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Monday, October 15, 2007

 
[#] [3]
[update oct17: toby's journey now has his own post on the scarlet letters]

people ask me "how was england?" and i say, "short!" i left portland on wednesday, got there on thursday, left london on sunday. but even though i am losing patience for the process of travel, with the tiny seats and the dehumanizing security methods, it was all worth it to see the completion of expedition 360. it's been 8 years since i ate dinner w/ jason at *rosario's* and agreed to publish a newsletter for him despite having totally sworn off freelance work. jason has a way of making the extraordinary compelling and within reach for anyone who's willing to try.

thursday:
* during the long plane ride i tried reading chicken soup for the traveller's soul because jason wrote something for it. but i wasn't really inspired by the other stories. i'm guessing if you actually met the people who wrote them, they would be much more interesting; when the tale is told, it gets flattened.

* once i struggled to the hotel, i took a little nap. i woke in the twilight. it took me a while to figure out how to turn on the lights. it's quite clever: the lights won't turn on unless the room key is inserted in a slot on the wall by the door, so it knows you're actually -in- the room and you always have a place to put your key.

* i was very near the old royal naval academy. i loved the chime of its bells every hour.

* i could not find mountain dew in that country. i settled for sprite. but, it turned out mcdonald's uk has -really- good onion rings -- and they still fry their pies! yes! but they have a funny "burgers of america" promotion going on.


[my hotel: the devonport house]


friday:
* i read the collected "castle waiting" on this trip. an excellent thing to read while travelling on the underground.

* i was at the british library just long enough to get a reader's pass to get into their manuscripts room. if i had planned it out better i would have reserved one of their centuries-old books and been able to read it right there. alas, i never got to go back, but my card's good till 2010, so i have time.

* i was disappointed with the london eye, which i went to primarily because of a dr. who episode, but also because i love ferris wheels. essentially you're in a room-sized capsule that rotates around, but you're with 10 other people you don't know and it takes 33 minutes to rotate without any narration. hey, look, i think that's buckingham palance! eh.

* i got lost in the isle of dogs late at night after i detoured through the greenwich foot tunnel. though i never saw a sign saying so, the tunnel runs underneath the river thames. so when i got out the other side, i didn't realize i was on the other side of the river and wandered for quite a long time looking for my hotel.

* i can't say i had any fabulous food in england (except for cream scones... mmmmmm...), but i had pretty good prepackaged food from mark&spencers, which is the lovechild of target & trader joes.

* i brought the laptop with me, and i was glad i did when i realized i could do a voice chat w/ sven! that was the weekend of the lovecraft festival, and so he was full of boundless enthusiasm and preparing to promote monster month.

* as i was getting ready for bed, i turned -off- a light and everything went kerPOW! none of the lights in the room would turn on after that, but fortunately the laptop was unharmed.


[british library, london eye, london eye capsule, greenwich foot tunnel entrance]


saturday:
* while toby & i waited for jason to arrive at the royal observatory, one of the elder british ladies said, "i like your puppet," but perhaps she meant "poppet." some people are here to welcome jason, and others are here because they can tell something is going to happen and they want to see what it is. there are several media representatives who surge forward when jason finally arrives pulling moksha over the prime meridian, and so i miss everything he says (and can't really find many videos afterwards).

* since -everyone- wanted to talk to jason after the event, i hung back and watched. i was really impressed with how jason managed to connect with everyone in a kind and respectful way, considering he's gone from so little company to being responsible for the end of the expedition. since it's been so long since we've seen each other in person, i wasn't sure he'd know me, but he totally recognized me & gave me a big hug.

* over the course of the day i met a whole bunch of people who have been involved with the expedition in one form or another, including karl (a filmmaker in maryland who came here for his 30th birthday), april (who remembers me from pueblo), jason bowman, sher, rebecca & stuart. i also met a nice british man named mike, who remembered hearing about x360 years ago, but then lost track of it. when he heard it was completing in greenwich, he rushed over from work. he missed the ceremony, but caught the afterparty.

* after moksha was taken away around 3:30 p.m., i took the opportunity to explore the royal observatory & greenwich park. "no pictures, ma'am," said one of the docents -- but how can you NOT take pictures of such fascinating machinery: telescopes & astrolabes and such? the prime meridian was the main attraction, of course, but there are apparently a couple of others located there, too: the bradley & flamsteed meridians. greenwich park is really lovely.

* i had the most fabulous time i think i've had at a party (except for the cast party for "dancing at lughnasa"). it was great to meet all these people i have been reading about for 8 years, and meet new ones besides! i was really shy actually talking to jason in the midst of such chaos, but i finally got a picture at the end of the night & gave him a "be the change you wish to see" necklace i made. there was lots of drunk hugging all around, and i left about the time people started drunk dancing.


[jason pours champagne over moksha, jason & steve straddle the prime meridian together, me & moksha & toby, my name on moksha, the afterparty, me & jason]


sunday:
* though i like to sleep in on vacation, today i woke up early to try to squeeze another day in before i left. when i checked out the royal observatory yesterday, i really didn't get a chance to go to see everything, so up the hill i went after a proper english breakfast w/ beans and grilled tomatoes.

* having finished castle waiting, i brought along dava sobel's the planets for company. beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. i found myself marking almost every page. it's poetry. it's what i want to be when i grow up.

* the greenwich market is very similar to saturday market in portland: artisan soaps, jewelry, a little food. if you go early, when they're still setting up, it's easier to determine who you really want to buy from.

* i love planetariums, but when you live in roughly the same latitude, you won't really see anything new. it makes me wish michael & i had gone to one in australia.


[the royal observatory up on the hill, royal observatory close, the "physical observatory" where there were rooms for the "human computers" to calculate the data]


after a long underground ride to heathrow, i headed home. i was blessed on the way to chicago with an empty seat between me & a german woman. but i paid for it when i got to o'hare, because i couldn't check in; us airways didn't list me on their computer. they "suggested" i go try united in a different building: maybe they'd have me on -their- computer. fortunately, they were right, but it was a little scary. and i really hate security screenings: you have to go through them twice on international flights.

but despite the travel hassles, i'm really happy i got to go see history in the making. i found i had a real affinity for greenwich, the intersection of science & poetry. a book i got for michaelmas calls it the place where the days begin & end, and it was a hugely important place for the development of time, astronomy & navigation. it was also vastly more charming than anywhere i've been in london proper, though the proliferation of gravestones and tombs in public places is a little disturbing. jason doesn't know what he'll do next, nor moksha, though i hope she ends up at the royal maritime museum, at least, and jason gets to do whatever he most wants to be doing.

Comments:
Sounds awesome, albeit short -- hope you get to return for a bit longer!

zvfrsrdc
(the word verification has me wondering if I'm human -- is that a "c l" or a "d"?? Well, I'll push publish comment and we shall see.)
 
human -- i'm human after all!

trkxwoou
 
welcome, human susan! yes, x360 is a cause i think you would have very much approved of.
 
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