Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My Boo Boo

Before having settled in London, I was under the mistaken impression that London was as neon, cluttered, sticky, and fast paced a city as its American cousins. After all, it is a large, international city, a veritable haven for globe-trotting tourists. Toss in the 8 million non-English speaking residents, and London is truly a cultural melting pot (Of course, as if on cue, a very, very, very large breasted Eastern European woman has sat down next to me and is exchanging information with a local in what appears to be some very shady dealing... did I mention she has large breasts?) Unlike New York, however, while having its fair share of urban sprawl, London is hardly a concrete jungle. The northwest neighborhoods that rest on the periphery of the downtown area, or what locals refer to as "The City," can be something of a suburban oasis.

What has impressed me most thus far, are the beautifully manicured parks, the likes of which do not exist in the United States (at least not in any urban centers). Yawning stretches of grass, meticulously cared for rose gardens, and flowing fountains, are but a few Regents park's hallmarks, located a mere 5 minute walk from my house. With so much green space I wonder if I am actually in the same city where people pay over 20 pounds to pinch the ass of a wax replica of Brad Pitt.

After a full day of enjoying the resplendent architecture and relaxed culture of my "quaint" neighborhood, I sit down to enjoy some traditional pub fare. The wood-hewn interior of the Salt House Pub is warm and inviting, a prime piece of people watching real estate. The menu, which includes the traditional pub staples of burgers and fish and chips, also boasts an assortment of unconventional selections. Chicken liver patè, grilled chorizo, and seasoned scallops are all well-portioned and offered at reasonable rates. I leave with a full stomach and better yet, a reasonably filled wallet.

The evening stroll home is perfectly pleasant, the unpredictable English weather having cooled (Tip: is useless for predicting the weather here. You are better off reading the entrails of a slaughtered lamb). Making the final turn towards home, I am greeted by the silhouette of a well dressed local (not all that unusual, as the English have made me feel like I've spent my entire life dressing like John the Baptist). Immediately, however, I am struck by how familiar this face is. Could it be... the thin mustache and goatee, the full lips, the I-spent-hours-on-my-just-got-out-of-bed-super-chic-hair... It is! I'm looking directly into the face of Henry VIII, or at least Showtime's "more glitz -less girth" version of him. Jonathan Rhys Meyers of Tudor's fame is walking down my alley, his dog Boo Boo in tow.
"May I pet him?" I ask.
"Sure," he quips. I wonder if he thinks I'm going to tear out a lock of his hair (curiously enough I'm wondering the same thing).
"What kind of dog is he?" I say in my best "I-have-no-idea-you-are-a-celebrity-and-I'm-just-making-casual-conversation" voice.
"He is a chihuahua, pug mix," Meyers proudly chirps.
This clichè of a celebrity dog is easily the most unattractive animal I have ever seen but I smile anyway. After telling me several times that the very skittish Boo Boo is typically more friendly, I thank him and allow him to resume his evening stroll. Several short quick steps later he turns the corner and disappears. Once again I stand alone in the narrow alley, marinating in my surreal encounter with celebrity.
The next morning I wake up and decide to stroll down to the nearest Starbuck's coffee (there are more Starbuck's in London than I've ever seen anywhere else) for some writing. In the light of day my alley looks very different, more... ordinary. I look down and see a small petrified turd resting on the pavement. Boo Boo's? I like to think so.
What a charming city.

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