ll admit right off that I don’t like beer.  I’ve tried since college to find a drinkable beer to no avail.  A beer loving friend actually bought at least 15 kinds of beers for me taste, so determined was he to find a drinking buddy.  I hated every one.  In the UK, I’ve had shandys and ciders; no luck.  I’ve come to the conclusion that I dislike the taste of hops, barley and the fermentation process, ergo beer. In the UK, every social event calls for some kind of beer, ale, stout or cider. It’s hard to avoid.   Europeans joke that Americans drink cold weak piss.  Sorry, Europeans drink warm, really, really strong piss.  There, I said it. What do you think Dear Reader about pub grub and beer? Tell me how you really feel.  Or set me straight.

Oh, because I know what you people come here for:

John Mulligan eating

Richard Armitage as John Mulligan in Moving On, definitely not eating fish and chips, mushy peas or beer. Courtesy of richardarmitagenet.com

 

London and Me or The Play Is the Thing: Part 7

[This post is reconstructed from semi-coherent posts and tweets on Facebook and Twitter.  Social medial experts call it microblogging.  I call it leaving a trail to remember I was there.   If you forgot who or what Winston is, click hereIf you want to read past installments click here.]

June 25

much ado poster6:45 PM ish

It’s not a good idea to rest my eyes for a second.  I open them and realize I should have left already for the theater.  I poke around my bag for the precious ticket alarming Winston.  Confident I have everything, I rush to the Tube.  I pelt fast see a waiting train -should I have turned left, not right? – and jump on it.  Time looks good until the robotic voice calls out the wrong stop.  Oh shit, I’m going on the wrong direction!  Teeth gritted I jump off two stops further north and try to cross to the other side – except my Oyster card is confused and won’t let me through the turnstile.  It insists I should continue north, not south.  A kindly conductor spots my ditzy tourist self and sorts the situation.  Finally my train arrives.   Time is very tight; if I’m lucky I might get to Wyndham’s at 7:30 PM sharp.  If I don’t, I won’t be let in until intermission. I can’t believe I got this ticket only to miss half the show?  Damnit!

Winston sticks his head out of the bag in renewed vigor.  Annoying little bugger.

The journey feels interminable.  I swear my iPhone is slowing down just to spite me.  I push through the horde of people to the turnstyle.  Wait, where’s my Oyster card? I pat my pockets. Shit! I’m cursing aloud. I’m going to miss the show!  I look up to see a conductor pushing towards me.  He must have heard me because he opens the  turnstile and points towards the stairs to Wynham’s.  Oh thank you!  I bound up the stairs and race into the theatre and down the hall as the third bell sounds.  SHIT!  I hold up my ticket; am I too late?   The usher waves me through.  Glancing over my shoulder to see how many are behind me, I see her stop some latecomers.  Oh wow. Winston chuffs in disappointment.  Heh, take that little bugger.

I’m quickly sorted out by another user and find myself seated in the 3rd row on the floor, dead center.   My seatmate to the right is the lady from earlier in the day.

Woman: Hi, didn’t I see you this morning?

Me: Yes, you won the lottery ticket.

Woman:  Well, it looks like you did too!

I’m stunned.  Mr. Awesome must have given me a lottery ticket.  I’m actually speechless.  No matter, the lights drop and Much Ado About Nothing with David Tennant and Catherine Tate begins.

Much Ado About Nothing productionSince I didn’t have time to pick up a hearing device before the first act, I have some difficulty hearing the dialogue, but that doesn’t bother me.  DT has my interest from the moment he drives onstage in a golf cart.  The setting is early 1980’s Gibraltar.  He plays Benedick. He  and his crew serve in the navy. Catherine Tate plays, Beatrice, the niece of the Duke.  The show played for all the laughs it can get and the audience is receptive.  In the most modern version of Shakespeare I’ve ever seen, we are treated to discos, stag parties, blow up dolls, slapstick and covert sex.  It’s right up my alley.  DT does a brilliant job in the comedic role and frankly outshines Catherine Tate in her own specialty.   Tomorrow, I’ll have my device for the entire show and will be a better judge in reviewing the performances.  This was the purpose of my journey.  It has been worth it.

I’m a very happy camper.  SQUEE!

10:45 PM

After the show, I head to the stage door.  I already have DT’s autograph from Hamlet a few years ago, so I don’t need another.  His fan forum wants footage of him and I’m there with my trusty iPhone.  The crowd although pushy seems a bit more controlled than the ones in Stratford.  I’m pressed but not beaten up.  Making one of his fastest changes, he’s out and working the crowd.  He’s one of the most considerate and sweetest celebrities I’ve ever seen when dealing with his fans.  Although he’s no longer the Doctor on Doctor Who, he still takes special care with children.

