For all of my neuroses made worse by London weather conditions—an aversion to flat hair, a desire to wear Fendi sunglasses when its been overcast for, I don’t know, three years, a heinous propensity to lose umbrellas—I am really going to miss this place.
There is no city on earth where the underground effectively functions as a kaleidoscope quite like the London tube. A quick ride and it’s as if the whole city shakes, rearranging its colors, producing a brand new vision as you emerge just a few blocks from where you began. Two hundred and seventy stations could easily be two hundred and seventy separate cities, each with character and boundless history, inevitably a reinvention or two. Maybe even a duel.
London is commendably small, but there are times when it feels far more expansive than New York. You have room to breathe in the bustle, and plenty of green space to escape to when the smell of fuel exhaust and Starbucks coffee has you at the point of surrender.
And then there’s that cheeky madam they call the queen. Maybe we give London a free ride on the posh highway because it comes complete with its own naughty redheaded prince who snorted vodka up that royal nose of his once. But I challenge you to walk the streets of Mayfair and not become intoxicated with the idea of landed gentry and afternoon tea that could run up a higher tab than a night at Cuckoo Club. We all grew up with visions of King Arthur’s court dancing in our heads—and let’s face it, London is one of the only breathing fairytales we have left on which to pin our silly hopes.
I’ve done London in many ways, from the most exclusive to the downright heinous. I’ve stumbled into a rickshaw that nearly killed me at 4 AM, with a pit stop at the nearest place serving french fries. I’ve had afternoon tea at the Wolseley and admired the portraits in Buckingham Palace. I’ve apartment hunted, hotel hopped, slummed it & drank champagne in the Diamond Club of Emirates Stadium.
I’ve created my own kaleidoscope, shaking the pictures until I find one that fits. The only sad feature of that particular children’s toy is that no two visions ever appear the same. Kaleidoscopes haven’t been fitted with a screen capture option yet, and so we are forced to remember.
And if I could do away with the whole farce of “remembering,” I would. I’m greedy like that. I want all of my experiences collected into the present where I can run away with them, feel them as if they are endless, and hold the people I love as close to me as they’ll allow.
I hate letting go, like the kid who you drag screaming from the pet shop in Harrods (Chihuahuas are going for the fantastic price of £7,000 there…just FYI. They come with documents certifying that they are posh little wankers hence justifying the mark-up). Maybe that makes me immature, but I have a healthy enough ego not to state that outright.
The funny thing about this predicament is that we don’t form new experiences without letting go of old ones. And I am hardly prepared to tell you that I still wish I lived in Singapore (well, actually, I do still wish I lived in Singapore). I wish I lived there and here and home and Moscow. I want to box at my gym in London and have dinner with Eddie Farrell in Barcelona. Until someone violates Einstein’s theory of relativity, perhaps I’ll never be totally satiated. Why can’t we have everything we love, all the time, all at once? Life is so short, it’s the least the universe could do. I wish my life worked like an iPhone camera roll….a quick scroll and there you are, drunk again, covered in face paint at a nightclub somewhere downtown. (Yikes, why did I just say that?)
So London – let’s promise each other this. When we meet again in May, can we pick up as if we never parted? Will you slap me around a bit if I spend time moping over the last place I left, and I’ll slap you back if a hair on your pretty head has been changed? Can you give me back that night we sang Wonderwall at Piano Bar, if I give the Dorchester back the golf umbrella I stole?
These are promises I know we can’t keep, but much like a kaleidoscope, one shake and we can forget we ever made them.
Maybe that kind of insurance is not so bad for someone as immature as me.