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Since I Never Get the Last Word

Thursday, July 6, 2006
Eight Days In Far Ago Places

a. Seven hours flight time is much easier on old bodies than 14 hours flight time.

b. Surprised at how much money we could spend without even trying. Corollary: It is illegal in England to price anything less than ₤1.

c. Fire doors in hotel lobbies every ten feet can become quite annoying, especially when toting luggage.

d. From the Thames, London is beautiful, particularly when augmented by all those Flags of England hanging on the buildings in support of the football team. It did prompt a question as to who the folk in Northern Ireland, Wales,, and Scotland were rooting for.

e. The flood control piers are truly amazing and thought provoking. Here we have humans attempting to control Mother Nature and succeeding whereas we were much less successful in New Orleans and may be losing the battle on the Mississippi at Atchafalaya. Yes, I know the circumstances are vastly different; what impresses me is the nerve to attempt the feat.

f. The Millennium Wheel looks like so much fun but The Lady Who Shares Her Life With Me would have none of that.

g. Wanted to get over to see the young ones on the bungee cords outside the aquarium but never made it.

h. Parliament looks like a parliament ought; Big Ben resembles its photographs; Cleo’s obelisk looks good prompting me to wonder if Empires need to apologize for their actions? Here is an artifact removed from another culture and brought to London for admiration and viewing – mostly because they could. A couple of hundred years later, do their descendants incur any obligation because of what their forebears did?

i. Did the Queen become creeped-out getting coronated in Westminster Abbey? I mean, there are a lot of dead people in there!

j. Again, Westminster Abbey: Isn’t it cool that at just a little bit above eye level there is a ring of gargoyles around this bastion of Christianity?

k. Again, Westminster Abbey: The architecture in the upper regions is spectacular but no one looks up there because the main attraction is all the dead people. Feels like it ought play like the Hogwart’s banquet hall with spirits and such visible and interactive.

l. No pub we entered served cocktails so asking for a Beefeater’s Martini was an exercise in futility. At one pub, when I asked the bartender if he could make a martini, he responded with a cheerful “certainly,” reached behind him to retrieve bottles of Martini & Rossi Sweet and Dry Vermouth, and asked me which one I wanted. The first hotel bar was willing to attempt to make one but the only gin in house was Gordon’s. The second hotel bar had Gordon’s and Bombay Sapphire but no olives. Makes me worry for the fate of civilization when the country that invented the drink can no longer make a proper version.

m. Hamburgers and French fries seem to have taken top billing on pub menus displacing fish and chips to the bottom. This seems like something Parliament ought to take up, doesn’t it?

n. The British Museum is worth the trip. Me being me, my thought as I walked away, though, was “okay, at Westminster Abbey we saw dead people and today we saw dead people’s stuff.” A truly amazing and informative display of dead people’s stuff it was!

o. That’s what England has to offer that the U.S. and Oz do not; the sense of a past. We go back a couple of centuries but England goes back millennia. I have visited Korea and Japan as a tourist so I know that they, too, have rich and wondrous pasts; I have studied Chinese history and would love to visit there as well. But, England was the place that the feel for the past finally enveloped me.

p. The Globe Theater was everything I hoped it would be. Made me sort of regret that I did not continue my high school dalliance with acting. Treading those boards must be the closest thing to heaven there is on earth.

q. The exposition center had an informative display on The Gunpowder Plot and Guy Fawkes role therein. Even more interesting because I saw V for Vendetta on the flight home.

r. Discovered the greatest expense in Shakespeare’s time was clothing. Can see how that could be true but, then, I have yet to reconcile that fact with the costume making display in the expo center.

s. Three thousand people jammed into the confines of the Globe must have been early training for the rush-hour Tube.

t. The market at Covent Garden rivals the Victoria Markets in Brisbane and Melbourne. It has the same permanency as the Brisbane market but lacks the diversity of Melbourne. On the other hand, the Oz markets lack the street performers that Covent Garden boasts.

u. The shire is exactly as Tolkien described it.

v. The Lady of the Shire is even more gracious in person than she seems on the written page, witty, knowledgeable, warm, and generous. Her family reflects her well. Though she did remind me of the line in the Dixie Chick’s Long Time Gone lyric” momma’s still cooking too much for supper.’

w. Should you travel to England, make certain you leave the cities and head for the Midlands. Sudbury and Shugborough wrap you in their stories more openly and completely than any place in London. For writers, the feel of the place and what it must have been like to live there come more alive in the faces and voices of the guides and commentators in these places than ever you can find in the more notorious tourist traps in the larger cities.

x. The B&B introduced me to the English breakfast. Prior to our stay here, we had confined ourselves to the Continental Breakfast. Fortunately, here in Great Haywood, we learned better. What a feast! You don’t have to eat for a month after one of those breakfasts. Therefore, I’m good until October.

y. Watching the news after England fell to Portugal in the World Cup, I became embarrassed as I decided the BBC must have learned from the sports commentators in the U.S. how to search and search for someone to blame. Saw a comment from one viewer that sums it up for me with respect to all the teams I root for: “we lost; get over it!”

z. Morning of departure at 5:30 A.M.: false fire alarm in the hotel. Never did get back to sleep. Made for a very long day. Arrived home 27 hours later.

aa. Thank you, England. The trip was worth the time, the money, and the energy, every bit of it.

