Flashback - 1999: Expedition Scotland
Page 2

Day 3: Thursday - December 2nd, 1999
A Britishy Fresh Start

Before going back to sleep the previous night, I reset my alarm for 7:00AM. When it went off I tried to wake everybody by gently saying shit like "Wakey, wakey! Eggs and bakey!" and (in a deeper, dangerous tone of voice) "I will sodomize your mothers and eat your souls if you don't get up right now, faggots!", but my GOD were they like hibernating bears. No matter how much I then prodded or shook them (or poked them with a fork I found under my bed with brown stuff caked on the prongs) they'd just grumble and wave me off. So I took a quick shower myself (cursing all the while at just how shitty I thought this vacation was turning out), got dressed, and just as I was heading out the door for the full English breakfast buffet that the man behind the front desk had previously promised us, I heard Baldwin stir and say, "Is that... Is that bacon I smell?" I sniffed the outside hallway myself and confirmed it, and that sonovabitch actually beat me down to the dining area. Megalodon and the Colonel met us down there a few minutes later.

That was one of the greasiest and greatest breakfasts I could remember hitting my stomach like ten pounds of iron. Maybe it was all because it had been close to two days since my last real meal, but those eggs, sizzling sausage links, fatty slices of bacon, and actual pulpy orange juice was some of the best tasting grease I had ever eaten. I had thirds (even after the almost-crippling heartburn had kicked in from the first plate in the middle of the second).

Doing something... London style!After we were done (and everybody else got cleaned up and popped some Pepsid tablets), we asked the morning desk guy if there were any double-decker (NOT to be confused with an "upper-decker") bus tours around the city. My thoughts on this were if we were going to see as much as we could in the shortest amount of time, we needed a tour guide. And if we were going to take a tour around London, we needed to go via double-decker bus (Makes perfect sense, no?). He pulled the map out again and pointed to a place about two blocks away and told us that all kinds of busses stopped there, tours included. And then he warned us to bundle up. Remembering the slightly chilly, but not really cold, previous day I smiled smugly and told him, "Yeah, yeah, buddy. We may be from Georgia, but we get cold winters there too. This ain't too bad." He looked perplexed (well, Hadji always looked perplexed), and as soon as I opened the front hotel door I saw/felt why... If I thought THIS was not cold I must be from Siberia. The Arctic BLAST that slammed into me just outside the exit flash-froze my eyes, snot, and the saliva in my mouth before I could even say "Holy bloody shit!"

After we quickly ran back to our room and broke out an extra sweater, gloves, and hat for each of us, we tried again. Still as cold as a witch's nipple (the coldest part of her tit), but if we braced ourselves and kept any exposed skin covered we were somewhat fine. Except for mild frostbite. My God, wind is not the name for what blew in our faces that day. It was something made of iron, never changing, blowing at us down every street we walked down. At least everybody was a lot more jovial that morning after a good night's sleep and a huge breakfast. That made up for a lot.

We found the bus stop and bought our tour tickets inside the mini-convenience store right next to it. When asked if we wanted the cheap £10 tour or the more expensive £30 one (that allowed for us to get off and on the continuing march of busses at whatever stop we were at for the rest of the day) I said we would probably prefer the £10 tour. Baldwin jumped on my case for this (instead of just asking me simply, "Why do you believe that to be the better deal, my good chap?"), but I explained that for around $35 less we could get a good look at the city, see what's out there first, and THEN come back to the parts we wanted to see again via the (much, much) cheaper Tubes. We argued in front of the ticket seller for about a minute, thoroughly confusing the hell out of the old man to the point of when we eventually settled and ordered our £10 tours he actually ended up giving us the £30 tickets. Well, that solved our problem.

We Are Tour Whores

We waited back outside in the raw air for a short while and then the first red double-decker bus pulled up right in front of us — unfortunately it was long after my testes retreated up and 3 inches into my pelvis cavity. As we boarded (and since we were there, and since it was there, and we were in Jolly Ole' London) we simply had to go up on the top row of the double-decker, despite the fact that some windows were jammed open to the elements, and it seemed to have gotten even colder in the last half hour.