 

David Tennant in London at Much Ado Backstage Door

Back stage of Much Ado with David Tennant on June 25, 2011.

 

It is a cool night but the rain stops by the time the autograph session is over.  I head to Hagen Daz to for dessert.  Leicester Square is a madhouse in the evening but it is invigorating to be out and about like this.  I did some shopping, visited the London Transport Museum (one of my faves), and had a bit of dim sum in Chinatown.  Not bad for my first full day in London.

NEXT: When two squees collide

 

London and Me or the Much Ado about Much Ado – Part 6

[This post is reconstructed from semi-coherent posts and tweets on Facebook and Twitter.  Social medial experts call it microblogging.  I call it leaving a trail to remember I was there.  If you want to read about the newspaper account, click here. If you forgot who or what Winston is, click hereIf you want to read past installments click here.]

full english breakfastJune 25

9:00 AM ish

This time no growing din awakens me.  I’ve been semi-unconscious most of the night, waking fully every two hours to look at my iPhone clock. Sometime in the night I realize my bed has a gentle right sliding slope.  I won’t roll out of bed but there’s still a sense of it on the edge of my consciousness.  I literally roll out at 8AM for that much needed shower.  It’s a cute octagon shaped stall with a water pressure problem.  My shower turns into a sort of drippy whore bath.  I’m not phased; soap, wash cloth and water, even in the sink is all I need. This is an old house after all.  Happy in nice clean clothes, it’s time to get to that good English breakfast.

Winston stirs.  Bacon!

My nose leads me to the dining room.  Breakfast seems to be a catch-can affair; I finally flag down a harried server who sends a plate flying out: springy scrambled eggs, powerfully salty fat ham, half rip tomatoes and good ole pork and beans without the pork.  It’s just what I remember.  I recall reading real Brits actually don’t eat this.  Furtively observing fellow roomers reveals the location of the mysterious tea bags: in a large tin labelled “TEA.”  Right.

Fortified I attempt to powerwalk to the Tube station except that the all downhill trip coming has turned into an all uphill trek going.  This saps the power of the walk quickly. It’s a cold clear London morning.  Young Brits in suits stride by like I’m standing still.  I’m either old, out of shape or both.  I’m the only one in the station puffing like a train.  Sigh.

I arrive at Leicester Square too early for the Lottery and have a walk about.  The main half price kiosk in the park is gone; a whole area has been cordoned off with a high green fence with signs saying “OLYMPICS.”  There’s a great deal of construction going on all over London for the Games next year.  At least six smaller kiosks have sprung up along the main square. I pick one and buy a ticket to see Butley the next afternoon with Dominic West and Paul McGann.  McGann was an old crush but want to see the play and report back to the fandom for old time’s sake.  I’m a sentimental gal; after all I have my ticket to see David Tennant.  Returning to the theatre, I pick up my lottery number and waited for 10:00 AM.  Winston sticks his head out of the bag in interest.

leicester square10:00 AM

On the dot, the manager, Mr. Awesome, comes out with his helper and starts pulling numbers. He will lottery 20 tickets at half price.  He must have lost count because I don’t think he gave out 20. I hold my breath along with a fellow tourist.  Alas I lose by one number but she won a ticket.  He calls out that a few returns and mostly standee tickets will be sold and to queue, naturally opposite from me. I’m near the end of the line.  I consider giving up but decide to stay for the hell of it.  Finally I approach the box office.

Me: Hi.  I suppose you’re only selling standee tickets now right?

Ms. Friendly: Yes.

Mr. Awesome: Weren’t you here yesterday?

Me:  Yes, that was me.

Mr. A.: *reaches around a corner*  Here’s another ticket.

It’s a ticket for the next day’s matinee.

Winston: Rawr!

Me: What!

*Murmur behind me*

Ms. F.: *low voice* You’ll have to pay half price for that.

I think she doesn’t want the remaining people in the lobby to twig onto this.

Me: Gladly!  Thank you!

Winston: *curls back up in doggy shock*

Dominic West in 'Butley' at the Duchess TheatreI leave the theatre now the owner of TWO Much Ado tickets, replacing the two dead ones.  So I can see DT tonight and again tomorrow afternoon – the same time I’ll see PM.  Uh oh.  The Butley ticket is nonrefundable. Winston looks up expectantly.  I head back to the kiosk.

Me: Hi, you remember I was here about 15 minutes ago, don’t you?

Nice Young Man: Oh yes.

Me: *happy waving ticket* I just got a ticket to see Much Ado!

NYM: Oh, congratulations!

Me: *sweetly* Is it possible to switch times for this Butley ticket?

NYM: Sure! *patiently cancels and switches*

Winston: Rwow.

