Friday, September 14, 2012

It's London time, baby!

We leave home, as always, in a rush. Dave has checked off everything on his list; I obsess about little things that don't matter. The new odd smell in our hallway: where did that come from? It smells as if our next-door neighbors who used to smoke pot now switched to smoking rat tails.

We catch our taxi driver on Duboce Street an hour and a half before departure. He senses our stress level right away and takes off with a "yee-haw!" Swerving in and around rush hour traffic, he makes noises of a jockey priming his horse to win by a head. For now, Dave and I are both still plugged in, checking our email, the latest news. Deaths at the US embassy in Lybia, anti-American protests all over the Muslim countries. Have you heard what Romney said? How will this play out for the November election?

Arrive to the airport with minutes to spare. The trunk of the taxi cab won't open. The driver rams into the trunk with enough force to roll the car down the street, but the trunk remains closed. He hands me the key, asking me to keep it turned in the lock, while Dave pushes the trunk, and the driver is inside the cab, tugging at the lever. Then Dave tugs at the lever and the driver pushes the trunk. I'm thinking--what power tools could we use here? Suddenly the trunk pops open.

The routine of travel: a succession of mini-dramas. Tension is built into the time-tables and the temporary ceding of agency. What will be done to us next? How will we react--and will our reactions escalate or diminish the incident, will they affect the rest of the trip? How we cope with the vagaries of travel is determined by our character, and not even our individual characters, but of this joint entity that we represent--a traveling duo. Travel as performance art, and we're students of the genre.

It's a vacation!
We're the very last in line to check in to London. While I worry that we might miss our flight, my parents whom we're meeting in Zagreb, miss theirs. They finally arrive to Zagreb sans mom's luggage, which will now have to travel on and catch up with us (hopefully) in Ljubljana.

Dave and I spend the afternoon in London. A long layover allows us to take Heathrow Express to Paddington, and from there we go to Southwark, roam for an hour through the galleries at the Tate Modern museum, and explore--why not?--the embankment outside with the gorgeous view of the Millennium Footbridge across the Thames, St. Paul's cathedral, London Bridge, and Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. We end up at the Borough Market, where we buy sweets and a fish pie to share. Then we return to the airport and, finally, after a short delay, fly to Zagreb.

Transformed Visions: Dave sleeps at the Tate Modern in London

My parents stayed up to wait for us at the hotel. As they tell the story of their missed flight, they're laughing. Why are they laughing? It couldn't have been a pleasant experience. But we're all safe, and together, the experience of being together heightened by our surroundings: a country and a city we've never been to before, and although its history is tied in to the geopolitical events that place me on the other side of the globe from my parents, none of us have any particular reason to be here.

"I was in Zagreb twenty years ago," my dad reminds us.

"Did the place change since then?"

"I can't remember. I remember only the man on the horse--he's still out there, on the square."

Dave and I have already glimpsed the statue from the cab, and perhaps tomorrow we'll get a chance to study it closer. Meantime, it's a comfort to be finally going to bed (it's been a thirty-something-hour day for Dave and me) and to fall asleep knowing that my parents are sleeping in the next room.

For Dave's reflections on our travel experiences, read Dave's blog.


  1. Go to the Portrait Gallery-- and I have a weakness for the old style department stores. Only to look, so pricey. Liberty's is a beautiful old Tudor style building.

    I would love to see the Globe. Sam Wanamaker!

  2. next time! was only in london for the afternoon :))