If I seem to disappear off of people’s radar now and then it’s only because I’m deep into working on it now…that or I’ve been sucked into a black hole, either one…
mollymillions asked: I am so very proud of you, and I am proud to call you friend, Kris. :D I am completely caught up here now, and I am sorry about your knee, but I am willing to bet you looked dashing with a cane! Keep on working, writing, and plotting. The end result be completely worth it! <3
Thanks for your kind words - I will not stop until it’s done!!!
Post with 1 note
Okay, so over the past month I have made many trips in my tiny car to move my belongings to a new locale, which I have successfully done. (Thanks to those who have helped!) My job situation has mostly been taken care of - I am now on the Dole. Still, this gives me time enough to work on this massive project and still do things like eat. I have been transcribing interviews and seeking new ones and gathering information all the while (and actually writing content!) I want this to be special, and I won’t give up, no matter what!
Well, I was given legal advice that I should take down my last post concerning my employers in case of a libel suit. Suffice it to say that there are delays in writing this book due to massive changes in my personal life involving moving and finding a new job. Stay tuned…
So I must report that the Monday of the British Museum did not start out spectacularly well. It was low-key enough. The weather actually seemed as if it wanted to both dawn bright and clear and damn well stay that way! Now, as I have mentioned in the past on this blog, I injured my knee New Years eve. I had momentarily dislocated it, which really wrenched my Lateral Collateral Ligament, (LCL) The Patellar Tendon,(PTL) and my Medial Collateral Ligament. (MCL) This, plus the Quadriceps muscles and some of the muscles around the tibia are hard pressed to compensate. The LCL, PTL, and MCL are major stabilisers of the knee, and without their support - the leg has a tendency to be tricky.
My leg decided to trick me this morning. It had happened once before I had left and was not pleasant. It wasn’t as bad as the initial injury which was quite hard to deal with for several days - and then 2 weeks of walking with a cane and constant icing! No, not that bad - but still massively annoying.
I was walking down these tiny steep steps to the breakfast area, my backback hanging off my left shoulder instead of centered on my back - over the leg in question. Something inside my knee just misaligned the wrong way and -
I collapsed on the stairs with a grimace of pain.
I am very grateful to Michael, one of the two Australians recently arrived at the lodge, who kind of arrived out of nowhere to take my bag and help me up. It wasn’t so bad I couldn’t stand on it or walk, but it was something I had been dreading would happen throughout the whole trip. Oh well, nevermind - I would just have to walk around London that way, for today was the British Museum!
We inquired as to the best station for the British Museum, and were told Russell Square, so - Russell Square it was. The reassuring voice of the train operator reassured us several reassuring times that all lines were clear and open. Of course they were - we weren’t in a hurry to make a meeting. Oh no, this was no Ordeal, this ride (other than my knee).
Russell Square station led past Hotel Russel and ultimately past the eponymous park square in what really felt like a busy district - like a proper city area. Here’s a bit of info -
The park square itself was very nice - fenced in by the ever present iron gates. A man stretched out on his back on the grass, enjoying the sun beaming down onto his shaded eyes. A gaggle of school children seemed to be enjoying a break around the fountain in the center. A long awaited sight formed before my very own eyes as two actual London Bobbies complete with Bobby Helmets strode towards and past me. Their expressions were a bit grim and they seemed to have some important location to get to in a hurry so I didn’t take their picture. Plus they were a little on the weighty side. (Discovered this later: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2115335/Fat-cop-crackdown-Police-officers-unfit-beat-face-pay-cut—later-retirement-looms-current-head.html)
Eventually, we came across the huge area that was home to the British museum.
Seen through the massive iron gates with gold-painted spikes on top - the museum doesn’t seem so large. Why, those windows can’t be that big, and those pillars - why, we have capital buildings that have those in America!
Looking straight on through the gate entrance, one STILL doesn’t quite get the scale of the thing. It’s a long walk up to that entrance, and you might need 5 or 6 people holding hands to encircle one of those pillars!
The Entrance Court defies these pictures. It’s a huge cylinder with a glass ceiling that stretches all around. It’s sections merely warp with the geometry due to the perspective.
The major exhibit there was the “Heart of Islam”. We didn’t even get to see all of it, as we tried to take in as much of the museum’s standard exhibits as possible. The place is so huge and sprawling, that you really have to grab a map and make a plan of attack. (I’d rather not follow a docent around) So the first thing we did was try to find one of the many cafes inside. We chose the one seen in grey at the lower left hand corner on this map.
We chose some nice curry with yellow rice and peas. I chose a ginger brew I had not tried yet. Now - at this point I suppose I must confess - I am not a big alcohol drinker. I’m sure this drove my friend Carson to distraction, as he enjoys the fine brew from all over the many lands he has visited. I’m not a teetotaler or anything like that - shove a beer or glass of wine or shot glass in my hand and I will probably drink it - I just don’t seek it out. I’ve never craved the taste or the effects. So what I did was this: I went on a tour of Ginger Brews and Ales wherever I went. I must have tried about 12 different kinds, and confused traditional British pub owners everywhere I went. Most of them gave me the exact same expression, as if they’d all trained together at the same school of incredulity. Anyways - this one was rather strong and made me sneeze a lot. The walls of the cafe were adorned with huge Chinese watercolor Zen paintings of fish. You could easily break the painting down into the individual brush strokes that formed the fish, and then let your eyes settle back to see the whole. It was very relaxing. Like watching fish.
