QXZ's London Invasion, Part Nine
back to part eight

Like a record, baby. Round, round, right round
retail therapy.

Shopping day. Time to hit the record store in Notting Hill Gate that Marcie told me about. Then, maybe over to Carnaby Street. If I have time, I'd still like to get up to Abbey Road. I thought I had directions and an address, but I can't seem to find any of that now.

These are exactly the type of record shops that High Fidelity is based on. Clerks with esoterica-packed brains and a dearth of social skills, lengthy debates with regular customers about record labels, obscure 80s rock on the sound system. Racks and racks of vinyl, CDs, singles, promo crap. I bought a Specials 45 and a 7 inch from the soundtrack to some French porn film.

The store gets extra points for having signs posted forbidding cellphone conversations indoors.

T-shirt store: a British girl sings along to a Notorious B.I.G. track.

An antiques shop in Portobello Road is selling iron keys dating back to the 11th century, Roman coins, medieval daggers, neolithic hand axes and other antiquities. Now those are some things hard to find at home.

Had to, did it. Purchased a 12th century iron key for £70.00 (around US$105.00) from John Dale Antiques, 87 Portobello Road, London, W11. Amazing... I now own something a person crafted 800 years ago. I wonder if that medieval locksmith ever dreamed that a tourist from a country that didn't yet exist would one day own his key, and as a curiosity rather than a practical item. Here's to you, my man.

A cave-like shop in an alley is selling arms and armor. Some of this stuff appears to be, at least, late medieval. It'd be exceptionally rare for blades that old to be in such good condition, though, and there are swords haphazardly tossed into bins. But as the shopkeeper doesn't seem too interested in coming back it's hard to know what, if anything, is legitimate. Passersby are drawing swords from a bin outside the door and waving them at each other. Ah well... I suppose I couldn't really take any of that stuff back home.

The Portobello Road market is clearly infinite. I didn't get much past the antiques section. It was getting damned cold, so I took my 800-year-old key out for pizza.

Went down to Carnaby Street, which doesn't seem particularly "swinging" these days, to buy stupid crap for people back home. I got Charmayne a Union Jack tank-top which she probably can't wear, (this bit temporarily omitted to preserve a surprise), and, yes, I got Rene's dad his silly London spoon. Also picked up a Manchester footbal scarf for Jack 'cause I think he'll think it's hysterical.

Regent Street and Oxford Circus were thick with people. What with the aforementioned inability of Londoners to crowd properly, it was slow going.

Some of the hostel crew have invited me out with them tonight. Planned on wearing my Clare jersey, but was warned that some pubs don't allow team jerseys as they're likely to start fights. I guess it's the bowling shirt, then.

Aisa put the Doors greatest hits ("I hear them first five days ago!" he says) on the room boombox. He and I and a Portuguese guy sat around talking about September 11 (they wanted to hear my story... everyone's ears prick up when I tell them I'm from New York City), the war, fame, celebrities, American sports, American movies, Afghani oil, Osama bin Laden and jobs.

I'm the first American Aisa's ever met, so he asks me a lot of questions. Fulfilling the cliche, he tells me that everything he knows about the US comes from American movies. Is Cop Land a real place? Where do all the Mexicans in New York live? Is there really a Chinatown in New York? Little Italy's real? I wish I'd brought a New York City map with me.

Second thoughts; no, I'll stay in tonight. I'm unconvinced I'd be able to get up to do the last things I want to do tomorrow. S'okay.

Ivan, Pedro and company reappeared, towing a Czech girl named Katerina with them. I asked her if she was staying in the hostel, and, from her reaction, I think she may have thought I was asking her to get into bed with me. Moral: gesture carefully when sitting on a bed and talking to foreigners.

Excerpted from QXZ's travel journal, 12/8/01.
QXZ endorses nothing.

Back to Part Eight
Forward to Part Ten