Monday, June 7, 2010
Pauvre Portefeuille, Pauvre Kochancz*
*Poor wallet, poor Kochancz.
Bonjour de Paris!
In case you haven't heard yet, John's wallet was stolen on the Paris metro today. We had been in country for less than an hour. We lost 90 euro, but John has successfully canceled all of his cards. (I had to use my cell phone. Sorry, Dad.) Mais, courage! as the French might say. We're still determined to have a good time. The robbery scenario: We stepped onto a very crowded train at the Cluny de Sorbonne stop on Ligne 10. John was standing with his back to a small, seated Asian child. Her head seemed unnecessarily near to his butt-crack, which, after the amount of walking we've done so far, can't be the most hospitable of locations. I said, "Hey, John. Watch that little girl," thinking he was about to nail her in the face with his backpack. As soon as she heard me say that, she and her mother jumped up and left the car. I didn't think anything of it. Moments later, John realized that his right cheek was substantially thinner. Bummer.
Aside from that minor glitch (I still have my cards to the accounts and have now been designated treasurer and money-mule for the remainder of our travels. I've already thwarted at least one pick-pocket so far. Watch out, assholes!), we're off to a promising start in Paris. We're staying in an absolutely FABULOUS apartment. There's a blow dryer here, and I haven't washed my hair since we left! (I don't want to hear it, Mom.) There's also a washer/dryer! And a full kitchen! We walked down the street to a little market and gathered quite a feast for dinner. We're required to drink at least two bottles of wine tonight because John's feeling a little down about the wallet mishap. I'll oblige him. More to come from Paris!
Now, let me fill you in on the remainder of our stay in London. Yesterday, we did some further exploration of the West End. We began our day with a classic Katie Burpo moment: lunch Subway. John saw a sign for a Chicken Tikka sub and couldn't resist. (For my family, "tikka" refers to a red Indian curry sauce, basically the most prevalent sauce in the cuisine.) It was an interesting sandwich. I was in heaven, naturally, feeling right at home with my turkey breast and ham. After lunch, we proceeded to the British Library.
I didn't expect much from this attraction. I'm notoriously underwhelmed by historic documents. Blasphemous for a writer, isn't it? However, I was surprised to find that I was completely captivated by the "Treasures" room at the British library. We saw original manuscripts from the pens of Sylvia Plath, Wordsworth, Harold Pinter, Joseph Conrad, etc... There were also a collection of first-run Shakespeare prints. Romeo and Juliet was on display...my favorite! We also saw, take note, Andrew Taylor, the original manuscript of Beowulf. It's over 1000 years old. Pretty amazing. We also saw the original handwritten music for Handel's Messiah. ("Hallelujah!") There was a whole exhibit devoted to the various incarnations of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. Apparently, Salvador Dali did illustrations for one edition. That portion of the exhibit was particularly interesting to us. We looked at an original Gutenberg Bible and lots of other ancient religious texts. Oh, we saw the Magna Carta, too. Talk about underwhelmed. It looked like a very large, dirty piece of TP that had been left in the sun to dry out. I know, that's terrible. Forgive me.
Two exhibits in the British Library really affected me. First, I know it sounds silly, the Beatles case. When I read the original, handwritten lyrics to "Yesterday," I started to tear up. Recently, John and I have been delving into the Beatles' catalogue. Their songwriting is some of the most deeply felt, imaginative, and universal that I have ever encountered. Seeing the humble piece of unlined notepaper containing the lines of such an influential song was truly overpowering. I often find myself emotional over John Lennon's death, the fact that such a beautiful, creative soul was taken before his full potential came to fruition. Similarly, there was something so evocative about the scraps of paper, sketches, and rough outlines on display that eventually became some of the most influential works in popular music. For example, "Michelle" was originally composed on the back of an envelope. Imagine the trajectory of such a thing. A scribble on the white space of some old mail become a classic, beautiful love song. It was truly moving. I wish you could have been there, Molly!
The other item on display that really caught my attention was an original handwritten manuscript of "Creative Writers and Daydreaming" by Sigmund Freud. This work attempts to quantify the creative act, to describe, in psychoanalytic terms, what it means to create. I'll leave you with this quote, which describes the creative process as an adult's version of "play." "We can never give anything up. We only exchange one thing for another." So true.
After a pleasantly surprising trip to the British Library, we continued on to the British Museum -- a gigantic depository of precious antiquities, most notably, the Elgin Marbles. That part of the museum was absolutely amazing. The presence of these treasures in the British Museum, however, is fraught with tension and conflict. The marbles were removed by Lord Elgin from the Parthenon at the Acropolis in Greece. Fortunately, they were rescued from some potentially severe damage, since Greece entered a violent conflict with Turkey soon after. However, these days, it's a bit hard to justify withholding another nation's precious artifacts. It's a pretty archaic, paternalistic attitude, to be sure. But, politics aside, I was so happy to see the sculptures that I did a large-scale group project on during my art history work at DePauw. Our group decided to just blow up the marbles, so nobody could have them! Other work in the British Museum that aroused the art historian in me were the Mesopotamian exhibits. The museum houses countless friezes gathered from ancient Assyrian palaces depicting battles, the removal of booty, and royal lion hunts! I spent a lot of time learning about these works at DePauw as well, so I really loved seeing them. It was a wonderful tour!
The remainder of yesterday we spent traipsing from park to park in the West End, buying beer at convenience stores in between. Of course, it would be the last day that we finally figure out the preferred afternoon pastime of Londoners...drinking in public. We imbibed. And imbibed. Then we walked down to Chinatown and indulged in perhaps our best meal of the trip so far. I ordered duck with black bean sauce. I can't even talk about how good it was. I'm sad that I'm not still eating it now...
Well, I think that concludes this update. I shall now return to relaxing in our posh Paris apartment. One bottle of wine down! (So, sorry if this blog seems a bit tipsy.) John is out on the balcony smoking a Cuban cigar that he acquired in London. Don't be too jealous, Dad. Love to everyone! Don't worry about us. We're having the time of our lives!