Bubba v Barry: Late February, 2009

Boy. If Hillary becomes SecState, the conflicts between Bill and Barack are going to be AWESOME.

(Note: no Forecast next week. I’m sure you’re all crushed, obviously. But: I’ll be in London, on my first honest-to-God vacation in a year-and-a-half.)


Won’t it be nice not to have to pretend to be Canadian for once? I bet if you wear an Obama pin or something you will get laid something serious.

Pack a separate suitcase of cash. Do you know London? If not I will tell you the one most astounding unknown unmissable tourist attraction evah.

rptrcub: Well, let us stipulate, as homofascist, BRB and flippin can attest, that I am not Brad Pitt. I’m not even Brad Whitford. In recent years, the Detroit Lions have a better record. So getting some is not to be expected.

This is not to say that I am without (erm) weaponry. I’ve ordered several pins, so that I may hand them out as appropriate. Preferably to cute college students in indie clubs. Bonus: I got a printout of the ward in Beloit, Wis. on election day. Great conversation piece.

But also: I hear that Soho is a good place to meet artists’ models. I like art, so it might be — [CB tapped on shoulder by man in suit.]

Wait a second, please. [Man in suit whispers into CB’s ear.]

Oh? [More whispering.]

I am now informed that artists’ models in Soho are not in fact artists’ models, but something else. Stupid English-to-English translation.

Benedick: One highlight in this awful economy? The pound has been getting blown out lately. Was $2, now $1.50. Yay, greenback!

I have been in London for a total of eleven hours in my life — and I fucking killed it in a stunning act of drive-by tourism. Tips are welcome.

[ADD: One thing I will not miss this year about T-day? Football. Detroit’s going to get clobbered, Dallas is going to roll over Seattle, and Philly’s in no position to play Arizona right about now. Yawn.]

@chicago bureau:

Have a fantastic time in London! I’m not sure what to recommend first, since I love that city so much.

One of the things Mr. OA and I did that was somewhat off the beaten tourist path was taking a tour of the BBC. I grew up watching a ton of Brit TV, and they were filming an episode of the new Absolutely Fabulous that we got to observe from a second floor observation port (I got to see Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders in person OMG OMG OMG). Did you know the entire BBC London complex is shaped like a question mark? Did you know that everyone who’s not on camera who works at the BBC wears jeans and flip-flops to work? Both true! We got to see where they produce the BBC World News, which was pure heaven to a news geek like me (and pretty much the sole source of reliable information about what went on in the US and Iraq from 2001 to 2006). You do have to make reservations for the tour at least a day before you go, though.

Other highlights: the London Eye, taking a cruise down the Thames, seeing the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum, and of course the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London (which now has a gift shop in the dungeon).

Overall though, I most enjoyed talking with people (I adore Brit accents) and learning about life there. Be sure to take tons of photos and upload them on the jam when you get back ; )

@Original Andrew: Having met and hung out with Chicago Bureau on several occasions now, I have no doubt that scouring London for Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders will be number one on his list. Sorry, but I just need to add a :) here, however trite that might be.

Have a great trip CB. I hope you are able to spread your intensity of Obama cheer throughout the (my) motherland.

Oh, and Gene Hackman lived in my hometown and we went to the same high school. Although he did drop out to go into the military. Which I did not.

John Scopes, monkey trial guy, also went to and taught at my high school.

That is all.

@chicago bureau: What’s the deal with having a third NFL game on Thanksgiving? Is this apart of Hopey’s Change™?

@homofascist: Hackman lives here (at least part time) now. Mrs RML’s column in the local paper reported today that Jeremy Irons was at Whole Foods, Joan Allen is around here somewhere for the Georgia O’Keefe movie; Paul Sorvino is busting out in song at SantaCafe.


@Jamie Sommers: And why aren’t the Cowboys playing the DC team with the name we can’t say on Thursday? What is happening to the world?

@chicago bureau: Have a wonderful time, honey. London is such an amazing city, every time I’ve gone, I’ve only taken a map and just wandered around until I get utterly lost, absorbing the vibe. Of course, that’s what I do most of the time I travel – I spend my first day checking off the touristy things and spend the rest of the week wandering from coffee shop to bar to bar to coffee shop.
If you do have time to get out of town, I would suggest Cambridge, Bath, and Stonehenge as top road trip options. Cambridge – OMG, the atmosphere. Bath – as a Jane Austen groupie I had to go and I was bowled over with how much I enjoyed the town. Stonehenge – it’s cool despite the tourists, and when I went there it was dreary and rainy which seemed so appropriate. And I walked around singing Spinal Tap’s “Stonehenge” which amused me to no end.

