Chocolate Surprise

9 05 2015

My conversion with the Cardinal reached many levels. It was a moment in time.

We spoke of the Church and its role throughout history, a dark role, particularly when it came to priests who had abused — in some cases, sexually – young alter boys. I found this part of the Church disgusting. The Cardinal acknowledged a medevial element to the Church and its archaic ways of only men serving in the priesthood and the elaborate outfits they wore and the fact the could not marry or have sex.

We also talked about AIDS and the disease that was taking a horrible toll in Africa and globally. He was working on a film project, a preview of which was presented following the mass we attended in Mayfair. In the film, many Church patrons and clergy speak of AIDS and tell their story of living with the disease. In Africa, sadly, there are many stories.

Some even produce tears.

I left the Cardinal’s flat and returned to the Underground, Oyster Card in hand and minding the gap. On the train back to Victoria station, a young man wearing a American Navy jacket sat across from me. He was younger than I and smaller. On his brown leather jacket was a patch identifying his fleet assignment. I wrote the number down and did the research. They were docked in southern Italy.

We parted ways at the Victoria station. I power walked down the Strand in order to meet JB at King’s College for our scheduled appointment. His office has an incredible view of London with an impressive collection of books and a detailed map of Europe that was distracting to say the least. We walked down to the ice skating rink and discussed Paris. It was cold but the spirit of the holidays made for a cheerful spirit, not to mention we were close to the theatre district.

058

On a previous visit, JB and I had enjoyed the musical Avenue Q, puppets and all. There was no budget for such a luxury this time around. I was reminded just how poor I was when we entered the Burberry store and none of the sales staff would look my way. Eventually, I was able to engage a young lady about the cost of a signature Burberry scarf. She quoted something absurd in pounds which prompted JB and I to depart rather quickly, JB with a subtle shot as we left.

“That’s half the cost of your airfare, John,” he grinned.

We joined Chris and David for drinks that night at the local cocktail bar in Bloomsbury. I explained to Chris the fascinating party I had attended in Paris as the guest of a Moroccan man. There were thousands of men inside the building and I had been privileged to a small sampling of how arabian men enjoy the nightlife. I was guarded with the details as this had been an entirely new experience for me and I was still unsure of what it all meant. I was, however, grateful for the hospitality Chris, David and JB had shown me during my visit to London.

In the morning, I would hop on an American flight back to Miami. First purchasing a gift for Mom at the Harrod’s in Heathrow. I had it wrapped by a local charity in purple colored paper and bows. In Miami, Homeland Security asked what the box contained.

“Truffles,” I said.

“What are those?,” he asked.

“Chocolates,” I replied.

Yes, the holidays in Alabama this year would be much sweeter.228

 

 

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Thanksgiving at Gordon House

18 01 2015

On our first night in London, JB took me to a Bombay Cafe in an emerging neighborhood near King’s Cross. It was good to catch up. I filled him in on the details of summer in Glacier and challenges of my first management gig. I was delighted to learn JB had been nominated for a teaching honor at his college. Being recognized for excelling at what you love is always a time for celebration.

Dinner was wonderful, the waitor made sure to explain how each sauce complimented our entree. I drank a lot of hot tea that night, hoping to unplug my sinuses. Preparing for this trip and finally getting across the pond was not easy. I was concerned about traveling alone into Europe and attending a Thanksgiving dinner party at the Gordon Square House where I would finally meet some of JB’s closer comrades.

There is a fine line in showing self confidence yet not arrogance. This would be my challenge in London.

As I got ready for the party, I recalled my departure from Glacier, driving across the country in an experience that made my world seem quite small. On the first night I slept in the Jeep at a reststop just outside the Little Bighorn Battlefield. The next morning I awoke and went to the National Monument, getting in just as the gates opened. I walked through the cemetaries and exhibits dedicated to this memorable moment in American history. Moved by such powerful historical moments, I called my father with a progress report.

Custer's Last Stand

Custer’s Last Stand

“I should be home in a week, Dad,” I told him. “We’re going to spend a few days in Denver.”

“Where are you now?,” he asked, the AT&T service coming in crystal clear on the southeast Montana plains.

“I’m at the Battle of Little Bighorn,” I responded, explaining to Dad how incredible a presentation the Park Service had put together at the Battlefield and how moved I was by the stories of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer, the U.S. Army’s 7th Calvary, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and the warriors of Lakota Sioux and Northern Cheyenne.

