Thursday, June 21, 2012

we happy few

I was excited to have lunch today with my friend Frank Christianson, who arrived yesterday to lead the BYU Study Abroad program. Frank and I  have been talking for months about how excited we were to  be crossing paths over here, and we realize now that we're only crossing paths for about three days total. So much for our big plans. So we settled for Wagamama's. If we do nothing else over here, we can at least say we shared some overpriced noodles and guzzled some tepid Diet Coke. Frank is one of the smartest people I know, and his students are so lucky. He's also willing to see truly horrific movies with me back in Provo, and for that I will always be a loyal fan. He is the only person I know who both played football for BYU and knows just about everything there is to know about Queen Victoria. Isn't that a fascinating combination? That's Frank.

I've been meaning to see the Queen exhibit at the Portrait Gallery just about every day I've been here, and so I figured today might be it. So I went. And it was really fascinating. To celebrate the Jubilee, the exhibit follows the Queen through each decade of her monarchy. The early years, the Diana years, the scarf years....everything was there in photographic detail. Here are the portraits I especially liked:

Cecil Beaton

Dorothy Wilding

Jamie Reed

Justin Mortimer

Lucian Freud

Annie Leibovitz

After this I wandered around the Portrait Gallery and found a neat little room dedicated to Isabella Blow. She was this socialite/fashion magazine editor who wore giant hats and said a lot of crazy things. I mostly know her as that kooky lady who corners Steve Zissou in the hall after his documentary screening and tells him that it was not a success. She then says "Congrats....seriously." There were some really interesting photos of her. She poisoned herself with weedkiller a few years ago.

After this I headed out into the rain, and immediately sought shelter again. Luckily I was just a few paces away from the St. Martins-in-the-Field Crypt cafe, which my friend Janice Johnson keeps harassing me to visit. So I did. It was warm in there, and I had some tasty apple pie. No offense, Janice, but I couldn't help but notice that everyone else down in that cafe was 80 or older. It's kind of a geriatric vibe down there. And considering it's a crypt, it sort of felt like everyone was down there to get a head start.

But I did have a nice few moments upstairs in the church, where I listened to a small chamber orchestra play. I could hear the rain thundering on the roof of St. Martin's, but then it eased up and I knew it was safe to go out again. That was the theme of the day: rain some, dry some. It came and went in spectacular clouds, and you always needed to have an umbrella at the ready. Which I did.

On my way to the Globe tonight I crossed paths with Mark Rylance. He was pedaling quickly by on his bike, but our eyes met for a moment and I wondered if he remembered me. It's been a long time. In a flash, all of my memories of Mark came back: the poses, the cold March air, the wedding band. If you don't know what I'm talking about, well, that's a better story in person. Trust me. And I'm happy to tell it! Mark pedaled on.

I saw Henry V tonight starring Jamie Parker, and I thought it was really, really solid. I was excited to see this, since I saw Henry IV parts I and II two years ago in a marathon six hour staging. So it was sort of like seeing the threequel; I felt like I've watched my little Henry growing up. Parker was just as fantastic, charismatic, and powerful as he was two years ago. He's going to be a major talent. Mark my words. He is so engaging to watch and holds the audience in the palms of his hand.

I sat in Gentlemen's Box P, which was fortunate since I wasn't standing in the yard when the rain hit again. I stayed nice and dry. But it was also unfortunate, because the smoochy couple behind me got really drunk and made out for the entire second half. And then both kept talking in that really loud, dumb, drunk voice. You know the one? I gave a few crusties, but the couple in front of me sent full-on stink eyes. That was fun to watch. "One more dumb drunk word," said their eyes, "and I will cut you." But the advantage of sitting up in Gents Box P was that I got to watch the audience. And how great is it to see a theatre packed with groundlings who sigh at kissing, clap at archery, dance with the jigs, and cheer at the battle of Agincourt? I watched the wonder and joy on their faces and missed, for a few minutes, my friends Daniel and Alex, with whom I shared the groundling pit so many times.