Thursday, December 30, 2004

Snow is wonderful in small doses.

It's nice to watch it fall and camouflage everything in sight under the same pure, clean shade of white.

It's nice because there's no thunder or constant, relentless dripping from the roof or pounding, angry droplets rattling the windows. Even at its worst, snow is silent and peaceful and serene.

It's nice to look out the window and see your boyfriend playing with dogs in the backyard as a thick, puffy white powder gently blankets them all.

It's nice to brush the melting flakes out of his hair when he comes back inside and to see his black coat specked with white dots that aren't dandruff.

It's nice to have a white Christmas.

It's nice to be at someone else's house when it snows, somewhere you don't have to shovel the driveway or navigate a slippery highway to work during an icy morning commute. It's nice just to stay warm inside and watch the snow fall and make the whole world a little bit prettier.

It's nice to visit a place where it snows, just for a few short days, and to know that, soon enough, you'll be going back to a sunny wonderland where it never snows and the weather is always warm and cozy and perfect.

This, on the other hand, fucking sucks.


Monday, December 27, 2004

- Her enthusiastic response to the question, "What did you ask Santa for?"

"Blue ones and gween ones!"
- Her response to the question, "What kind of presents?"

"Ready, set... SCARE!!!!!"
- Her attempt to scare Drew's pretend hiccups away, always followed by squeals of laughter.

"Oh. My. God!"
- Her cutest reaction to a present she opened.

"It's just what I've always wanted!"
- Her second-cutest reaction to a present she opened.

"Look, Mommy! This matches the one we have!"
- Her response to a Dora the Explorer book I bought her, which she already owned.

"Hi, Mommy!" "Hi, Daddy!"
- Two of the only things she said during her pre-school's Christmas concert, while all the other kids were singing.

- The only other thing she said, whenever Mommy or Daddy held up a camera.

"Daddy, I don't like this. Can you put on SpongeBob?"
- Her reaction to "The Year Without a Santa Claus" DVD we put on while driving in the minivan, repeated every five minutes for the first 35 minutes of the DVD's 40-minute run time.

"I loved it!"
- Her review of the movie when it was over.


Thursday, December 16, 2004

I'd like to issue a big thank you to my most favoritest group of people in the world right now:

People who've recently underestimated my age by more than a decade!

My Dental Hygenist"Like 20"
Waiter at Anna'sless than 21
Guy who installed my dishwasherhowever old Frankie Muniz is*

* This one is worth recounting in detail. He had just noticed a Buffy magnet on the fridge...

DISHWASHER INSTALLATION GUY: You know, I installed a dishwasher at her house.
ME: Sarah Michelle Gellar?
DIG: Yeah. Well, her old house.
ME: Was it a nice house?
DIG: Eh. Nothin' special. I guess she don't make that much money.
ME: Oh.
DIG: You know who's got a nice house that I been to? That kid from Malcolm in the Middle.
ME: Which one?
DIG: Ya know, the middle one.
ME: Malcolm?
DIG: Yeah. Huge house. And he's so busy, got all his assistants runnin' around. I had no idea he had all that money. And he's just a kid. Probably about your age.

I gave him a big tip.

(And yes, he really said, "Ya know, the middle one.")


Monday, December 13, 2004

Okay, I've fallen way behind on my England recaps, and to be honest, I've kind of lost interest. I've been back for over two weeks now, and I'm just about to move onto the sequel to European Vacation, which, of course, is Christmas Vacation. I'm all about the closure, though, even if it's half-assed, so here goes:

On Friday, the last full day of our trip, Drew and I checked out the London Dungeon, which takes all the brutal, grotesque horrors in London's history, from medieval torture to the Plague to Jack the Ripper, and turns them into wholesome spookhouse fun for the whole family! There's a ride of some sort, too, but it was broken when we went.

We also visited an exhibit at Canada House which Drew had been dying to go to all week. It was created by Douglas Coupland to express what Canada meant to him. All I remember is that it was all in one room and that it included a box of Captain Crunch that was written in French. I would've taken a picture of it, but I had already learned my lesson about not taking pictures in museums, and since it didn't involve bratty kids causing trouble, it wasn't worth the risk.

