Wednesday, July 9, 2003

Armitage Shanks

Just when I think it’s sunk in, I realize it hasn’t and I’m a stranger again.

The novelty of living in this old city never struck my mind more sensationally than when the spit flew from the mouth of an Shakespearean actress on landed on my forehead. The construction of the Globe affords me the privilege of groundlinghood — I’m standing with my stomach pressed against the stage, the cast of an all-female production of Richard III screaming, crying, and dueling no more than six inched from my awe-stricken face. The actress playing Richard defies the confines of gender with a malicious grin; the actress playing Anne, who would be pretty if she didn’t have the nose of the pigfaces from that “Eye of the Beholder” episode of the Twilight Zone, is the one whose saliva has splashed on my head. Her Anne is both dignified and pathetic. It was the second performance of a Shakespeare play at the reconstructed Globe within twenty-four hours, the previous being an all-male Richard II. I never thought I could like the history plays like this.

I live among the unnervingly wealthy here. The bitchy, British judge from American Idol shops at the grocery store we went to the first day. We saw him. The Dutch embassy is our next door neighbors. They’re nice people, I’m sure. Our front window looks out onto Hyde Park, a sprawling green better than any strip of brush we call a park in the States. Aside from the palace within the park, there’s a golden statue of Prince Albert — ahem — and the Serpentine Galley, which is presently featuring a show by Cindy Sherman.

The flatmates are good, certainly better than I expected from a school that admits cows into its undergraduate program. Some of them suck beyond the telling of it, but mostly I’m happy.

In the interest of conserving the flat’s most prized resource — toilet paper — I braved the bidet today. Webster defines “bidet” in a way that makes me smile: “a bathroom fixture used especially for bathing the external genitals and the posterior parts of the body.” Truthfully, I think the toilet’s little sister is a fixture made only for women. The male genitals hang in such a way as to be teased annoying by the bidet’s stream of water. While the stream does clean the desired parts, it strikes the seldom-stuck region to the rear of the nut sack in the process, causing an unpleasant slap-slap-slap that does not make me smile. I think Bidet Town is an area of the European lifestyle I will leave uncharted after all.

And most impressive above all these things: I learned how to use the tube without getting lost.

Where do I go from here?

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