Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Walk Down Drury Lane.

It's raining outside, pouring, actually, and my pants are soaked to the knees. My shoes have turned into galoshes, except instead of repelling the water, they seem to have absorbed the entire contents of multiple puddles.

I'm reliving my Stratford days. Except I'm not in Stratford-upon-Avon, but rather, reminiscing down various streets in London. I can't believe it's been 6 years.. what I wouldn't do to relive those days. The greatest time of my life. In some ways, I feel all traveling is an attempt to recreate or recapture that time.. when everything was so vibrant and life was nothing but a stream of possibilities.

It's funny revisiting that now. I'm older, but not that much older. Can't say I'm all that wiser, though I've picked up a thing or two in my foray into the real world. And yes, it feels good to be back, but I'm finding it's not a place that a memory makes. What's lacking are the people. That, and the fact that our beloved Drury Lane Moat House has been converted into a Travelodge. A Travelodge!

As I'm wandering down the streets of Covent Garden and Leicester Square, I'm flooded with images. There's the Drury Lane theatre where we saw My Fair Lady (and sweated profusely in the unventilated balcony). They say it's haunted, or so says M. Sasek in his book "This is London." I love M. Sasek. Said production has since shuttered and Oliver! starring Rowan Atkinson has taken its place. The open air market and Molton Brown are still there, untouched by the recession, but I'm really quite dismayed to find not even a trace of Eat My Handbag Bitch.

Around the corner, past where we saw that discarded heroin needle, is the market. To be 21 again and falling over into gutters in front of corner markets at three in the morning (you know who you are) and discovering Topshop for the first time..

Moving on to Leicester Square, there's the intersection where I'd be accosted with 'konichiwa's and 'ni hao ma's. Last I checked, I was still Korean, but what can you do. And ah, Oxygen. I find it comforting that that tourist trap of a club is still there. Gives one a feeling of solidarity, of continuity with the past. A breath of fresh air, if you will.

But ultimately, it's the feeling of not sharing this with good friends and classmates that settles in. Of watching plays, jumping in fountains, and of stealing digestives and custard creams off the room service carts.. These little memories are what I hold on to as I'm walking down Drury Lane in the pouring rain.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Conversations with Myself.

I'm standing in Paradeplatz after work one night, waiting for the 11 tram to come along. It's 8:36pm, and to my right is Credit Suisse, and behind me is UBS. I wonder what dastardly deeds and covert transactions transpired in these fine Swiss banking institutions today.

From a distance, I see the lit green sign on an approching tram, and the 11-Rehalp comes chugging along. I hop aboard, half listening to some NPR podcast playing the Decemberists' Hazards of Love, I think it is. I'm lost in my thoughts. My millions of thoughts occupying a simultaneously recessed mind. It's funny how that works.

Outside the window, I see the quai, and then the lights reflecting off the lake. The hustle and bustle of Bellevue and its many intersections comes along, and I notice they've changed the Ponyo adverts to some German poster I don't understand. Globus, Movenpick, and that yummy bratwurst stand flash across. Next up is Bahnhof Stadelhoften.

A woman boards the tram. She's an elderly woman, immediately finds her seat and proceeds to stare out the window. Glumly. Or so I think. It occurs to me to smile at her.

God, is that you? I wonder.

I turn my gaze towards the darkly swarthed woman, and the corners of my lips tip upwards. She's not looking.

But God, how am I supposed to smile at her, if she's not looking in my direction? Somehow, I feel pressured now to just get it done. 

The threshold has passed to make friendly eye contact. I ponder tapping her on the shoulder and grinning stupidly, but that's just straight up awkward. 

I wonder who she is. Did she just run to Migros, the local grocery store, after a long day of work, only to have missed store hours by 2 minutes? Does she have a relapsing daughter who refuses to seek treatment? WHAT IF she's having suicidal thoughts and this is the one thing that will keep her from jumping? Sure there are no cliffs in Zurich, but you never know.. One simple action..

Two stops later, the woman gets off, and I'm once again left alone with my thoughts, stumbling down tangents, thinking about everything and about nothing at all.

And so, I'm sitting, gazing out the window with the same far off look as when I boarded the tram. What dastardly deeds have newly opened safes unleashed tonight, Credit Suisse?