That night, we attended our last theatrical event, "The Woman in Black", not to be confused with "The Woman in White", which is a totally different show. (My sympathies to the box office employees who have to deal with all the wacky mixups which must occur.) "The Woman in Black" has been running for more than ten years, and unlike "The Woman in White", it didn't contain any music composed by Andrew Lloyd Weber, which was a big plus. It's a thriller, but unlike the other long-running thriller we saw on our trip, it was actually kind of scary. Sure, the scares were all of the cheap-thrill variety (i.e., every ten minutes or so the lights went out and a loud sound effect was played). And sure, like that other long-running thriller, the Big Twist was neither big nor a twist, but it was fun nonetheless. And the audience was full of screaming teenagers, which, if you can't see a thriller at the Magic Johnson Theaters in South L.A., is the next-best thing.

If I have any regrets from our trip, they're all due to poor timing. Several things we would've really enjoyed didn't happen until after we left. For one thing, we never got to see the end of "The X-Factor" or "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here". And we were just two days shy of the release day of the Band Aid 20 version of "Do They Know It's Christmas?", which won't be commercially available in the U.S. (but which you can download here). As if to taunt us, we heard it played in an HMV store just minutes before we left for the airport on our last day. And if we'd stayed just one more week, we could've gone to the Will Young concert. (Will, come to the U.S. We'll be kinder than we were to Robbie, I swear!)

None of it stings quite as much as missing Mary Poppins the Musical, which began previews a mere nine days after we left and which opens officially tomorrow. Mary Poppins is the latest London theatrical extravaganza and the most eagerly-anticipated show in Jerry and Drew's apartment since, well, ever.

As if to torture ourselves, we went past the theatre in which Mary Poppins is preparing for its final preview at the exact moment I'm typing this. (Argh.) It's conveniently located in the very gayest part of London, and its direct neighbor, just a few metres away, is the unambiguously named nightclub G-A-Y. This certainly provides for some great cross-promotional opportunities with the show's primary audience, but as for its secondary audience, I imagine the kiddies are going to be learning quite a bit more than "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" while they're queueing up for this show.

And that, sadly, brings our little trip to an end. Since I began this tour with an illegal download of a silly cover of a well-known song, I'm going to end it that way as well. (Ah, closure. At last you are mine!) This one's from the new covers album by the Beautiful South.

Click here to download, and if you don't recognize it at first, give it a second. You will.




Someone asked me very politely to post a picture of our shabby but lovable Charlie Brown Christmas tree. Since someone is kind enough to turn the Christmas tree lights on every morning before I wake up, it was the least I could do.

Notice that the tree isn't even strong enough to hold up the star on top, which dips sadly to the side under its minimal weight.

Notice the skis in the background which have never been used.

And notice the embarrassing piece of sheet music on the piano. This was specifically staged for this photo, and I'll happily admit it is from my vast collection of embarrassing sheet music.

However, it's slightly less embarrassing than the sheet music which was actually on the piano before the picture was taken, which belonged not to me, but to someone who shall remain linkless.


Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving! Okay, so I'm now running almost two whole weeks behind on these London updates, but I'm determined to finish, dammit! So hop back in your time machine and join me in pretending it's that wonderful late-November holiday for gathering with family and giving thanks. Only it's not, because this is London and nobody knows what Thanksgiving is... or do they????

Best in All Westminster!: Thanksgiving in London was pretty much like any other day. Everyone went to work, all the stores were open and the streets -- and tourist traps -- were just as crowded. One of the things we spotted on our bus tour that we wanted to go back to was Westminster Abbey. It took us until Thursday, but we finally made it. It's a beautiful, gargantuan testament to the Royal Family's love of God and itself, and unlike the museums, you have to pay to get in. Art is cheap; for Jesus, you have to cough up some dough. Still, it was impressive and definitely worth the trip. As we toured the facilities trying to whisper our wisecracks to each other, suddenly a solemn voice came over the loudspeaker. "We'd like to take a moment of silence for our friends in America on this particular day," it said. "Oh, great," I thought. "Somebody blew something up." But the voice continued, "Today is their Thanksgiving Day..." Aw, shucks. I didn't think you guys remembered! What can I say? I was touched. God save the Queen!