Heh heh, sorry pooch.

My Karma is SMOKING hot.

London and Me: Kill Claudio! – Part 5

[This post is reconstructed from semi-coherent posts and tweets on Facebook and Twitter.  Social medial experts call it microblogging.  I call it leaving a trail to remember I was there.  If you want to read about the newspaper account, click here. If you forgot who or what Winston is, click hereIf you want to read past installments click here.]

 3:00 PMish

As I stand unsteadily near the bed, it’s quite clear that any leaning, sitting, lying or even showering will be my undoing. If I have any hope of seeing tonight’s show,  I need to stay on my feet and active.   I don’t have a clue how I will stay awake.

I head to Wyndham’s Theatre for the tickets.  Thankfully it is located just outside the Leicester Square station, thus sparing my labored brain any further work.  I enter with some trepidation because I lost the ticket reservation number and booking in a computer crash in March.  Could I get the tickets?

Winston wakes for the first time in hours, refreshed.  He loves his drama.

There is a friendly young girl at the box office.  Let’s call her Ms. Friendly.  Just out of sight is the theatre manager, let’s call him Mr. Awesome.  As far as I’m concerned, I’m speaking coherent correct English in pleasant American.

Ms. F.: May I help you? *stops a bit and stares*

I can’t imagine how I look now: a homeless woman?  A drug addict?   Lucifer?

Me: Yes, I’m here to pick up my tickets for this evenings performance please. My name is Judiang.

Ms. F.: *thumbs through envelops*  I’m sorry, there’s nothing here by that name.

Winston: Ruh roh.

Me:  *frets*  Are you sure?  I lost my reservation number in a computer crash but I have my passport here.  *thrusts out passport*

Ms. F.:  *rechecks*

Me: *blathering*  I’ve been traveling here for since Tuesday, I just got here today, there must be some tickets.  I booked them in January.

Ms. F.:  Really? What happened?

Me:  *tells the whole sordid story*

Mr. Awesome: Wow, that’s amazing.

Winston: Rarf!

Ms. F.:  I’m sorry, there’s nothing here with your name for tonight.

Me: *decidedly whingy*   Oh nooo!

Winston: *sticks head out bag and wags tail*

*We all stare at each other*

Me:  *horror dawning*   Was there anything for last night?

Mr. A.: *motions to a shelf*   Check that parcel there.

Ms. F. checks and places a dead ticket on the counter.

Winston: *wags tail more*

Me: *despairing*   And was there anything for Tuesday night?

Ms. F. checks and places another dead ticket on the counter.

Winston: *wags tail harder*

We all stare at the dead tickets

Me: *absolutely whingy knowing the show is sold out*   Oh noooo. I’ve taken so long to get here.  Don’t you have anything?  Behind a pillar?

Mr. A.: It’s just you right?

Me:  Yes.

Mr. A.: *reaches around a corner*  Here’s a ticket.

It’s a ticket for the next day’s evening performance.

Winston: *doggy gasp*

Me: *somewhat deliriously* Oh thank you! Thank you! Thank you! *might have bounced but refuse to confirm that*

Mr. Awesome and Ms. Friend grin.  Enjoy!  That’s a very good ticket.

Winston huffs and curls up in the bag.

I stumble out of the lobby on cloud nine.  What an incredible thing!  Things are looking up. I’m smiling so hard I must look like a loon.  A passer-by turns and smiles.  Such nice people.  Just outside the theatre door I spot a sign.  My brain pieces together there will be a lottery for tickets the next morning at 9:30 AM.  Oh!  I could win my second ticket.  I resolve to return first thing.  Now I can go back to the room and pass out after all, thank goodness.

11:00 PM

I awake sprawled across the bed feeling as if I’d been run over by a lorry.  Something lightly sits on my chest drooling and snorting.  Winston!  My medication schedule is screwed up and I forgot to drug him. Nicely docile, he gets back in the bag with his happy pills.  Good boy.

I head to High Street but discover I woke a bit too late; all the restaurants are closing.  As I wander up and down the darkening road, I see across the street light streaming from an eaterie, like a mirage. It’s apparently a franchise called the Chicken Spot.  Its doors are wide open and the lovely aroma of fried chicken teases me.  I need to cross the street to this oasis but my brain tells me I’m on my own. Miraculously I make it across without getting knocked over by a car.  I order chicken and chips.  It is either delicious or I’m starving to death.

I’m so delight I tweet the following: Why did the tourist cross the road?  To get to the chicken- and it was good!

NEXT: Much Ado and David Tennant!

London and Me: Baggage and Other Issues – Part 4

[This post is reconstructed from semi-coherent posts and tweets on Facebook and Twitter.  Social medial experts call it microblogging.  I call it leaving a trail to remember I was there.  If you want to read about the newspaper account, click here. If you forgot who or what Winston is, click hereIf you want to read past installments click here.]

