London – Day 3


Do you ever wake up, convinced the dream you were just having was real? That your emergence into consciousness is simply a continuation of what you’ve been experiencing in dreamland?

Happened to me that morning. I’d been dreaming about the Generalissimo, his counterpart, and a hundred of their loony friends. At some point I’d gone to lay my head down while they played Twister in my room. Then I opened my eyes. And there they were. In my room. Beyond the locked door with the security bolt securely in place.

“Wakey, wakey!” the Generalissimo cried. Worst alarm clock ever. “We are burning daylight!”

I pulled the pillow from under my head and tried to smother myself. Didn’t work.


They wanted food, so we went down the street to a pub called the Marquis of Granby. We were the first customers of the day, and if the look on the bartender’s face was any indication, hopefully her last.

“Five English breakfasts!” el Capitán yelled.

“Okaaaaaay,” she said.

My four companions went to a booth, sat, and began playing “I spy with my little eye.” Except they weren’t limiting themselves to things they could actually see, but things they’d actually spied. As in cloak and dagger.

“Is it brown with a funny hat?!” la Capitán asked.

“Indeed!” the Generalissimo said.

“Is it Muammar al-Gaddafi


I went over to the bar. “I need a pint of Guinness

“It’s only ten in the morning,” she replied.

I looked back at my table.

“Is it something less sane than me?!” the Generalissima asked.

“Indeed!” el Capitán said.

“Is it Kim Jong Il?!”


I looked back at the bartender. “Better make that two pints.”

She nodded.

“Is it something pink?!” la Capitán asked.

“Indeed!” el Capitán said.

“Is it the Generalissimo’s winter thong?!”


I shook my head. “And I’ll need a third one in a to-go cup.”


We had but one destination on our schedule that day: the British Museum. If you’ve never been, then you should go. It’s one of the finest storehouses of plundered antiquities anywhere.

My memory of the museum didn’t match up to its current splendor. I remembered dark rooms with simple plaques on them denoting which of the three dozen mummies stacked along the walls I was staring at. Now it’s a state of the art facility teeming with people who believe the “Do Not Touch” signs don’t apply to them.

“Come my good friends!” the Generalissimo said as we stood outside the south entrance. “I will lead the way!”

And so he did. We started upstairs with the Egyptian mummies, spent some quality time with the ancient Greeks, and ended up on a fruitless search for the Lindow Man (he was on loan to another museum). Bummer. I sorta like the bog man.

“See here, my pet?” the Generalissimo said to his counterpart. He pointed to a piece of Babylonian art. “This sheep represents man’s quest for leadership against the forces of tyranny.”

“It’s a goat, sir, not a sheep,” I said.

“Is not!”


“Is not!”

“It says to right—”

“Does not!” He slammed his palm against the description so I couldn’t see it.

I rubbed my temples and walked off on my own. I went downstairs and wandered around the Assyrians and the pilfered bits of the Parthenon. Saw the Rosetta Stone (the actual rock, not the language software). I was just about to go find a nice place to hide from my cohorts when I heard him.

“And on your right you will see a fresco! It is magnificent!”

The Generalissimo marched my way, leading not only his counterpart and the Capitáns, but a group of two hundred tourists.

He wrapped his knuckles against the glass surrounding the Rosetta Stone. The tourists surrounded him, fighting one another for a better view. Normally in a situation like that, the Generalissimo would pontificate about his time at the Alamo. But not this time.

“The famed Rosetta Stone! Brought down from the Temple Mount by Moses himself in 1492! Given to him by God! Translated by the famed American linguist Joseph Smith! It details Noah’s long journey through the Suez Canal on his way down into the bowels of hell, and his triumphant return from the forces of darkness, marshaled against him by itinerant hippies! I salute him!”

He saluted. The Generalissima saluted. The Capitáns saluted. Then the tourists, now numbering close to five hundred, drawn to his voice like flies to a bug zapper, saluted.

I needed another beer. Stat.


We went upstairs for high tea. I’d done high tea at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia. My wife, my father-in-law, and I sat in plush chairs and snacked on finger foods while savoring a half dozen pots of tea custom crafted for the hotel while a man played the grand piano behind us. An experience I have every intention of repeating the next time we hit Victoria.

But never again at the British Museum. Oh, the sandwiches were fine, the desserts were acceptable, and the tea was, um, tea. That wasn’t the problem.

“Salúd!” the Generalissima yelled. They clanked their china cups to the horror of everyone seated near us.

I tried to sink a little deeper into my chair. The British Museum didn’t believe in air conditioning, so drinking hot tea in the unventilated upstairs level of a building on one of the hottest days of the year seemed like a bad idea.

“You should try one of these!” the Generalissimo said, picking up the last mini pudding and tossing it back. He stuck his tongue into the shot glass to get every last smudge from the inner surface. El Capitán played with his sandwich, pretending it was a boat. He made little foghorn noises as he sailed the high seas. And by high seas, I mean he was high for all to see.

“So,” I said to him, “you’re Italian?”

He pulled his “ship” into the port of his “mouth.” “Aye!”

“But you’ve got a Scottish accent.”


“And your name is Spanish.”

“Aye! Look! Another ship is about to take to the water! La Capitán! Fetch my hip waders

“Indeed!” she said.

“Indeed!” the Generalissimos said in unison.

Then all four of them picked up a sandwich triangle and made motorboat noises in four different languages.

I grabbed the nearest waiter. “Check?”


We hit Harrods on the way home. As a writer, I sorta got left behind when we walked through the pen department (yes, they have an entire room dedicated to writing instruments, and another for the stuff you write on). I drooled over a £5,000 pen I’d only seen in magazines. I had on shorts and a t-shirt with a picture of Albert Einstein proclaiming, “Viva la relativity!” The guys behind the counter in their pressed suits and no sense of humor steered me toward the cheaper end of the room, so as to keep me from scaring off the paying customers.

I met the others upstairs in the oyster bar. They were doing sliders, one every three seconds for at least five minutes. I lost track of how many they ate. The crowd cheered them on.

I wandered off. They might be a while. I found myself in the candy room (I’m sure there’s an actual name for the room, but I couldn’t have cared less). Harrods is an institution, and everyone who enjoys going there for its calming effect on them should be institutionalized. Don’t get me wrong; the place is impressive. But at a certain point you go into sensory overload and just want to escape.

And I tried. But before I could, a crowd of inebriated Germans blocked my path. I looked for another route. Cut left, into the bakery. That’s when I saw it, resting on a wire shelf all alone. Six inches in diameter, with a creamy center and a few lines of frosting drizzled over the top. The last cheese Danish of the day at Harrods.

“I see it too, young Thurman,” the Generalissimo said from over my shoulder. “Quickly, before one of these German devils absconds with it from beneath our watchful gaze.”

And so I did.

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