Small World: One of the side effects of dating the friendliest and most well-liked person in Hollywood is that everywhere we go, it's pretty much guaranteed he'll run into someone he knows. I have a theory that these encounters are inevitable, and no variable, like being a continent away from home, for example, has any effect on Drew's ability to connect with someone he knows. Sure enough, about five minutes after we got through immigration, we heard someone calling out his name at baggage claim. "Drew! Drew!" A-ha! It was a producer Drew worked with, who had flown in for a last-minute vacation, just like us. When he told us he had no plans for Thanksgiving, we invited him to come out with us.

Flash forward to Thursday. Drew had done his homework and found a few places that were serving "American" Thanksgiving dinners, and we chose one through a very selective process: It was the only one that wasn't already booked up. It turned out it was also a dump. When we showed up, we found ourselves in a greasy American-style BBQ joint, and not a very impressive one. It looked very much like a grimy fast-food type take out (or "take-away" as the Brits say). Even worse, they were showing a soccer game on TV to a crowd of rowdy Brits. I was mortified. This is where we convinced this poor guy to spend Thanksgiving? Thankfully, the Thanksgiving dinner was served in a separate dining room in the basement, which was much nicer. Dinner was good, but I was most thankful that my theory was proven correct.

Cats of Britain, You've Been Warned: Probably the highlight of the day for Drew was this incident. I missed it, so I'll let him tell you about the big catfight at the London Transport Museum. Meow! Shortly after we ran into Drew's work acquaintance, Drew confided to me that the guy was an ambigusexual, and no one was sure if he was straight or gay. I immediately voted gay, but Drew remained unsure. We managed to score some tickets to Andrew Lloyd Weber's new musical "The Woman in White" for Thanksgiving night, and that meant we'd probably find out eventually. Discussions about Andrew Lloyd Weber have a way of outing people. Thankfully, we didn't have to wait until the show for our answer. At dinner, he mentioned that he had recently suffered a bad breakup from a long-term relationship. Drew and I waited anxiously for the first pronoun to appear and sure enough, it was a "he". Hooray! Mystery solved, and a rare triumph for my gaydar! And now we had one more pawn to play matchmaker with back in LA! The guy's name, by the way, was Andrew, and I'd like to thank him for not going by Drew -- though, of course, that was his ex-boyfriend's name.

Woman In White: Thursday's installment in Jerry and Drew Must See a Show Every Day They're Here was "The Woman in White". Neither of us really likes Andrew Lloyd Weber, but it was the hot ticket in town (not counting "The Producers", which I'd already seen and Drew had no interest in), and we like to follow the herd. What's most notable about the show is that there are no traditional sets. Rather, the scenic design is projected onto a giant curved screen that rotates behind the actors. I don't know if this was an effort to save money or to be cutting edge, but I doubt they did either one. Regardless of what you think of the music, how you feel about the show will depend largely on whether or not you appreciate this gimmick. It's so overwhelming that it's hard to notice anything else. I went along with it, and I managed to enjoy the ride. Surprisingly, it was probably the best show I saw all week. And for the record, Andrew loved it, too.


Saturday, December 04, 2004

Is that him?

It's definitely him.

Oh, shit. Does he see me? Can I hide? No, I can't hide. This place is too small.

I'm going to have to say something to him. What should I say? I can't think of anything to say.

Man, he looks terrible.

Does he see me? Okay, this is weird, he's not even looking at me. I mean, he's like ten feet away from me. Could he really be that oblivious? Or maybe he saw me before I even walked in, and he's been ignoring me even longer than I've been ignoring him?


Man, his wife is U-G-L-Y.

How long has it been since I've seen him? Three years? Maybe four. Well, it's been a long time. I can't believe I haven't run into him sooner.

Okay, at this point, it's
WAY too late to say anything to him. I guess we're both just going to continue ignoring each other until he leaves. He's clearly paid his bill already. What's taking him so long to leave?

