“Knickers Abroad; a multiple journey”
Rose D. Kaye
For a complete list of chapters in numerical order please go to this page.
‘Dancing With Dali’
Monday dawned, if you can use that phrase, cold and gloomy. On the itinerary was a trip to the South Bank and the Dali Universe exhibit at County Hall. Once more on the Underground, where we started it’s aboveground, we rode the Central Line and then transferred to the Jubilee Line where it commences at Stratford. In all we would transfer at Stratford a total of six times during our stay and it was always fairly easy, except when using the Jubilee Line. Due to heavy usage and multiple platforms, trying to pick the right train can be an adventure. They have overhead electronic signs showing the next departure, but if it’s full, you have to walk back and around to another platform and wait for the next train. Stratford International will serve as a centerpiece in the Olympics Games in 2012, including the Eurostar; today it is a major junction for traffic entering east and south London. Our first stop today though on the Jubilee line was at Waterloo International to check on the status of the next day’s journey to Paris on the Eurostar Express. After trying to use the self-check kiosks and failing, we stood in line and asked the counter clerk for information. It worked out well although paying 20p for use of the Ladies was exacerbated by Ann’s lovely black suede fringed purse falling and smashing a bottle of perfume. The rest of the day she smelled like a bordello; a lovely bordello, but I felt people were wondering how much she charged.
We walked the rest of the way to County Hall after taking a detour to street level. It was still cold and windy and the large plazas surrounded by the modern concrete slabs posing as buildings caused it to be even colder. County Hall also houses the London Aquarium and the London Eye is right out front on the Thames. There were massive crowds on the embankment but none were entering the Dali exhibition. Once inside, there was a slight contretemps at the Dali ticket counter when the clerk refused to take sterling travelers cheques. Considering the admission price was twenty-seven dollars per person, it was rather upsetting. In fact, Brian had to cash all the cheques at Ann’s bank because no one would accept them as payment. Kind of defeats the purpose of having them in the first place. What’s the use of free replacement if lost or stolen when you can’t use them? You can use credit cards as most people do, but with the amount of credit and identity theft, many times the issuing company will block the card when they see it being used overseas. In fact, cloning of cards is such a huge problem that we used cash for everything. Diane had placed a usage request on their accounts before leaving to prevent the card issuer from suspending the credit cards. Despite their precautions, the one time Diane did use her credit card the number was immediately stolen. She found out after we got back home when someone tried to use it in Romania.
Quite frankly, call me shallow, but the Dali drawings left Diane and I cold. We did enjoy the sculptures much better, and I loved the ‘Venus With Drawers’ among others. After awhile and seeing how much Brian was enjoying the art I decided to withdraw and allow Ann and Brian to spend over an hour together viewing each and every piece of art and arguing their various merits. Downstairs there was a small display of ceramics and textiles by Pablo Picasso. By this time Ann had ditched her aromatic purse as the perfume had spread to her jeans as well. She got a plastic bag from the Dali gift shop to put all her bits and pieces; Diane was waiting there patiently for us, I wish I could have been as well.
“All right then Brian, it’s up to you and Ann to carry the day. It sounds like you both enjoyed the Dali show. What were some of the strongest impressions it left on you Brian?”
“First off Dewy I must say that the overall exhibition looked shopworn. More than a few displays were missing descriptions and I was disappointed with the lack of supporting materials and explanations. Having only a basic knowledge of Dali beforehand I was actually quite pleased with the wide variety of themes displayed.”
“And as for you Ann? What were your initial reactions?”
“Dewy it’s been my experience of Dali that people either love him or hate him. I find him fascinating. He was an out and out eccentric genius who made no bones about using any means to draw attention to himself and his art. I think his agenda was to be provocative. What about you Brian?”
“One thing I was unaware of beforehand Ann was his perverse nature. Perhaps it was because we were in England, but there was no mention of the sexual portion of the show until you were actually viewing the prints. In America this would have been very controversial and probably set aside in a back room lest ‘innocent’ children be corrupted. The very shocking nature of some of his explicit works was in stark contrast to the offhand way they were presented.”
“What I was thinking Brian when I viewed these drawings was that while they were obviously done to provoke, they were also stunning works of creativity. I would have loved to know what Dali’s mindset was when he conceptualized them. I was really pleased that I went and I enjoyed having someone like Brian to exchange views. It was also interesting how we both saw different things in the same drawing. Viewing the sculptures took merely minutes to absorb all the elements, but in studying the drawings, you needed much longer to see all the depth that Dali had created.”
“I agree Ann, I also enjoyed having someone to discuss various works and the relative merits of Dali’s themes. I remember having quite heated conversations over the reasons behind Dali’s frequent uses of religious icons mixed with some of his more shocking drawings. It seemed to me that his use of certain symbols meant more than the actual colors or topics portrayed. I also felt that his art was based on deep rooted neurosis, not necessarily his own and by mocking sacred traditions or the obsession with sex and genitalia he was able to move the topic beyond the earthy desires into the realm of the sublime mysteries.”
What next? The plan, as the clouds thickened and rain threatened, was to saunter up the Thames sidewalk as far as the Globe Theatre and then cross the Millennium footbridge to St. Paul’s and thus ride home. “Over the river and through the Tube to Annie’s house we go!” First on the agenda though was food… again! As this was a school holiday week, the queue for the London Eye ride was still quite long and along the embankment we spotted many of the same street performers I’d seen yesterday at Covent Garden. It seemed to me to be a tough way to make a living displaying yourself covered with paint or in a fancy costume hoping for some loose change. There were numerous restaurants to choose from and we finally settled on Eat to eat. ‘Eat’ is the name of a chain of self-serve delis where they make fresh sandwiches and salads. The food was good but expensive and the drinks in particular were twice as much or more than back home. I have to mention here that to us food is fuel and nothing more; however, the body needs regular feeding. Although Brian and some of the others eat vegetarian, I do not. I will eat chicken on occasion, but food is not a source of conflict amongst us. He picked out a nice vegetable wrap with a soy burger inside and found us a table to sit. Ann and Diane took more time, but when they joined us, it gave us a chance to sit and rest and chat some more.