@Jamie Sommers: Two basic theories. One: Detroit’s one of the games, so they wanted a shot at two decent football games. But what is more likely is the NFL’s calculation that (a) Thanksgiving dinner is usually done by 7 at most households, and (b) teevee on Thanksgiving night is usually given over to Hallmark Hall of Fame crap and that something more substantial might work.

No: Hopey’s prime objective is fixing the BCS. Yes he can. (If there is a God.)

@chicago bureau:

Oh, and I forgot to add that Lady Holliday’s Fabulous Baseball Diamond is, sadly, not real.

(And yes, I know ’cause I looked for it).

I think I still have a 1978 Tube map stashed somewhere. But my Tube-map tee disappeared years ago.

Oh, and if you find a certain phone booth, the number is 62442.

@Original Andrew: I have to ask. Do they sell anal pears in the gift shoppe?

@redmanlaw: Hackman and Irons? You should leak that info out before you sell the ranch. Should add some extra dollars to the sale price.

I went through a really strange period in the early 90’s where I just had to see all the Gene Hackman movies I could on video. Well except the Superman ones.

There’s something I can’t quite put my finger on about him that now makes me watch at least some of any movie he is in on the telly.

@CheapBoy: And yet I have a friend who loves to quote Hackman’s Luthor to Ned Beatty’s Otis: “My wisdom is no match for your ignorance.”

@nojo: Maybe because I’m more of a Dark Knight fan than the “Big Boy Scout in Blue”.

Frank Miller’s graphic novel “The Dark Knight Returns” really got down into the “dark” of the Dark Knight.

@CheapBoy: Your boy Hackman’s ranch is in the plains way east of my in-laws’ place. (Bet he has some antelope there, we’re higher up and have deer and elk.) Dude is really tall. I saw him in at lunch one day. Also recently spotted here: KD Laing.

I agree on Miller and Batman. There’s a funny line in one of the animated features where Batman is fighting Superman, who says “I knew you were crazy, but I didn’t know you were stupid.”

Have you read All-Star Superman? That one dug a little deeper into the guy.

@chicago bureau: OK. Here goes. But remember I haven’t been back there for 18 years.

Apart from the galleries, museums (Victoria and Albert; Nat History Museum) there is the Fish Hall at Harrods. Victorian tiling and they used to do the traditional English fishmonger’s display, turning turbots into roses and making patterns with flounders.

The Charter House (? Chapter House? I forget) at Westminster Abbey with its 14cent tiled floor. No one knew it was there and it’s pretty amazing.

The #1 Unknown tourist site and sight? St. Paul’s cathedral. The dome. Look up at it. Right on top is a pepper-pot surmounted by a golden ball which supports a cross. You can climb all the way up into that ball, one person at a time up a very narrow iron ladder, where you will find four slit windows looking out on London. It was never advertised, you just had to know to keep going higher. The route to the top takes you between the two skins of the dome, up a series of cast-iron spiral staircases connected by iron galleries. There is also an open-air gallery that encircles the bottom of the dome. Of course there is the cathedral itself, Christopher Wren’s great masterpiece, which is a must-see. And think of it in the war when squads of wardens patrolled the roofs pushing off the incendiary bombs as they fell.

See some of the parks: Kensington Gardens, setting of Peter Pan; Regent’s Park; Green Park; Hyde Park. It’s possible, depending on how hung over you are, to walk from Kensington to Westminster through the parks. It’s a long way but a unique aspect of the city. Also, you can take a river boat from Westminster to Greenwich and arrive at the palace as it was designed to be approached. That takes you through the Pool of London and under Tower Bridge. Oh. And go to Gaylord’s to eat curry. There’s one on Regent Street.

For a side-trip, I’d agree with SFL. Bath. The Royal Crescent with the ha-ha. And the most perfect theatre I’ve ever seen. A couple of hours from London by train. I don’t know Cambridge, I spent a lot of time in Oxford which is a beauty and only an hour away. There is a pub near the city set on the river surrounded by open fields. There, when you’re not drinking the warm piss the English call beer you can still see the view of Oxford, the spires of the colleges rising over the trees, that Jude first saw as he walked there. It always made me cry. The other place I’d recommend is Brighton. Not far by train. And you could have lunch in Wheeler’s – if it’s still there.

