December 28, 2003

How do you spell brussel sprouts?

I finally hooked my computer up to the internet! I’m so proud of myself for finally figuring it out. The thing seemed just useless without it, although it is still a bit useless. It moves terribly slowly and lets out long low moans like a hassled old man. It makes me feel rustic-- like I’m writing on a faulty old typewriter, tapping along just barely with the intermittent interruption. They give one time to think anyway.

The night before I returned from London I freaked out a bit. I think it was all that Jasmine tea, I was wired. When we got back to the hotel I changed back into my jeans, took my notebook and went into the bathroom. I sat in there scribbling away furiously. I just felt so cut off from everything; I thought maybe I’d changed, gone jaded or something. That night I couldn’t sleep at all. I lay in bed frantically analyzing everything. I always loose my mind some when I go away, it’s necessary because if I don’t travel I get bored and start hating everything.

That night I came to pinpoint the exact climax of the trip. The whole reason that I was unhappy was that it had occurred on the second day and everything after was just a let down. It was in The National Gallery. We got there at 2:30 and the museum closed at 6:00. I had demanded that we buy sandwiches in the tube and eat them while on the train, because I knew that I would want to see everything and we just didn’t have enough time. My dad had bought some French cheese at the Notting Hill market earlier that day and I could smell the thick stench of it right through his backpack. I couldn’t stand to be next to him for another second. In the museum I steered us toward the 15-16th century wing and made it my duty to loose him. I wasn’t hard and soon I was in Renaissance heaven.

I can’t really enjoy looking at art unless there are many paintings in a room by one artist, or maybe if the room is empty except for one fantastic painting (although the only time I can think of like this was with a Pontormo in a tiny church). On this day it was perfect: the slow warm up, a few random somewhat mediocre paintings, and then a Michelangelo. It was an unfinished one, called The Entombment. Most of it appeared to be complete and then a hand or an arm or bits of the background were left completely untouched, a gaping hole in the middle of the canvas. I’m convinced he just did it to show off, no one can paint like that! I walked onward.

There was a nice build up with the Botticelli’s and then I hit the Titian and Veronese room. The very highlight of the trip occurred when I saw the huge Veronese painting. I can’t even really remember it now, just that it was huge and had Mary in it. There was a flash of light with disembodied winged angel heads flying down it. There were many figures. It was one of those paintings that made you want to see the whole thing at once, but it was so big and complicated that it was impossible. Your eye got caught on all the details and whizzed around the whole canvas, looking everywhere at once. I stood way back and tried to see it all and then walked in close and concentrated on everyone’s faces.

When the museum closed I walked out the front entrance. Trafalgar Square was all lit up and there was a huge Christmas tree out front. We went to a pub up the street and I sat with a beer, listening to the beatles and writing a post card. It was perfect.

Usually upon leaving on a trip I feel the worst sort of loneliness—an anxious far away feeling down in my lungs, my breathing goes shallow, and there is a distant ache in my chest. It’s the most awful sort of fear, but eventually it subsides. This time I didn’t feel anything as I was going. Even sitting on the plane it seemed I was hardly aware that I was heading any place, I just felt listless and a little exasperated. My seatmates were a dopey British couple and they didn’t say a word to me the whole six hour ride.

The night before we went home I began to wonder if I’d changed. I thought that maybe I’d traveled so much I’d become jaded by it. Or perhaps it was because it wasn’t really my trip, I didn’t plan it or pay for it. It was my dad’s trip and I was merely a witness. I worried that maybe I drink too much, that beer had killed off all sensory stimulation in my brain, I’d turned into a strange blob. Distant. Emotionless. Then I realized that no one had really spoken to me all week. Conversation didn’t go beyond the formalities, my questions answered, it was all felt very superficial. I guess the Brits like to keep to themselves, and then again so do I.

The most intimate I felt was the few words exchanged with the French waiter at a café down the street. It was the only thing opened on Christmas, so we went there twice that day. He was long and lean, with dark hair, and an unshaven face. His left eyebrow seemed to be perpetually cocked giving him a wry, teasing expression. On first look he wasn’t terribly attractive, a bit too skinny and his face was somehow rough and weathered. There was something about him, though.

When he spoke to you he drew you right in—his voice at just the right level so you felt as if there were something between you, some sort of private joke or secret knowledge that you shared. It was like he had a particular interest in talking to you, and feeding you, and making sure you were satisfied by what he gave you. He showed me all of the dishes they had and carefully explained each one. When he called the brussell sprouts bean sprouts and my father corrected him he leaned into my ear and asked, “what do you call them?”
“bussel sprouts” I murmured nearly melting into the floor.
“brussel sprouts?”
“Yes, brussel sprouts.

Posted by on December 28, 2003 11:33 PM

i think you actually spell it "brussels sprouts." you don't notice the s when you say it aloud because the sound just gets absorbed by the s in sprouts. not trying to be a know it all-- you DID ask!

Posted by: bmad on December 31, 2003 12:24 PM

I don't think you're a know it all. I just wanted everyone to know that I was fully aware that I was mispelling it so that they'd have no reason to feel superior. That's what I hate.

Posted by: The Lady on December 31, 2003 6:30 PM
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