Friday, July 9, 2010

Day 1: Stay Awake

view from the flat
I have now been awake for 29 hours. We landed in London around noon and arrived at our flat about 90 minutes later. The place is great, we're right on the Thames, central to most everything, not too long a walk to the nearest Tube station, in a very nice place with a balcony over-looking the river, blah, blah, blah.

I can't really think straight because, as I mentioned, I've been awake for 29 straight hours, and if you know me at all, and of course you do otherwise why would you be reading this? you know I like my sleep. Our only goal today was to STAY AWAKE until 8pm, which we have, and now I'm feeling very, very loopy. We arrived, unpacked, showered, changed, and hit the sidewalk. We walked to the Tate to check out the Turner collection. Many of J.M.W. Turner's famous oil paintings have that lovely, hazy, "unfinished" look; apparently, that was because he didn't bother to finish a lot of them (ADD?). We left the Tate and walked and walked and walked to the Millennium Bridge (my favorite of the London bridges) which takes you across the river directly to the Tate Modern. We were fading by that point and immediately got some snacks in the cafe before I suggested we just check out the room with the giant Mark Rothko paintings and then head back to the apartment. Turned out the Rothkos are being refurbished and there is only one on display hanging in one of the regular galleries, lumped in with about 20 other wildly varied pieces. When I was at the TM last, there was a rather large room, dimly lit, hung with nothing but giant, red Rothko rectangles; the paintings struck me as being exceptionally powerful hung in a group like that and I was hoping we could sit in that room for a few minutes to gather strength to walk back, but it was not going to happen. My second favorite piece in the museum was also no longer on display - that would be Jeff Koons' Three Ball Total Equilibrium Tank which, if it's not clear from the title, is three basketballs suspended in what looked to my untrained eye, to be about a 50-gallon fish tank (being both untrained in modern art AND fish containment, that's my best guess; I mean, I'm pretty certain about the basketballs, but I'm guessing on the size of the tank). Since we couldn't view that piece either, we made do with a Monet and some rather violent Cy Twombly scribbles, and left. Walking back, fighting the urge to just curl into a ball on the river-path and sleep, we passed the National Theatre. The NT does a series of free summer programs, and an outdoor dance performance was going to start in 30 minutes. We decided this would be a good way to kill more time, and waited it out. The performance took place on a clear Plexiglas stage, while the audience sat in reclining chairs underneath, looking up at the dancers through the stage. Each performance was 8 minutes, forty-eight people could sit in the chairs for each performance. We made it into the first group. I'm not sure the piece was necessarily enhanced by viewing up the ladies dresses, but it didn't hurt. After the performance we continued down the river path back to the apartment. We arrived around 8pm, which was our goal time to stay awake until. I'm banging this out while Peter takes another shower (it's pretty hot out); and in a few minutes I'm going to take an Ambien and go to bed. It's bright as day out but I don't think I'll have any trouble sleeping. Goodnight.