Tuesday, July 30, 2013

forty one

I was happy to be back in London for my birthday. I love Paris, but I always feel like London is home base. If I want to do something on a whim, London is far more manageable than Paris is.
I started the day off by saying goodbye to Jason Barker, who was just with us for a little over a week. We will miss him. He was a funny, happy and easy traveler, and he quickly became part of our group. I know he was excited to return to the world of cell reception and giant cups of ice, but I think he was sad to say goodbye to us as well. We already miss him.

I had a little breakfast at the Petit Delice near our flats. I usually don’t want to spend much money on breakfast because I never wake up that hungry. But today I did it, because I’m 41 and a growing boy. I had a nice apricot tart and a hot chocolate, and I caught up on some emails in quiet. The rain pattered steadily out in Kynance Place.

Massive thanks to Joshua Valdez who made my birthday special. He insisted that we buy a joint pass to Madame Tussaud's and The London Eye, two major tourist attractions that I shamefully have never done. Well, now I’ve done them. They are radically different, but both have much to recommend themselves.

Madame Tussaud's is exactly what you expect. The waxworks are pretty funny and it’s great to get up to celebrities and see how short they are and how ugly their noses are. I started taking pictures with the stars, but then I turned my focus onto the stars I really dislike. I felt like I was being given a license to show them how I really feel about them. Hence, these pictures in my celebrity Hall of Shame:
Tom Cruise, ugh.

Jim Carrey, not funny

Robin Williams, irritating

Madonna, irritating

There’s also a terrific little ride where you jump in a mini-taxi and take a journey through time! Mostly London time. You see all the little epochs of London history from the Great Fire of 1666 to Carnaby Street in the 60’s. Curiously, you finish at a giant merry-go-round with a bunch of waxwork children spinning around with evil, frozen grins all over their faces.

There is also a torture chamber that is pretty gruesome and unnerving, and a hallway where actors jump out at you and scream. It’s actually fairly scary but mostly funny and ridiculous. At one point I touched a padded wall and an actor screamed at me and accused me of being a “wall pervert.”

After we finished the wax museum I was starving and told Josh that I would kill for a little Pizza Express. The birthday fairy granted my request: there was a Pizza Express just around the corner on Baker Street! This story is not as miraculous as it seems, however, since there’s a Pizza Express around every corner in London. Who cares! La Reine on a flat crust.
Next up, the London Eye! This is that giant ferris wheel overlooking the Thames. I’ve literally never been in it. Not sure why, though the price probably scared me off and I would only be really interested in it if it spun faster or lit up with club lighting and strobes. Or if every compartment contained a ghost or a murderer. All the same, it was calm, beautiful, and much more impressive than I expected. The sun finally broke through the drizzle and not a moment too soon. Hungerford Bridge and the Parliament Building looked pretty amazing.

Josh and I spent a little time at the British Film Institute bookstore, and then did the same thing at the National Theatre Bookstore. I bought a copy of The Collaborators, a fantastic play I saw last year and hope to someday direct.
We only had a short time left before we needed to meet the group at Covent Garden, so we walked over the Blackfriars Bridge, picked up some pastries at Greggs, and then hijacked a little table at Somerset house. The fountains were on and off and we saw several people get unsuspectingly wet. We threw food at pigeons and debated the merits of Fanta. Then we both took a catnap right there in the square, which is exactly what a man my age should do. When I woke up a pigeon had bravely landed on our table and was snacking on my chicken pasty.

We had a terrific dinner with the whole group at Wagamama’s on Tavistock Street, and had a great visit with Joe and Suzy Fox, who we randomly ran into. I had the ginger chicken and tried Edamame for the first time. (SPOILER: it’s just peas with salt on them.)At one point at the meal Aubrey presented me with a gift from the students: just enough money to buy one of the super fancy shirts I spotted on Ice Cream Island in Paris! They had all pitched in. I was very touched. They made me promise to wear it at our first Company Call this Fall at UVU. And I will!

Tonight we saw The Cripple of Inishmaan starring our favorite little magical boy, Daniel Radcliffe. What a sweet, funny, and oddly dark play this is. Harry Potter plays Cripple Billy, an Irish lad with a physical disability so pronounced that he lurches around the stage and zig zags through his scenes. I was very impressed with his physical work in the play. I totally believed it. Cripple Billy gets discovered by a Hollywood director and the rest of the play explores how his little island village responds to it. It’s such a gem of a play. Funny, sad, and even a little cruel, it’s one of the best written plays I’ve seen at some time.

At intermission Josh and I made a hasty retreat to the men’s room and, in our haste, came face to face with Gerard Butler. Holy crap, he’s handsome. I instantly became a quivering lady.

After the show was over we headed to the Stage Door to catch a glimpse of Daniel Radcliffe, but there were 1400 pre-teen girls already there. I tried to distract them by shouting “Look, it’s Taylor Lautner!” but it only shut them up for a few minutes and nobody budged out of the line. When Harry finally came out he was swarmed with screams and cellphones, and unfortunately he’s so short that most of the girls never even saw him. Me, being a grown man, was able to get my camera up high enough to get a shot. That’s what it means to be forty one. You are tall enough to see magical midgets!