June 24th

8:00  AM GMT

I make my way through Heathrow’s labyrinthine walkways to  Baggage Claim.  The joyful trembling is now just trembling.  In uncalled for optimism I check the bags from my flight.  There is the sea of black luggage and a smaller lake of – red.  What? My head swims as I check a puce one in hopes it’s mine and I might be going blind.  Nope.

8:15 – 10:30 AM

The baggage clerk confirms: no, the bag is NOT in Chicago; yes, it was last in Dulles; no, it should have been on this flight.  Oh wait, it should be on the next flight blah blah blah, due in at 10:00 AM.  I’ve journey since Tuesday morning with only six hours of sleep in 48 hours.  What’s a two hour wait?  Wait, did she say blah blah blah? My hearing’s gone funnier than usual.

I sprawl across a seat near the appointed carousel.  Security eyes me several times as they patrol.  I can’t imagine how I look.  My fingers cease to cooperate so I pocket the iPhone.  Peering like a drunk, I realize the Toilet is nearby thank goodness.  Sheer masochism prompts a look in the mirror.  All things considered, my clothes look pretty wrinkle free; hooray for cotton blends.  Wish I could say the same about my face.  My eyes are a shade of red to complement the lime green top and blue jeans.   My hair looks like I stuck a finger in a socket right before being whacked in the back with an anvil.   My feet – my feet are there somewhere. Sigh.

At the carousel the sea of black bags continue flowing with streams of red.  When the heck did people start buying all these red bags?  I eye a whole set of luggage, neon Barbie pink with logos on it.  Is that really Mattel?  Surely not!  I insanely consider buying something like that; it would certainly stand out from half a mile away.  I mull over other times me and my baggage were separated, 12 hours in London, 6 hours in Detroit, 2 days in Rome and wager when I might see it again.  Given what is turning out to be a long weekend, I want it back before I leave on Monday.

Finally Flight blah blah blah arrives and the bags disgorge, and the last one – is mine.  I’m so ecstatic I’m thisclose to hugging the thing but think better of it; security eyes me closely.  I double-check the tag, walk few a paces, question my vision and double-check again.  Yup, still my luggage.  Now I won’t be whiffy and need to wash my undies in the sink for three days. Or spend too much buying replacements at Marks & Spenser.  Or Selfridges.  Or Harrods.  Dodged that bullet.

11:00 AM

Another long passage finally points the way to the Tube.  All I need to do is swipe my debit card through the travel card machine, purchase an Oyster Card and be on my way. Except the machine does not like my debit card.  I turn around.  There’s a long queue for that.  Sigh.  The line inches as I longingly watch better luck travelers move swiftly through the turnstiles.  I zone out for a bit and I’m before the window clerk.  He looks like a nice elderly man out of a Norman Rockwell painting.  He gently extracts the proper information using small words in a calm voice and patiently draws on the map.  I am age four again.  I nod complacently.  Clutching the prized Oyster Card in its protective plastic, I jump on the next Piccadilly line train confident I can’t mess up.  After all, there’s only one direction it can go -out.  With a change at Leicester Square, I’m on the Northern Line to Finchley Central.  I’m armed with Google maps on paper and on my iPhone; I’m prepared.  As I fight sleep, it dawns I couldn’t be any farther away from Heathrow than if I was in the Docklands.  It’s almost an 1  1/2 hour journey.  Despite a map plotted to the B&B’s door, I manage to get lost but am set right by a friendly florist.  It’s an easy walk, all downhill.

1:20 PM

Finally, almost 46 hours after leaving home, I enter the B&B.  It’s typical English brick Victorian in a quiet leafy residential neighborhood.  The proprietor, Mike, greets me, takes me to the dining area and puts the kettle on.  He murmurs and coos and plots out a quicker way to the Tube station.  I nod complacently.  He stares hard asking if I’m taking in any of this.  I’m sure but awareness is relative at this point.  The place is busy; phones ring.  I’m left to figure out the complexity of tea making.  I locate a cup, hot water and milk but not the tea so I drink the milk.  My room is happily on the 2nd floor off the landing.  It’s small and updated with a wooden floor, twin bed, table, lamp, microwave, TV and an en suite bathroom containing toilet and a skinny shower.  The view is a lovely garden out back.  It’s cheap, cheerful and clean.  It is actually better than other B&B rooms in which I’ve stayed.  It’s too far from the airport but there’s no help for that now.

I can’t think of sitting down and losing consciousness.  I need to get to the theatre.

Winston still snores.  Sleep must be nice.

NEXT: Kill Claudio!

