Joan Armatrading’s “Willow” provides a soothing sound through my headphones. It’s Day 2 over here in England and I’m on a train from London to Liverpool.I guess we can call this a travel-blog, but I will remain a bit vague about what I’m doing (just like yesterday) as I try to figure out the rules of engagement. That’s very inside, so no problems if you’re lost here. Typical scenery from outside London passes by in a blur. Row houses (flats), soccer fields, farms, bare trees. Of course it’s dark and damp outside.
Trips to Europe at my age always make me think, “I wish I’d done this when I was younger.” I will encourage Tyler and Beau to see the world before they’re past their prime. Of course, I won’t pay for it. But I will encourage them.
Trips to Europe – even England where there’s no language issues to deal with, unless you don't speak Scouse like the girl next to me on the train – always seem to force you into using your people skills. Little things like getting around, figuring out where and what to eat (and what it will cost) require you to actually speak to people. You can’t go into robot mode like you can when you’re on your home turf. I kinda like using my mad skillz, ya know? (Self jab there, peeps).
A few examples of some of the little differences that hit you when you leave the States, even as I’ve only been here for about 18 hours. Ordered some food at the hotel bar last night, which the bartender told me was “no problem.” About 10 minutes after making the order, a gentleman came over to me and said, “Sir, your hamburger is ready.” I said, “Great,” to which he said, “Please follow me.” He then took me to a table to eat my burger. Apparently it was all right to order food at the bar, but not to eat it there. I did not explain to the gentleman the Road Rule I’ve adhered to during my years of traveling alone (the last 12 years of road trips have been solo jaunts after four years of traveling in a pack of eight). The rule is, “eat at the bar.” Why, because you look like less of a loser when you eat at the bar as opposed to the “table for one.” No worries last night, however. Table for one was fine. I was starving and no one seemed to be flashing the thumb and finger in the shape of an L at me.
Normally I’d have a TV story for you, but there’s not much to say. By the time I made it back to my room it was almost 2 a.m., but before you think the old man’s back…it was actually 9 p.m. Eastern time. I tried to watch a game show hosted by a scantily-clad bottle blonde, but it made about much as much sense to me as the cricket match that was on in the bar earlier in the evening. No football highlights. Lights out.
Now, farmland streaks by my window and Van Morrison is singing Saint Dominic’s Preview. I’ve got a pretty diverse ipod, but it’s pretty apparent that Van leads all artists in appearances on my device. He’s probably the leader in playlist appearances as well. Van's the man.
This morning, I struggled with the temperature-controls on my shower. That’s another thing that always seems to plague me overseas. You inevitably have to turn one handle as you push some button or twist something in the direction opposite to what is normal. I struggled with it for a good 20 minutes and could not get any water warmer than tepid to flow from the shower head. When I finally conceded stupidity and called the front desk and asked for instructions, they apologized and said, “There’s something wrong in the hotel today, sir, we aplogize for the lack of hot water.” Normally this type of news would anger me. Today, I was psyched because…well, I wasn’t the idiot. Yesss! (Marv Albert voice).
The trip to Liverpool – all the connections, etc. – have gone as smoothly as I could expect. Of course, it would’ve helped if I didn’t pack like my wife for this trip. I have entirely too much stuff for a dude who’s schlepping it to three cities on a combination of transportation that would make John Candy and Steve Martin proud. The one thing I did not bring was a shirt and tie…and that may actually be something I need (vague, again).
Wheeling two suitcases in and out of the Underground and through Euston Station in London was not easy, especially when there was no “lift service” to get you up a level or two, but I survived. For breakfast this morning, all I had was coffee because at 5 pounds ($7.50), I figured eating actual food could whack my per diem in one shot. So, at the train station, I went searching for food. There was a stand offering up something called a “pasty” that looked like those Hot Pockets my kids eat. I’ll try a joke here. Being a Jersey guy, I know pasties…these were not the same thing. And, having stood with the Manchester City supporters at old Maine Road back in 1998, I had no interest in a hot pocket. So, I went for a “Crusty.” That’s a sandwich on a baguette. Makes sense. I ordered some kind of ham and mozzarella. I forget what the ham was called, but it was not ham, it was bologna. Good thing I like -- no, love -- bologna. And yes the baguette was crusty. Hence the name. This travel stuff gets easier by the minute.