May 12, 2004


AS WE HAVE just had a nice evening nap and our merely-adequate dinner is cooking in the oven, we figured we'd use the free minutes to do a short bit of blogging. The over-riding issue, of course, remains our upcoming vacation plans.

We are not, we should note, speaking of our June 2004 travel plans, as we have already decided to spend a week tromping around the East Coast: seeing friends, family, and 2.8 trillion cicada bugs which will undoubtedly all cluster outside the hotels at which we stay.

Nor do we speak of our 2006 travel plans, which we have already decided will involve us tromping around the South, the Pacific Northwest and Canada on a rather long car jaunt. For with this latter trip, we are considering inviting a friend -- that would be Simon -- along. This way, the both of us can engage in a road-trip of epic proportions, and test the limits of human endurance for cabin fever. It will be quite a sight when one of us finally loses it out in the wilds near Flin Flon, Manitoba, and beats the other senseless with a tire iron.

No, the vacation of which we speak will likely be sooner, and likely be solo -- unless God favors us most greatly and provides us with great wealth and incredible charm and really nice teeth. Then it would be a trip for two people, if you get our meaning. However, as we fear this is as likely as a visit from St James' ghost in the dead of night, we shall plan for a vacation on our own terms. And so, we declare that in 2005, we are considering paying a visit to London.

However, we must say that we are only considering it at this point.

For we note with grave alarm that it now takes $1.77 to purchase 1 GBP, when by rights that figure should rest around $1.50. If this unfortunate and irrational state of affairs were to hold, we would arrive in Old Blighty only to find the English people would snicker at us in a most unseemly matter.

But they would do more than just snicker. They would mutter under their breaths at our outlandish accent, and laugh as we exchanged our newly-communised money with its foofy peach and blue hues. About all we could do in defense is tell people we were really in town to buy the Wolverhampton football club, and then things would really get out of hand.

We should also add that as an American, we are naturally "frugal," by which we mean cheap. We have been told by reliable sources that in Britain, things which would generally cost $1 in America cost GBP 1, which means we would be ripped off something fierce on a daily basis and have no one to whom to complain. Also, as an American, we place a big emphasis on "value," by which we mean we secretly exult in getting a deal where we clearly make out hand over fist. We are worried there will be few opportunities in Britain for this, as we know that on the other side of the Atlantic, everything is more expensive and smaller in scale to boot. If the dollar is strong, this will not be as grating; but if it is weak, it would be the financial and emotional equivalent of getting hit in the head with a crowbar each day.

So, clearly we can see that our visit will depend much upon the dollar regaining its rightful post as the World's Premiere Currency. However, while we think it likely that will happen, currency considerations are not our only worry.

For we also understand that London is not all that safe; we heard recently that its crime rate was six times that of New York. Of course, given how well things are going in New York, quick math tells us that would mean London's crime rate is roughly twice as bad as New York's was in the Seventies. This is a bit troubling. New York was, after all, rather disturbing back then, if the films of that decade are any indication. And besides, they had gas rationing.

Of course, modern Britain does not have gas rationing; petrol just costs something like GBP 5 per gallon -- except they use liters, which is a whole 'nother ball of wax but never mind. Anyway, the point is that we would not be able to afford driving; and if we drove nonetheless, we'd end up in one of those tiny little Euro cars with the three-cylinder engines. We could not do this as our friends back home might want to see photos of our trip, and we'd naturally have one of us at the driver's seat of a Ford Commune or VW Bundesbank, and we wouldn't be able to live it down for months. This is another disadvantage.

A further disadvantage, of course, is that we are American. We fear this would not go over well with some on the "British street," especially if they brought up the war and all. The last thing we would need is to get in long, drawn-out arguments about why America really is a great and wonderful place, because we've been told that's frowned upon overseas. Instead, we would be forced to grit our teeth and smile weakly as we were informed we were the Devil's servant.

This would not be fun at all. About all we could do is hope beyond hope that the person was really an American expatriate, for in such cases international law would allow us to deck him without consequence. We have no doubt that once we explained to the constables that we were a crazy cowboy Yank, merely settling a dispute with a compatriot in a traditional manner, they would have no problems with the arrangement.

In the end, though, we'll admit that such fears are generally silly. After all, the dollar will rise eventually, the Internet is great for value-shopping, and "the Tube" is an excellent transport system. Also, we are hopeful that traditional British politeness will prevent any Briton who would criticize our nation from doing so to our face.

But all these things mask our true fear about a potential trip to London.

London really seems like a nice place in all the books and articles that we have read, and all the movies which we have seen. It seems quite cosmopolitan, and very trendy, and there are oodles of learned and erudite people, and one would never run out of things to do. Also, it's seemingly open all night. We approve highly of all these things. So what if we were to end up falling in love with the place? What if we fell so hard for it that we ended up wanting to do something crazy, like move there for good?

Ah well. How did the movie put it? Hang on tightly, let go lightly.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at May 12, 2004 10:26 PM | TrackBack


First off, London is incredible! Go! Enjoy! Just don't go in November, when the sun is wholly set by tea time. The pubs and cathedrals ALONE are worth the trip. Plus, the whole "bad teeth" gripe really doesn't apply there, now does it?

Second, I WILL be joining you on your cross country jaunt in 2006. However, the Canada cross country thing merits reconsideration. Despite the obvious joys of places like Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, we might be better served in the US, in Glacier National Park, MT or the International Peace Gardens in ND (Kidding of course on the second one).....

Thirdly, if a tire iron fight should erupt, it will more likely be in the 104 degree swamps of Bogue Chitto, Mississippi, not Flin Flon.

Posted by: simon from jersey at May 13, 2004 11:15 AM

Wait a minute. Swamps? You and I are going to a place with swamps? Shouldn't we just declare that right out while we still can?

Posted by: Benjamin Kepple at May 14, 2004 08:58 AM


Allow me the tiebreak on this one. You simply haven't seen the US until you've driven the Natchez Trace through Mississippi. It's one of the most scenic and beautiful parts of this country. You want to see the South? I may be biased, but Birmingham is the prettiest. Outside of that, Mississippi is essential. ESSENTIAL.

Anyway, its convenient. You drive down 81, then 20/59 to Birmingham. From there, you keep on your Southwestern trajectory through Mississippi, eventually hitting I-10 in Louisiana. Next stop, TEXAS! Plus, we won't have to worry about pesky cicadas, just Evangelists!

If you really must see Flin Flon, I'll play ball. But it's not everything you've read it to be.....

Posted by: simon from jersey at May 14, 2004 10:18 AM


I spent three months in London from Nov. '02 to the end of Jan. '03. I'll be glad to brief you before your trip.


Posted by: Brian Linse at May 14, 2004 07:00 PM

1) Swamps are cool.
2) I think another drawback of the evil small cars would be their size as compared to yours. Now, I'm pretty tall, but you're taller than me still. So there's that.

Posted by: Geoff Brown at May 16, 2004 09:43 PM