Sunday, May 9, 2010

2003 London Journal brought forth

As part of getting properly psyched about my upcoming (next month, woohoo!) trip to London & Paris I am going to experiment with putting online some of my writing about my 2003 London trip. This was an obsessively detailed travel journal that was fascinating but overwhelming to work on, even from the very start of it – I started making lengthy notes on day 2 of my 2003 trip.

Some of the obsession was getting down a huge percentage of my thoughts, meals, twitches and fears and some was quasi-research on sights so historic they have already been written about to an incredible degree. I didn’t feel the journal made sense as a project without source details but whenever I wrote more fact-based stuff I thought, this can’t compete with other travel books, what is it for?

So – my favorite parts, especially in retrospect, are when I was most adrift – untethered by a real tourist activity, lost in my head more than whatever degree I was lost in London. The Thursday chapter – my last day/evening there - was long and otherwise excruciating to write, but I love that so little substantive happened in it.

I said goodbye to my travel companion that morning – she was in London on business and had offered to share her hotel room with me although she had almost no free time – and by the end of the day was firmly in Sarah mode: my decisions, my mistakes, my realities. Despite Sarah Mode being a fixed place even in its faintly psychotic way, I felt shaky many of the moments I was there – in Sarah’s head, in London, otherwise alone.

I remember wishing – then and my whole life before and since – that I felt more solid inside myself, but with a few years’ more maturity and a brain coating of anti-anxiety pharmaceuticals I like the quaint charm I see in my 2003 self. The drifts of self-made drama and the suffusion of self-consciousness made everything so incredibly personal that, I modestly think, it’s intensely literary (not the same thing as publishable though, sigh).


Well, this intro was fun to write – a Thursday pm brainstorm, drafted at a patio table while I waited for friends at the Blue Goose, my faithful Chardonnay as a temporary companion. I don’t regret the intro length because my new thing is glorying in Sarah Expression!, but it now seems like the long intro should accompany a short journal excerpt. I want to say a teaser, but that would assume a strong appeal to the audience’s appetite, and…uh…that’s too much pressure to put on myself for overhauling an original passage into something zingy, while being faithful to the original – uh, no.

Saturday morning postscript, when I started looking for the right short excerpt to post first…pressure, pressure! The journal is so densely wordy it gives me a headache to work on today. Too bad there is not a reliable software like a dog defuzzing comb to clean up the sentences…although the problem isn’t so much the wording, it’s the thinking. Self-consciousness wrapped so thickly that even with my humor braided in it’s too dense, not in a dark-forest way, but I think will be hard to digest.

OK, here goes…I limited myself on the perfectionistic polishing, just deleted a few ridiculously repetitive words…here is an excerpt cut loose of its chapter moorings (a hotel blackout), ahem:

Most of the bar tables had candles on them, which would have gone unnoticed except for this crisis of electricity. Within a few minutes of my trying to act cool, maintain measured sips of my beer and calm glances at my book, my candle flickered out, almost immediately followed by one at the nearest table. This all-lights-dimming scenario felt a bit bizarre but I tried to engage my brain and not my fear.

A quick study showed that the small table votives had very short wax cylinders and tiny wicks, and the flat metal-bottomed candles had been tilted into round-bottom glasses. The odd angling of the votives into the glass seemed unimportant until I got up to switch out my dead candle (unobtrusively, I hoped) with a still-burning votive from an unoccupied table behind me.

Almost as soon as I had picked it up – and definitely before I had made the few steps back to my table – it went out, because the flat-bottomed votive had tipped toward extinction in the conical-bottomed glass. (I wouldn’t say that I tripped or lurched, but somehow my foot positioning and my reach toward the table were awkward, and my position helped the votive slide.)

This scenario was made worse because I could feel a big black guy in a group of very business-dressed people at the table next to my point of pilfering staring at me, I assumed because of my appropriating the burning light (candles being at a premium in this now-dark room) right next to his group. [Not that Craig ever reads my blog, but if he did - I would explain that the guy being black wasn't scary but his intense stare and his being dressed in ultra-business attire in comparison to my wrinkled grubbiness was intimidating. Really, I am not racist.] My accidentally bumping (thumping) the votive glass against the marble top of the table I was stealing it from didn’t exactly enhance whatever effect I had thought I could carry off.

I needed a candle, as a light source and a comfort symbol, but I knew I was selfish to trade my table’s candle for what I thought would be a healthier specimen. Ironically, or fittingly, for my sin of theft and possibly my sin of drunken lurchiness, I was punished by the light symbolically going out before I could slide it back onto my table.

This was my subject for reflection as I stared at the dead replacement candle on my tabletop.


(To be continued...and to be surrounded with more context...if anyone wants that, LOL.)


Library Lady said...

I actually remember this writing from the spiral-bound notebook you gave me concerning your 2003 London trip. What do you think of that?!?

Loved it! Do you think you'll journal on our trip next month?

I plan on holding everything in my memory -- oh! and in some timely photographs.


Library Lady said...
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