Then it was time to go exploring!
I have always had a soft spot in my heart for Egyptology. This interest was no doubt fueled by things such as Doctor Who’s “The Pyramids of Mars” and the planet Kobol from the original Battlestar Galactica. Much, much later the Stargate series - all attempts to give the Egyptian culture an alien origin, which is clever - but ultimately it kind of takes away from the fact that we humans made these things possible. Old Mummy movies should be mentioned, especially “Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb”, which is a Hammer Horror film based on a Bram Stoker novel. I recall watching documentaries about the Howard Carter expedition, and the “curse” of Tutenkhamen. In fact, the British Museum has the third largest collection of Egyptian artifacts behind the Cairo Museum and the Vatican! This is because a large number of Egyptian discoveries were all made by British archaeologists.
These two huge statuary were both of Amenhotep III - the father of the famous Akhenaton, or Ikhnaton, who briefly started the world’s first monotheistic religion.
This one is for my friend Hannah, who is very much into the Horus Falcon symbolism at the moment. I was trying to emulate the serious and noble bird-of-prey, but with the lighting I just end up looking a bit scary!
Carson, standing in front of the Rosetta Stone.
Assyrian Gateway Human Headed Winged Lions ‘Lamassu’ from the North West Palace of Ashurnasirpal II in Nimrud.
Balawat Gates. The gates measured about 20 feet in height and belonged to the temple of Mamu, the god of dreams.
Lely’s Venus guarded the entrance to the Greek-Hellenic artifacts, which was closed on this day for renovations.
After browsing through some of the downstairs, we decided to go upstairs where the mummies were kept. I always thought it strange that so much work went into the detail of things that were never meant to be seen again by human eyes.
This one is for my friends Shawn and Christa, who have a tendency to keep the cremated remains of their cats around in urns. For them, I present this method of preserving those precious memories.
The Egyptian mummies led into the Celtic relics, which of course over time had a large Roman influence. The museum displayed the remains of very well preserved men from both the Egyptian period and the Celtic (The famous “Bog Man”). Both of these fellows looked as if any second they’d turn over and remark “Can’t you see I’m trying to sleep? Go away!”
All the free-standing objects had “Do Not Touch the Artifacts” signs everywhere you went. So I suppose in order to satiate the tactile urge, the Museum had a really nice feature. A guy in a chair at a desk. Actually, a really nice guy named Samuel, who had several objects before him that you were allowed to touch.
This little guy I am holding in my hand is an unidentified celtic Male, made from a copper-alloy, about 1800 years old. “Go on, guess what it was used for”. Samuel quizzed. “Devotional”, I replied. Apparently, of the hundreds of people he had seen for weeks I was the first one to get it right. Samuel was 25, worked in the restaurant industry, and wanted to go to school for archaeology. Good job for it.
We made a mad dash through different time zones in history - so many gold coins, goblets, jewelry, weapons. I think after 3 hours we made it to the Crimean War period!
This one is for all my Steampunk friends. It’s an incredible Carillon Clock with automata made by Issac Habrecht starting in 1574 and finished in 1589. It was based after the great clock in Strasbourg Cathedral, and designed by Conrad Dasypdius - a mathematician at Strasbourg University. Every hour it plays music: Vater Unser (‘Our Father’), written by Martin Luther. Unfortunately, I was not able to capture a good likeness - the limitations of my camera, people constantly standing near it, etc. It comes out looking rather flat and it had an amazing luster. Here is a much better picture.
Ah ha! Fooled you! This is NOT one of the objects in the British Museum, but is in fact a lamp back at the Palmer Lodge. Not resembling a lamp so much as a large glass hookah - I had to get a picture of this strange object. But let us return to the British Museum for a moment…
Eventually we left that grand store-house of human ingenuity throughout the ages after rushing through some more of it. (I would have liked to have taken more time and care). Upon crossing the street, Carson spun around and asked “Do you know what Garrison Keillor looks like?”
“Sure,” I replied, hoping this was an opener to some kind of joke.
“I’d swear that man was a dead-ringer for Garrison Keillor!!!”
I looked at a grey suited individual, already dissapearing down the sidewalk. I was not in the mood to limp after him myself, but I thought it would be funny and weird if it were him. We joked by doing impressions of Keillor’s trademark bassy vocal range: “Well, I was in London. And you know…I used to like London…until I was accosted by two American gentleman when all I wanted to do was go see the British Museum…”
When we got back to the Lodge we looked up Garrison’s itinerary.
It was him. He was in London, and no one else could possibly look just like him! Nice.
So, most things must come to an end, and this trip was no exception. At the Lodge, it was really nice talking to Johnny, the Australian rocker (another person who had never heard of the Legendary Pink Dots and to whom I made sure to give a list of things to listen!) And Andrea the girl from Spain at the bar and a host of other interesting people coming in and out of that wonderfully international place.
Johnny, looking the role of the cool travelling rocker.
My plane flight left at 8:15 in the morning, which meant I had to get onto the tube the moment it opened at 5:00 am. I said my final farewells to Carson, who mumbled to me from the bunk - legs half sticking out onto the floor. Really, I couldn’t have done it without Carson, whom I must give many thanks to and wish him well on all his travels.
