Travel Thursday: Calling London, part 2

The next day I was further north, a little east, but really not that far away crow-flying. A long time ago I vowed to see every little item on display in the British Museum, rotating exhibits notwithstanding, but at the time I hadn’t realized that would entail objects–hell, whole ancient civilizations–I had no interest in. Still, a vow was a vow, and even though I visit this building every time I’m in town, I’m nowhere near the end of my quest. I once read that it would take over 300 years to view every object the Hermitage in St. Petersburg has for 10 seconds–not just on display, the stuff in the cellars too–and even though the Brit isn’t nearly as big, it’s still hella daunting. At times like these I always make a vow to stop making vows.
Luckily I wasn’t there on the day they had their “noxious substance” alert, cuz you know it would have gotten me big time, whatever it was. But it always amuses me going into European museums and seeing all the Maya stuff they have; Vienna has a whole museum of ancient Mexican artifacts, so there, but still. . .
Room 72–Ancient Cyprus–has always been one of my faves. Also said hi to my old buddies the moai, those giant heads from Easter Island. If the damn thing was about half price, I would have bought the tissue holder shaped like one, with the tissues coming out exactly where you’d think. . . hmmm, that sounded a lot naughtier than it shoulda been.
As expected, I miss what would be a fantastic exhibit for me–Egyptian Book of the Dead–by a couple of months.
At University College London they asked me to establish my credentials–including one guy who knew me and all my accomplishments from the Royal Geo, the asshole–but instead I crossed them up by telling them anthropological jokes, starting with one told by one of my old professors when he’d been a student.
It was back in the fifties when he went to some tiny island in the Pacific where the inhabitants hadn’t seen many white people. So he stayed with these people for months, learning all about the culture, but annoyed that one part of it, the warrior code thing, was kept from him. Kept from everyone, in fact, unless you were in their secret society of warriors.
So finally, after months of begging, they informed him he was eligible to join the society, as long as he completed all the tests. Most of them were easy, and he was so proud of himself as he went to the late-night campfire and sat there cross-legged with all the other men. . . and then they informed him that his final test was eating a raw bat.
Yeah, I’m sure he looked about the same way you do right now, but anything for science, right?
They passed him a raw bat, luckily dead, and though it took him a while to work up to it, he bit into it, chewing as well as he could, trying not to insult them. . .
Finally, when he swallowed the bite down, he could see them and notice how some of them were howling with laughter–just like you–while others looked really disgusted–like you did before. Then the chief told him–when he wasn’t laughing his head off–“Dude, we were just kidding! We didn’t think anyone would be stupid enough to actually do it!”
Just for fun, I put in the quick little joke I head in Africa: Two cannibals are eating a clown. One says to the other, “This tastes funny.”
Okay, that was just a set-up for what is my favorite joke of all time. Most of you reading this have already heard me say it, but it bears repeating, and luckily, it fits right into the subject:
There’s this jungle explorer. He’s in the Amazon, and he discovers a heretofore unknown tribe. They surround him, spears ready to throw, and he thinks “Oh shit, I am totally screwed.”
Suddenly god speaks to him. “You are naht totally screwed! I want you to pick up that rock and bash the chief’s head in!”
So the explorer picks up a rock and bashes the chief’s head in.
Then god says, “See? NOW you’re totally screwed!”
There’s nothing quite as fun–yet creepy at the same time–as seeing a roomful of “proper English gentlemen” struggling to hold their laughter in. . .
Thought about taking a quick trip to the Petrie Museum of Egyptology, even if they have nothing new since the last time, because part of the collection is kept in the dark–for “preservation” reasons, they claim–and its simply cool to havta use a flashlight {“torch”} to gawk at the goodies, but was too tired and found myself in need of another bacon and egg sandwich. Luckily my fave sandwich shop in all of London was close by.
Also thought about a trip to the Museum of London, but last time the remains of Mithras put a whammy on me; it may have been I was used to the cars on the other side of the road, and looked the wrong way, but c’mon, Mithras was staring at me with such disdain. . .
The weirdest part of the trip was waking up to listen to UCLA volleyball on the internet from Hawaii, which is 10 hours difference. I haven’t done anything with volleyball in the morning since my freshman year of college, when we had practice at 8, but that’s different.
The Brits have this thing called “Late Summer Holiday,” which I wholeheartedly approve of, since the British Museum doesn’t close but apparently everyone else gets the day off. Who needs to commemorate a person or battle or some such? “Hey, let’s have a day off to celebrate that we’ve almost made it through the summer!” Works for me. . .
To my shock, I realized I hadn’t been to the Sherlock Holmes museum in over 10 years, and immediately had to remedy the situation. It wasn’t like I was expecting them to say “Where you been, bro? We’ve missed you!” but I still felt a bit sheepish as I paid up and tried to engage in the time-honored tradition of trying to shout out which story the item in question was in before the guide could point it out. . .
Another place I hadn’t been to in a while is Greenwich, and since my old Royal Navy friend still works at the observatory, and is a stickler for always paying, I met him for lunch, gleeful to take the little skytrain railway which reminds me so much of the one in Vancouver. Poor ol’ Cutty Sark had a fire not long ago, but I’m sure they’re rebuilding it, or maybe already have–I just didn’t want to see it in that condition. As always I instead opted for a tour of the observatory, since this is literally Zero Hour for the world’s clocks, as well as the GPS grid. For a geography geek like me, it’s the Skywalker Ranch, in a way.
Which of course reminds me of a conversation I overheard at a sandwich shop–yes, bacon and egg sandwich! One guy was talking about how his girlfriend was a Star Wars nut and loved to do the voices–and sounds, I guess, for R2D2. Then he said, “She hurt her throat doing Chewbacca and Yoda,” to which his friend replied, “Really? I wouldn’t think Yoda would be that big. . .”
Ah, those naughty Brits. . .
And really, is there any better way to end this than with an oral sex joke?. . .
;o)