 

London and Me, or London or Bust: Part 3

[This post is reconstructed from semi-coherent posts and tweets on Facebook and Twitter.  Social medial experts call it microblogging.  I call it leaving a trail to remember I was there.  If you want to read about the newspaper account, click here. If you forgot who or what Winston is, click here. If you want to read past installments click here.]

Wednesday, June 22nd

5:30AM

A growing din finally reaches my brain.  I sit up and pry my eyes open.  It’s daylight. The hordes have returned, looking fresh and crisp.  A young professional woman in a black suit perches on a chair next me pecking on her Blackberry.  Across, an elder woman dripping money in an exquisite beige pants suit clutches an iPhone in a gold diamond studded case looks up at me.  Two small preschoolers stare.  The airport is awake.

I peer at my dying iPhone and inwardly groan.  Did I even sleep?  My mouth tastes like the bottom of my sandal, my eyes burn and my brain hurts.  The tantalizing aroma of sausage and hash browns wafts to my nose.  McDonald’s calls.  I ungracefully unravel myself from the blanket and stagger to the rest room passing my fellow overnighters clutching their blankets like refugees.  We are not a pretty sight.  After some splashing and swishing of water and bedhead fluffing,  I tell myself I’m presentable.  Sated by the Golden Arches, I discover my makeshift bed is where I need to be.   And that I slept no more than two yards away from a computer station replete with plugs.  I dart for one as civilly as possible, commandeer a nearby chair and join the tweeting and facebooking horde.  My virtual followers tut and commiserate. What will happen next?  Damned if I know.  Winston snores on.

7:20 AM

More suited professionals crowd the lounge.  I feel wrinkled and frumpy but hopefully not smelly.  Mithum works.  A rep announces we will board late.  Color me surprised.  Most of the profressionals tote identical little black bags and I congratulate myself for buying a new red one – like the one I… checked…  Oh hell. A quick chat with a rep confirmed: no, my bag would not have been allowed to leave the country without me; yes, the bag was still here; yes, they will tag it through to DC.  I don’t believe the last part but resolve to deal with it in Washington.  It’s time to board.

11:30AM

After a delightfully boring flight, I land at Reagan, scoot quickly out the exit and into a shuttle for the 45 minute drive across town to Dulles.  There is an upside to having no luggage.  I see nothing of the sights but recognize my job’s headquarters of all places.  Bah.  After a few bumbling attempts dialing international, I reach the proprietor of the London B&B on my cellphone and explain the situation.  “No worries, luv,” he says. “I’ll put the kettle on for you when you get here.”

12:30 PM

Dulles is a large expanse of emptiness with its soaring maple dome and blindingly polished floor.  I’ve never seen such an empty airport.  TSA still manages to hold up the short line out of pure cussedness.  I make a conscious effort not to roll my eyes;  it’s not good to annoy these people.  I rush to baggage but find a line – in an empty airport.  Inexplicably they wander off as a happy rep comes my way. (She is too old to be called perky).   Ms. Happy confirms: yes, my bag is still in Chicago; yes, it’s possible I will see it again; yes, it will probably join me before that night’s flight to London.  She will flag, alert, and expedite.  I should check at 4:00 PM to see if it arrived.  Things are hopeful.

2:00 PM

Winston as a dog is a fitting metaphor. He awakes wondering about food, just like a dog.  I duck into a restroom and drug him.  Onwards to food.  Dulles has some of the longest corridors to terminals I’ve ever seen.  Am I in Virginia?  Then I must be walking to West Virginia.  There are no food courts, only hidden eateries tucked into alcoves off endless miles of carpet.  I’m pretty sure I’ve lost weight since yesterday.  Finally I spot a seafood place and collapse there.  I order a lobster roll and new england clam chowder, reasoning that I shouldn’t be poisoned, being so close to the ocean.  The food is fresh and quite good.

3:00 PM

Miles later I find my gate lounge. There are a few early souls.  My head spins; it’s a good time to get some sleep.  Maybe 2  1/2 hours  of sleep last night and semi-dozing on the plane so far.  Pulling out the Amazing Collapsible Blanket, I cocoon myself across a bank of seats near the rep counter just to be safe.

5:00 PMish

I’m awaked again by a growing din.  The hordes have returned. I blink at the lounge, chock full of tourists? professionals?  Who are they?  The relentless stares of the obligatory small fry finally propel me up and towards baggage.

5:50 PM

It took 48 minutes of powerwalking to baggage and back. I learn in two minutes: no, my luggage is still in Chicago; yes, my luggage will be flagged, alerted and expedited through to London.  Riiiight.  I’m piqued about Ms. Happy.  There’s no help for it but settle things at Heathrow.  I try sprawling in different seats but can’t capture that snoozy feeling surrounded by so many people.  I would read an ebook but my eyes won’t focus. I’m in a twilight zone.  The plane is here.  I stare longingly at it.