This is Heni, the German girl who worked behind the desk (who also learned a lot about music she’d never heard of) who’s favourite show was “That 70’s Show” (go figure!) I said my farewells to Heni, and then dragged my bags out the door and into a cold, cold morning. I was actually a bit early - the gates hadn’t opened yet, so I stayed for a bit inside the little 24 hour deli we had discovered (and ate at exclusively for the last couple of days - very affordable sandwiches!) The Indian proprietor told me I had to stay out of the cold, and who was I to argue? As I waited, two special unit police officers came in. While most officers have to get a requisition for a gun - these guys carried them permanently.
Here is right outside the Swiss Cottage station entrance - I couldn’t get a decent picture, it could be because I was shivering.
This early in the morning, the tube was a ghost-town.
I realised I would not be taking the “way out” again on this trip and was instead going way way out, back over the pond to my little home with hot hot weather and inches of yellow pollen. I had thoroughly enjoyed this trip, and look forward to returning. On the train to the airport - the same gust of a passing train rattled the windows . I smiled.
I hadn’t jumped this time.
An ending. For now.
Anonymous asked: Hi Kris, I'm extremely impressed by the number of Dots-characters you have connected with! Great to read your blog. Over the years, I have tried to track down Pat Birmingham of In Phaze, but to no avail. The label was great and features some very early Dots stuff. I'm sure Pat has some great stories to tell. Are you in touch with him? If so, can you please get me in touch with him as well? I have a lot of stuff to ask about In Phaze. Thanks so much, Best of luck with the book, Freek Kinkelaar
Hi Freek! Sadly no, I have not been able to locate Pat Birmingham - would love to hear from him as well. Thanks for the luck! Will definitely contact you if I find him!
All the best,
Post with 1 note
Saturday arrived, grey and damp. I only saw the beauty of it, for nothing could dampen my enthusiasm - today was the day! The crux of my travels, when I was to meet with Edward and Phil and company to interview them in depth for my book about the life of this enigmatic band. Phil had sent us directions, and I had made sure that I had forwarded them to Carson’s email so that we could pick them up on his phone as we traveled. I had glanced briefly at them, and noticed that we had to catch replacement transit to bypass work that was being done on the line we had to use. This was dutifully filed somewhere in the messy cabinets of my brain, uncomfortably squirming in it’s drawer as if trying to get my attention.
We also had to check out of the Palmer Lodge, with the understanding that we might have to find a place to stay out in Romford and come back the following day. We might have left some of our things in storage at the Lodge, but we were uncertain how things would play out. This meant dragging our bags along with us. So - the meeting was to take place at 1:00 pm at the Railway Inn. I wanted to spend the maximum time talking with Edward and Phil as possible, and they told me I could arrive there as early as 11:30, and that they’d be there. We calculated that the trip should take approximately an hour-and-a-half, so if we were to be on the Tube by 10:00 am, we should be fine!
Now, it should be noted that London is currently in the throes of an oncoming apocalypse known as The Olympics. It happened to Atlanta in 1996, and similar city works occurred at that time. During the week, it would appear that it was of the utmost importance that people are able to commute to their jobs. So, of course, that meant any work being done to the Tube takes place on weekends. This weekend day also happened to be St. Patrick’s Day, so the Tube was very very busy on top of these works, which shut down whole lines.
This is where The Ordeal began.
We discovered that just to get to the line we needed, we had to take a very circuitous route. When we’d get to a station, we would discover that the next line we needed was closed. Although there were many helpful signs, they seemed to be in league with some evil intelligence (Yeti robots?) that was bound and determined not to help us reach our needed line. What ensued was a sort of fluid landscape of tube trains and stairs that one dreams about, where one is stuck in a maze of these tunnels that never lead out anywhere. No reward. No cheese. No bell. No prize.
Kings Cross - closed. The Circle line - closed.
Eventually we found the line needed and settled back to ride it out until we needed to take the bypass to the right station. This lasted exactly… one stop before we had to emerge again.
Somehow, we made our way to Fenchurch station. I would have loved to have stopped and gotten some pictures, but by this time the clock was ticking, and we had already missed our pre-meeting time. We could not call them unless we were somewhere that had Wi-Fi. I did get to see the ticket queue, where Arthur Dent’s girlfriend was conceived and then named after the station in Douglas Adams’ “So Long and Thanks for All the Fish”. All I can say is that Fenchurch’s parents must have really studied the Kama Sutra - but I digress.
It was at Fenchurch station that we were to connect with our bypass service. The information locked in the cabinet in my brain was by this time bursting to tell me something, but I didn’t have time to listen, we had to keep moving. The majority of the people from the train seemed to be heading in the same direction, following a sign that read “Replacement Bus Service”. Yes! Yes! THIS is what we needed. Like lemmings we followed the group to a double decker bus. “Soon”, I thought, “This will be over soon!”
It was not to be.
The bus was one of the red double deckers, which I had always wanted to ride. To sit in the top and snap pictures smiling as London trundled by. However, because of my backpack and tote-bag on wheels, I could not easily traverse the steps up and down, and had to be near the exit when we got to where we needed to be. My left knee began to ache terribly and the small hole being chafed into the back of my achilles tendon by my new right shoe began asking me what the hell was going on. Finally, we got off where the bus let out…to be told we had to continue on yet another bus.
