3 August 2018: London

Although this is technically Day 2 of my two-month UK sojourn as I lay the foundation for a permanent move to England in January, because yesterday was a jet-lagged blur I feel like today is more a Day 1 in spirit.

The temperature is infernally hot here in London as it is over most of the Northern Hemisphere. The humidity is reminiscent of Chicago at this time of year. Still, the city feels as glorious and alive as ever, despite the fact that everyone looks uncomfortable and is drenched in sweat and the grass in the normally verdant parks is dusty and patchwork: a marked change from the last time I was here in May.

Regardless, it was a joy to walk through Hyde Park this morning with my mom, stopping for a breakfast of porridge and a cappuccino at the Serpentine Cafe and admiring the ethereal weirdness of Christo’s Mastaba that currently looms over the water like a purple and pink (depending on how the sun catches it) floating fortress.

We then walked over to the Victoria and Albert museum where I thoroughly enjoyed the new “Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up” exhibition. Through self-portraiture, photographs, archive video, artifacts, and – mostly vibrantly – a representative selection of the artist’s famously Mexican wardrobe, the collective effect upon the viewer is one of admiration, awe, and sadness. Kahlo’s resilience shines through again and again despite her all-too-encompassing pain. The selection of the various corsets and braces she was forced to wear as the result of injuries sustained from an accident with a streetcar when she was just eighteen were particularly harrowing.

This exhibition stands in interesting contrast/comparison to the Michael Jackson: On the Wall exhibition currently showing at the National Portrait Gallery. I’ve always enjoyed MJ’s music and his showmanship is almost second to none. The National Portrait Gallery show looks at MJ’s life and music through the lens of artwork created by others in homage to the King of Pop. It’s terribly kitschy yet manages to capture the essence of his brilliance and the underlying tragedy of his life, while inspiring me to give his musical catalogue another listen.

Spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in a deck chair (in the shade) back in Hyde Park before drinks and nibbles at the newly refurbished American Bar at the Stafford Hotel – a longtime favorite – in St. James. I am attempting to go teetotal so I opted out of my customary red wine or rose to try Seedlip – the world’s first non-alcoholic spirit. I’ve been hearing about it for a year now but nowhere in the States seems to serve it. It’s quite popular here in the UK. There are now three flavors to choose from: Garden 108, Spice 94, and the just-introduced Citrus. Mixed with Fever-Tree tonic water, the Garden 108 has a pleasantly refreshing herbal kick reminiscent of a gin and tonic. I liked it so much that I bought a bottle of the stuff at Fortnum & Mason to take home with me. I think it’ll be my drink of choice at least for the foreseeable future. I had two.

Back in my hotel room for the evening, catching up on emails, some work, and planning to finish David Sedaris’ new collection of essays – “Calypso” – before Gardener’s World comes on at 9. The latest Sedaris has its poignant moments — especially when he discusses the troubled life and suicide of his sister Tiffany and the alcoholism of his mother — but I’m not as engaged in it as I have been with his previous collections. There is humor to be found here but mostly his writing has a melancholic, reflective cast, more seriously autobiographical than comically anecdotal. I still recommend it but perhaps not quite as effusively as I have in the past.

I am also plotting out some new fiction of my own, about which I’ll say more later. The title I’m playing around with at the moment is “Jupiter’s Bodyguard.” I’m curious to know if anyone picks up on the allusion…