Pioneertown

Located just outside the town of Joshua Tree, it’s still in use as a movie set, though most days it’s about tourists taking photos and maybe buying knickknacks. I scored some Belle Starr comic books for less than ten bucks. . .

Classic guard puppy pose

Classic guard puppy pose

"The juxtaposition of the cactus and the pumpkin. . ."

“The juxtaposition of the cactus and the pumpkin. . .”

The sign says "Teeth pulled." That's the least of your worries at a bank. . .

The sign says “Teeth pulled.” That’s the least of your worries at a bank. . .

One Stop shopping.

One Stop shopping.

The mayor is a dictator; no room for city council.

The mayor is a dictator; no room for city council.

Misspelled word and no punctuation makes it more authentic, despite the computer printout.

Misspelled word and no punctuation makes it more authentic, despite the computer printout.

And just because I’m silly, here’s the same shots in black and white. . .

bwIMG_0605 bwIMG_0606 bwIMG_0609 bwIMG_0610 bwIMG_0629

;o)

Book Review: K9 Blue: Duck and Weave

{Me Tarzan. You give me book early, I write about it. This that follows happens.}

First thing to mention about this adventure/police thriller written by Matt McCredie is that, according to what I could glean, this appears to be a sequel, but other than to further establish the main characters it doesn’t seem to screw with the reading of this one.
Another note: after going on a ride along with a Redondo Beach K9 unit, I’ve been researching this particular branch of police departments and military. James Rollins has also written on this, but I was particularly pleased to find another book on the topic.
Falcon and his human Mike are cops in the police department of Sydney, Australia, as is Sarah, Mike’s girlfriend; there was probably more about them in the previous book, but oh well. There’s more than one plot here; what starts as a tale about corrupt drug-running cops and a secret organization turns into a chase story, which then becomes a military mission in Afghanistan before returning to wrap up the original.
To show the bond between man and his best friend, there’s this: “Falcon was running off Mike’s energy and knew his handler was upset with the two men in front of them; he barked and lunged at the closest one, snapping his jaws shut a centimeter from his groin. Both detectives recoiled at the sudden attack.” But Falcon is also just a dog, playful as any puppy with his human. My favorite scene is when Mike and Sarah are making love on the beach and Falcon sticks his nose–or snout–where it doesn’t belong.
The spycraft is pretty good, particularly a scene about cellphones designed to baffle the pursuers. Another great example is when they disguise themselves so outlandishly that when the bad guys are interviewed and tell the cops who they were fighting against, they wouldn’t be believed. Thankfully there’s plenty of humor, such as: “The big dog’s excitement overload sent him lunging toward the fight. Mike was caught off guard for a brief moment, hanging onto Falcon’s lead as he lost balance, fell forward and was dragged face first through the dirt by his partner as the dog’s rear legs found traction on the loose surface.”
So while I enjoyed this in general, and wished there was more Sarah, it has to be said that this author is not yet very experienced. For one thing, there’s a lot of redundancies–“sweating a river of perspiration”–and for another there’s empty verbs, such as “said” and “demanded;” with no adverbs. At one point I wondered if the author was trying to reach a certain word count.
Another example:
“Good boy!” yelled Mike.
“Arrrrgh!” yelled Tank.
“Grrrrrr!” yelled Falcon chewing on his hard-fought snack.
Funny dialogue, not much imagination when it comes to style, with three “yelled” in a row. Still, I think with some polishing this author is well on his way to better things.
3.5/5