I have no idea how many busses it took, but all of them were equally as crowded as large red sardine cans. My enthusiasm never really waned, but physically it was quite the Ordeal, and I became more and more numb to it all. Go back and watch the clip from “Neverwhere” again. I really can relate to how Richard Mayhew was feeling. Even Carson’s natural exuberance seemed to droop a bit. In fact, if you say the words “Bus Replacement Service” to him to this day his expression becomes cloudy and he can only make little choking noises.
My one little bit of enjoyment is difficult to express in text. A mother and her four children were packed in next to me. 3 of them were around 7-9, while the fourth slept blissfully in his pram. Oh how I wanted to be asleep and oblivious in that little pram. My enjoyment came from the interplay between the mother and the children. Her job was to berate each of them in turn for some violation of the mummy rules about every 5 seconds, and their job was to annoy her by being cheeky. We made funny faces at one another while mummy wasn’t looking. They broke out into this sing-song chant that you’d have to hear to really understand, so I will leave you wondering about that one.
At one stop, I will admit, I got a bit cross at the situation (and myself.) Carson, peering into the depths of his phone-zone remarked, “You know, looking at these directions, I guess it would have been better to take an above ground train from Fenchurch.” The information in my mental filing cabinet burst out into tears, knowing it was too late. We, indeed, never should have gotten on the bus replacement system. We had now missed the main meeting time. “WHY DIDN’T I LISTEN?” I screamed, throwing down my tote-bag, and ellicitng several stares of approval from the English, who were also annoyed by the experience.
I remind you now of the scene in Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein”, when Marty Feldman remarks “It could be worse - it could be raining.”
Guess what happened next?
We finally reached the right station! Zipped up to the gates…only to find that we were in Zone 6 and our cards were only good for Zones 1 and 2, remember? Cards were bought, the train was caught, and we finally arrived at Hornchurch station - the Railway Inn was only just around the corner. Yes! Yes! There it was! Quickly now! In through the entrance. Look around wildly. To the left, the right. Where were they? Ah! There they are!
We had arrived, looking like wild, drowned rats (well me, really - Carson looked like…Carson) an hour late. Our Ordeal had taken us 4 hours.
For those of you who have actually read through this nonsense concerning the London Transit system, I reward you with some photos.
Mike Marshall on the right, there. A real lovely bloke! Kept things funny. After inquiring where Carson and I had been staying, he says “Oh, I drove by that area at about 11:00 am.” We could only groan. Interestingly, Michael’s pseudonym on the album “Brighter Now” was inspired by Vangelis, which is an interesting connection to the previous van sighting.
The interview went off without a hitch, really. I was very pleased with the information we got, and was once again amazed at the depth of committment these guys had to bring their own brand of strange and wonderful music into a world not always prepared for it. Drinks were had. Food was eaten. Mike Marshall made his exit. (Thank you for coming, Mike!) The interview gracefully came to a stopping point, but there was more - much more to be told. Edward told us that if we could stay in the area, we could visit him at his home at 3:00 pm tomorrow. Thinking of the Ordeal, we decided to stay in the area.
The Railway Inn had a decent deal - if we shared a room, it would be about as much as staying in the hostel. No. Booked. But they told us that there was a little bed and breakfast right up the street. We packed up and headed that way. Sure enough, the Devonshire greeted us with lights on and a vacancy.
A bit expensive, but it didn’t matter at this point. Collapse was imminent.
We went straight to our room where I finally took a hot shower. The water had two settings - extremely hot, and unbearably hot. I finally got to wash my hair properly. Bliss!
And, of course - square toilets!
Upon exiting the bathroom, I saw that Carson had entered into the snoring stage whilst watching television. I soon joined him in a nap. A few hours later, we woke up a bit peckish. It was late, for Romford - nearly midnight. We decided to go walk around and see if anything was open. A few pubs seemed to be regurgitating people into taxis, but that was about it. Until we heard the disco music. Following the sound, we came upon an Indian Restaurant. Suddenly as if by magic a waiter appeared in the doorway. “Come in! Come in and eat!”, he said in his thick Indian accent, ”We are open late!”. We went in.
The place was really full of energy! For some reason, nothing but American 70’s disco music poured out of the speakers. The walls glittered with…glitter. A table of drunken English roared as one throwing their napkins up into the air. This had nothing to do with our arrival, they just did this. We ordered - I finally got to eat some Indian food in London! I thought it was very good - Tikka Masala. A tall man with a huge dark curly wig came in wearing what looked to be an Edwardian bathing suit and a red pool float under one arm. This time it was the drunk Australian table who roared at this fellow’s entrance. The guy obviously knew this group and sat down at their table. Carson and I looked at each other. What the hell was going on? This was either the most awesome restaurant in the world or we had been drugged by aliens. We never quite figured it all out as the music was so loud it was hard to talk. We paid and went back to the hotel, where a watching of “Freddy vs. Jason” just seemed to pale in comparison. Sleep arrived.
The next day streamed brightly through the window. I wandered down stairs for our included breakfast while Carson slept a bit longer. It was a beautiful little dining area. Just a few tables and chairs, with a sun-room at one end. Nico’s “Sunday Morning” drifted in it’s mournfully-happy way out of the kitchen radio. I munched contentedly on another full english breakfast. Finishing, I went back up to rouse Carson for his turn. After breakfast, we made sure that we booked the Palmer Lodge for the remaining days we would be in London.
