MONDAY, NOVEMBER 6 142 lbs, alcohol units 4, cigarettes 0 (excellent).
Our first day in London. After a nine-hour direct flight from Seattle, an hour tube ride from Heathrow, and a black cab ride to northwest London, we arrive at the home of our British hostess, Sheena. Sheena is in her mid-20's, yet owns a three-story row house. We hate her for this but are able to cleverly disguise our anguish as jet lag-induced exhaustion. After a brief 11-hour nap we're ready to go, and head downtown for the epitome of the UK experience--the open-top red double-decker bus tour. It is all we hoped, yet colder. Highlights included Parliament, Big Ben, and the London Hard Rock Café. It's all very lovely and clean, like the London scenes from the remake of The Parent Trap, and not at all like the blackened, polluted city depicted by our jealous lesser friends. For instance, an acquaintance claims that when he was in London his snot turned black from all the particulate matter in the air. It's this sort of spurious exaggeration that makes people hate Americans.
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 7 141 lbs, alcohol units 9, cigarettes 57 (second hand).
Our snot turns black from all the particulate matter in the air. Ebony. Dark as night. Exxon-ish black sludge. It's also Election Day. Sheena invites her pothead ex-skater punk friend Alex over to watch, as Sheena puts it, "the Americans elect the leader of the world." The British, by the way, still think of us as the lost colony that, if it hadn't been for Mad King George would still be supplying them with taxes, duty-free tobacco, and nubile Indian girls. They are also Gore supporters and the fact that Bush is even in the running confirms their worst suspicions about the limited American psyche. We stay up until four am watching CNN. "How can CNN call a state before all the votes are counted?" asks Sheena. "Oh," we say assuredly, "CNN knows."
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 8 145 lbs, alcohol units 2, cigarettes 11 (second hand).
Our companion is almost hit by an Aston Martin. All the newsstands have signs out that read: U.S. ELECTION CHAOS. We try our best to look Australian. That night we see The Blue Room in The West End. The Blue Room is the play that Nicole Kidman showed all her naughty bits in. Nicole Kidman is no longer in it, but the actress who replaced her tries her best to look as good naked. Londoners really like seeing each other's bathing suit parts. The hottest show in the city right now is Penis Puppetry, which is exactly what it sounds like. The show is currently looking for well-endowed men with flexible penises--if you're interested.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 9 145 lbs, alcohol units 2, cigarettes 15 (second hand).
Much of England is under water and there is another storm over the island. The weatherman on the news shows a map that features England beset by a Greenland-size squiggle. We stop shaving our legs, for warmth. Today we visit The Royal Academy of Arts, to see the Apocalypse exhibit, which promises the "beauty and horror" of modern art. Mostly we just want to see the three dimensional installation depicting the Pope being hit by a meteor.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 10 145 lbs, alcohol units 3, cigarettes 46 (second hand).
Today we go to The Tate Museum of Modern Art. We've been walking for four days. Our companion's feet go numb. He has only brought sneakers, and they're soaked from the deluge. Even his pants have wet spots from where his wet shoelaces bounce up and hit his shins when he walks. The Tate is large and also free, and we look at art for several hours before curling up on the ground in pain. The most popular sight at The Tate is the view of The Blade of Light, the bridge London built for the millennium only to close immediately when it began to bounce under the weight of foot traffic. Since it cannot be reinforced without changing the design, its future remains uncertain. The British are very bitter about this, as well as The River of Fire, the massively promoted wall of flame that was supposed to run down the Thames at midnight, but turned out to actually be a couple of fireworks. Don't even get them started about the Millennium Dome.
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 11 147 lbs, alcohol units 10 (-10 post-vomiting), cigarettes 134 (second hand).
During our stay we've been keeping our eyes out for two things: corgis, the Queen's cute little dogs, and authentic London punks. We have spotted neither. Today we ask Sheena where we might be able to get some sort of corgi paraphernalia. Maybe a corgi bath towel, or a nice corgi cap. She groans. "Everybody in England hates corgis except the Queen," she sniffs. "No one has them. We despise corgis." We choose not to ask about punks, for fear that this phenomenon, too, is only a product of American Anglo-fantasy. Besides, today we see someone who is an even greater English institution than punks or corgis: Michael Caine. We are wandering through Leicester Square, when we come across a clot of people gathered around a movie theater. It's the premier of Quills, the new movie about the Marquis de Sade. We poke our heads above the crowd just in time to see Michael Caine step from a car and wave to the crowd. "MICHAEL!" the ladies in the crowd cry, wringing their hands. Then Joaquin Phoenix arrives, followed shortly by Kate Winslet. We are so excited, we go to a smoke-filled pub and get drunk.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 12 146 lbs, alcohol units 0, cigarettes 0 (excellent).
On the flight back, the couple in front of us deep-throat kiss and visibly become excited when Friends comes on the entertainment system. Friends is very popular in London. Even Sheena had a Friends VHS box set of seasons one and two. But then Sheena also has a degree in Astrology. British Airways flights are comfortable except they are very very stingy with the water, and when you ask for some they bring these tiny little foil-topped plastic cups that hold about three sips. This is not good for people like us, who become dangerously dehydrated if denied beverage access for even a few minutes. "Look," we say decisively to the flight attendant, "We're going to need about nine of those, stat." Our lips are chapped and our eyeballs are beginning to raisin. We get nothing, and eventually wrestle water from the pantry ourselves. Finally we land at SeaTac and get in line for customs. While waiting, an official comes on the intercom and says, "If you have just arrived on the flight from Amsterdam, it seems you brought a dog with you to the United States. If this is your dog, please contact an agent. If not, let us know if you want one." We look at our companion. "Please?" we say. "Maybe it's a corgi." He is tired, and doesn't hear us.
Top o' the mornin' to ya, guv'nah!