Dad’s next words struck a nerve.

“Ego,” he said. “You see what happens.”

I did. Custer marched his men right into a massacre — unknowingly, blinded by his perceieved strength.

Back in London, as I prepared to meet JB’s best friends, I was conscious to present a confident young man new to this uppercrust world he had been invited into. Chris was my shepherd. There were 12 of us.

I wore my Kenneth Cole Reaction sports coat. The one from the ill-fated campaign for the Florida House. It fit much snugger now. Chris and I chatted before the other guests arrived. He owns the Gordon House with his husband David. They are a wealthy couple, both very handsome, distinguished and quite sucessful. Americans — raised in New England and now thriving in London.

JB would not attend the dinner as he would be accepting his teaching honor at the college down on the Strand. Eleven new men, I would be meeting and eating with. Nervous, you say? without a doubt … Yes.

Troels and his partner Peter were the first to arrive. A tall man from Denmark, Troels, I would find to be a fascinating person to converse with. He was quite stylish too, wearing plaid designed long trousers made of a tweedish material. Thanksgiving was irrelevent to Troels.

He peppered me with the fact that a majority of Americans were obese and stupid and when I asked him about our President he offered a skeptical remark, “He’s weak on foreign policy.”

This I took without mustering a defense, noticing the room was beginning to fill. I was introduced by David to Marco, a very handsome Italian, whose looks distracted me from Troels’ insults. Marco was with Evan, an American Jew, who like Chris and David, is a successful businessman living in London.

We all were served wine and champagne by a sweet young lady whose name I do not recall. After Marco and Evan, I met the Spanish representatives, Phillip and Javier, very friendly guys. There was laughter in the air and smiles all around. We would proceed downstairs to the dining room where our dinner awaited. There I met Stephen and Daryl, another incredibly handsome couple, Stephen, a New Jersey ex-pat and Daryl, his British boyfriend, a fellow politician from Cambridge. Joining me as a solo participant was Grant. JB warned me about this young Scotsman. His story later.

Gordon House

Gordon House





Hello, London

25 12 2014
London's Heathrow Airport.

London’s Heathrow Airport.

I arrived in London with a lot to prove.

American. Southern Democrat with a love for nature and history and rebuilding confidence despite a poor showing during the midterm elections in the U.S. The President’s men and women cannot always win, so it seems.

David insisted I carry a bag that was too heavy for me. He describes it as a Toumi folding suit bag. I hauled it out of the airplane into Heathrow and onto the underground tube. It took up a lot space on the train and yet people did not complain despite tripping over it which, no doubt, inflicted a few cramps. I was so embarrassed. The shoulderpad was practicially deteriorating on my shirt, leaving black marks on a fine fabric. But I was glad to be here.

At the Russell Square station, I had one more uncomfortable surprise awaiting as the masses unloaded and filed toward the exit. There was a lift to the street and a lot of people waiting for just two cars. Tired of being in the herd, I opted instead to climb stairs. One hundred and seventy-five of them — Toumi folding suit bag, laptop briefcase and all. Signs warned to not attempt this unless one was in tip-top condition. I considered myself just that.

Russell Square Underground Tile.

Russell Square Underground Tile.

I beat the crowd upstairs. One of the taller, younger lads, who had opted to wait with his family and take the elevator instead, shot me a contemptuous glare as I proceeded in the opposite direction. From the station, I headed into the Bloomsbury district where JB was housed in a charming building on Gordon’s Square. Bloomsbury is an intellectual zone, full of thinkers, young people and sophisticates It was quite different from our previous rendezvous in Walthamstow.

London already has an air about it. It is cold but not damp. I arrive at the Gordon Square House to JB’s warm greeting. He immediately offers to help me with my luggage. I was relived as we climbed the stairs, another five flights, into the attic. JB has come a long way since our first meeting in Houston. And so have I.

We chat briefly before he must leave for the college and I need some rest. I slept little on the plane, watching two movies and eating everything they offered. Food, for the next two weeks, would not be a priority. I had trained and fed all summer for this moment.

JB was in great shape and just a few years my senior. I was glad to see him again. He is the only soul from Houston I have remained in contact with. That was such a dark year.

Things would go much better in England. This I was sure of.