Brian had only met Ann a year ago, in October of 2006, and they were good friends already through emails and phone calls before this trip was even planned. Diane spent hours as well talking with her and the three of them seemed to be good chums after a few days spent together at Ann’s house. With me, it was a little different. Ann and I had gotten off to a confusing start when the multiple personality business exploded in November of 2006. She had only begun to comment on Dewy’s blog and was concerned that Brian did not understand the impact of his announcement. The idea that one day I was a ‘character’ and the next day I was a real and separate individual within him made little sense at the time. In fact the first time we talked on the phone was when I came out and introduced myself in an effort to reach an understanding. I love Ann very much and respect all her achievements and wisdom. As with all friendships there are varying levels of communication and neither Ann nor I felt any pressure to be other than sassy sistahs who love shoes, clothes and the thought of a man of our own. This trip only strengthened the bond and our friendship is a close and loving one.
Continuing our ramble, promenade, walk, we strolled east along the Thames and marveled at all the sights and sounds on both banks of the water. It was low tide and the exposed mudflats were rocky and rank. I was drawn to the variety of buildings on the north bank. The mix of old and modern was actually very pleasing, as were the many decorated bridges. Scanning the calm surface and the various boats in motion gave a sense of the history that had flowed by in centuries past. It was easy to image the generations growing up with the city, year after year, living and working and dying along the banks of this great river.
Ann was constantly drawn to the railing and although it wasn’t the warmest or the brightest of days she still enjoyed the leisurely stroll along the South Bank. While Diane and Brian walked together ahead of her she just gazed at the river, aimlessly drifting along, wistfully reflecting on how like her life it was… going with the flow and not knowing what will be at the next turn. She told us that it was the dreamer in her and although that applies to everyone, not everyone necessarily thinks like her! Like I did, she wondered and imagined the stories that the water could tell. Always flowing, but who was actually moving: the Thames or us? For Diane she was struggling with the cold and her physical aliments. Her legs were badly swollen and the walk was tiring. We slowed down and admired the wide variety of architecture and the intriguing style of the lampposts and fences. It’s clearly a very popular walkway no matter the weather and the highlight for Brian was the skateboard park and the artistic graffiti that covered every concrete surface. The kids skating there were as much performers as the fancy dress ones working for tips.
The few retail stores along the way were closed on Mondays and we passed by all the other attractions until we got to the Millennium Bridge and the Globe Theatre. And then there it was. Dominating the surrounding landscape looms the imposing and hulking former Bankside Power Station that is now the Tate Modern museum. Clad in dark brown brick, the rectangular shape is broken in the middle by a slender tower that thrusts defiantly skywards yet draws the eye down to the seemingly tiny glass entrance. The Thames side stone plaza is separated by a series of white birch groves that successfully softens the overall industrial look. This was not on our trip agenda, but I loved this first visit to the Tate Modern so much that we returned the next Saturday to meet Jo and Drizel.
Opened on May 12th, 2000, the free-entry museum now attracts more than five million visitors annually. Walking into the Thames entrance, you arrive at an overlook of the subterranean floor and your first instinct is to look up into the vast empty space of the Turbine Hall soaring eight stories above. With only natural light floating through the windows high overhead, the interior seemed very dark compared to the exhibit halls. When you instead gaze downward, revealed to your disbelieving eyes is a large and jagged fracture in the concrete floor. Starting from the ramp at the west entrance and running a hundred yards all the way to the far eastern end of the building is a mesmerizing piece of modern art by Doris Salcedo. To the artist, “Shibboleth” represents the fracture in societies created by groups excluding others through customs or language. In particular she points towards colonial exploitation and repression.
I loved this piece as to me I saw it as a bolt of lightning on its side tearing through the gray clouds and causing the two halves of the building to separate and fall away. It was clearly the most popular exhibit and was particularly mesmerizing to delighted children who walked straddling the entire length. We also spent a little time as well in the ‘Poetry and Dream’ floor, but as we were returning the following Saturday for another visit, we’ll talk with Dewy then about what we all saw.
This was yet another day when I was in the background, but I didn’t feel left out. I have a much higher energy level than Brian does and when I’m the face, I’m still a little awkward in certain situations. It’s more efficient for us to have him do the heavy lifting so to speak and for me to observe whatever I like. In other words he walks and talks and I control what the head sees. When Brian wants to look one way and I the other it can look like a tennis match. It’s quite funny at times, especially when he’s admiring something and a hot guy walks by. Sharing works for us, most of the time we function quite well with me in the background. This way I can come and go as I please and I understand that Brian has the control right now.
There was so much to see along the path, not only the buildings and the attractions, but the walk itself was a destination. Beyond the fact it’s a river walk, beyond the fact that ‘History’ smacks you in the face, beyond the fact of the many places to visit, this walk brings you inside of yourself. When was the last time you went somewhere and walked without purpose? Walked without trying to get to the end as quickly as possible? The river walk along the South Bank of the Thames in London England should be a destination for everyone who visits. Not to go from one end to another, but to go from being a traveler to being part of the story.