Friday, January 23, 2009

Ars Britannia

My goodness, the National Gallery is absolutely massive. I'm going to have to make a return visit there, simply because I didn't get to see and enjoy it all. After four hours, art fatigue began to set in.

Trafalgar Square is a fine sight, when you're not taking shelter from flocks of pigeons. I made my way out to the island in front of Nelson's statue and spire, and felt very hemmed in by the traffic surrounding me on all sides.

I got a bit confused with the tube system and decided to hop on over to Leicester Square until I got my bearings. There I came across a fantastic alleyway full of used book stores. One of them was giving away free calendars, to one of which I helped myself. There was a store, Pleasures of Past Times, specializing in theatre that I went into, but I had to leave in short order because the shopkeeper was going off to lunch. We got to talking a bit about Shakespeare--among the collection are programs for old productions--and he encouraged me to go see Twelfth Night. He had to kick me out, but he gave me his business card, which uses the word "twixt" when giving his lunch hour. I'm going to try to make it back there tomorrow and see how much one of those programs costs.

Outside the Leicester Square station a guy hawking maps was barking, "Anybody lost? I've got information!" As soon as I start feeling lost trying to find my way back, I just used him as a reference point.

Around 7 I took off to wander the city. The police were set up in Bayswater station, and later, I saw, around Soho. I don't know why. I got off the tube in Oxford Circus, and in my travels covered ground in Soho, Westminster, Covent Garden, and ended up in the Leicester Square station after munching on some garlic bread in an Italian restaurant that was playing the Pulp Fiction soundtrack.

London is striking in the frankness of its sexuality. I defy anyone to show me a payphone that isn't covered in stickers advertising sex hotlines. The magazine racks all have bare breasts displayed on the top racks, and Soho has a whole strip of "Licensed Sex Shops." It's a nice change from American puritanism. As if a couple of bippies are going to bore a hole in childrens' eyes.

I love the tube system now, and it confounds me that America is so behind in its public transit.

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