Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Graham in Amsterdam.

London - which reminds me of Graham Norton - which reminds me of Amsterdam. Why? Funny you should ask...

If you don't know Graham, you should. Go here, and read. To me he is the funniest guy on telly - his spitfire wit and natty way of dressing are unmatched. It's rare that I don't watch one of his shows and pee my pants laughing.

Anyway when my husband and I went to Amsterdam last May, it rained. Not surprising. It rains a lot in Amsterdam, and one afternoon we were caught in a raging downpour. We had just had a liquid lunch of Palme at our new favorite beer garden. Can't locate it on a map, but could take you right there if we were in the country. I just remember the building was green, which hubby says means it was a Grolsch bar. In any case, we were drunkedly meandering our way down a back alley full of antique shops. The big fat drops that began to pummel us made us meander a helluva lot faster.

As we were running for shelter, we noticed someone else was biking for shelter too. This guy was booking it down the alley going in the opposite direction. Pedaling like the devil was after him. He breezed past us so fast I felt it. Had to jump out of the way actually, not to get run over.

Now you see a lot of that in Amsterdam too, people pedaling like all get out. But this guy was different. For one thing, he was wearing an orange suit. A big, bright, orange suit. With a purple shirt. And very shiny, shiny shoes. In the rain. Which is probably why he was pedaling like the devil. Not to ruin his suit. And I knew him from somewhere........

"Eddie Izzard! Eddie Izzard! I screamed at my husband. "That was Eddie Izzard on the bike!"

"Are you sure?" my husband asked.

"Oh I'm sure! I'd know him anywhere!" I yelled in my drunken stupor, jumping up and down and waving my arms. I was so excited! Lil' ol' me had seen a celebrity!

You know how some people get chatty when they drink? I talk a positive blue streak, so as we ran for cover, I pelted my husband with comments about what a big Eddie Izzard fan I was. And wouldn't this be a great story to tell when we got back? And wasn't it cool that we saw someone famous in Amsterdam.......and........and........and.......and then it dawned on me.............as I sobered up...........that it wasn't Eddie at all. It was Graham.

Doh! I'm such a dumbass! Hey, what do I know? I'm just a drunk American tourist, and to this former fag hag all those fey British comics look alike, right? (sheepish grin). My husband cracked up when I told him. And he still gives me shit about it to this day.

I can laugh about it now, but at the time I was pretty embarrassed. Does this mean I have to turn in my Fag Hag Union card? Because I can't keep my gays straight? (Yeah, I know, Eddie just dresses like a woman, or used to, but you get my meaning). I should've known it wasn't Eddie anyway, because Graham doesn't wear heels. And he's way funnier. And he dresses better. Just look up "natty" in the dictionary, and you'll see his picture.

Why this story? I'm headed to London this very week, and from watching Graham's show I've learned he preys on unwitting victims who happen to be on or near South Bank. One week he placed a phone box right by the London Eye and let it ring. When a guy picked, he picked *him* up, the entire phone box, using a fork lift and brought him into the studio to be an unexpected guest on the show.

So if you see my husband and I trolling the South Bank in the next week or so, looking for suspicious phone boxes attached to forklifts, you'll know why. I'm just trying to get on Graham's show so I can be a "stupid American tourist" and get some autographs, and tell my story. Hey, I'm not proud, I just think he's HIGH-sterical.

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Tuesday, June 3, 2008


Still looking forward to London. Still pouring over the Time Out guides and maps. Found out last night that it's Hampton Court palace I want to go to. It's off the main maps, down south by Kew Gardens. But no worries, I'm sure there are trains or something. Tudor central. My guide says you can sometimes hear Catherine Howard shrieking. Cool. Now, if only I would bump into Jonathan Rhys-Meyers trolling the halls there......

Really looking forward to dim sum in Chinatown as well. London's Chinatown is so cool, way cooler than New York or D.C. I don't know why I like it so much, it's more decorated or something. And at night there's lots of neon, bright colors, really great food.

I first ate dim sum 12 years ago on a 4-day visit to London. I stayed with a friend and his Japanese girlfriend in a tiny flat above a porn shop in Piccadilly. At night the neon would flash red, reflecting off the pools of water between the cobblestones. The clanking of pipes banging together, market stalls being constructed, would wake me up every day at 5 am.