The double-decker cruised around the city for a while, seeing (not in order, so don't get pissy if the route is wrong, you anal, self-loathing, Anglophile asshole) Baker Street, Hyde Park, Trafalgar Square, and the very first Hard Rock Cafe, with every stop causing Megalodon to jump up and down in her seat saying, "Let's get off! Let's get off! Let's get off!" This time the Colonel beat me to the punch by telling her to sit down and just stay quiet (well, he was a lot more polite than I was planning to be). The Colonel had gone to boarding school for a number of years in England (Cambridge), and had been to London many times in the past. We had agreed early on to let him dictate which sites were worthy of getting off at and visiting first hand, as opposed to those which were just one-stop wonders with nothing but the front facade to offer.

After ignoring Megalodon for a few more stops the Colonel (with me following) got up suddenly when the tour guide announced "Buckingham Palace... Buckingham Palace. Cheerio. Tut-tut. Buckingham Palace..." Actually, that's a lie. What he really said was "Uuuhh, Bu'hm Lis, a hurm sop... Soppa hee-ruh tut-tut, Liss a chut 'yal blee-in' hurn-hrnnn." The Colonel must have understood, or he just wanted to shut Megalodon up. Either way I was with him.

I must admit, Buckingham Palace impressed me a helluva lot more than the White House did on previous visits to DC. Very large and very regal. And I swore I saw the ghost of Diana traipsing around the front drive with a horse whip in her hand, chasing after the half-dressed ghost of a burly butler with a ghostly rubber ball strapped in his mouth. Ahhhh, that horny huntress! I hear she catches him on the 22nd minute of every hour. They should put that shit in the guide books.

BUCKingham PalaceWe did the touristy things at The Buck Pal — pictures at the gate and the fountain, watched the changing of the guard, and laughed at Baldwin when he pulled a Homer Simpson in trying to make one of the fuzzy-helmeted soldiers crack a smile or move a little when he thought they were not legally or spiritually allowed to (Just as a word of advice to you, my readers, those specially trained bad ass guards ARE allowed to beat the living crap out of obnoxious tourists who try to moon them. Or if not "allowed," they do it in secret when the security cameras are facing away) — and then we followed a large tour group as it was led by some old guy dressed up like Sherlock Holmes away from the Palace.

The tour guide was all serious as he talked about how when Buckingham Palace was first built it housed a basement full of African slaves who were painted "white" in case they were mistakenly seen by the gentry (so as not to "offend" their eyes with their darkness... His words, not mine!), how Queen Anne liked to suckle the underage penises of country boys who had yet "tasted the fruits of adulthood," and how Queen Elizabeth I was really a man, and instead of simply chopping his/her cock and balls off she just had a special pair of iron bloomers made that folded and tucked everything back into the anus... Baldwin, the Colonel, and I kept looking at each other with raised eyebrows that seemed to ask, "What the goddamn fuck? Is he serious? Why don't they teach you this shit in schools?" Megalodon was just busy looking down at the ground saying things like "OOooooh! Cobblestones! Yay!"

Soon the guide turned to the group and said, "And that right there, is the history of royalty in England. Thank you all for joining me on this fine, brisk morn." Then he bowed to our applause. Baldwin, Megalodon, the Colonel, and I stayed for a bit after the crown following the man dispersed in order to talk about our next course of action. I wanted to see the Tower of London, Megalodon wanted to see Harrods, and there was talk about what to do for lunch, but we were interrupted when the old tour guide started talking again in his loud tour guide voice.

"And so, with the Roman army finally defeated and kicked out of the British Isles," he began, "Boadicea, the warrior queen of the Iceni people, was free to start up the first Republic of Britain with her lover, the exiled Marcus Junius Brutus, of 'Et tu, Brute' fame. They then birthed the iconic King Arthur and with him in control of the monarchy..... Blah, blah, blah, blah, blaaaaah." The strangest part of his historically fucked up ramble is that there was nobody around paying him any attention at all. Well, there weren't at first, but soon, as he started marching self-assuredly back to Buckingham Palace with his Holmesian uniform as sharp as ever, a few people from over here, and a few tourists from over there, all started to wander up to him thinking he was some sort of city-paid giver of chronicled knowledge. My God, when I get old and senile I plan to do the same exact thing as Guv'nor Warbles (what we came to call him). What a retirement that would be!

Who is this man, so wise in the ways of history?
Seriously, if anybody knows who the fuck this man is, PLEASE let me know. Sure, he could be dead by now, but if that's the case then I want to build him a web shrine so that ALL will know of his greatness! He made me realize that you don't have to follow the rules in life in order to have others follow you... And as long as you believe in yourself, and smoke a pipe, nobody will ever question you or your motives. Hell, you might even be able to convince the government that you deserve a paycheck for your illegal actions. Guv'nor Warbles, I SALUTE YOU!

