i've never claimed to be punctual (except for work)
Finally. The London post.

It took nearly an hour for me to realize I was in London again. I guess jet lag will do that to you. I arrived at Heathrow after a very turbulent flight and very little sleep, only to find that the Picadilly line would not be servicing Terminal 4 for the next year and a half while under reconstruction. I was not in the mood to deal with buses, so I took the Heathrow Express to Paddington. It was as I was following the Green lines marking the way to the District line platform, lugging my suitcase throught the tunnels of the Paddington Underground station that it hit me: I was in my London again. The spaces between the Impressionist-style brush strokes of my memories of riding the District line every day to work smoothed into reality. It was just as surreal to me as it would be to see the dock workers in Monet's The Thames at Westminster suddenly leap to life. And yet it was also very natural to be back, the city just felt right.

After meeting Raegan at her flat, I convinced her to walk with me to Imperial, just to see if I could remember the short cut. I made it half way until we got to a spot that had to be dug out from the depths of my memory before it looked familiar, and then we wandered the rest of way to the union, chatting and catching up, in just the same manner that Ellen or Sarah and I used to chat as we'd walk to class. The week was full of moments like that: walking into a memory full of the people with whom I experienced London, this time accompanied by others. Lindy had her friends in flats one and two let me poke around a bit. Flat two was inhabited by girls, but I could still see our flat two guys there, drinks in hand. Walking back into flat one, was weird. The walls were full of quotes by girls I never knew, not OUR quotes. There wasn't a collage of pictures on the wall or a stack of Wedding and Homes, Tatlers or various newspapers and guidebooks piled in the corner and on the coffee table. Ellen's mound of clothes weren't in the hallway and Mary Pat's avocados weren't on the kitchen counter. I don't even remember the way the furniture was rearranged because the living room is burned into my memory in the way I lived in it.

The city had changed everso slightly. Construction on Earl's Court tube station had finished and the District line platform was actually full of light thanks to the absence of scaffolding. Scaffolding had also been removed from such famous landmarks as the Kensington Palace, Trafalgar Square, the Picadilly Circus billboards and St. Paul's Cathedral. I had returned to a city that had gotten its braces removed.

It was great to be back, but it was even better to get to be with Megan again. I was worried that staying with her and Jon for almost two weeks, I would become a nuisance and a bore, but Megan and I never ran out of things to talk about. Even the times we were quiet were full of thoughts that had been shared. I was very grateful for the chance to sleep on their couch and just as thankful for the chance to get to know Jon better.

While I was there, their friend Jocelyn came to visit. Jocelyn had studied with Megan and Jon in Singapore and now lives in Edmonton, Canada. Since she had never been to London, I got to play all-knowing tour guide and show her around the city. We hit all the hot spots and even had time for a musical: the new musical adaptation of Billy Elliott (which included a song that will soon become the theme song for every cross-dresser: "What the Hell is Wrong with Wearing a Dress?"). Jocelyn and I got our tickets at the last minute and - small world! - they ended up being right next to Lindy! And when I say "right next to," I mean we were A21 and 22, and Lindy was A20. Who'da thunk?!

I also got to see the new theatrical production of Mary Poppins, a slightly darker version of the movie. It included a scene that I call Toy Story on Crack, where Jane and Michael's toys grow to be life-size and hold court against the kids, singing a rather frightening song, "Children that don't learn do not return."

Because I can't go to Europe and not put my raggedy French to good use, I took a day trip to Lille in northern France. Thanks to the Eurostar, I left early in the morning and returned that evening, getting my fill of croissants and crêpes. I took the opportunity to wander in silence for most of the day, relishing the chance to practice my French on willing shopkeepers. Maybe it's naïve of me, but I truly believe that traveling abroad is my opportunity to be an ambassador from America and I try hard to shatter the stereotypes of American travelers by being a pleasant and engaging customer. My favorite exchanges were with the wine salesman who helped me pick out a bottle of wine to bring back to Megan and Jon, and with the guards at the Eurostar passport clearance. I said one tiny phrase to the guy who stamped my passport ("Yes! Another stamp!" was what I thought. "Merci beaucoup, monsieur" was what I said) and the guards around us burst out with, "Ah! Elle parle français!" "Oui, messieurs. Ma français n'est pas le meillure, mais j'aime la langue et j'aime visiter la France." (A phrase I had practiced in my mind hoping I'd get the chance to use it on some lucky Frenchman/woman.) They said some things I could figure out, and then seeing my confused look, repeated in English, "Come visit us again!" "Mais bien sûr!" I responded. I left the country feeling like I had accomplished something.

The whole trip was wonderful. I came back with a few new H&M outfits and new frameable memories that I'm sure will fade into Impressionist-style paintings, waiting to leap to life the next time I visit. People often ask if I'd ever see myself living in London and I'm not too sure. I think I could return for a year or so, but this visit has made me realize how much I love London as a vacation spot. I think that to live there would be to dampen the appeal and my love for the city. Not to say that I wouldn't consider it if the right opportunity ever presented itself...

Return to London
Lille, France
Party at Steve's

in other news
I think Jack's monitor is on the fritz. I blame the movers and the injury they caused nine and a half months ago. Time to start investigating flat screen monitors.

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