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Saturday, August 27, 2005

I went to bed early, woke up at two in the morning, showered, and went back to sleep, trying hard not to gag on the smell of groin which continued to thicken the air in my dorm. After waking again at eight, I returned to my parents and Trevor's hotel.

We hopped on an open-top double-decker sightseeing bus which went past most of the famous parts of the city in about ninety minutes, including Victoria Station, Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden, Tower Bridge, and the London Dungeon. I was probably most excited by the tour guide's announcement that Mozart once lived in this house. I've spent my whole life obsessing over that guy, and this was the first time I had ever walked in his three-hundred-year-old footsteps. The tour painfully reminded me that there is far too much of London to see in only a week. I narrowed my "must-see" choices down to the Tower of London, the Globe, Westminster Abbey, and and AAAAAND ... the Royal National Theater. By an amazing stroke of luck, both parts of Henry IV were showing there, and I had arrived the final week of the run. A phone call revealed that I could queue for tickets outside the box office on the days of performance; I decided to attend on Monday and Wednesday evenings.

First stop, though, was the Tower of London. It turns out that we had been completely ripped off by a merchant near the hotel who claimed that his overpriced tickets would get us through the lines faster. The ticket queues for normal-priced tickets weren't long at all and we had to line up with everyone else to get into the place anyway. Dammit. I hate being a tourist and doing touristy things.

The Tower of London connected me physically to a lot of things I had only read about; my heart was constantly fluttering with recognition. There on the left is the "STAIR UNDER WHICH the BOYES of EDWARD the 5th and his BROTHER WERE FOUND." You know, the ones that Richard III ordered murdered (at least in the play). On the right are two processional swords, "probably those of one of the early Lancastrian kings, either Henry IV (1399-1413) or his son, Henry V (1413-22). Speaking of the Henrys, in the "Line of Kings" display (what's left of it), there are some likenesses of both kings carved in wood which were pretty interesting. Look left again for Henry VIII's famous "OH MY GOD IT HAS AN ERECT PENIS" armor.

The whole complex was crawling with impressively large black ravens, and Mum reminded me numerous times that, as a baby, I imitated the sounds of the murder of crows in our neighborhood before I ever tried to speak to her (she blames this for my current taste in fashion). It wasn't till I was up close that I noticed their wings had all been clipped. Somehow that takes the magic out of having ravens wandering around the Tower grounds.

Poor Dad struggled to get around. We did everything we could to avoid straining him, but I didn't realize how weak he was. He told me quietly that he felt like a cripple, and though he was laughing nervously, I could tell he was troubled. Mum told me as we were wandering around that he refused to complain while sightseeing, but that if he overreached, he would piss blood in the evenings and be in terrible pain. Blood in his urine or stools was supposed to be cause to cancel the trip and return home, but he wanted so badly to travel that he refused to go home early or even call his doctor in Sydney for advice.

Mum and I tried to get Dad to go back to the hotel for the rest of the day, but he insisted upon coming with us to the South Bank of the Thames. He and Trevor rested on the promenade while Mum and I headed into the Globe Theatre.

Confession time: as worried as I was by Dad, I couldn't turn down the chance to take a look inside the Globe. I just couldn't. How could anyone with a true love of Shakespeare turn it down? Dad seemed happy just to see me happy, Mum caught my excitement on the way there (I was nearly weeping before we even reached the entrance), and a ticket seller at the door told us we could get in for only five pounds. Before I understood what was happening, Mum and I had been handed two stubs, pushed through a door, and found ourselves groundlings watching Pericles on the Globe stage.

It was wonderful, beautiful, tragic, hilarious - everything a Shakespeare play should be. We missed the first half-hour or so (thus skipping most of the bits that weren't written by Shakespeare) but the storyline was clear as day, even to Mum. By the end, both of us were in tears and cheering - I was especially taken with John McEnery, who - holy crap - also played Mercutio in Zefirelli's Romeo and Juliet a long time ago. Who would have thought? I was standing five feet away from Mercutio playing Pericles and bawling.

We emerged from the theater wiping our eyes and I settled into something of a funk. For a start, Mum wasn't calming down after the performance. The play had whipped her into a sort of religious frenzy, and she wouldn't stop talking hysterically about the Chinese zodiac and world peace. Secondly, I found myself suddenly missing Matt terribly. It didn't seem fair to me that I should be having such an amazing time while he missed out, stuck working back in Harrisburg. Thirdly ... for some reason, lately I've noticed that I tend to get the post-gig blues even when I'm not actually playing the gig. Is that strange? Sometimes I'll even get them after watching a movie. I don't understand it, but there it is.

I tried hard to mask my mood. I literally bit my tongue a few times to keep from trying to dampen Mum's frighteningly elevated mood. But the adage is true - you can't hide anything from your mother.

"What's wrong?" she asked me.
"Oh ... um ... I miss Matt, that's all."

She flipped out. I guess I should have learnt by now that Mum is only predictable in her unpredictability. Suddenly she was screaming at me that I loved Matt more than I loved her, and that after two years of absence, I surely should have been so happy to see her that I would forget all about my husband back home. Oh, it was awful. The bus ride back to the hotel was tense and awkward for all four of us, and when I tried to make up with her at our parting by giving her a hug, she started shouting, "You are a disease! Go hug your dad; don't touch me!"

As you can imagine, this put me in a wonderful frame of mind. For twenty minutes as I walked towards Bayswater, I held back hot tears and thought very seriously about flying home straight away. I knew I couldn't, though. I had to figure out a way to reconcile with her and straighten everything out before leaving, or my life would be hell.

But first things first. Time to get drunk and smoke an arseload of cigarettes. I met up with Eric (Gonzo), Tim (Chuck), and Manga Lookin' Missy. We ate a meal, went to the Black Lion pub, and ended up at St Moritz.

At about 2:30am, I realized I was too drunk and made an abrupt departure from the club in an attempt to get back to the hostel before puking or passing out. I ate half a greasy and overpriced hotdog to calm my stomach and somehow caught the right bus before fumbling my way into my dorm and vaulting clumsily onto my bunk.
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