@Original Andrew: The BBC? Darling.

Benedick: Actually, I’ve done Oxford to the hilt. Last trip to England involved a wedding at the Stanford House of my best friend and her husband — right in an English garden, in a light drizzle. Stupendous. Anyway — the pubs of Oxford were hit mightily — so much so that I barely remember what actually occurred from day to day. London was a daytrip — out at 5am, back at 8pm on the train (probably bought me a couple of hours).

My one insider tip that I could possibly give others? St Paul’s charges 8 pounds for a trip inside during normal business hours. But, if you get there at 7am, you get to go into a corner chapel for matins. Freebie! Spoken in a pure hush too, with candles and whatnot. Magic time.

(Actually, the scoop here is that St. Paul’s actually throws a Thanksgiving Day service. Huh.)

@chicago bureau: When I was last there they charged by the level. Each new stage cost a bit more. But it’s the dome that is the marvel.

There is a wonderful thing in Bath. You can stand in the courtyard of a Roman temple (to Venus?) above which was built the Assembly Halls. So you hear music played by the string quartets at tea-time seeping down into the excavation.

English pubs. Ugh. The reason I left. That and the English.

@chicago bureau: St Martin-in-the-Fields (Church across from the National Gallery) has free concerts frequently, and a great choir that does evensong (in academic robes. Fab.) There’s also a cafe in the the Basement — called the Crypt, I think — that does a good and inexpensive lunch with great soups. And then you can stroll up Charing Cross road, which still has good bookshops.
My favorite maps for walking around cities are the Streetwise series. The one for London has a tube map, too.

@chicago bureau: Take in the grime and culture of Kings Cross. There are small, neighborhood pubs and clubs and great ethnic food – Lebanese, Ethiopian – for shorter money than you may find in other parts of London. For half my business trips, I end up in Kensington due to logistics and, if its warm enough, it’s a great take to go to Kensington Gardens with a cup of coffee on a Sunday afternoon to walk and enjoy reading the papers. If you end up near or around that part of town, go hear some music at the Royal Albert Hall. Go to the cheap seats near the ceiling. It’s amazing to see the hall from the crow’s view. I was close enough to it to be able to walk to a Proms concert there with an expat friend from another life – and then walk to dinner and back to the hotel, kind of a treat when the place is like a small country.

Mistress Cynica: See, I’m the kind of guy that does not do walking and looking-at-map. If I’m meant to go someplace, I’ll get there. (Of course: Chicago kind of spoils one, given one’s knowledge of the logic of grid cities. London, one is made to understand, follows no sort of logic whatsoever.)

Plus: map + confused person = mark. And I don’t have eyes in the back of my head like most folks.

@chicago bureau: I never consult a map in public. I’m the freak who studies it for days in advance, and memorizes the routes I need to take to get where I want to go. In both Paris, London, and New York. I’ve had tourists stop me to ask for directions, because I always look like I know where I’m going. And say goodbye to your grid. London was laid out by a drunk on a horse, evidently.

@Benedick: Give me an English pub over an American sports bar any day.

@chicago bureau: Whatevs, Mr. not-Brad-Pitt, you can “pull” plenty of English chicks with enough self-confidence and Obama buttons. Just offer to pin them on. As to London recommendations, Edgware Rd. is the Devon Ave. of London (except Arab rather than Indian) and has plenty of yummy Lebanese restaurants and hookah bars. And if you get a break with the weather, Kew Gardens is a nice afternoon of strolling. Have a great trip!

@Mistress Cynica: OMG, I totally travel like you. I memorize the city and subway maps before arriving, and then carry the map discretely in my carry-all, and consult it only while in the bathroom. And yes, Mr. SFL is amazed how often I’m asked for directions – English-speaking tourists would approach me in Argentina and ask me in halting Spanish if I spoke English and inevitably were asking me for directions. About the only place that hasn’t happened to me was in Hong Kong. And Norway. I don’t look a local in either of those places.

@chicago bureau: @flippin eck: You can also fake a Southern accent. Or at least the Ghey boys can. It gets me many, many free drinks in New York and San Francisco.