I remember his girlfriend was so friendly and helpful during my short visit. She directed me to the Doc Marten store in Leicester Square (one of my many meccas) and when I wanted to visit the Nicole Farhi boutique, she traversed the maze of tiny mews off Bond Street with me despite protestations from boyfriend that he was "bored!"

And that Sunday, we went to Gerrard Place for dim sum. New World (at 1 Gerrard Place) is one of the last restaurants in the area that does the old-school practice of wheeling the trolleys of dumplings, buns, and other goodies around to the hungry masses. The place is huge, three floors, and I remember my friend and I being the only Caucasians in the place. Always a good sign of yummy things to come.

His girlfriend helped steer us to the best stuff - "Oh yeah, try that!" and "Ugh. Stay away from those," and as we stuffed ourselves she translated the conversations and drama going on around us. "That couple is Taiwanese and they're fighting about money," or "This group over here is Korean and they say they're hung over," and "This group of girls is Chinese, and the one girl is mad at her boyfriend." It was cool - a running, gossipy commentary as we stuffed our faces with Chinese goodness. Great hangover food too.

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Monday, June 2, 2008


So I've got London on the brain. We leave in a little more than three weeks and I can think on nothing else these days. It'll be my second time there, the first being a whirlwind 4-day excursion down from Scotland, oh what, 12 years ago. I bet a lot has changed. No London Eye back then for one thing.

I've been scouring my Time Out guide for the best places to go, our reservations at Gordon Ramsey's Petrus are made (yay!) so what if it's 10:45 on a Monday night? For this small-town girl eating at a 2 Michelin star establishment is a complete dream. I can't frikkin' wait.

After seeing Ewan MacGregor in a full-length Belstaff jumpsuit here, I'm also determined to visit this store, and possibly buy something (eating Ramen noodles for the next 10 years). Yeah, superficial I know, but I bet a Steve McQueen-esque leather jacket would look mighty fine on my husband's Triumph (and on my own bike someday).

It also doesn't help that this trip kinda coincides with the season finale of the Tudors. I've been neck deep in Tudor intrigue for the past month, and now I get to go where it all happened! Tower of London and all those palaces that I can never keep straight here I come! (I just remember they're all connected by barges - in the show they're always heading off to some barge to travel to the "other" palace down the river)

But I digress. Even though it was only 4 days, London remains one of my favorite cities. So international. So damn clean. The Tube so efficient. And high tea. And Graham Norton.

The place I remember best was Westminster Abbey. Being an English major, it was my London mecca. The friend I was staying with in Piccadilly had lived in London 2 years and had never been, which floored me. How could you not go to the place where all the literary giants were memorialized? Where Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth were buried on top of each other - two women who HATED each other with a passion, forced to share a tomb for all time. I couldn't wait to go.

I arrived just before 10 on a beautiful sunny day. The place is enormous, just huge. I spent hours traveling past every statue, looking at every dead British notable there was. The throne for the King of England is there - a beat-up, wooden chair with names carved all over it. Such a homely thing, used for such great purpose. Evidently back in the day it wasn't seen as that big a deal, and doubled as a chair for the royal schoolchildren, who would carve their initials in it when they got bored from classes.

I loved the immensity of the place - you could really get lost just wandering around every little hallway and turret.

And then I stumbled upon the Literary wing. Dylan Thomas, Shakespeare, Yeats, Keats, D. H. Lawrence, all the greats were here. It stunned me so much I had to sit down. Inside I did realize that it wasn't that these giants of literature were actually buried here, but the thought that someone had chosen to have them all remembered in such a grand, holy place made me feel that it warranted a long moment of my time. I took a seat in a pew and let it all sink in. And then I pulled out my journal to write. It seemed the most natural thing in the world. To write in this place.

I sat there the longest while, just putting down my thoughts (wonder where that journal is now....hmmmmmm........should find it and put it here) and as I finished, the bells began to chime. Twelve noon. Time for the daily 15-minute period of silence to honor the dead. For 15 minutes all you could hear throughout this ancient giant structure were soft footfalls, and the creaking of pews as people got up to leave. No one spoke. It was one of the most spiritual, holy moments I've ever experienced. The weight of the history of this place was all around me, and through me, and in my bones. I'll never forget it. I can't wait to go back there.

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where i've escaped...

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