P.S. The Globe Theater has a thatch roof. I asked what"thatch" is made of and both the LWSHLWM and the Lady of the Shire responded: "thatch."Which, of course, prompted me to get the "doh" feeling as their answers were designed to do. However, I get the laugh last though they won't know it: thatch is made of straw rushes. Hah! And, so, there!

Posted by Dan Bieger 2006-07-06 10:52:30

Thursday, June 22, 2006
Travel Advisory

This notice satisfies all official regulations concerning the requirement for the undersigned to extend advance notification to the residents of locales he intends to visit. Such notice must be given some days in advance as the authorities have the right to prepare themselves as do the proprietors of pubs and shops.

The Lady Who Shares Her Life With Me and I begin our journey this Sunday traveling east. From there, British Airways has sacrificed their reputation to carry us across the ocean to London.

Three days in London visiting important places such as the British Museum, the Globe Theater and wherever else TLWSHLWM wants to visit and then we’re off to the Shire to inflict ourselves on Holbrook and family.

As practice, I lift my Beefeaters martini in toast: Cheers! It’s only a few days and we don’t believe we can harm the UK too much.

Signed: A Not-Too-Ugly American

Posted by Dan Bieger 2006-06-22 07:31:34

Sunday, June 18, 2006

It’s his day though he 's been dead for more than 30 years..

His younger daughters, with reason, find much to complain about; his eldest boy and girl have even more to complain about but never did; and I am there in the middle caught between admiration of the talents he had and total disgust for the faults I hated.

We were not close though he had more feeling for me than he ever let me knew. That was only fair; I never told him how I felt either. Like any teen; I could compile a list of his myriad treacheries against me – and I often did both in the silence of my own mind and aloud for his benefit. I only discovered at the end that he had tracked my progress, day by day, on a map hung on his wall, listening everyday to the news for my thirteen months in Vietnam; an activity I learned about for myself 36 years later.

With hindsight, I think him now the stereotype for his generation. He was a man active in his church, social, witty, competent, president of three church organizations in his time, comfortable in the presence of men. I’m not at all certain that comfort level extended to any women save one.

He was a man who could hold discourse on seemingly any topic and where he found the time to accumulate the knowledge he had I’ll never know – but he had it. He was, maybe, the most educated man I ever met though he didn’t finish high school. My fondest memories are surreptitiously listening in on adult conversations marveling at the ideas tossed about, the opinions proffered, the conclusions drawn.

He was a man who had no clue how to relate to his children; he simply did what our mother told him to do.

The greatest cruelty came when our mother quit this life way too soon, breast and then lung cancer ejecting her from the game. His anchor, his compass, his only joy. Sometime after our son arrived, someone presented me with a little plaque: the greatest thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother. I knew that. The man devoted himself to her; followed her advice, argued, fought, made up; but always, always, committed himself to her needs. I watched my father love my mother until I was 15 and she suddenly wasn’t there anymore.. Then, I watched him deteriorate. When the love of your life is only a memory; carrying on with life is a problem, one he never truly solved.

My dad lives now in the memories noted above and in a photo of he and his WWII bomber crew. Typically, he didn’t command that crew; he followed orders. But he did what he had to do and brought home a Distinguished Flying Cross. No one else on his crew did that.

Most of my siblings remember the alcoholic he became; I try to remember the man who loved my mother.

Happy Father’s Day, dad.

Posted by Dan Bieger 2006-06-18 10:05:19

Saturday, June 17, 2006
Why I Should Be Famous

Have just discovered a new slant on the mountain of rejection slips accumulated in my lifetime. My accomplishment – negatively speaking – could be considered to place me in the same class as Albert Abraham and Edward Williams who, failing in their attempt to measure a difference in the speed of light traveling with and against the rotation of the earth, achieved immortality. Who has not heard of the Michelson-Morley Experiment? They failed because the speed of light in a vacuum does not vary. I failed because the speed of light in a vacuum has nothing to do with publishing. Seems as if that ought to be comparable, doesn't it?

Posted by Dan Bieger 2006-06-17 17:49:27

Friday, June 16, 2006
The Last Non-Zero Sum Situation

Plato put words into Socrates mouth to the effect that death can have only two possible outcomes: It’s all over or something new begins. Being Greek, in the 3d century B.C., Plato described the second alternatives in Olympian terms. Not difficult to expect the same alternative today might be described in mono-theological terms or as a necessary prelude to reincarnation. What is most interesting is that Plato refused to let Socrates allow friends or enemies to ascribe a value judgment to the event. It was neither good nor evil; it just was.

My dictionary says first that evil is a noun describing anything morally bad or wrong; wickedness; depravity; sin. If we could just stop there, then death could be treated as it is, a natural event that has two possible outcomes: it’s over or something new begins. But, my dictionary isn’t content with a single usage; it is compelled to go to a second: evil is anything that causes harm, pain, misery, disaster, etc. The circumstances of death are often enough wrapped in harm, pain, misery, disaster, etc., that it requires no stretch to conclude death must be evil.

Once we decided death is evil, we bent morality as well so that death could be immoral. From there, simple algebra made life moral and we were off and running towards to the Rapture or Armageddon or whatever name you wish to apply. Except for the half the world that believes in reincarnation; they don’t need an Armageddon.

I’m back with Plato. There are two possible outcomes, neither of which have we any method to determine, so that spending a lot of time worrying about them is fruitless. Spending time discovering what makes the life we have worthwhile makes much more sense.

Posted by Dan Bieger 2006-06-16 09:34:00

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