Man, his baby is U-G-L-Y.

Poor kid. Her dad's a dick.

Their marriage clearly isn't going to last very long.

Oh, good. They're finally leaving. Sayonara, asshole! You can quit pretending you don't see me now.

that figures. They're parked directly out front, so I still have to watch him while he's getting in his car.

Okay, if he saw me at any point, he'll definitely glance back before he's gone. Okay... okay... so why isn't he looking?

Jesus, how long does it take someone to load one damn kid into a minivan?


Oh, shit.

What's going on here?

Is he following me?

No, don't be stupid. Why would he follow me just to ignore me?

This is so stupid. Maybe I should just talk to him.

I can't talk to him! Not after we ignored each other the first time! That would be so awkward.

I seriously can't believe this. This has to be one of the top ten most random things that's ever happened.

Yikes, he's coming this way. Okay, hide. Hide! Duck down that row. Whew! That was close!

Where am I? The humor and games aisle. Is that safe? No, moron! This is right on the way to the children's section, and that's obviously where his ugly kid is dragging him. Oh, God. Here he comes. Here he comes! Okay, when I hear his voice get close enough, I'm going to sneak around the back of the aisle out of sight.

Okay... now.

Okay, now when he cuts across toward the children's section, I'll escape down the next aisle. But I have to time it just right or he'll see me, and the only thing worse than running into him is for him to know that I'm trying to avoid him. There's no way I'm giving him that satisfaction.

What if I did talk to him? Would I have to mention seeing him at Ed's? No way. I couldn't. And I couldn't NOT mention it, because then I'd seem like such a big phony.

Well, wait a second. I know he doesn't want to see me. How hilarious would it be if I
did go up to him now? He'd pretend like he was happy to see me, but I'd know he wasn't, and he'd know that I knew, and he'd feel like the biggest asshole on Earth, which he is. Ha, ha, ha! Oh, God! That's perfect! I love it! I'll finally achieve my revenge through a moment of social awkwardness!

Okay, I'm doing it! I'm going to march right up to him and--

Shit! Here he comes! Move to the next aisle! Hurry! Hurry!

Whew! I made it. I don't think he saw me at all.




Thursday, December 02, 2004

Having It Our Way: Midway through our trip, Drew and I finally found a place that served the kind of breakfast we liked, a little chain restaurant with an Irish name. They had muffins and hash browns and scrambled eggs, pancakes that were really pancakes and glorious, glorious orange juice. Not only that, but it was also one of the cleanest, nicest places we saw all week. The two-tiered dining room was bright and funky, with a hip décor that would put Central Perk to shame. What's more, there were computers with internet access and flat-panel TV screens on the walls that played videos from popular British artists. While we were there, we heard (and saw) "Come on Eileen" by Dexy's Midnight Runners and "There's No Other Way" by Blur, which, let's face it, are two of the greatest songs ever. I was so happy we found this Mecca of American breakfast that I snapped this photo. See if you can spot Drew.

McDonald's, I love you.

(Chitty x 2, Bang x 2) x 2: Even though I had witnessed the theatrical adventures of London's favorite flying vehicle on my last trip, I ended up going again so that I could share the magic with Drew. Okay, so it didn't hurt that the cast featured Jason Donovan and Stephen Gately and, as much as I hate to admit it, I do enjoy stunt casting involving cheesy, washed-up pop stars. (I don't care what anyone says. Debbie Gibson is Eponine.) Because I wanted to recreate my previous experience as much as possible, we decided to attend a Wednesday matinee, which would definitely be full of rowdy grade school kids on field trips. Well, that's where we were wrong. Instead, the first ten rows or so had been bought out by some senior citizens organization, and they were all full of gray-haired (and seemingly unimpressed) old ladies and gentlemen.

It was so bad that one performer even ad-libbed his disappointment the atypical crowd. At one point, one of the bad guys, who hates children, is supposed to look out into the audience and exclaim, "Oh, no! There are children everywhere!" But he found himself unable to sell the line, and instead what came out was something like, "Oh, no! There are children... well, somewhere! There must be some! Oh, look, there in the back!" Alas, the only wide-eyed little boy in my row was the one I came with, and even he was disappointed by the show.