;o)

Travel Thursday: Calling London, part 1

Can’t remember the last time I was in London when I wasn’t just using the airport to go somewhere else. And not even for that reason recently; you think airplane security check-ins are stringent in the US? Try ‘em here. Anyway, point is, I haven’t been to London to be in London for too long.
Some years ago, to my surprise, I found myself a temporary fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and I enjoyed the honor until I wised up and stopped paying the annual dues. But I guess my name and profession were still around somewhere, and hey, free trip to London, why not? Especially since it coincided with a heat wave back in El Lay.
After two days of heavy rain, which was okay because I was inside taking meetings and schmoozing with jungle explorers and the like, the rain dropped enough to Seattle-like proportions for me to wander through Hyde Park, with Shauna Burns’ “Around You” in my headphones on repeat. The Royal Geo’s home base is across the street from Hyde Park, which explains why I chose that particular area to wander through. Simple, once you have all the facts.
It’s hard to get seasick when on a city park lake, but I was taking no chances, sticking to land. The Serpentine looked just like its name, as one might expect, in the giant park in the middle of London that was hopefully not named for Mr. Jekyll’s alter ego. It’s also too long to circumnavigate on foot, so I simply wandered aimlessly, passing the time and making sure not to get too tired, because I still had to walk back to the Royal Geo when I was done time-noodling.
As beautiful as it was, I was getting a little bored. Even overhearing a tour guide saying that “Harriet Westbrook, the pregnant wife of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, was found drowned in the Serpentine, leaving a suicide note addressed to her father, sister and husband,” didn’t perk me and my historical detective curiosity up, other than the obvious thought of a cover-up, especially when she added, “Shelley married Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin less than two weeks later.”
Hmmm, got yer Frankenstein right here. . .
That actually amused me enough to keep me going, at least to the rose garden, but then, I’m used to amusing himself. . . so to speak. And despite the fact I’d shot rose gardens all over the world, especially in my City of Angels, there’s something particularly interesting in doing so in a place known for bad weather. It was probably a good thing I didn’t know at the time that the rose garden had only been built in 1994, nor that the area was now a popular meeting place for the local gay community; I was just glad not to run into George Michael. . .
Finally it was time to start moseying southward. Having walked through Speakers’ Corner before, but never finding anyone interesting enough to bother listening to–plus being in the wrong direction–I followed my innate mental compass toward my actual destination. Had I remembered in time, I might have wandered toward the southeast and the main gate, with its Ionic columns, but the place wasn’t going anywhere; I’d get there soon.
So instead I ambled down Exhibition Road till I was past Alexandra Gate and on Kensington Road, now only needing to cross it to get to Lowther Lodge. As I once again reminded myself which way to look when crossing the street here, I glanced toward the right at the circle that was Royal Albert Hall. Though I’d never been there, I was familiar with the inside, thanks to a DVD of a concert with my favorite violinist, Hilary Hahn. As the light changed, I figured I’d go down there later to see if they gave tours, then concentrated on the cars, or rather avoiding them.
As I finally finished crossing the street, some irritated-looking guy handed me a flier that asked if I’d renewed my vows; he walked away too quickly for me to say that I hadn’t been aware they’d expired. Once inside I ran into a crowd surrounding a woman I’d met the previous day, who’d billed herself as a jungle explorer and was seeking funds to go into the Amazon. Some idiot–you know, the old British walrus-mustache retied-colonel type–asked if she was hoping to find some Amazon women, but at least it allowed a much younger, star-struck dude to gawk, “You’re the Amazon woman!”
Which allowed ME to intone, “Nope, she still has both her breasts.”
Sadly, she was the only one who got the joke. . .

To be continued. . .

;o)