7:30 PM

I’m surprisingly on the aisle side of twin seats, having resigned myself to being stuffed into the freezing center seats.  My seatmate is a grumpy woman around my age.  I decide not to bother her.  The flight is on time.  There are no screaming children or hacking sneezing plague carriers near me. I’m close but far enough away from the lavatory.   I have three blankets and two pillows.  It doesn’t get better than this unless they put me in first class. Alas Ms. Wonderful checked that too and it was full.  I eat something, peer at something on my personal screen, and wrap myself in blankets before passing out.

June 24th

5:00 – 7:00 AM GMT

It’s difficult getting real sleep on a plane.  I’ve dozed maybe 3 1/2 hours but feel like I’ve not gotten a wink.  By now it’s like medicine; you keep taking it hoping it’s doing some good.  Flight attendants pass out water and snacks to supplement the dinner I can’t recall.  The movie I can’t recall plays again.  My brain refuses to process the images.  I doze off once more.

What seems like a short time later, the flight attendants walk briskly through, turning on the lights and throwing up the shades.  It’s morning across the pond.  Below the clouds sits the UK.  We all sit up quickly, packing away our things, shoving blankets and pillows, trying to make ourselves presentable. My seatmate is a British ex-pat visiting family.  She’s lived in the US for 16 years and prefers it there.  I say how much I’d love to there.  We laugh how the grass always seems greener on the other side.  Winston stirs; must be breakfast.  There’s tea, clotted cream and scones.  I feel a rush of excitement.  Almost there.

7:30 AMish

I’m here.  I tweet victoriously: “LONDON I’M IN YOU!”  I’m almost delirious with joy and exhaustion.

Winston whines and buries his head.  I think he’s jet-lagged.

 

NEXT: Of Baggages and Tickets

 

London and Me, or Winston, We’re Not in Kansas Anymore: Part 2

[This post is reconstructed from semi-coherent posts and tweets on Facebook and Twitter.  Social medial experts call it microblogging.  I call it leaving a trail to remember I was there.  If you want to read about the newspaper account, click here. If you forgot who or what Winston is, click here.  If you want to read past installments click here.]

 

Tuesday, June 21st

4:30PM-ish

I arrive at the airport with no mishaps: read departure time correctly, remember to pack everything including iPhone, iPad and their accoutrements,  comfort upset Patty (my real dog), remember passport (barely) and tickets, get limo on time, and hit no traffic snags.  I lug my spanking new red overnight suitcase purchased to better identify my luggage in the sea of black.  Medication is split between bag and purse in case something is lost.  The cotton waist pouch under my clothes contains money, birth certificate, copy of passport, credit cards and other personals in case I’m mugged. I check the suitcase and watch it disappear in the bowels of the airport.  Security flows relatively smoothly.  I’m not selected for “advanced security clearance.”  A wave of my new enhanced security chipped U.S. passport gets me everywhere I want to go.    The Golden Arches beckon and I indulge in a Big Mac happy meal reasoning this is vacation time. I walk miles through the main terminal, down into the even longer funky multi-color lit people mover and into the United’s steel and glass terminal Concourse C.

5:30PM

The lounge holds seats for the 6 surrounding gates.  It’s a very hot humid day and the AC is barely detectable.  I find my gate – Chicago to Ottawa departing at 7:00PM, take a seat and chow down.  Rubbernecking reveals the plane is at the gate.  Things are going swimmingly. A gate door opens and I breathe in the heady aroma of jet fuel, infusing me with a sense of contentedness and well-bearing.  How I love the smell!  I’m doing what I love, traveling, to a place I love.  The only thing better would have been to leave from the international terminal, but no worries.  Winston sleeps in my bag, snuggling his bottle of happy pills.  I’m almost fond of him.  Almost.  I’m cool.

 7:00PM

After quickly popping into the women’s restroom and not the men’s (don’t ask), I gather my things.  The airline rep announces the flight is delayed until 8:00PM.  We look out at the mildly overcast sky, puzzled.  My Ottawa connection to London is at 10:30PM-ish.  A passing flight attendant confirms I’ll need to clear customs in Canada first, so there’s no way in hell I will make that flight; I’ll need to reschedule.  Damn it!

I find customer service has a maze and a long line.  Pulling out the trusty iPhone, I call their line and wait on hold as I stand.  Everybody around me is doing the same thing.  After 50 fruitless minutes, I decide to sort things out in Ottawa and return to the gate.