London only seems haphazard because it’s a whole collection of cities, towns and villages swallowed into a larger whole.

flippin eck: Yes, of course. “May I pin you?” Cheeky.

(Meanwhile, in re self-confidence: I’ve always had a problem with that, primarily because my brain has an internalized, voluminous and well-organized file cabinet of YOU SUCK. Meanwhile, I try to turn on the smooth and the confidence, and I get laughed at; I don’t try, and I get ignored. Plus: I see people who pat themselves on the back so hard that co-workers and friends become concerned about domestic violence. Not something to emulate.)

rptrcub: But wouldn’t you think that a nice brawling She-ka-go accent might go over nicely just about now?

Bearsh, versus team of mini-Obamas? Pat?

Bearsh, fortee-too to seven. A real nailbiter.

@chicago bureau: Okay, Mini-Tebow vs. da 1986 Bears, spot da bearsh 5 tds, who wins?

Prommie: What, a full team of mini-Tebows? Well…. da Bearsh but it’s close.

@Mistress Cynica & @SanFranLefty:

You’re gonna laugh, but when I travel I divide a city like London into quadrants, then create a checklist of all the things I want to see and do in each one. I then assign those activities to a specific day of the trip based on geographical location so that in-city travel time is minimized as we go from place to place. I print-out street or subway directions of everywhere we’re going and keep them in a binder. (This drives Mr. OA absolutely up a wall, since he’s a much more spontaneous traveler). I know it sounds turbo-insane, but it saves an incredible amount of time when visiting a huge, sprawling city like London or Los Angeles.

In London, for example, there were 32 items that I wanted to see or do on my checklist; not only did we cover them all, but we even had a day left over and took a side trip to Brighton for a relaxing day at the beach.

@flippin eck: There’s an expat pub down the street from my place, and I love it. Yes, they usually have sports on all the monitors, but it’s soccer and rugby and other anti-American pasttimes. Much easier for me to enjoy such things when I have no fucking clue what’s going on.

One catch: the joint is loud at 5:30 a.m. during World Cup years.

@nojo: Expats, in Sandy Eggo? I thought they were called “day laborers”?

@nabisco: They are, but the Brits all gather in the morning at Ikea instead of Home Depot.

@Original Andrew: The first time I went to Paris as an adult, I had color coded cards with the attractions, stores, caf&ecautes;s, and restaurants I wanted to visit arranged by arrondissements. OCD? Why do you ask?

@chicago bureau: Perhaps, especially if you say that you lived next door to the Unicorn.

rptrcub: Don’t let the “lawyer” tag fool you. I’m a horrible liar. The Barry Compound is about 17 miles south of here.

@Mistress Cynica: I taught Son of RML how to read maps at a young age and he’s been my urban navigator while I keep my eye on the road and traffic.

@redmanlaw: The worst road trip I ever took was with my brother in Ireland. I’m trying to get us out of Dublin (car agency was on Grafton St., god help me) and get used to driving on the wrong side of the car and the wrong side of the road. I toss him the map and ask him to navigate for me, whereupon he announces he can’t read maps. After 8 hideous hours, we dumped the car at a train station in the middle of nowhere and took a train back to Dublin. That was in ’89, and I haven’t driven in the UK or Ireland since. Nightmare.

@Mistress Cynica: I actually am pretty fair (or lucky) with a topo map and compass.

@chicago bureau: 90% of my hard drive is taken up with the “You suck” files. I suck. Now I have another year of sucking under my belt. I suck. I ain’t never done no good for anyone in my life. I am a self-absorbed narcissist, I take and take and take, and give nothing. I really do suck.

@Promnight: Oh hush. “You suck” is so grandiose. Y’all don’t suck more than any of the rest of us. Stop trying to grab all the blame.

@Promnight: Now I have another year of sucking under my belt.

Is today your birthday, sunshine?

@SanFranLefty: Sounds like one of the other boys from around here.

Promnight: Well, be secure in the knowledge at least that there are people that suck harder than you do.

(God, this is going to turn into Stinque After Dark in a bit. I wouldn’t know too much about that, since I really don’t comment on those threads as I have nothing to say that is relevant or true.)

Seriously, if Dubya and Pals embraced their inner suck more, as opposed to thinking that everything they did was good and right, we might not be as bad off.

Anyway: resolve this year to suck less. And hang in there.


And I’m not losing my mind, because yesterday I figured it out and I sniffed it out around here.

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