This done, curiosity poked it’s head into the room and asked the question ”When is checkout time?” I went down and checked. 11:00 am. Back upstairs. Inform Carson. “What time is it, anyways?”, I asked.
It was 11:00 am.
So out we went into the streets of Romford/Hornchurch, to bide our time for the next 4 hours. We called Edward and got directions to his home. Not much to report at this point. It ends up that this day after St. Patrick’s Day was Mother’s Day! Apparently it is an international holiday celebrated at different times of the year from country to country. I bought some flowers for Edward’s wife, Alena. Carson and I had brunch at The Fatling and Firkin pub. (Great name!)
Carson outside the Fatling and Firkin.
We took the correct bus this time, and went to another pub called the Good Intent. Looking carefully for paving stones, we went inside and called Edward. Phil came and got us and we arrived at last at Edward’s home. Inside, Carson and I met Edward’s lovely wife Alena, who was a very kind and gracious hostess. She seemed pleased at the flowers, and put them in the kitchen window-sill. We had to be quiet, as their 2 year old, Alice was sleeping. Carson appealed to Alena’s heritage by showing her a Cheburashka doll he had bought for someone else’s daughter in Kiev. Apparently this is a bit like Winnie the Pooh in Western culture and Alena knew it right away! Later, Alice awoke and was brought downstairs to meet everyone. She was shy at first but soon was playing with everyone and handing out grapes generously. Carson and Alena tried to get her to play with Carson’s traditional Russian Ushanka hat, but Alice seemed afraid of it. “Come and pet it, Alice - it’s like a big furry cat!”, Alena said. Very cute - but Alice was having none of it! I got to see Edward’s infamous record collection, which I could have spent several days going through.
Again, the interviewing went quite well. Stories of all character; hardship and struggle, practical jokes, insight into the making of many of the albums. All in all I got about 8 hours worth of recordings. Phil made me a genuine cup of English tea. At last! I was drinking a cup of real English tea, made by an actual Englishman - in England. Things began to get late, yawns began to appear, and Carson and I planned our strategy home. Edward and Phil are really caring human beings - they had listened the day before to Carson’s plan to ride a motorcycle down the length of Africa to Capetown, and had looked up his journey. They warned him against his planned route, and I’m happy to say that I think Carson has changed it. Before we left, Edward and Alena were kind enough to allow us to take some pictures in Edward’s studio, (thank you Alena for being photographer for some photos!) some of which I share with you now.
The proud family, with Uncle Phil.
Suddenly I cried “Do the artistic shot - stare randomly into space!” This, the result.
For some reason, Alice fell in love with Carson’s bag. Wherever that bag was going, she wanted to ride it there. Carson and I voted Alice “Most adorable child in Britain”.
I must reiterate many many thanks to Edward and Phil and Alena for taking the time to answer so many questions and for allowing us to visit them.
Carson and I left in good spirits - the Ordeal had been worth it, and it’s harsher parts had been washed away by good company. We made our way back to the Palmer Lodge at Swiss Cottage (taking an above-ground train this time which only took about an hour) and to eventual sleep. The sleep of accomplishment.
To be continued…
The Palmer Lodge had a free breakfast every morning. Your choice of Orange/Apple Juice, bran-flake cereal with three grades of milk, a croissant, and coffee. The perfect thing to start us off every day. On this Friday morning, I met a couple of American Marine Biologists who were staying in England for a month to travel all over the country. We couldn’t wait to get onto the Tube and start wandering!
I suppose at this point I should explain a little about the Tube for those who have not been there. London’s “Transport for London” (TFL) system comprising of above and below-ground trains and busses stretches throughout approximately a 50 mile area. The first line was opened in 1863, and carried 9 million people in it’s first year! The London Underground had the first trains that were powered by electricity. During World War II, many stations were used as bomb shelters.
I first became interested in the Tube after reading the following from the back of the vinyl album “Genesis Live”, 1973. Written by Peter Gabriel:
”4:30 p.m. The tube train draws to a halt. There is no station in sight. Anxious glances dart around amongst the passengers as they acknowledge each other’s presence for the first time.
At the end of the train, a young lady in a green trouser suit stands up in the centre of the carriage and preceeds to unbutton her jacket, which she removes and drops to the dirty wooden floor. She also takes off her shoes, her trousers, her blouse, her brassiere, her tights and her floral panties, dropping them all in a neat pile. This leaves her totally naked. She then moves her hands across her thighs and begins to fiddle around in between her legs. Eventually, she catches hold of something cold and metallic and very slowly, she starts to unzip her body; working in a straight line up the stomach, between the breasts, up the neck, taking it right on through the centre of her face to her forehead. Her fingers probe up and down the resulting slit finally coming to rest on either side of her navel. She pauses for a moment, before meticulously working her flesh apart. Slipping her right hand into the open gash, she pushes up through her throat, latching on to some buried solid at the top of her spine. With tremendous effort, she loosens and pulls out a thin, shimmering, golden rod. Her fingers release their grip and her crumbled body, neatly sliced, slithers down the liquid surface of the rod to the floor.
The rod remains hovering just off the ground. A flagpole without flag. The other passengers have been totally silent, but at the sound of the body dropping on the floor a large middle-aged lady. wearing a pink dress and matching poodle stands up and shouts, “STOP THIS, ITS DISGUSTING!”
