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Dorien Grey

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Blogs by Dorien Grey

Moments
4/25/2011 4:22:21 AM
Having recently returned from a month in Europe after a fifty-five year absence, I will be posting...belatedly...notes from my journal. I hope you might enjoy them. More than 1,700 photos of my trip are posted to my Dorien Grey profile page on Facebook.

*****

William Blake called them "Spots of Time"--those rarest of moments that encapsulate a life--and I live for them. I just had one, on American Airlines Flight 2008 from Chicago to London. As the sky lightened, I was watching a video on composer Jerry Herman, writer of such musicals as "Hello Dolly" and "Mame," and it ended with several songs from and the story behind "La Cage aux Folles", which I'd seen twice in New York this past October. The show-stopper (and chest-grabber) of "La Cage" is, of course, "I Am What I Am," which I consider not only one of my personal anthems, but the anthem of everyone who has been scorned and discriminated against for being "different."

So to watch it sung again, as I descend into Heathrow airport on the first leg of my new European adventure was truly a Spot of Time, and it made my soul sing.

I left Chicago at 5:40 Tuesday evening and, factoring in the five-hour time differential, arrived at 6:55 Wednesday morning, London time, so for all practical purposed I went from early evening to early morning, with no night in between. Sleep? Who can sleep when it's early morning and there's a whole new country out there?

I flew American and my friend Gary took United (a long story), with me scheduled to leave and arrive an hour earlier Gary. Our mutual friend Ted, to whom London is like a second (or in Ted's case, a fourth, after Paris, Venice, and Palm Springs--I know, I hate him too!) home assured me we would have no trouble finding one another at Heathrow. All incoming international flights, he said, disgorged their passengers through the same baggage claim area and then funneled through one causeway into the main terminal. All I had to do was wait at the end of the causeway and see him when he passed through. And if we somehow missed one another there, there was an information desk we could use as an failsafe.

My plane is a 777, which carries more than 300 people: rows of 9 seats across--two aisles with two seats on each side of the plane and 7 in the middle. My seatmate for the first quarter of the trip was a man employed by a defense contractor, returning to Afghanistan for another 6-month stint. Because I possess the smallest kidneys in captivity and because my window seat was right over the back of the wing, where I couldn't see much even if there were something to see, I asked if he would change seats to avoid being disturbed numerous times by my clamoring over him on the way to the bathroom, and he kindly agreed. Each seatback has its own TV with a variety of movies, music, etc. I had a faulty set of earphones (surprise!) and could only hear out of one ear, but when we traded seats, he couldn't hear anything at all, so I had in effect deprived him of enjoying anything on the screen (unless he read lips). So right after dinner (small pieces of chicken with gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, a salad, dressing, large roll, butter, a cookie, etc. Hardly enough for a guy of my seat-mate's stature, but enough for 3 meals for me), he told the flight attendant about the problem with the earphones and she suggested he change to one of the few empty seats on the flight, which he did, leaving me with the luxury of the width of two full seats...roughly 26 inches, total.

So, we landed at Heathrow. I went through customs, interviewed by a pleasant young man so spectacularly beautiful I momentarily considered moving permanently to England.

So, picked up my luggage, and went, as Ted had said I would, through the corridor to wait for Gary. I found an ATM to get some English Pounds (available only in units of 100 Pounds...about $150 or so in dollars...), then since some time had passed between my arrival, checked at the information desk to see if Gary's plane was on time. I was told his flight had just landed. So I waited. And waited. Went back to the information desk to verify that all international passengers had to funnel through the same passageway. I was told yes, all international passengers went through the same baggage area and the same corridor, but that each terminal had its own. I was told that Gary's flight had arrived at Terminal 1, whereas I was at Terminal 3. Ted always flies United and therefore apparently was unaware that international flights came in to all three terminals. If I thought the distance between where the Chicago Blue Line el/subway came in to O'Hare and my flight gate was long, the distance between Heathrow's Terminal 1 and Terminal 3 made it seem like a stroll to the kitchen.

Finally found Gary, waiting patiently by the information desk--Terminal 3's information desk--and we headed for the train that takes you from Heathrow to Paddington Station in 15 minutes. Two tickets cost 36 pounds...roughly 50 dollars for a 15-minute ride. However the ticket could be used to go back and forth between Heathrow and Paddington Station any number of times for three days.

Okay, we'll leave it there, and will start with my observations of British transportation next time...exactly how soon that will be I'm not sure since our hotel charges 15 Pounds (roughly $20 a day per computer) for internet access. And the hotel is another story. We're still on our first day!

Please keep your eyes open.

Dorien


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