Wednesday, June 23, 2010

5/31/2010 – Day Fourteen of England Tour: The Republic of Heaven Must Be Missing Its Ice Cream

“Lyra and her daemon

Moved through the darkening hall,

Taking care to keep to one side,

Out of sight of the kitchen.”

And so begins Book One,

The Golden Compass of His Dark Materials,

Beginning on these grounds of Oxford

Where the author resides—

The university,

Where Lyra ran amok with her daemon—

One day just a renegade orphan,

The next a navigator of high seas,

A bear-riding soldier

And a diplomat of dimensions

Traipsing through time and space

With her shape-shifter at her side,

One day a cat, the next a ferret—

Not unlike that man we met on the street

With a cat on a leash and photos of their travels,

The cat on dashboards and motorbikes,

Beaches and highways,

More of a dog than a cat

In his thrill-seeking wanderlust

Beyond Meow Mix and catnaps.

Now at Oxford U,

A word not far off

From the whimsy of mind’s eyes,

With the dodo bird sculptures,

And Gemini, and griffins, and horse-drawn carriages,

And heads of dead scholars

Like convicts on London Bridge,

It’s as though I stepped into the pages

Of a series I adore,

Of angels and witches and original sin,

Human experiments and parallel dimensions,

All from the mind of Sir Philip Pullman,

A true visionary of the mind’s eye

Of worlds among worlds.

Little wonder C.S. Lewis attended here,

Where his nickname was Dodo—

Hence the Dodo of Wonderland—

And the rabbit the color

Of an old man’s beard—

Alice’s father, specifically.

There is something about this place—

Oxford University

That spurns the imaginations of those

Who wield a pen that is mightier than the sword.

They hail from this campus like Neverland alumni,

Making names for themselves in the worlds they create;

“‘And then what?’ said her daemon sleepily.

‘Build what?’

‘The Republic of Heaven,’ said Lyra.”

In the many Italian restaurants

I have dined at these past two weeks,

I have learned my share of Italian words—

Il pesce, antipasto, salmone, birra—

Which means beer in both Italian and Arabic!—

And then there’s pudding—

Originally the Latin word botellus,

Meaning “small sausage,”

A key ingredient in medieval Europe.

Pudding is a broad term for the British,

For it applies to any dessert,

Be it brownies, cheesecake,

Or my favorite: ice cream.

Speaking of which:

~*Tartufo Classico*~

Not only is it the cutest name for a dessert

Ever to be thought up and committed to menu,

It’s also the most delicious

Singular scoop of ice cream I have ever had—

And that’s saying a lot,

For ice cream is my essential basic food group.

My dessert arrives—

Brought in by an accented waiter who says

I resemble Jennifer Lopez

And I’m sitting next to Elvis Presley—

And it’s only one scoop on a large round plate—

Brits seem to favor small desserts

With plates double their size—

But one spoonful transports me to

Cream-filled chocolate-hazelnut gelato bliss,

Covered with crushed caramelized hazelnuts

And sprinkled with cocoa powder—

Is this the Republic of Heaven that Lyra spoke of?

We have come full circle

To arrive back in London,

Where storm clouds hold vigil—

“For there’s no place like London,

There’s no place like London

There’s a hole in the world like a great black pit

And the vermin of the world inhabit it

And their morals aren’t worth what a pig can spit

And it goes by the name of London!”

That’s Sweeney Todd’s take on it;

For me it’s the world of

Great musical theatre,

Gardens of Remembrance,

Museums of centuries past

And very scary traffic.

Not to mention salons

With names like Pleasant Barbers—

Sweeney Todd being one of them.

Storm clouds hold vigil over London

Like belligerent troops—

Like the rally taking place

On some side of the city

Against Israel and their exploits—

Why am I missing all the action,

Cooped up in this hotel room

With only the television

To connect me to worldly happenings?

But then again, I’ve seen so much already—

Saint Augustine’s gardens and Churchwell Path,

Orwell’s Ministry of Truth,

Cabarets of words and lit,

Aztec ruins and busts of Ramses,

Venetian masks and the Rosetta Stone,

Its inscriptions on apparel and accessories—

All in the city where London Bridge falls down.

There’s time in the world to rail and rally

Politics and government antics;

But for now, our last day of the tour,

This ice cream scoop with the cute name

Brought to me in the hotel restaurant

By a waiter who calls me Jennifer Lopez

Will be the extent of my nightly shenanigans.

Tomorrow’s another day—

The last day—

And I welcome bedtime in this hotel

Over bedtime in any hostel,

And tomorrow we enter the time warp again,

The time change six hours back in time,

On a plane for eight hours—

That’s four-hundred and eighty minutes

Of ear-popping altitude,

Sleeping with knees drawn up

And a pillow on the shoulder of my fellow vagabond—

We’ve come full circle

And go back to where we started.

Latitude? Longitude?

Our number is 360.

Now that’s wanderlust!

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