8:00PM

We board quickly.  I luckily get a single row seat still worrying about the London flight. Will I get another in the morning?  The plane taxis, and taxis and taxis and I wonder if we’re driving there instead.  A flash catches my eye, then another and another.  It dawns on me we are taxiing into a lightning storm, while in a pressurized metal can.  This is not good.   The pilot chirps rather loudly over the PA system, “well, we’re not taking off folks; there’s a storm coming.  So, just hold on!”  WHAT?

Suddenly the heavens open and a curtain of rain hits with a WHOOSH. The rain is so torrential we can’t see out.  I’m usually unflappable during travel.  The increasing lightning storm around our little sardine can has me only slightly concerned.  That is until the gale hit, rocking the plane back and forth. “Oh shit,” I mumble.  The passengers around me obviously think the same thing as we clutch our armrests.  The wind whips and howls.  It’s like the Blizzard of 2011 except with water.  Everybody is actually remarkable calm considering. They probably are pondering the weighty question of why we waited to taxi into a lightning storm like I am.  I mull how long it would take United to go out of business after paying out outrageous settlements to our heirs because all the passengers and crew were electrocuted or drowned or both.  I feel the solidarity with my co-travelers and hope we will be commemorated by President Obama in a special ceremony.  I’m cool.   I wonder if the others are medicated too.

8:20PM

The storm abates.  The plane has not shaken apart or sprung a leak.  The chirpy pilot returns.  I start to hate him.  “The storm looks like it’s passing over but the tower says we need to return to the gate.”  No shit.  “The problem is it will take time to find a gate, maybe upwards of an hour.”  Out come the phones to call customer service.  I try but notice my battery is low so opt to wait.  The flight attendant passes through with cups of water.  She later does the same with salty pretzels -after we drink the water.  We taxi, and taxi and taxi back and double park along a median strip. I listen to a woman behind me give extraordinarily complicated directions to a third party for booking another flight.  I chat with a stressed young woman from Ottawa who has to be at work the next morning.  The pilot chirps from time to time. I imagine sticking him with pins to fix that chirp but Winston snorts in my bag so I switch to rubbing his tummy and he goes to back to sleep.  I’m cool.

11:ooPM-ish

We finally are in hailing distance of a gate and dumped.  After three hours in a plane without ever taking off, nobody cares.  Ironically we could have flown to, back and to Ottawa in that time.  We trudge into the terminal which turns out to be Concourse B and hordes of milling people. Instead of emptying out, the place looks like the middle of the day.  I again find customer service behind a maze behind a line and queue behind a young newlywed couple.

“Guess I’m not getting to London anytime soon,” I say.

“Oh we just flew in from London,” says the groom.  “The turbulence was awful from the east coast.  But wasn’t that exciting?

I am clueless.

“You missed it? The concourse was evacuated.  A tornado was in the area and they moved us down to the people mover area cuz this place is glass. Hundreds of people down there.”

“Yeah I missed it,” I yelp. “Because I was sitting in a little metal plane out in the middle of nowhere waiting to get hit by lightning or sucked up!”

“Wow!” the bride says.

“Guess you guys were on your own,” he snickers.

 

Tuesday, June 21st to Wednesday, June 22nd

11:00PM – 12:30AM

Eavesdropping passengers around us join in with their stories. We eventually piece together that the storm was so big, all eastbound flights were cancelled. It doesn’t look good but there is nothing I can do.  Shit happens, as they say. Hopefully I can reach London by Wednesday night.  I’m cool.

The other stranded passengers realize the same thing and after awhile people laugh and talk. We save spots for each other for toilet and food breaks.   Occasionally some hothead screams on his phone and those around him murmur in disapproval.

“Don’t be a dick,” smirks the groom.

As we enter the maze, we spot an elderly distressed Japanese couple with an increasing disgruntled rep.  They clearly don’t speak English.  Word passes down the line and a young woman volunteers to translate.  She quickly handles everything much to the couple’s relief.  We cheer the woman as the smiling couple departs and motion her to complete her business.  It’s a feel good moment and everybody looks at each other smiling.  I idly mused if enough people had playing cards we could break into bridge groups, or maybe do pinochle.  I’m cool.

12:30AM

I approach the airline rep.  Let’s call her She so I don’t call her something else.

“What’s you final destination?” She asks.

“London.”

“Well I can’t help you.  We only do domestic here.”  She’s mouth forms a grim line.

“But I had a connection in Ottawa.”

“Sorry, we only do domestic here. You’ll have to leave security and go to the international terminal or go to customer service in Concourse C.”

I stare at She.  “Are you SERIOUS?”

“Ma’am we only handle regional flights here.”

“My regional flight originated here.  This is where I was supposed to leave from.”

“But your final destination is London and that’s international.  You need to go to Concourse C.  She scowls.

