London Trip 1

We fell asleep last night around 9:45, fifteen minutes shy of my goal. I’d sworn I would make it until 10, but with only twenty minutes on the plane and a 30-minute nap in the hotel after we’d checked in, I was going on less than an hour of sleep in a day-and-a-half. Thirteen hours and a complimentary breakfast later, I think we’ve worked most of the jet lag from our systems.

The trip was uneventful. Our flight went smoothly and arrived on time. I’d arranged transportation from Gatwick to our hotel, and, so, soon after gathering our luggage we were greeted by a middle-aged woman with a sign, who led us across the north terminal as quickly as her little legs would carry her before handing us off to one of her colleagues, another middle-aged woman who also walked faster than I typically jog. The very model of English efficiency, they were. Our flight, by the way, kept Joanna’s and my streak alive: we can’t remember the last time we took a trip together and didn’t run into some sort of celebrity. This time it was Pos from De La Soul, who’s in town for a week-long engagement at the Jazz Cafe.

With two hours to kill before our room was ready, we dropped off our bags and wandered through the Egypt and Greece rooms at the British Museum. Three quick observations. (I’m sure we’ll spend more time there this week, when we aren’t delirious from sleep deprivation.) First, the sheer number of artifacts there is overwhelming. I think I would actually prefer there to be, say, ten Assyrian reliefs rather than fifty. It’s too much to process and, in a strange way, makes each one less significant. Relief, relief, relief, relief — okay, I get it already. Second, and on a related note, until seeing examples side by side, it had never occurred to me how remarkable it is that the style of writing/art remained relatively consistent in Egypt over the span of centuries. To my untrained eye, artifacts from 2500 b.c. were indistinguishable from those of 600 years later.

Third, there’s something disturbing (but also interesting, theoretically) about the numbers of people who, rather than looking at artifacts in a museum, instead look at the small LCDs of their digital cameras and camcorders. The experience seems to only become meaningful to them when mediated by technology. Are they more interested in capturing the experience than in the experience itself?

While Joanna took a nap yesterday afternoon, I took my first stroll down Charing Cross Road. It does my heart good to know that somewhere in the world, on one city block, one can buy a new copy of Tarkovsky’s Sculpting in Time in three different book stores. Used copies can also probably be had. Foyle’s alone carries four titles by/about Abbas Kiarostami! If it weren’t for the shitty state of the dollar over here, I would have had to buy another carry-on just for my haul from that one street.

Today, Easter Sunday, much of the city has closed shop, so we’re going to head toward St. Paul’s. I’m not sure what we’ll end up doing, but it’s wonderful to be in a city in which I could see any of the following:

  • Hawks double-bill, Bringing Up Baby and To Have and Have Not (Curzon Mayfair)
  • Armenia double-bill, Ararat and The Genocide in Me (Curzon Soho)
  • American ’70s double-bill, Cabaret and Annie Hall (Curzon Soho)
  • Rivette, L’Amour Fou (National Film theatre)
  • Modernism double-bill, The Crowd and Metropolis (National Film Theatre)
  • Contemporary double-bill, The Beat that My Heart Skipped and The Consequences of Love (Phoenix)
  • Polanski, Repulsion (Ritzy Cinema)
  • Classic double-bill, Le Mepris and Black Orpheus (Riverside)
  • Haneke double-bill, Code Unknown and Cache

Two great meals so far: gyoza and yaki soba at Wagamama; pizza at Strada.