Saturday, May 24, 2003

London calling-and I don't wanna shout
But when we were talking-I saw you nodding out
London calling, see we ain't got no highs
Except for that one with the yellowy eyes

"Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of American Airlines, I'd like to welcome you to London, England."

With those words, I started the full-time chapter of my law school career. It had already been a long day, and it wasn't over yet.

I woke up about nine, thinking of all the things I seemingly had to do before my parents came to take me to the airport. My parents wound up coming at one-thirty, a full hour and a half earlier than originally planned, and half an hour earlier than they'd told me only hours before. Fortunately, although I'd gone out to lunch, I'd gotten home sooner than expected (which turned out to be good, although admitting to going out to lunch when your parents think they're taking you to lunch is a bad thing).

Despite it being a Holiday Friday, there was hardly any traffic, and we made it to the airport in record time. The flight from Chicago to London was uneventful, and although J had told me we were seated across the aisle from each other, it turned out we were next to each other (and I was the lucky one on the aisle). J was supremely disappointed that American was charging for alcoholic drinks, since he'd hoped to get plastered on the plane (a policy I've come to appreciate more in recent days). I was disappointed in the movie selections. While I'd read that the airlines, in a cost-cutting mood, were getting away from first-run features, I didn't realize that it meant that far away. Evelyn, starring Pierce Brosnan, was the only one I was familiar with, save Doctor Who, but that film little resembled the TV show I'd watched in high school with some fascination (and a healthy dose of detachment from reality, since the special effects were often lacking). Thank God for multiple Spin City episodes and a good book. I even tried to sleep, but found I still can't sleep on an airplane.

The time I like is the rush hour
'cause I like the rush
The pushing of the people
I like it oh so much
Such a mass of motion
Do not know where it goes
I move with the movement and
I have the touch

I love London - the smells, the sights, the sounds - the whole city has a cosmopolitan character unlike any other. Walk through Leicester Square on any given evening, and you'll think the whole world has stopped by. Pass by the Official Half Price Ticket Booth and listen to a woman from Germany babble on to her girlfriend while animatedly gesturing. Whatever she's talking about, it's certainly worked her up. Keep walking, passing the All-One bar, and marvel at the lengths and types of skirts (mostly short & leather) on the myriad of women waiting to get in. Close by, there's a couple arguing in French, and even though you don't understand one word of what's being said, he's losing. Ahead is a building marked 'Switzerland', and you tell your companion that when you first came to London, it was a glockenspiel store, with a gigantic glockenspiel outside which chimed on the hour. Leave out your disappointment when you'd noticed on a later trip that it had closed. Turn right, and two Americans debate whether or not they should see a movie, or head to a play. Further along, the Muslim couple walks - she covered head-to-toe in burka, and walking dutifully behind him - neither of them speaking, just looking around. You wonder what they think of the hustle & bustle. Around, in front and behind you are all sorts of hucksters, from the various buskers to the robot-man, from the shills handing out concert leaflets, to the guy informing everyone in a loud voice "Returns! Returns! We've just had some returns for this evening. We've just had some returns for this evening!" In between all this is a cacophony of languages of every kind, and manner of dress to match, from the formal right down to the informal. From rich to poor, everyone seems to have come out to Leicester Square.

And so it was this evening, as I dragged J out for dinner. We'd managed to waste the day shopping for SIM cards on Oxford street, and even though it was early by European standards for dinner (7 pm), we still had to wait at the pseudo-Mexican restaurant we chose. Forty-five minutes of standing around, beer in hand led J to conclude that no pretty women existed in London, save foreigners. I noticed two women near us, one cute, the other average, and just as I did, two blokes made a lame pickup attempt using the old "it's my mate's birthday, don't you 'ave a kiss for him, love?" line. It got them conversation, but no kiss. Later, after we'd been seated, the same two girls were seated next to us. I managed to strike up a conversation, and an unexciting evening turned out very enjoyable. As we went back to the hotel, I looked forward to finally getting some sleep.

Little did I know the fire alarm would go off three hours later.

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