A U.S. national buffoon's European vacation

August 15, 2008

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I just came back from a 10-day vacation. My wife and I visited England and Ireland for four days each. The trip was fun, but it"s hard to just put your life on hold for an extended period nowadays.


As we slept in our tiny hotel room built for none on the fourth day, I tried not to think about work, but the mind drifted to responsibilities of the job. The FABRICATOR"s fall issues tend to be some of the largest of the year, and plenty of assignments were left incomplete before I jetted away. Additionally, what was I going to write about for this week"s blog.


So in a lame attempt to tie in some of my vacation stories with the world of metal, here I go.


It rained a lot while we were in England. A lot. One day we took the Underground to a street market at the Camden Road stop, and it was pouring outside. Officials encouraged people to keep moving from the Underground"s exit so that they wouldn"t create a massive roadblock of humanity for people emerging from the train tracks. In the words of the public address announcer, It"s only water.


Well, we avoided it on that day, and the three others, even on the day we took a bicycle tour; we darted into a pub when the rain started falling. The bicycles were of an old-school design, large seats for large seats and handlebars that allowed a rider to sit upright. We"re talking steel, baby, none of that fancy titanium or composite material. We hit all the tourist spots, and our guide, Dylan, provided all the necessary background.


As an example, we rode past the entrance to the Winston Churchill Museum and learned of our guide"s favorite Churchill quote, which England"s favorite son shared with a lady whom accused him of being drunk. Churchill replied, I may be drunk, Miss, but in the morning I will be sober and you will still be ugly. I"m sure Churchill would have looked good on one of these cruiser bikessober, of course.


In a stroke of incredible luck, we got to see one of my favorite bands, The Drive-By Truckers, play at the Electric Ballroom. The Truckers were touring behind their Brighter Than Creation"s Dark album and happened to be in the U.K. while I was there.


They blew the lid off the joint, playing a lot off their Southern Rock Opera double album, a concept album that"s a sort-of tribute to Lynyrd Skynyrd and the South"s underbelly. They closed the show with a cover of People Who Died, written by Jim Carroll, a musician and author of The Basketball Diaries. Wow. I also liked the urinals at the venue. If memory serves me right, these guys should be congratulated on a beautiful stainless steel product.


I can"t say enough about the museums in London. Most are free and ask only for a small donation. If it hangs on a wall in a public institution in London, we must have seen it.


Am I an expert on art now? Hardly. But I like to think I"m expanding my horizons. I saw this type of sculpture at the Tate Modern, and it made me scratch my head like most modern art does. Apparently David Smith is well-respected for his welded metal pieces. I"ve seen a lot of those items from other welders, but not quite like his arrangements. I guess that"s the point. I think.


I can"t say I did too much thinking in Ireland. I spent a lot of time with Mr. Guinness and his friends. Slainte!



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