Sometimes, there's God, so quickly....

Blanche DuBois certainly knew what she was talking about.

First of all let me say if you are staying at a hotel in the Notting Hill section of London, DO NOT LEAVE ON A SATURDAY MORNING!  The world and its wife comes to an open air market on that day.  Antiques dealers and pretend antiques dealers and people selling t-shirts that say "Don't Panic! I'm Islamic" are all over the place.  Walking down the street was tough. Walking down the street with luggage was a nightmare.  The next time I will stay over Saturday.  Then I can enjoy being a part of that press of humanity.
So I arrived in Istanbul a little bit ago.  It is a little after midnight.  I am exhausted and I think I got taken at the airport by a taxi company.  I was offered a ride and then told it was going to cost 100YTL for the service (this is about $80).  I let is slide because I was so tired.
I have to be up at 5 to fly to Ankara to begin my tour.  But even with the exhaustion nothing can compare to seeing Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque at night glittering in the hard cool air.

Why hats are popular in Trafalgar Square

You know, I like animals as much as anybody, probably more.  But I cannot stand pigeons.  It has a lot to do with living through the first part of the AIDS epidemic.  There is this parasite that causes an infection called toxoplasmosis that killed a lot of PWAs in the 80's and 90's.  There is a moment in the AIDS chronicle AND THE BAND PLAYED ON, where a young doctor finds a sheep farmer who has some experience with toxoplasmosis.  You see, this was an illness, carried by pigeons and cats in their excrement, so the young doctor was thrilled to find someone who dealt with it on a regular basis.  He asked the sheep farmer what one does with the sheep who are infected with the parasite.  "We shoot them," he said.  

That is why I don't like pigeons.
But, in Trafalgar Square, in almost every language spoken on the planet (I think they missed Latin and Esperantu), it asks you not to feed the pigeons.  It's pretty clear and posted everywhere. And yet all over the Square there are morons giving food to these carrion animals. I don't really understand it.  Are these people thinking it is all right for me to feed them and no one else?  Do they think they are invisible and no one sees them doing it?  Do they not see the CURTAINS OF PIGEON SHIT COATING THE SQUARE?  Honestly, I don't know what to say about this.  I am glad they found a treatment for toxoplasmosis.
I went to the National Gallery and saw so many things that I had only seen in books.  I came very close to  succumbing to Stendhal Syndrome from looking at too many incredible moments of art.  Carravaggio's Supper at Emmaus, Piero della Francesca's Nativity, Van Eyck's Arnolfini Wedding, Rembrandt's Final Self portrait and Balthazar's Feast, and Leonardo's Virgin of the Rocks.  All of that in one day.  Plus the Vermeers, the Rokeby Venus, Titians, Raphaels, RUBENS!  It was an incredible day.  I started getting back spasms from looking.  There was nothing to prepare me for what it was like to be in the room with these paintings that I had seen only in reproduction.  The copies are NOTHING compared to the real things, man.  It was an exhausting day, but I saw some amazing things.  Seeing some of the Degas made me reconsider him.  To see Rembrandt's change in paint handling over THIRTY YEARS!  I can see why so many people come to London to study.  There are so many masterpieces in the National Gallery.  Painters I love like Parmigianino and Bronzino are in the collection.  I could live in that museum and still not see enough.
Michael took me to his place in Brixton (I know what you've heard and it is a very nice neighborhood) and I watched a bad BBC quiz show and fell asleep for a bit.  We went to Brick Lane for dinner and hanging out.  Part of the toxoplasmosis rant had to do with Michael telling about his partner who died.  So many people are gone and it is hard to get your brain around it at times.  

There's no place like LONDON....

Well, now I know why Sweeney Todd cut so many throats....

I'm kidding.  Really, I am loving London.  First off, I have never been here.  There are over 300 million people in England and I think I rode on the Underground with all of them today.  I was not prepared for the sheer press of people that you can get caught in here.  Everyone is on their way some where and I have heard so many different languages spoken it boggled my mind.  I had a great moment when a couple of people wanted to interview me about my feelings on the National Health Service.  I had to tell them I was not British, so my opinion didn't really count.  I guess I look British.
I know this blog is about Istanbul and believe me I am very nervous and excited to go.  But since it is a long trip and I have the time, I thought I would spend a few days in London coming and going.  First because some of the greatest art in the world is here and also because my greatest friend is here, Michael Mullen.
I want to say something about the way the English speak and what it does to you.  First off, they are convinced that they speak the right way (it is called "English") so when you are over here and you are speaking it, you are saying everything wrong.  Think of the way you say "Worcester," or "Holyoke."  Now the way you feel about people outside of Massachusetts pronouncing those words incorrectly is they way the English feel about you and the entire language.  You can't compete with it, so you have to start pronouncing things the way they do.  This accounts for what people think is Madonna being affected with a fake British accent.  If she doesn't talk that way, no one here will understand her.  They look at you like you are a freak if you don't talk like them.  It really forces you to assimilate.
(Note: The above does not allow ANYONE in the Americas to say things like "Happy Christmas."  Now THAT is an affectation.  It is positively sick making and should be stopped. )
We went to Tate Modern today and saw the permanent collection and an amazing Juan Muñoz retrospective.  I can only imagine the work he still had in him when he died.  It was a haunting and beautiful show.  We just missed the Doris Salcedo installation in the Turbine Hall.  Tate Modern really is an incredible building.  It was an old powerstation that got repurposed into the most incredible museum.  We also went to the National Portrait Gallery (Sir Thomas Lawrence... so GOOD!  Who knew?) and tomorrow we are going to Tate Britain to see the amazing Peter Doig's exhibition.