The golden rod disappeared.
The green trouser-suit was left on a hanger. with a dry-cleaning ticket pinned to the left arm. On the ticket was written-
A bit odd, and in fact nothing of the sort ever happened to me whilst riding the Tube. The second bit of interest came from Neil Gaiman’s “Neverwhere”, which was filmed in the London Underground in 1995. Here is an “Ordeal” on the Underground from that, and is not too dissimilar from some of the experiences I had - but I get ahead of myself.
The Tube is seemingly built in and around existing buildings, so many details are shoe-horned into already extant areas. This could mean that the entrance to a lift was not a clear open space, but was slightly hidden behind an angled corner. Or the way the corridors would amble along before suddenly arriving at the platform meant that it often felt you were walking through someone’s home which happened to have it’s own private tube. One of the stations had a wooden cabinet inset with glass doors which held fire-extinguishers. It gets to the point where if they had a full Chesterfield sofa and a gramophone on a tea table next to it you wouldn’t be surprised. (Quaint!) I don’t really think we have this strange mixture of the old and new in many places in America, but especially not as a kind of expression of the psyche - America tends to be about cookie-cutter efficiency and eschews the old in favour of the new. Most of the stations are tiled, and the tubes themselves are small enough that a huge rush of air precedes an oncoming train. There is a certain smell - ozone I expect, because of the electrics - that exists only in the Tube system, but mingles with a scent I couldn’t quite identify. I smelled this gourmand-like hazel-nut sort of smell everywhere I went in England. Like it was imbued in the very trees and buildings. A common perfume I suppose. Does each city on the planet have it’s own scent? A conspiracy of perfumers? I digress…
So here is the full London Underground to give an idea of how complicated it is.
Built 40 years before the New York Subway, it is quite spread out, although each station in some areas are quite close together and easily walkable in London above. Each line goes in both directions, and some meet up with the above-ground train system, so you can see that a station with many interconnections was a confusing thing, indeed. On top of this, London is split into 6 main zones, with an extension of 7-9 and G and W. Carson and I had purchased Oyster Cards (a smart card system like most major cities now have) which gave us unlimited travel - in Zones 1 and 2! Go outside those zones, and you have to pay!
So here’s the area we operated in, in pink, either walking above or riding below. The Palmer Lodge was at Swiss Cottage station, marked in pink-and-red for your convenience. Some of these pics are from different days.
In front of the Tavistock Medical Center, I made the acquaintance (note that word has the word quaint in it) of a rather large bird perched in this tree. The bird was so large, that the tree branch kept swaying when it moved. It became rather picture shy, and this was the best shot I could get of it - closeup in lower pic. I identified it as a Magpie.
Apparently you can see these guys year round anywhere in England, though they gather in numbers in Scotland. I had seen pictures of Magpies, but I had not realised just how large they were. Just for giggles, (and in deference to Freud and his contemporary Jung) I looked up Magpie symbolism (who are in the same family as Ravens and Crows).
The first search return I looked at informed that the Chinese view Magpies as a Bird of Joy, and that a chattering magpie signifies good news, the arrival of guests. This makes sense, since Carson and I had recently arrived.
It also told of the Magpie in American Indian Mythology:
Minnehaha, the daughter of a Blackfoot tribe hunter, said to the buffalo herd, “Oh, if you would only come over the cliff, I would marry one of you.” She was surprised that they responded and tumbled over the cliff to provide food for her people. But she was carried away by the elder buffalo to be his bride. Her father searched for her and was stampeded to death. Minnehaha cried and asked the magpie to find a piece of her father’s bones. The magpie found one, and Minnehaha chanted a song that brought her father to life. The buffalo chief said, if you teach that song of restoration to us, we’ll sacrifice ourselves to feed your people. Then they taught her their sacred Buffalo Dance.
— Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth (1988), pp. 75-78
The interesting thing about these results, is that I had spent my last free night before leaving for London with my friends Shawn and Christa, (she is a Chinese studies major) and we watched “The Hero’s Journey” in which Joseph Campbell recounted this exact story. Ah “coincidences”. (Of course Freud would say that sometimes a bird is just a bird.)
A few more pictures showing some various interesting architectural and design quaintness. The weekend interview Ordeal and The British Museum still to come - stay tuned!
To be continued…
Waking up in a strange new place. Am I really here? Yes. What was the voice that swept my curtain aside saying? Something about dinner?
I opened my eyes. Time was strange. Should it still be light outside?
Making my way into the bathroom. Shower. Dress. Brush my teeth, yes.
A fellow with a large curly bushel of hair next to me was also brushing his teeth.
“‘ello mate. Name’s J.J.”
