Tuesday, January 25, 2011

LONDON - Catching Up

Note: I will add more pictures to this post soon
Arrived in London. Somehow I was convinced that I would never get here. This idea entered my mind well before my first plane took off. The idea of me in London seemed like a daydream. Something I might wish for, but only on a whim. It was on my second plane (when I hit turbulence nearing England) that I was reminded that I could not and would not ever actually be there, and it almost came as a relief. To crash and burn so close to my destination. Like other great overachievers, I had stretched out my hand and hopes too far. To die reaching for the sky, for greatness, for something more than just what I've been given. I like the idea. Unfortunately, the turbulence passed and we landed safely.

January 7, 2011
Visiting the tower of London. It is a wet day. Castle and cobblestones glisten. London feels as if it’s in a cloud bubble. There is layer upon layer of cloud, sometimes you can see the lower faster moving ones passing by, but above them it is only gray, no sky or world outside of this one. Occasionally the sun creates a light spot, giving a slight change of hue to what is normally an untainted light-charcoal-gray dome.  The tower of London is impressive. It stands as a regal relic of keepsake and tradition. The stones are ancient, and so should be the traditions. Yet the stones remain, and so too the traditions. The royal jewels are stored here. Huge massive diamonds are inlayed in silver and gold. Crowns, scepters, even silverware. What are they for? Exaltation? Ceremony? A few moments of purpose followed by years behind glass. We see them there, reflecting the lights made to illuminate their greatness. They are greater than us. The queen is greater than us. We cannot touch them. They tower over us like the glistening stones of the structure that houses them. This is wrong. No one is greater than I, than you, than the middle-class Brazilian family standing next to me in line. Why should I feel grateful that the royal family, in all their greatness, condescend to show me their stones. I want to break the glass case. To throw the stones in the river and melt the metal down, cast it into thousands of rings and marry the world to a new tradition, or to no tradition at all. Is this the American inside of me? I come from a land with little history and even littler tradition. A land that says, you are your own king, you make your own crown.

January 12, 2011
Visited Salisbury cathedral, Stonehenge, and Bath. Excellence in location; all three places. I have a sore throat/cough and my pilgrimage to Bath treads on the very same road fellow ailed pilgrims have traveled for centuries. My dreams are also the same as theirs: to touch the water and be healed by some magical unseen spring of hope. The tour was a little boring. I rushed through all the preliminary exhibitions and display cases so I could finally get to the water. When I did, I quickly dipped the pointer finger on my left hand into the spring’s water, ignoring the pleas of the waters keepers asking us not too. How could I not? I yearned for healing. My throat throbbed with an unbearable pain that modern medicine was powerless to heal. The water could though, and I knew it, I believed it with ever fiber of my sickly being. As my fingertip touched the magical water’s warm surface, I felt a surge of life giving energy pass through me. I felt powerful! like the stalwart pillars of the bath’s walls, I could do anything and last forever. This was better than any drug, and suddenly I knew just touching it wouldn’t be enough…I needed to drink it. It needed to become a part of me if I wanted this healing high to last. Unfortunately however, the sacred waters are well guarded and no opportunity to drink of them presented itself during the tour. Discouraged, I made my way through the exit and into the gift shop. In the gift shop, my prayers were answered. I found a bottle of Bath water for sale, only 4 pounds! I bought it immediately. After eating a delicious steak pasty with everyone, huddled and standing inside because of the rain, we went into Marks and Spencer to sit down and the girls got some tea. At the table I unwrapped my Bath water, and after finally getting the cork out, I drank to my health.  

January 22, 2011
York, Preston, and Liverpool.
York is like a little medieval village. Quaint narrow alleys with shops that seem to lean over the street, making it feel like walking through an arch of architecture. The cobblestone paths weave their way through the small city, they feel as if they were designed with no direction in mind, their curves and winds are arbitrary and inspired. It feels good not to walk in a straight line, but to be guided along, not knowing which way I will turn next. The cathedral here is breathtaking. It is medieval, and in the religious fashion so common to that time, its large arching spires force my eyes to heaven, whether or not I want them to go there.
Preston has a lot of history. It is not very large and has a distinct rural feel. Despite our tour guides attempts to win us over with fact and story, the sunset had our full attention. It was unbelievable. It was as if the sun was returning from the thousand years sleep of the dim gray day. Its warm effervescent beams caressed the earth, illuminating, creating art as it painted pictures of this world of Preston, scenes and colors the town had never seen before.

Liverpool was more modern. A young city, perhaps not always young, but the young had made it that way. It is foggy and cold. The fog is thick, I can see it rolling off the waters and invading the city. A slow unstoppable force that flows between the buildings, filling in open spaces, making everything feel close and immediate. It feels claustrophobic. It presses on me, wraps me up in its cold arms and squeezes. I breath it in, the fog is so thick that I can feel it moving through my throat and into my lungs. I fight it there, my lungs warm the air, the foreign fog disappears and as I breath out, I create my own fog. The night is still early, so the streets of Liverpool are filled with all ages. Middle ages walk in pairs of opposite sex. They take quick steps and walk in stride. They are out to eat, to talk, and then to return home. The old are slower. Their time is day, and when the gloaming begins, like coupled birds to their nests, they prefer roosting to the dangers of night. Only a few old are seen, but only for a moment. As quickly as they can, they leave the city buildings for the safety and warmth of a cab. It is the young that rule the night. They travel in packs. Loud unorganized masses made of individual pieces that cannot and will not function independently. They are hoodlums. Hormone driven hooligans that want to laugh and dance and drink. Music is their lifeblood. It is as important to them as the foggy Liverpool air they breath. Without it they would starve. And they did in the past, the time before The Beatles - those gods of music - changed this city forever. They fed the hungry masses. Their sermons were more powerful than words, they were music. They spoke to an entire generation, and that generation listened with eager hungry ears. They had been waiting for a savior. They had been cooped up in their homes, electrons revolving around the nuclear family, powerless to leave their path. Rock and roll electrified them. It shook them from their orbit and propelled them into the world, free to bounce around, absorb and be absorbed. The youth took the world by storm and it would never be the same. Liverpool was the base and The Beatles were the catalyst. The biggest atomic bomb to ever go off, the chemical reaction started small, exploded quickly, and then filled the world with a radioactive cloud of radio waves. Liverpool is ground zero and I am here, examining the leftover pieces like a forensic scientist, just trying to understand. 


Spring said...

You, Sir Brenden O'Neal, are talented.

Haley said...

Dude it's about time.

Anonymous said...

If I visited those places I could probably only come up with one paragraph in all. You amaze me with your talent for writing!