Okay! I’m back on this side of the Atlantic. I did indeed finish transcribing the two manuscripts that it was my task to transcribe (more on that in my next post), although I’m not at all sure that I haven’t permanently crooked my back, damaged my eyesight, and laid the groundwork for repetitive stress injuries of the fingers, wrists, and forearms.
I like London, and I like the fact that it’s a city I’m now reasonably familiar with--which isn’t to say that I know it in any deep or profound sense, or that I don’t still get lost, or that I wasn’t nearly run over two or three times after failing to look in the necessary direction (some of you were there, and can vouch for the accuracy of at least that last statement). But as I indicated in my previous post, I’d still take New York over London any day, and my youthful attraction to any and all things British—which was probably really just an attraction to anything that wasn’t obviously present in the suburban world around me--has declined steadily over the years.
Still, I had fun. I spent some quality time with the Ex-Pat--one of my college roommates--and her husband and saw their amazing new home. (I think I need say no more than this: northwest London; three bedrooms, two baths, lots of skylights.) I saw a play at the Globe. I met Dr. Virago and hung out with a variety of other friends, professional friends, and bloggers. I ate the best Lebanese food I’ve had in my life. And I spent a couple of evenings with Victoria, once with and once without the Mancunian (Victoria is my high school friend who’s finishing up a Ph.D. in English in NYC--hers is the apartment I regard as my personal hotel when I’m in the city, since she’s often gone for long stretches visiting the latter, her fiancé, who's a history professor in another state).
And as much as I enjoy traveling by myself, and as often as I do it, I think what I like best about traveling is the excuse and the opportunity that it gives for conversation and for forming or reestablishing friendships--the restaurants and museums and bars of another city are really just the backdrop for that much more important activity.
My last night in London, Victoria took me to a beautiful deco bar essentially unaltered since the 1930s, tucked away down a side-street and reachable only through what appeared to be a private alleyway. Although Victoria and I see each other every few months, and we’ve spoken on the phone a couple of times recently, we haven’t had a real talk in a while. You know what I mean: the intense, wide-ranging, totally honest and totally hilarious conversations that you can have with someone you’ve known for sixteen years, and who’s made many of the same life choices, and who just instantly and automatically gets you. We ordered some food, and a bottle of wine. We thought about desert, we thought about coffee. . . but instead we ordered a second bottle of wine. I don’t even know how many hours passed.
We left as night was falling, and as I cut across Russell Square to get back to my room I felt a rush of happiness and optimism that I think wasn't just the effects of the Grenache. More and more often, I'm feeling that I have a life that I like.