Friday, July 06, 2012
My evening board meeting having been postponed, I'm making a night of doing my wife's laundry, watching the Cardinals game, eating Fourth of July leftovers, and drinking cider.
I can't drink cider without thinking about the five weeks I spent in London in the summer of 1995. Ostensibly, I was there taking a Shakespeare class--and I did see several productions of Shakespeare's plays, some of which were unforgettable. But, mainly, I spent the time learning to use and really enjoying public transportation, falling in love and having my heart broken, and drinking a bit more than I should have. And though I eventually embraced beer, especially the lovely British bitters, I found hard cider after only a couple of days there and just kept on finding it from then on.
With my first cider sip tonight, I was immediately transported back there, especially back to the earlier part of my trip before I lost my mind over the girl, back to the time when I made fast friends with several fellow Memphians whom I did not know till we sat at the airport gate, waiting to board our plane. Those first few days in London were a blitz: my first outing was to a chemist's shop to replace the deodorant and shampoo that I had somehow forgotten to pack, but I followed that with my first of many trips to The Ferret and Firkin, where I had a pint of beer brewed on premises and worked up the nerve to ask what a "bap" was (it's a roll, turns out). The next few days saw us being bolder and bolder with our trips on the buses and the Tube, and on our first Saturday there a group of five us took a train to Liverpool to see Beatles-related sites (and ended up at a pub where I tried actual draught Guinness for the first time, albeit only a half pint of it).
Over the next few weeks, I explored centuries-old cemetaries, ate lovely (and cheap) Greek and Italian food, shared a hit off a joint with one of the local actors who gave a workshop for our class, took a weekend trip to Dublin, generally made all sorts of poor decisions--and continued to enjoy myself and my cider, first at the Ferret and Firkin and then at innumerable pubs across London.
I saw lovely churches, worshiping at both St. Paul's in London and St. Patrick's in Dublin, even though I was spiritually in a pretty dark place (and was probably a little hungover both days, too).
And a little darkness found me at other times as well: I was chided (justifiably) by a Tube official for dangling my legs off the edge of the platform just over the tracks; I was spit upon and called "Bastard!" (also justifiably, maybe) by a drunk fellow in Trafalgar Square; I witnessed the gap that would bar intimate contact between professor and pupil skipped and tripped over multiple times.
My main memories, though, are washed with sunshine literal and figurative. And there were moments, especially in the first few years immediately following that summer, when I wished I could return to London. More than London, though, I think I wanted to return to that careless and seemingly carefree summer.
Of course, I was living on borrowed time and money there. I didn't completely pay off the loan from that trip till the late 2000s.
And I let the broken heart wreck my emotional health, not learning its lessons for several years; probably not till I met Cindy nine years later, in fact.
I think back on that trip now with a bit of regret and a lot of gratitude. And, as I enjoy my cider, I'm thinking of those friends I made the first few days there, smiling to myself a little.
But I never again want to be myself at twenty-three. Tonight, drinking cider and washing Cindy's clothes, I'm home.