“Are you seriously not going to help me after I’ve been standing in line for a hour and a half?   You want me to stand in another line?”

“There’s nothing I can do,” She spat.

I step away in complete astonishment.

‘She refuses to help me,” I say to the line.

“What?!” says the line.

“Yes? Did you say something?” She calls over.

“I can’t believe you’re refusing to help me!”

“Ma’am, you’ve got to go Concourse C. It’s that way!”  She points viciously.

Winston stirs in my bag.

“Rarf?” he asks.

“Shut up!” I snarl.  He goes back to sleep.

I’m so not cool.

 

12:45AM

I storm down into the not so funky multi-color lit people mover and up back all the way to Concourse C where customer service sits behind a maze behind a line literally gates long. I waylay a young pert rep supervisor in stilettos pretending everything is under control and tell her what happened.  “I don’t know why she wouldn’t help but we’re take care of you here,” she coos and beats a hasty retreat.

I queue with an old English lady who is as dotty as I am furious.  I compose a scathing but brilliantly crafted testimonial and indictment of the airline in my head.  An ironclad legal defense for airport rage blooms in my mind like an epiphany as I sense a Wednesday night arrival slipping away. I’m handed a voucher for a reduced hotel room; they do not reimburse for weather-related cancellations. The line inches and stalls, but mostly stalls.

Winston quivers with fear in my bag.

2:00AM

A young rep supervisor arrives but he’s not wearing stilettos.

“We’re taking about 25 people over to Concourse B. They handle domestic and international there,” the supervisor announces.  People tiredly drudge towards him like dying men to an oasis.

“But I was over in Concourse B and your rep refused to help me saying she didn’t handle international!  She REFUSED!  And I’ve been standing in lines for almost THREE HOURS!”  I am incandescent.

“What!”  The supervisor has the grace to look indignant.  “I don’t know why that happened.  You stay with me.”

I remain close as he organizes a group and issues order into his walkey-talkey.  He’s apparently a real honcho because other reps crowd around waiting for instruction.  Wild horses couldn’t tear me away from him now.  He marches us through Concourse C, down through the damn headache inducing multi-color lit people mover and back up to Concourse B.  The crowd is herded to the scene of the crime.  He barks more orders; it’s almost time to shut down operations and send the reps home.

The supervisor shepherds me past gates looking for particular people.  He finds an older rep willing to help me when she hears my story although she’s technically off duty. Let’s call her Ms. Wonderful.  Ms. W. exudes experience and compassion and I deflate like a balloon.  She motions me to a terminal and gets to work.

2:50AM

I drape myself across the counter in exhaustion as she searches and mutters. Ms. W. discovers the issue is how to get me out of the country.  The eastbound cancellations also affect international hubs in Atlanta, Philadelphia, New York and New Jersey.  I can’t get a flight on any other carrier either direct or non-direct. My heart sinks.  The trip is quickly turning into an expensive long weekend abroad.  I debate whether to give up and go home.  Winston stirs.  I groan.  Ms. W. offers two options from which to choose.  Winston peers out with interest.  I decide to sally forth and pick option B: an early flight to Reagan Airport in Washington D.C., shuttle to Dulles Airport, and then a night flight to London.  I would arrive Thursday morning, and still see the show that night.  This trip can still be salvaged.  I’m proud of my optimism and persistence. Winston harrumphs and goes back to sleep.  Little bastard.

3:15AM

I wear a fleece hoody zipped to my neck but I’m cold.  The airport AC had been set to 32F after all.  People wrap themselves in blankets which are flying off the shelves at the only open drug store in the terminal.  I rush in and get one for myself.  Starbucks is also open, selling hot coffee by the vat.  I decide caffeine now is a bad idea.

3:30AM

I walk miles up and down the concourse, wrapped in a blanket with a phone in one hand and an AC cord in the other looking for an available outlet to recharge the damn thing.  I see bundled shapes huddled by plugs, sometimes hogging two, recharging their phones, iPads and laptops. It’s every geek for himself.  I eye a spare outlet but a shape moves and gives me the evil eye.  I move on.  I find a spare and plug in, but realize I need to guard the phone.  It’s so cold.  I give up after half a hour.

4:15AM

I walk up and down the concourse looking for a place to sleep.  It made no sense to pay for a hotel since the flight was at 7:30AM.  Sleeping bodies lie everywhere, on seats, on the floor, across a stage, up against pillars.  I’d seen newscasts showing hundreds of travelers trapped in airports and wondered what it as like.  I wonder no more.  Finally I spot a row of armless seats not under an air vent.  Mummifying myself in the blanket and using the bag as a pillow, I stretch out and slip into semi-unconsciousness.

Winston snores.

 

NEXT: London or Bust