Just like Patrick McGoohan in the famed series Danger Man, I wheeled my sporty little vehicle through the cobbled streets of London meeting danger and intrigue along the way. Like Danger Man I had a beautiful and mysterious woman by my side, though more of a Bond girl as she had that far east flavor. She’s called Lea but here in the US she’s AKA’d as Edith and she needs a TV series of her own.
On day one Rosalie the security agent at SFO feels compelled to regale me with a tail of her menopause woes right up to the live hot flash play by play which further delays us since she has to go get paper towels to wipe herself. It takes half an hour to pat me down but at least I now know that once the weather gets warm enough, Rosalie cuts her hair very short and dyes it red. I’m always telling an incredulous Edith about people who approach me and tell me their life stories – on this trip I offered eyewitness evidence.
At Heathrow among the signs with names that drivers held was one that said Master Bater. Loved it. Our driver was part time a driver for this car service and part time a driver for handicapped people “like me.” Ouch. He hugged and kissed me goodbye at our destination. We handicapped are so loveable, don’t you just want to squeeze our cheeks?
I haven’t quite wrapped my head around that one. It’s like when Endora from Bewitched would transform her son-in-law Darren Stevens into something and everyone could see it but him. I don’t really see that I’m disabled. SAM! (Bewitched reference, which works better if I yell in a nasal voice and shake my fist to the sky.)
Speaking of TV: one night I couldn’t sleep because I couldn’t remember the name of the character Julie Kavner played in Rhoda. I knew I wouldn’t sleep until I did. Hours later: Brenda! Brenda Morgenstern. Thank God! Now did she get married too to that nice guy and what was his…oh fuck. Two more sleepless hours. One night I was kept up wondering if Edith’s oldest brother dyed his hair. I’ve never met the man.
I didn’t sleep or discharge certain bodily functions for the entire trip. 3 uninterrupted hours was my record yet I was mostly cheery.
I won’t tell you about our hosts, Kenji and Julie yet. That’s for later. We had Indian food and I was so tired I could barely negotiate the wheelchair. I also walked like a bowling ball being thrown by Barak obama (if you don’t follow the news he scored in the 30s in bowling which is not a good thing). I was so weak I couldn’t turn the light on (string not switch) flush the toilet or open the bathroom and bedroom doors. That was a fun night for Edith.
We went the next day to the London Eye – a gigantic ferris wheel/observatory that Londoners call “The London Eyesore” It was a very international crowd so no hope finding Rupert, Nigel, Fiona and Basil per my sister-in-law’s instructions. By the way – I will be accepting up to 3 assignments for every future trip unless I deem them dangerous or highly unpleasant. It’s fun to have things you have to do but aren’t site specific.
After the London Eye we went by Big Ben, Westminster Abby and parliament, which was not in session. (Boo.) Edith took my picture with a couple of cops per Mac’s assignment and I bit a lovely cab driver called Richard per Gina’s suggestion. (If you recall, this whole thing started with Gina telling me to “bite a British man.”)
That night we saw a play with some of the best if not the best acting I have ever had the privilege of seeing. I wept at the end of the play as the doomed lovers went off to drown themselves together not so much because I bought the story but because they sold me on the depth of their love and because great great theater is so rare – like a hummingbird –and like a hummingbird it’s life is too damned short and because I still have so much to learn and not enough time to learn it all.
In elementary school I sat on the floor in the library crying one day because I’d never have time to read all the books in the world. I feel that way all the time now.
I’ve had a taste of British Theater and I’m hungry for more.
Tuesday was Hyde Park. We were dropped off at Speaker’s Corner only to find out that incendiary tracts fomenting dissent are only offered on Sundays. Again Boo! We walked through the park and saw the Italian fountains and the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain. Now I was particularly anxious to see this as I expected a tacky horror show like a bust of her head with that hairdo that defines an era of bad fashion and the water would come out of her mouth to commemorate her bulimia (Edith’s idea, not mine). No such luck. It’s a minimalist, tasteful fountain the blends into the surroundings. It’s lovely.
The evening was Picadilly Circus and then a comedy club where we met Kenji who’d spent the day at Wimbledon. Already my wheelchair was showing signs of not making it through the trip. The treads were shreds and the London streets are unforgiving. Somehow miraculously though, whenever we’d hit a bump or curb that Edith couldn’t get us over – just as I was ready to get out and push – one or several men would materialize and lift the chair for us. Thank god we’re so gorgeous.
The bouncer at the comedy club was very helpful, lifting me from lift to chair, lifting the chair up and down the staircase and making Edith cry at his kindness and solicitousness…if that’s a word. Well it is now.
Highlights from the club:
Edith sending a note to the comics' dressing room asking them to announce that the woman in the wheelchair needed to talk to Rupert, Nigel, Basil and Fiona.
and at the top of the show:
John ( comic): Any Americans here?
John: Woo? By “woo” I see you have severely misunderstood the mood of our nation.
And later, John after a rape joke falls flat:
John: You gave me the topic, don’t boo me now. Besides, I know you ladies SAY you don’t like rape jokes but really you want them.
I am the only woman laughing…I mean howling..at this point.
Finally – coming down the weird old lady lift and being wheeled outside, John says in a loud voice about me “I can’t believe they let those kind in the club.” I wanted to marry him. I chatted briefly with him and a Canadian comic from Calgary who was enamored with the magic mushrooms in Vancouver. Fun guys but sadly no Ruperts, Basils, etc. We had much work to do if I was to avoid plan B of Allison’s assignment which was if we didn't find people with any of those names to either shag or snog a British man.
That’s a good place to end Part One. I can just hear the comments now. “You don’t think she’ll really snog someone do you?” “ No, this is Carla we’re talking about – she’s not going to snog a complete stranger if she can shag them.” “What is snogging anyway?” “Google it.”