Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Day 42: Say Hello and Say Goodbye

The forecast said cloudy and rain. The morning started out with big gloomy grey clouds. As I waited for my bus, the wind was cold, bearable in my t-shirt but still colder than usual. When I arrived at Leicester Square, the day was grey, people wrapped in jackets and coats, umbrellas abounded. But I forged on. It’s my last full day.

I found my way to Charing Cross Road, a place known for it’s book stores. I love book stores, after Borders closed in the US, I have no book stores near me except a second hand chain book store that gets the lower prices because they buy publishers’ overruns, or something like that. They don’t buy your books and re-sell them.

But the books stores on Charing Cross have rare books and old books, leather bound books with gold gilded pages. When you step in, you smell the ‘ancientness’. It’s something akin to an antique store, but a stronger smell. Both old stores were cramped and filled with shelves that rose to the ceiling. Then both had downstairs areas that were the size of closets and twisted into warrens of books. One had more older things, going as far as labeling on self as “medium rare” having just eaten, the pun was lost on me.

But they both had that classic old book smell. I used to love it, but my allergies have overpowered whatever nostalgia I may have left in me. The tightness of the rooms, the closeness of the smells, I could not stay long. I did pick up to massive paper back tomes by Peter F Hamilton, Britain’s Number One Science Fiction Writer (proclaims the book-I’d hazard George Orwell, H.G. Wells, maybe Arthur C. Clarke might have argued that point, but they are dead). It’s ‘hard’ sci fi so I’ll see.

Then I made my way to Abbey Road. I’ve been a Beatles fan since I was a kid. I grew up listening to Sinatra, Streisand and even Mario Lanza because I listened to the music my parents listened to. Then when I discovered rock n roll, it was actually ELO, a British band. Having listened and appreciating the standards (I still do though I don’t know when they became jazz), I appreciate lyrics just as much if not more on a song. The Beatles, as we all know, are masters of the form.

How could I leave England without visiting the famous Abbey Road, I was going to cross that corner, even if I had to walk it barefoot! I wasn’t hard to find at all, it was a quick 20-30min ride from Leicester Square(I include the waiting). I took the Picadilly line westbound to Green Park and transferred to the Jubilee line to Stanmore and got off at the St. John’s Wood station. Every station has multiple ‘way out’ it’s usually on a corner and some have six entrances and exits! I oddly enough, chose correctly, heading out the Finchley Road exit.

They didn’t have any signs pointing to where Abbey Studios was, I had to google it. It seems like a nice quiet residential area so that might be why. But as soon as I got to street level, in the station was a little Beatles coffee shop. Then I simply followed Grove End Road west until it intersected with Abbey Road. It’s a nice walk, not far at all.

There weren’t a lot of people, it was raining. But there were people there. All of us standing around looking at a piece of pavement, standing on a street corner, not quite knowing what to do. But as I looked around, I saw faces of fans, we were all taking pictures of that same piece of cement with the white lines. I would guess, we all also had that famous album cover photo in our heads.

I wondered how I’d go about taking my picture crossing the street. Should I pull out my giant camera, find someplace to put it down and time it? Hand that to a stranger and hope they don’t run away? Or hand my phone, which carries my entire life, to a stranger?

When I finally approached an older woman and asked her to take my photo, I handed her my phone, handing a stranger my life stories. Then I giddily crossed the street to join the other people on the other corner, to make the walk back across the street as John, Paul, George and Ringo had done decades before.

I crossed and joined a group of other people standing around. We somehow decided we would all cross in the same way as the Beatles had. I said I would walk barefoot. But another woman said, she could because she had on flat sandals. So we strangers, took on the role of our rock idols and crossed the street. I had inadvertently become John, since no one wanted to cross first since traffic didn’t seem to want to stop for us even though I KNEW they HAD too since the ball lights were blinking and I was on the walkway. I knew the keen obedience Europe and the UK have for pedestrians, we are priority, all vehicles stop.

The lovely woman had taken a series of photographs and they came out well. I was giddy and thanked her profusely then walked back to the train station. There was nothing else left to do, you can’t go on a tour of Abbey Studios after all. Now that I write this, I probably should have asked the woman if she wanted me to take her pictures too, but she was taking to a man who I had assumed she had known and seemed to be taking pictures of her crossing the same intersection. I just hope she knew how happy she made me.

I had to rush back to Green Park and take the Picadilly line back out to Heathrow to return to my hotel. There was an announcement that there was a strike coming later on in the afternoon and the Tube would stop running and would be completely shut down tomorrow. Knowing this and also having an off-peak ticket, I had to get on the train and back before the Tube became a madhouse.

I did take time to visit the Earl’s Court neighborhood, that was my first foray into London and I was treated well and the first four days of my adventures started there, I had to say good bye to the place myself. So I dropped off my final postcards at the post office that was an actual post office(another story for the book), then said good bye to the station that had become my home for a while.
Thus the last full day of my 6 weeks of traveling through Europe came  to an end. As long as it sounds and as I’ve had some long days of travel, frustration and distractions, it has flown by awfully quick.

I had planned to come into London because it’s cheaper to fly in and out of the same city. I chose London because if I was going to have any transitioning into or out of a culture, at least it’s an English speaking location.

But I didn’t realize just now how I am closing a ring. It began here in London, but does it end here as well? The irony is in the details. Before I arrived here, I had pulled a tendon on my left foot on the outside part of my leg, but with feet and legs, any part injured means that the entire system is compromised.

Having already ruptured and needing replacement of my achilles tendon on my right foot, I’ve been concerned about my left foot bearing the burden of my weight. After all these years, it is now that it is showing signs of deterioration.

So when I arrived in London, I was limping and in pain. Today, as I went about some last minute sightseeing, catching some of the things I wanted to do, not just to check off bits of a list, I re-injured my left foot. It has bothered me off and on during my travels, but this time, it really hurts. It’s difficult doing this blog with my leg on the desk being elevated.

Full circle? I don’t know, I don’t want to say yes because a circle is closed. Part of me wants a closed system, coming to a full circle, resolution, answers, etc. But another bigger part of me wants and out, I want an open system, I want wide open with no circle to bind, direct or limit me. I thought I would find answers, I have found some, but not all questions are answered. Maybe, as a friend said, I’m just like the people on “Lost” looking for answers and 6 weeks isn’t enough. But I also don’t want to just be the smoke monster shifting this way and that. I don’t know, the only thing I am truly certain is this is a bittersweet moment. I miss my family and friends, but I love my traveling feet.

“You say good bye and I say hello! Hello hello! I don’t know why you say good bye, I say hello”
- The Beatles

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