NOTES FROM LONDON
Contrast. A striking exhibition of unlikeness.
That’s how our good friends over at dictionary.com describe things that are wholly different than each other.
London’s Tower Bridge and City Hall were built more than 100 years apart. The design differences — from boxy to bulbous — show how a city shifts through phases and ages.
It seems they have figured out how to make new friends yet keep the old. Classics share the skyline with contemporaries. There’s room for everyone as long as royally approved sight lines to St. Paul’s remain in tact.
Seriously. According to a very knowledgeable friend, new construction can be as tall as it wants, as long as it doesn’t block traditional views of the famous cathedral. That’s why a new building — still being erected and the highest structure in the EU — has taken on the shape of a pointy shard of glass. Otherwise, it would have blocked views of the dome which have been seen above the city for 300 years.
Ah, London. Urban renewal with a keen eye toward modern aesthetics.
NOTES FROM LONDON
Many years ago, during the first uprisings, King Falafel was deposed from his tiny sheikdom. After a tearful farewell, he moved his young family and old mother to London’s Camden Town to begin a new life.
He built a thriving sandwich business and dreamt of the day he would pass it down to his teenage son. But Prince Falafel only wanted to dance.
Peculiar things, casinos. They’re smelly, loud and their inhabitants wear expressions drained of joy, hope and probably money. Everything you do is furtively watched as you slurk around with a dirty-ass plastic cup filled with an ever-decreasing jangle of quarters. I’ve always felt somewhat guilty going into one. Maybe that’s just my personality makeup. I feel guilty for all sorts of things; drinking a late-night beer in the tub; not always dropping a coin in a collection kettle; saying the word “ass” earlier in the paragraph.
There are no mountains.
That’s the first thing I notice around here at The Mountain Workshops, the absence of mountains.
Hills, sure. Ridges, you bet. One could even argue there are crags, escarpments or even bluffs. But mountain may be pushing it a bit. Not that I’m one to talk. Coming from the decidedly flat suburbs of Detroit, our biggest “mountains” are converted garbage dumps that developers covered with dirt and ski lifts then waited for snow.
But the term Mountain Workshops adds a sense of majesty, purple and above fruited plains. That sort of thing.
Imagine being in a room where everyone has had the same shared experience. Some had it decades ago, a few had it less than a year ago like you. Now imagine a whole conference — a symposium if you will — where room after room of people spoke your language, knew what you’ve gone through and showed you, simply by being there, that normal life continues on.
That’s exactly what the past four days presented me with. Celebrating a Second Chance at Life sponsored by bmtinfonet.org threw so much positive energy my way, I didn’t even notice I was sleep deprived and running on Atlanta’s fuel, Coca-Cola. Meeting person after person who dealt with cancer then a bone marrow transplant was one of the best experiences I’ve had over the past year.
For our friends vacationing in Florida or Mexico or even Des Moines, we imagine the mercury is higher. But blue sky and rain tag-team each other all day, waiting scant minutes between showers and soaking sunshine. We’re told some here even feel responsible for the weather, one embracing the wetness so much that she feels better in Portland than back home in LA. The moisture encourages roofs to be overrun in moss, yet beautiful daffodils, forsythia and cherry blossoms already are out and shining. Those in Michigan still lag within the safety of their buds.