Monday, August 11, 2008

And he's off!

I know, it seems ridiculous that I’ve stayed in England for so long…. My gawd, it’s been over two months, but who’s counting?
Mostly, just to set the record straight, I have no been performing at the Fringe, nor have I merely been eating Marmite on toast and sipping tea. Rather, I’ve been trying to help my friend Sally sort out her affairs as she is starting to make a move back to the States after living in England for over 20 years. (That’s a lot of sorting!)
What’s so funny about England is that once the weather almost starts to get nice, and they have a proper summer with fairly decent blue skies and warm weather – they all head out to foreign countries on vacations and miss the best part of the year! Indeed, because of the current economics, many are staying closer to home and taking “beach holidays,” but it still strikes me as “uniquely British.”
The other thing you start to notice are the skin colors: The Brits at this time of the year tend to be one of two skin tones…. Orange or pink. Orange from having a fake tan put on, or pink from having a bit of the sun finally.

I spent a great day with my (one and only true) nephew, Grady. He was over here with a group doing a grand tour of Europe, and we were able to spend a day in London together. He’s a high school English teacher near Philadelphia, and a very cool kid at that. We did a mad dash through three, count ‘em, British museums, all in one afternoon: the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery and the British Museum. He loved that the Rosetta stone was just “there,” and seeing Van Gogh’s up close for the first time is also exhilarating. Then we chilled in Russell Square over some beers before having an excellent Italian dinner – the best meal he’d had in England, which isn’t saying much considering it was only his second day here. (I did assure him that it probably would be the best, however.)
I did, of course, see “Dark Knight,” and thought it was fascinating if not a bit long. I don’t know how the movie is being marketed in the States, but it’s distressing what they’re doing over here. There’s a Burger King commercial that seems to play constantly where this kid on a bus refuses to give up his seat to an old lady with shopping bags. He laments his bad manners, but the tag line is something like “give in to your dark side,” and they’re trying to sell some horrible hamburger with hot sauce and spicy cheese. What is the purpose, in this day and age, with telling our youth that it’s good or fun to be an asshole. No wonder…… oh whoops, I’m sounding like an old man.
Comedians here love to take sucker punches at Obama and McCain. Partly, it surprises me that they know (and care) so much about US politics. (Quick, tell me a Gordon Brown or David Cameron joke!) They often refer to Obama as “the black man” and they find it hilarious that McCain can’t raise his arms up past his shoulders, due to military injuries. (Let’s just agree that British and American humor tends to be somewhat different. Brits think they’re quite witty and they see American humor as inane and immature.)
Two “big” shows coming up on BBC are “Convert Me” where some guy is going to try and convert people to Christianity in three weeks – no joke. The other is “Maestro,” which is a reality talent show where people compete to be the best orchestra conductor.
There was also a disgusting show that exposed the sandwich-making industry in the UK. They’re mad for their sammies and you can purchase them almost anywhere. The worst, perhaps not surprisingly, were the ones from Subway. (The meatball marinara had the same amount of sodium as something like 18 bags of potato chips.) They also had an undercover photographer taking movies of the deplorable sanitary conditions at one sandwich kitchen. Let’s just say I haven’t been eating a lot of sandwiches lately.
It does seem that, between the UK and the EU, there are lots more rules here… They both loves their safety and health ordinances, sometimes to the point of ridiculous. An ambulance driver was ticketed for leaving his ambulance in a no parking zone, while he was inside a store saving some guys life. The kicker was that they wouldn’t back off and tear up the ticket. I could go on and on…..

My friend Michael Aisner was in London, after having gone to Russia to follow his passion: eclipse chasing. He’s seen eight full eclipses already, and has his ninth planned. It’s quite an art, knowing where to be for maximum darkness, plus all the planning that goes into it, etc. We had a quick breakfast with his friend Tom Milsom, a soon-to-be famous musician and artist from Surrey.
I'm really going to miss hanging out in London with my pal Bill Stafford. He and I have known each other for years (he and I both worked at the Rocky Mountain News at one point), and he's now living in London working for Visa credit cards -- a great gig where he travels to Russia, Dubai and South Africa! We've gone on day trips and explored some of London, and it's sad to have to say goodbye to him.... but that's the way of the vagabond.

Again, I don’t know if it’s the same in the States, but McDonald’s has gone “Olympic mad” over here with (gulp) an Oriental Burger and even egg rolls on the menu. (Isn’t Oriental non-pc these days??)
Alas, it seems as though the Olympics become nothing more than “metal counting,” and the papers here give daily reports on who’s got the most gold, silver and bronze.
I’ll have to keep up with the Olympics and everything else online, however, because yes I’m finally leaving England! I’m taking the Eurostar tomorrow (Tuesday Aug 12) to Paris, and then taking the train down to Dijon where my friend Cliff Young will pick me up. I’ll spend a few days with he and his wife Sherry at their beautiful home in the heart of Burgundy, and then I’m looking to make my way to (probably) Genoa, Italy to grab a ferry to Tunisia. I’ve gone up and down, and had many thoughts about where I was headed next, but I basically came back to the original plan, and I’m focusing on going to places I’ve never been. To wit, I’m hoping to get to Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and Israel, all in the next six to eight weeks…….. Wish me luck.
I have some ideas about what I’ll do after that, but I need to light a few more candles and dream a little more before I say anything.
Thanks for listening, and keep those cards and emails coming in!