After Buck Pal we boarded the next double-decker to come our way and we toured around Big Ben and Parliament, and were told all about The Gunpowder Treason and Plot ("Remember, remember the fifth of November," etc...), which I knew all about thanks to Alan Moore and his anti-Thatcher comic V for Vendetta (a good story, but fuck that paranoid Moore and his hippie thinking! Thatch was the MAN!). I wanted to get off, but the Colonel told me that the Tower o' London was cooler, and would take a long time to get through. So we stayed on the bus as it crossed the Thames, but we all looked at each other in awe when the tour guide announced the next stop: The London Dungeon! Oh fuck me yes! The old, fuddy-duddy guide made it sound distasteful and silly, which was right the fuck up our alley! Tawdry tourist traps with lots of garish vulgarity are the reason travel was invented in the first place!

Down In the Dungeon

What IS the London Dungeon, you ask? It's basically a mix of a history museum, Madame Tousous' wax figures, and Faces of Death (the movie). And it is just as awesome as it sounds! We bought our tickets and ran inside for the tour that was just about to start. We all crowded into a dark room that was filling up with fellow tourists (and was especially dark to us due to the lack of gleaming sunlight that we just came in from), and soon some goon with goofy face paint came out from behind a curtain and began warning us of the scares and gore that were to come, mocking us all (over our attitudes and appearances) the whole while — singling me out for my red baseball cap and big, dorky grin... I was so embarrassed and happy at the same time, I didn't know whether to jump up on his pedestal and knee him in the nuts or kiss him fully on his pasty faced lips.

While I was weighing the options, Face Paint Man started telling us all about the sordid and vicious underside of London through out the ages: The Plague, torture devices, sewer monkeys, and especially Jack the Ripper. After he got one person in the crowd to scream in girly fear (the Colonel actually), he let us walk behind the curtain and into London's brutal past... Or at least a waxy interpretation of it.

Yeah, the waxy figures were really kind of shitty in quality in my memory (I've never been to Tousous', but I've seen documentaries on the way they make precise replicas of their models... in the London Dungeon the figures all looked like almost featureless mannequins in a Macy's display window), but they were ripped apart and dissected in some cases as if they were done by Rick Baker personally. There were figures representing Black Death victims, Jack the Ripper's prey, and It could just have been my mind playing tricks on me — or simply wishful thinking — but I seem to recall a recreation of one of the ending sequences in American Werewolf in London at the end of the gory tour. And if it wasn't real, why the fuck DON'T they have something like that in there?! Honestly, must I think of everything myself?

Anyway, all in all the Dungeon was a fun stop. Not really something anybody with the maturity level greater than a 15 year-old would appreciate, so as you can guess that we all fucking loved it. After that we boarded the bus again and crossed Tower Bridge to our next stop, the Tower of London itself.

Who is this man, so wise in the ways of history?
What kind of man does it take to fill a position like this?... Really, I hope I never meet him in real life to find out.

And what's up with that head in the lower right of this picture? I hope that's just a wax prop, otherwise somebody on this tour was waaaay too into this shit.

It was around this time that Megalodon needed to eat something, buy a T-shirt, send some postcards (something!), so before we actually entered the Tower we went to the touristy-looking buildings just across the way from it. We got some rubbery, mass produced fish and chips from a McDonald's-like booth, Megalodon got a bunch of "I (heart) London" and "Long Live Prince Charles!" shirts, and I took the time to call my brother, my parents, and my friend Karen back home. My conversations went a little bit like this:

Me: Oh my God... I... I think I'm going to kill somebody, and it's not going to be me. At least I won't be the first one to die, but after I kill the others I may kill myself before I get sent to prison.

Brother: Good. So you're making friends.

Me: We're here for three days, and they just want to hang out in the hotel room and eat shitty Pakistani sandwiches! You think that's a joke. It's not. It's not a joke. I'm not laughing.

Brother: Jesus, don't be such a baby. Look, if they're keeping you down or holding you back, or whatever, ditch 'em. Just ditch them and do what YOU want to do. Go to Paris for the day. Go pub hopping for a day. Don't let those wet blankets dictate how you spend your vacation. And don't bitch and whine about something you can so easily change.

