Monday, July 25, 2011

city portraits

After class this morning I was going to have a little nap. Teaching wears me out, and I look forward to not talking for a little while after two hours of doing it. Plus, I really wanted to eat this donut I had purchased earlier. But then Daniel texted "bike ride?" and I remembered the lesson London always teaches me: I can sleep when I'm dead. So we went on a bike ride.

The Barclay's Bikes are my new London find. They are the best. You pay a pound and you ride basically anywhere you need to go on these really comfortable beach cruisers. And there are docking stations all over town, so you can ride where you need to, park where you need to, and get places faster. Plus, it's so fun. The only downside is that every time I ride these bikes, now, I can't stop singing that muppet "Why Shouldn't We Ride?" song in my head. Thanks, Robbie! But as a downside, it's not that bad. Another downside: you have to ride on the road and the taxis get really close. But it's all part of the excitement!

Dan and Heather and I rode to Holland Park, a really nice place just northwest of where we live. I haven't been to Holland Park for a few years, and it was good to get back. Always nice landscaping and beautiful gardens, and I get to see some of my special friends. Including this guy, who takes his shirt off and sits in a chair.
But as I mentioned, Holland Park is really nice. So great to just sit on a bench for a few minutes and think. I liked that a lot. And I think I mentioned it, but I'm a little obsessed with the Barclay's Bikes.

The group convened and we departed for Westminster Abbey, but wouldn't you know it? When we got there we found 40 million people had the same idea. I've never seen a line like that at the Abbey. Oh, Kate Middleton. What hath she wrought? So we changed plans and walked through St. James to the National Gallery. Actually, I went to the National Portrait Gallery, my favorite art gallery in London. I saw some great pics of people I admire:

Bill Nighy, an actor from I Capture the Castle, Love Actually, and the Harry Potter movies.

Christopher Nolan, director of Inception and The Dark Knight.
And I always like to see the BP Portrait Award winners. Here are two I really liked:

After this we wandered over to Covent Garden. Well, first we spent some time in Neals Yard, where Greg narrated Cherie's documentary with all kinds of false information about Neals Yard.

Then we visited the always pungent Neals Yard cheese shop, and had samples and smelled cheese.
Then we laid on the grass of the actors church and I don't know what everyone else did then, because I fell asleep. I know everybody ate. When we woke up I saw this:
And then we saw a bum fight, and then we saw a man on stilts in his underpants, and then we saw those naked baby globes again, and then we saw a girl singing opera, and then we saw a lady with an incredibly foul mouth in the Covent Garden tube station lift. We saw lots of things, none of which I took pictures of, because sometimes I just need to process them. There was a lot to process.

Tonight we saw Lend Me a Tenor, a fantastic musical written by my good friend Peter Sham. It's crazy and exciting to see my friends working in the West End, and I'm proud of Peter for getting a show into the Gielgud Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue. That's the big time! It was a fantastic show. So funny, so tight, and so cleverly staged. The singing was incredible, and the pacing was perfect. I really loved it, and I was proud to drop Peter's name.
A spooky thing happened at intermission, and I would be remiss if I didn't mention it. Greg and I were wandering the theatre looking for a famous painting of a cat - it's hidden somewhere in the theatre. While we were looking an old creaky door swung open on it's own, just feet away from us. We approached it. By this time another student, Morgan Fenner, had joined us. Since I faithfully watch Ghost Hunters I've learned to address whatever it was directly:

"Hello," I said. "I noticed you opened that door. Could you do it again?" Immediately, the door cracked open.

"Great. Thank you. Could you do it again for me?" Immediately, another crack open.

We waited a bit and didn't say anything. Nothing happened. Then Greg said "I bet it won't happen again." And immediately it cracked open again.

We left, but came back to the doors a few minutes later. We were too curious and had to make sure it wasn't just air pressure or coincidence.

"Are you a boy?" I asked. The door opened about an inch.

"If you are a boy, could you do that again?" The door opened about three inches.

That was it. It was so awesome! I love ghosts and yes, I believe in them. Life's too short not to. Especially in creepy old theatres. And trust me, this was not air pressure. We checked everything.

But back to the show. Afterwards the stage manager, thanks to my good friend Peter again, took us all onto the stage and back behind the scenes. It was exciting to be up there and see how everything operates. It made the West End feel even more tangible, and you realize that it's not all that different from the work we do back home. And then the three male leads, Matthew Kelly, Damian Humbley, and Michael Matus came out and talked with us for a good half hour. They were so gracious and kind to the students. They gave wonderful advice and had solid insights that I think my students needed to hear. It was just a really great evening, and gave us all a sense of excitement and a burst of creative encouragement.