J.J. explained to me in his thick Cockney accent (complete with brush in mouth) that he’d been in jail for 37 hours. 37 hours!!! He says they were only supposed to hold him for 24. What was he doing? Protesting. What had they brought him in for? Impersonating a police officer in an authentic outfit! Every time we met J.J. he had yet another tale of some trick, hoax, or prank he had devised. One breakfast he described how he had convinced the guard at the closed theatre around the corner that he and his friends were from America, and in town to do a tour of old theatres in the area. The guard (who had probably worked there for years and was a treasure trove of history) took them around on a personally guided tour and served them tea. According to J.J. Thus he became the Artful Dodger in my head, and that’s how we referred to him from then on. And to think, I’d thought I might be disappointed that there were no Dickensian characteristics left in modern London…
So - a little peek into the Palmer Lodge:
The eating area looking in the other direction. That night, Carson and I went and found some take-out Chinese food - it seemed the only place that was open. I had a nice curry. We sat several times at the tiny 2 top to the left. Through the white spiked bars on the interior windows was the actual Bar, sunk down to the lower level. Just in between this picture and the last were the sets of stairs that took you back down to the breakfast kitchen and bar. I spent some time chatting with various people. Sent some messages on the ‘net that all was well, and then tried to get some sleep again - wanted to go out Friday, since we weren’t supposed to meet Edward and Phil until Saturday.
All was bliss for about 4 hours in my little bunk bed, soft duvet curled up around me. And then…and then someone came in to sleep, and I do not think it was human. I think it was a bear. This creature’s snoring was SO LOUD that it woke everyone up in the room - all 10 other people. Though we had not met or seen each other, our voices bonded in the dark, as we discussed how to remedy this problem. It’s not every day you have to tell a bear to shut up.
“I think sleep is a good idea.”, stated an English guy’s voice philosophically.
Moved by this wisdom that sleep was more than a biological necessity but was, in fact, a Platonic ideal - I volunteered to rouse the Bear. It took several knocks, but eventually a confused voice replied.
Explanations were made - various invisible voices offered advice to the Bear as to how to turn on it’s side. Much creaking and groaning ensued, and the Richter scale dropped to an acceptable level. Satisfied that I had told a bear what it must go do with itself with impunity, I fell into a decent sleep again.
To be continued…
Post with 2 notes
Trepidation and excitement. The feeling that, under different circumstances, would be mere anxiety. This is the feeling I held for most of the beginning of my journey - as I left my tiny apartment with 40 kilos of baggage I would be tugging along with me for most of my time in England.
At the bus stop - an omen. As the sun blazed hot over my head, I met a guy who was cleaning the glass walls of the stop-shelter. He was Jamaican, and had grown up under the British education system. We had a great conversation about the commercialisation of America and it’s affect on children.
On the train - another omen. The lady I sat next to was British, though she lived in New York. She worked for the University system studying airborne diseases. (She assured me I had nothing to worry about with the quality of Britain’s air - no Ill Wind there). I asked her what the main feature of difference was between the countries since she had lived in both for a long amount of time. She said that every time she went home now the word “quaint” would cross her mind. I was to see what she meant.
On the plane, I met a married couple who were quite nice - Paul and Sarah Bowser. He - an English guy who loves football and drummers. She - an American bartender with beautiful red hair and wonderful sense of ear accessories. Both were living in Minnesota - a town my friend Carson, who I would be meeting in England, had lived in for a year-and-a-half before going to Russia. We exchanged funny quips and talked of our mutual admiration for musicians like Pink Floyd and jazz drummers.
The flight wore on a bit - difficult to get comfortable enough to have a deep sleep. Unless you’re Sarah across the aisle in her window seat with a light-blocking mask on and a spouse’s lap to snuggle in. I briefly considered snuggling in the lap of the person next to me, but thought better of it - he looked a bit unsavoury and hadn’t said a word to me the whole time. I decided instead to unfold the Delta blanket (which would prove quite useful) and try to doze as best I could.
The movie “Tower Heist” is much funnier without sound.
I briefly took out my camera and tested it. Thought it would be a bit rude to take a picture of my travelling companions while they slept, so I intended to ask them for a picture once we made it to Gatwick.
Gatwick!!! It was much colder here than Atlanta, but it was a bracing cold and not unpleasant in the least. This was helped by the fact that I had blatantly stolen the airline’s blanket tied around my neck like a scarf. I began to realise that the back of the right shoe of the pair of walking shoes I had specifically purchased for this trip was beginning to rub a hole in my foot. Also, the weight of the pack on my back was making my left knee which I had dislocated last new years ache. “Ah well”, I thought, “Just man-up and bear it, you’ll probably not do this again soon.”
Something I have noted about the modern architecture of Britain, though I haven’t been able to get anyone who knows anything about it to comment on, is that it seems to like curves. I first noticed this in Gerry Anderson’s 1960’s Thunderbirds marionette-action show, and also in things like the works of 2000 A.D.comic-book artists like Dave Gibbons (working for the Doctor Who ‘zine before he did little things like The Watchmen.) Simply put - the edges of corridors, buildings, and transit vehicles prefer to be rounded rather than square. This may seem a non-issue, barely worth noting - but when you have just gotten off an 8 hour flight after little sleep it’s all part of a milieu which can be a bit confusing and overwhelming at first.
Anyways, my new companions and I went to baggage claim and waited. And waited, And waited. Eventually, everybody on the whole flight had retrieved their things except for me!. Paul and Sarah bowed out graciously, citing a need to relieve their overfull bladders. They promised they’d meet me on the other side of customs. Alas, I finally retrieved my bag and when I went to look for them I could not find them. A picture opportunity wasted!!! However, I did locate them later on facebook, but I don’t think they’ll be answering my messages anytime soon - their next port of call involved a safari in Tanzania!
The Great British Customs Questions
They: What are you doing here?
Me: Visiting a band.
They: How long are you staying?
