Char In London


Saturday, 09/04/2004
Waning gibbous moon
London, England

Char in London

Those Were The Days by Mary Hopkins.….102

Max’s sister, Char, met me in London. My first trip abroad and oh, what a trip! She told me they’d had nothing but rain and cold weather for weeks on end, but the day I arrived the sky was clear, the air balmy, and temperatures were climbing high into the seventies. Char said I must have brought the desert heat with me. I chuckled because the air seemed a tad brisk to me. In any event, these delightful conditions certainly satisfied both of us.

What a great landing. It took me less than an hour to fall in love with London: people promenading in the streets and that catchy tune, “England Swings Like a Pendulum Do” reverberating in my brain. It was an ice cream, popcorn and beer kind of night. After all those years, I was finally learning first-hand what the hullaballoo was all about.

Despite that residual case of balloon toe, I silently applauded myself for keeping up with Char. I’m sure she thought differently, because every so often she’d turn around and holler, “C’mon, let’s go!” We had to run-limp to get to the theatre on time to see The Mousetrap, an incredible play that has been performed for over fifty years. Not fifteen – fifty! Things like that just don’t happen in the States. We are all too ready to throw out the historic hubs of yesteryear in favor of a couple of catchy sound bites and the must-have toys of today, all of which lose their luster as soon as we’ve had our flimsy fun with them. But England doesn’t strike me that way. Most people seem rather unassuming and perhaps a bit more appreciative of what they have. Was it World War II and the bombing of London that had such a strong and lasting effect? Or maybe it’s the form of government. On the other hand, England’s hefty tax structure would probably cause any inhabitant to be more appreciative of possessions, material or otherwise.

Amazingly, we arrived on time, and what a great show – enigmatic, funny, and powerful performances. I could have watched the whole show if my eyelids hadn’t kept drooping. This was thanks to the all-nighter I pulled while crossing the Atlantic. With the misfortune of a seat arrangement that placed me next to mother with her newborn baby, crying the entire flight, I caught maybe a half hour of sleep. But it didn’t matter. I certainly couldn’t stay mad at the little darling, stuck up there on the plane like me. I mean, we had a lot in common. I was just about ready to bawl too. Let’s face it, we were all in the same boat – er ship – er contraption that attempts to fly in the air.

Thank goodness, it did!

For these reasons, my descent into oblivion began not long after the curtain ascended – as I settled back into my seat. Yes, Char did her best and gave me a couple of nudges… or more. Lucky for me, she wasn’t hardnosed about it. And yes, I did try to straighten up, but my body had other ideas. I’d sit up straight as a post and soon find myself drifting off… again.

During the intermission, I begged Char to pour vast quantities of coffee down my throat. “Oh, their espresso should work just fine,” I said.

She just smiled dubiously.

Well, the stuff did help, for about ten minutes or so. Never mind if I hadn’t been punch-drunk, I’d have been mortified by my own behavior.

After the final curtain and copious rounds of applause, Char was finally able to slip into the powder room and tend to herself for a change. I hoped she wasn’t too annoyed with me, but I decided it best to wait outside.

Maybe the brisk night air will clear out this brain fog.

Ah, taking in the smells of the city, I thought, where’s all the soot they kept telling me about? Smiling, I savored the richness of the extraordinary evening. Yet, as I watched the passersby, I was beginning to feel like a kid at the zoo. Something strange is going on, I thought. Maybe it has happened already… a dash of déjà vu… or as Max would say, déjà went. Had the play made me giddy? Perhaps it was the coffee, or just a lack of REM, or maybe it was the narrow buildings, pitched at an angle (like me) as if they might topple over at any moment. No matter, I just stood there, enthralled by the sights and sounds of London.

ᴥ ᴥ ᴥ

Then, without warning, a blast of cigarette smoke sears my nostrils.

“What the hack hack… heck?” I rasp. Sensing the perpetrator to my right, I turn, about to say, “You ridiculous fool, how dare you blow smoke in my face!”

I look hard, expecting to find the joker doing his dirty deed. But, oddly, not a soul is there.

Perhaps I’ve stymied the very word. For my eyelids start to flicker and no sooner than you can say “magical mystery tour”,2 a hologram-like figure takes shape before the leaning towers… no more than a few feet from my nose. I can almost make out the image, translucent yet diffuse in color… then, a maroon jacket emblazoned with a crazy Rupert the Bear insignia…

…the one so dear to me. “It’s you!” I gasp even as I think, So you’re the culprit I’ve been looking for. And I watch him glide around London in that juvenile jacket of his, incongruously smoking one of his favorites… flowing toward me like the cloud of smoke he’s exhaling.

A design within a design – Chaos modeling at its finest.

“Max,” I smile and say, “you’re like a Lorenz attractor, but wavier.”

Swept up on the wings of a profound sense of awe, I try to gather what’s left of my earth-bound self – if only for the benefit of the lingering few who might think I’ve lost it, talking to the air and such. Then, going deep, I step back into the shadows and breathe in the spicy scent of a wayward city: London, the cacophony, the ultimate harmony. And, in the stillness of the deep, a trace of sandalwood and a smile… he comes rippling through. Max.… home, at last, I merge with the heart of him. For here, time has no measure. Here, we turn together in silence, marveling at the mind-boggling slopes in the sky. Here, my sight softens into the sliver of a moon and a star. And in this singular moment, I know the meaning of forever.

Hopkin, Mary. “Those Were the Days.” Post Card. Apple, 1969. LP.

The Beatles. “Magical Mystery Tour.” Magical Mystery Tour. Capitol Records, 1967. LP.


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