Furthermore, I learned that the failed flying scene from the last time I saw the show was actually a failed rafting scene, and everything worked as it was supposed to this time. If my scanner weren't broken, this is where I'd put a picture from a British magazine of Stephen Gately in his grotesque Childcatcher makeup, which bore the amusing caption, "Sorry girls, he's gay." Instead, here's a picture of the marquee for the West End production of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest", starring Christian Slater, who clearly has no problem playing up the cuckoo angle:

Fun For the Whole Family: Later that night, we found out where all the kids were that day. Duh! They were on the Jack the Ripper tour! Given the horrific nature of the crimes, we were a little surprised to see parents who had brought their preteen tots along with them for this, but then again, as Bart said to Lisa, "If you don't watch the violence, you'll never get desensitized to it." The tour was fascinating and informative, and it showed us a side of London we would never have visited otherwise. But the best part, hands down, was watching those tiny jaws hit the ground. If you can't watch kids squealing with delight at a flying car, then the next best thing is to watch them wincing in horror as a tour guide recounts the disemboweling of a toothless, syphilitic prostitute in gruesome, intestine-splattered detail.

More Dining Adventures: I'm going to say it. Wednesday was our best day for dining of the entire trip. Not only did I enjoy the eggs and pancakes at the nicest McDonald's I'd ever seen, but lunch and dinner were even better. For lunch, we ate at Wagamama. Wagamama is a chain of noodle shops that had been recommended to us by three different people before we left. We decided we'd definitely go there if we could find it. Well, that was easy enough. Wagamama is everywhere, and it's easy to see why. It was cheap (relatively speaking, given the lousy exchange rate, of course), fun and tasty. It's also one of London's few (for now) smoke-free restaurants, which makes the communal (i.e., bench-style) seating much more tolerable. For dinner, we decided to try Indian food again, and this time we went the potluck route, stumbling randomly into a hole-in-the-wall place in Soho called the Golden Oven. It was so delicious, if I had my way, I would now insist on all ovens being made of precious metals. Drew agreed, proclaiming it the best Indian food he'd ever had.

Back the Bid: London is currently in the midst of a massive PR campaign to land the 2012 Summer Olympics. Posters like this one, featuring an athlete hurtling over Tower Bridge, were all over the city.

I kept expecting to see one with Tony Blair spiking a volleyball over the walls of Westminster Abbey, but alas, maybe he was too busy to pose.


Wednesday, December 01, 2004

International House of Pancakes, Where Are You?: One thing you can't get in England is a good American breakfast. Trust me, we looked everywhere. Our hotel came with a "full English breakfast", and Tuesday was the first and only day we actually tried it. The full English breakfast consists of sausages, dry cereal, toast, oatmeal, poached eggs and several foods you'd never associate with breakfast at all, like boiled mushrooms. The closest thing I found to something I liked was one day when I ordered a platter of "eggs, chips and beans", but the waiter seemed confused when I asked for my eggs scrambled. "If that's how you want them!" he said. You'd think a country that's so close to France would at least have French toast, but no. We saw pancakes advertised somewhere, but when we investigated further, they turned out to be actual cakes. I decided that if I ever move to London, it's going to be to open an IHOP franchise. The American tourists would be grateful, and we can offer a side of boiled mushrooms for those who want it.

British Bullies: It just so happened that our trip coincided with national Anti-Bullying week, an awareness campaign organized by several different groups in order to condemn schoolyard bullying. Kids and celebrities were encouraged to show their support by wearing signature blue wristbands and sharing their tearful confessions of their experiences with bullying. Despite a diligent search, I could not find a wristband available for purchase anywhere. ("Think like a British schoolkid, Jerry. Where do they shop?") One of the spokespeople for the event was the ubiquitous Sharon Osbourne. A fawning tabloid profile calling Sharon "the only obvious successor to the Queen" quoted her as saying, "My eldest daughter was severely bullied at school. It just has to stop because everybody should have the freedom to be themselves, to learn and to not be afraid. Also, please watch my show, 'The X-Factor' on ITV." If there's anyone to solve the bully crisis, it's Sharon Osbourne, though I'm not sure there are enough rotting hams in the world to throw over all those fences. If my scanner wasn't broken, this is where the amusing newspaper photo of Sharon Osbourne showing off her blue wristband would go. Instead, enjoy this picture of Girls Aloud:

Now, Time To Encourage Bullying: A couple of years ago, when I went to Paris, I was stunned to see a class of seven-year-olds on a field trip to the museum. The teacher had them sitting in front of some French impressionist painting, and the kids were animated, inquisitive and enthused. They kept raising their hands, asking questions and making comments, and the teacher would respond with encouraging but challenging retorts that helped the kids develop their skills of art criticism. Okay, so I don't speak French, and maybe they were all asking what time lunch was, but still, I was simultaneously impressed by the French education system and humbled by our American one. Thankfully, when Drew and I visited the Tate Modern, we encountered plenty of schoolkids who were behaving more like rowdy, classless American kids than budding art critics. My favorite was one group of boys who were engaging in a textbook example of field trip harassment, sticking a note to a little girl's back. I thought at first that the note said "Punish Me", but Drew pointed out that it actually said "Push Me". I preferred my way, which seemed to have more of a charming British twist on the standard prank. I really wanted a memento of the event, but I was too scared to snap a picture. Thankfully, my boyfriend is far braver than I am, so you can thank him for this shot:

I was so nervous when Drew took the shot that I left the room, but apparently the bullies saw Drew with the camera and were thrilled that someone was documenting their work on film. They're probably still holding it over that girl's head. "I bet that picture of you shows up on the internet! Ha, ha!" Oh, well. Hopefully, she at least got a wristband out of it.

British Art Lesson: Shortly after the post-it bullies, we ran into another group of schoolkids studying a famous Andy Warhol painting of a multi-paned, brightly-colored Marilyn Monroe. The teacher gathered her students around a bench, passed out photocopies of a man's face and distributed magic markers so the kids could do their own recreation. I was sure the guy had to be some iconic British celebrity, but I didn't quite recognize him.

Me: "Who's that in the picture?"
Drew: "I think it's Beckham."

Ah, yes, of course. It was Beckham, the 21st Century British Marilyn Monroe.

Again, I had Drew take the picture, and this time he got yelled at for it. How was I supposed to know you're not supposed to take pictures in a museum? Nobody ever taught me that.

The Touristtrap: One of my regrets from my last trip to London was not seeing "The Mousetrap", the legendary Agatha Christie play that's been running in the West End since before your mama was born. It's a whodunit that takes place at a remote, snowed-in location full of mystery guests, one of whom is a killer. Sound familiar? Does it sound, in fact, like every whodunit? Well, I guess it was groundbreaking back in 1841 when it premiered. At the end of the show, one of the characters implores the audience to keep the mystery alive, to take the secret of the show and "lock it in your hearts". (He makes a little "locking" motion with his hands when he says this. Nice touch.) Well, I could get in a lot of trouble for this, but I'm going to reveal the secret of "The Mousetrap" for you right here. Ready? Here it is...

It's a little outdated.

These days, we've come to expect earth-shaking twists of the "... is really a man"/"... is really dead"/"... is really in the present day off a highway in Pennsylvania" variety. The big revelation in "The Mousetrap" is more along the lines of "Oh, it was that character who did it? I see." Plus, let's just say its views on homosexuality are definitely stuck in another time. I think when it first premiered, one character's not-so-delicately-couched homosexuality was supposed to cast doubt on his mental stability. (Memo to Agatha Christie: no gay guy, in your day or mine, would be caught dead in that sweater.) Two days after we saw the show, it celebrated its 53rd anniversary. I always wondered why such a popular show didn't spawn revivals and regional productions all the time. Now, I think I get it. Actually, I think the secret's out. On the night we saw the show, the theater was about half full. Still, you have to admire the British sense of tradition. Maybe it's subsidized by the Queen or something.


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