Me: I...... Hmmmmmmm.

Brother: Yeah, "Hmmmmmm." Don't be such a faggot. Just don't waste your own time and money in a foreign town like London. Shit, there's so much you can do there, and if you need the number of a place with some hot--

Me: Uh, yeah. Thanks. Gotta go.

That got me thinking... And in a good way.

From Dungeon to Tower to Capitalism

We then bought our tickets to the Tower of London, and as the Beefeaters gave us a personal tour around the place (we were one of maybe 5 or 6 groups in the entire place — it was soooooooo goddamn cold, and nobody else seemed to be dumb or desperate enough to cruise around all the outdoor sites in the town that day. There was grumbling from our group (about everything grumble-worthy we came upon or stumbled into — which turned out to be EVERYTHING), but I was learning to block it all out.

Eventually our tour led us into the White Tower itself, and people started to enjoy themselves again. We walked around, saw all the armor, took a picture of me pretending to try and steal the Crown Jewels, got some more pictures of the Royal Guard stepping on me and kneeing my neck as they handcuffed me, and generally had a good time. Once everybody was in a pleasant mood I brought up my proposal for the next day (Friday). I asked everybody what they'd think of getting up early and taking the Chunnel to France and bumming around Paris for the day... Keep in mind I had no idea how expensive this would be, how long the train ride itself would take, nor did any of us have any French moneys upon our person (Euros were still totally laughable back then... Nobody used them and all Londonites mocked them). But just to switch things up and add some much needed excitement, I thought this would be a credible adventure for us all. I had originally proposed that we then stay in Paris till Saturday or Sunday and shoot straight back over to the airport if necessary. There were some questionable looks between my companions, but for the most part they agreed. I was actually happy. It surprised me too!

We then took a quick look through the final Tower armory and the gift shop, and then we were on our way again. The early night had already set in.

I didn't do it...Megalodon wanted (more than anything) to see Harrods, and nobody had any reason not to, so we went. We didn't think that the bus tour went by the giant department store, so instead we went looking for the closest Tube entrance. We were accosted by a smelly homeless guy in some underpass walkway (Megalodon was close to throwing he purse at the poor schmuck and running in terror, but Baldwin calmed her down while I gave the glorious filthy hobo a pound coin to leave us alone), the Colonel almost got bitten by a giant Great Dane (whose owner barely yanked it away on his leash in time to keep it from gnawing off the Colonel's left arm), and the guy pretending to be a statue most assuredly did NOT appreciate my pretending to be a drunk bloke looking for a small bronze statue to relieve myself behind (using a bottle of water to make him really fear the urinary worst).

After many ordeals we found the tube, and we each bought a one-way pass to take us to the stop near Harrods. This was probably our BIGGEST easily-avoidable mistake of the week (other than not staying longer): We only bought one-way tickets on the Tube whenever we had to go somewhere, instead of buying daily passes for much, much less mullah. But, whatever. We got to Harrods and found ourselves in the entrance to the most amazing store ever!!!!!!! I had never seen such sights in all my days! It was so remarkable that you could buy almost everything that you ever wanted there, all under one roof, for an assload more than it would cost you anywhere else. Honestly, the only difference between Harrods and say an American mall is that an American mall is many times larger, with an IMAX movie theater. Honestly, I'd say that Harrods is a multi-leveled Super Wal-Mart, except a Super Wal-Mart doesn't have security guards who constantly walk up to you and state, "You're not allowed to touch that stuffed bear (cutlery, top hat, grail of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ), guv'nor. Kindly put it down or we will commence with the ass kicking." Fun.

I really don't remember just how long we stayed there, but eventually everybody got sick of the look-but-don't-touch attitude and joined me outside where they helped me out of the dumpster that the security had thrown me after they found that bottle of wine that had somehow mistakenly found itself down me trousers. We then walked around for a while looking at the sights, just enjoying the brisk as fuck weather, while Baldwin, Megalodon, and the Colonel mostly just talked amongst themselves while occasionally pointing in my direction. I didn't think much of it at the time, and soon something else grabbed my attention (granted, something new grabs my attention every 5 seconds or if something shiny starts glittering): A flyer for a bunch of plays and musicals currently playing in the Theater District. I then found that I had a cunning plan... Well, it was a plan at least, one that would keep the party rocking pretty late. Well, maybe not "rocking," but at least not catatonic.