London After Dark
Why have I never visited you before? Seriously, where have you been all my life? I feel like I found a lost kindred spirit that I never knew I had.
It’s 11:30 PM. I’ve been here exactly 13 hours. I am in city love.
Every single person I have met has been incredibly friendly. They spoke with a variety of different and exotic accents. They smiled. They cheered me on for exploring the city on my own, and gave me directions and suggestions about things to do.
At first I was so tired I could barely walk. But I napped, the deepest of sleeps. Afterwards, with the day fading I hurried to gather up what bits of the city I could. I left the hotel at 6:30. This is what I did:
-Walked around the neighborhood to find a “stationer” or newsstand and bought a map (London A-Z, like the Thomas Guide for Los Angeles but teeny tiny) and the latest issue of Time Out London. And a bottle of apricot nectar and some shortbread cookies to tide me over to dinner.
-Stopped in a Starbucks to get my bearings and ask directions to the Tube. The Nordic barista told me to walk straight up the road and turn left at the “boda shop.” Not knowing what in the hell she was talking about, I said “right!” and went on my way. Eventually I passed a Body Shop, turned left, and there was the iconic symbol of the Underground. So that‘s what she meant!
-Bought an Oyster card and figured out the Tube. I had to transfer at Green Park, where I met a grandparently couple from Israel who walked with me the whole way through the station to the next train. They were “on holiday” and on their way to see Sarah Silverman. I warned them to cover their ears.
-Got off at Earl’s Court and walked to the Finborough Theatre to see a play. Unfortunately, the show had started and it was sold out anyway. Fortunately, a lovely man was standing outside and gave me directions to the bus stop where I could catch a bus to Covent Garden for some excellent people-watching and a pint. Because I have bus anxiety (I’m always afraid I’m going to miss my stop), I got off at Picadilly Circus to walk the rest of the way. I marveled at how similar the area is to Times Square, which is so familiar to me. It made me feel more confident, so I veered off course to Soho.
-In Soho I finally ran out of gas, so I ducked into The Couch for my pint and a cheeseburger and chips. It was then that I re-checked Time Out London and found a listing for the premier of cabaret night at the Leicester Square Theater, only blocks away. And the event was free! Which is way, way, WAY cheaper than anything else, including breathing, in London. So off I went, after checking in with Stewart and the boys by cell (“I’m sad at you, Mommy,” said Kyle, because he misses me, and wants me to buy him a cowboy hat for his big head).
-The cabaret show was on a break when I arrived, so I bought a glass of sauvingnon blanc ($6, warm) and looked for a seat in the crowded, bustling, hot little room. Like I said, everyone was exceptionally friendly, and a nice man offered me a seat, introduced me to his flatmate and another man named Kim, and we chatted before the show began again. What followed was like “American Idol” auditions, but with a piano and good singing. In fact, I was told that one of the singers had been on “Pop Idol” back in the day.
-When the cabaret took another break, I decided it was time to head back to my hotel. I made my way back through Chinatown to the Tube station and got here just a few minutes ago. I had to tell you all of these things because I knew if I did not write about them I would forget sooner than later.
I am struck by the little differences here. Some things are so gallant. An apartment is a “flat.” Garbage pickup is “waste collection.” But in other instances they just call it like it is: a restroom is simply “the toilet.”
I am about to crash for some more good hard sleeping. Stay tuned for more adventures tomorrow. Oh, and for those who are curious, I am omitting the name of the Big Movie Star because I don’t want to ruffle any feathers. I will tell you all about it when I am allowed. Promise.