Me: A week.
They: Right. Off you go, then.
End of the Great British Customs Questions
Exiting the airport led me out into a uniformly grey sky. The kind of sky that everyone has always told me is typical for England. It was still cold, but still not unpleasantly so.
Rode the transit monorail to the Gatwick express rail-line - an above-ground train. Most of the above-grounds have about an 8-inch rise between the platform and the train, making the term “Mind the Gap” make sense. I realised I was there early enough that everyone on the train was commuting into London to go to work. Everyone was whispering like it was a funeral. I watched the English countryside go by through the dirty windows. I was fascinated. Suddenly - a sound like a slamming door shook the whole cabin and made me jump. Another train had passed in the opposite direction and the air pressure had rattled the windows. I looked aorund - no one seemed to have noticed. Obviously they were so used to it it didn’t faze them. I smiled to myself, feeling that I stuck out like a sore thumb, but nobody seemed to notice.
Watching all the little houses go by was mesmerising. All stuck close together with their chimney stacks and multiple pots. Moss and damp weathering making everything look old. And quaint. (That word!) Suddenly my eyes alighted upon a familiar configuration which shouldn’t seem to be there. 2 American flags waved in the distance - they belonged to an American Auto parts store! Ha!
Finally pulled into Victoria Station. This is one of the stations in the system which has connection to London above and London below (for all you Neil Gaiman fans out there!). I traversed some steps and tunnels (seems to be all England is made up of!) until I found my way to the central station. Wow! It wasn’t that large - was on two levels. But it was the first large indoor space full of people I had really seen - I was supposed to meet my friend Carson here! How was I to find him? I stood there spinning slowly round until finally Carson magically appeared beside me. I dropped my bags and gave him a hug for being familiar.
Followed him onto the Tube, and to the Swiss Cottage station where we exited and walked to the place we would call home-base for most of the time there. The Palmer Lodge was an old red-brick edifice which had been converted out of an old school. We checked in, but had to store our bags until 2’oclock. It was still very early, so we went and had breakfast at a little cafe around the corner. I had my first full English breakfast. We used the wi-fi on Carson’s phone to ring up Edward at his home. He seemed delighted we had made it, and told us that you couldn’t do much better than the area we were staying in. This seemed fine. Everything was going pretty much as planned. We wandered around the area a little more and looked at the shops. Finally, 2 ‘o’clock rolled around and we put our bags in our room - an array of 12 bunk beds, each with their own little curtain, storage bin, and reading lamp. Tremendous! I laid my head down and was fast asleep before you could say Peter Pan. The first leg was over!
My “fixer” and good friend, Carson Walker - in front of the Palmer Lodge.
The entrance into the Palmer Lodge.
Further view of the lovely old Lodge…
To be continued…
Successfully recorded a 2 1/2 hour interview with Patrick Q. Wright - the original violin player with the Legendary Pink Dots - wow! What great stories! Thank you, Patrick!
Now, to bed…
Okay - this whole endeavour is a journey of ups and downs. Life, of course, is full of them, but whenever things begin to fall under the realm of “important” those ups and downs are always amplified, and it’s up to me to keep perspective.
As this is a journey, I should be writing my triumphs and my failures. The problem with broadcasting failures, is that they can make one seem unprofessional. And yet, most mistakes are not permanent and can usually be worked around. Without them - how do we learn?
So it has been this early morning. Somehow (I blame leap year) I got it firmly entrenched in my head that my interview with Patrick Wright was to take place tomorrow morning. How I figured this is beyond me, since Tuesday inexorably leads into Wednesday without so much as a “by your leave”.
To sum - I flubbed a Skype interview whilst the great Patrick Wright waited wondering where I was. And where was I?
Cleaning my apartment and testing out components on my computer for the interview I had to do “tomorrow”.
Patrick, sir - I hope you can forgive me.
Will follow up on this when I hear from him.
So! I have much to say and many people to thank and will list them here instead of individual entries for brevity’s sake. In the realm of pictures, there have been some lovely contributions from Adam Webber, Orchids Dreaming, Toupti, Residual Traces, Alexandru Constantin, Robert Konigseder at freshlight.com, and Siobhan Louise O’Keefe. Lots of responses to questions, though I have discovered that nothing is quite like a face-to-face. Many thanks to the wonderful dAs and Ninah Pixie with Big City Orchestra who were kind enough to send me a recording of answers to my questions and this route was a really great one to take!
It is 2 weeks exactly until I walk onto a plane and travel to England for the first time! The excitement mounts! I will be meeting my traveling partner Carson Walker in London, (he has just finished an Ice Race in Siberia to the Arctic Circle!), who has friends there who will put us up. Phil has found a pub and extended an invitation to several members of the very early Pink Dots to enjoy repast and converse about the early days of the band.
Been working on several projects, several things Dots related which I can’t really go into detail about, but if they work out it will be a really cool thing. There how’s that for a sense of vague? Nothing like ambiguity to ramp up anticipation!
I have a professional editor on my end to check things out before it gets okay-ed by various members of the band. Her name is Marjorie Snook and she has my utmost gratitude for her guidance.
Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.
“In order to be able to make it, you have to put aside the fear of failing and the desire of succeeding. You have to do these things completely and purely without fear, without desire. Because things that we do without lust of result are the purest actions we shall ever take.”
― Alan Moore
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