Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Stranded on the Island of Dogs

London, June 1993

Sorry if you love London, or call it home.  I'm not a big fan, in spite of the architectural marvels and the 15 Public Penises.  I always get lost; I'm cold, confused, cranky.  And the food's not great.

June 1993: My partner Lee was a delegate to the World Congress of GLBT Jews, to be held in London!  He invited me along as his guest.

This isn't him.  I have lots of pictures, but I'm too lazy to scan them.  But he was a husky, hairy bear with nice arms, like this guy.

I had been to Colombia, Japan, Australia, Turkey, and India, and he had been to Israel and Bermuda, but for some reason neither of us had ever been to Britain before, except to the airport.  So we planned lots of sightseeing: The Tower of London, the Sherlock Holmes Museum, Stonehenge, The Rude Man of Cerne Abbas, Canterbury Cathedral.  Not to mention the Gay Village of Soho.

If you were planning a World Congress with delegates from all over the world, most of whom have never been to Britain before, wouldn't you pick a hotel that was centrally located?

Nope: The Royal Britannia Hotel was on the Isle of Dogs, an industrial sleugh on the East End of London, surrounded by the Thames on three sides.  No Metro.  You could catch a bus into town -- about 6 miles to the Tower of London -- but it stopped at different places, depending on the whim of the driver, anywhere between six and twelve blocks from the hotel.

And it stopped running at 6:00 pm, and it didn't run on Sunday.

So I spent all day Thursday and Friday chasing after a bus and getting lost trying to find my way back.

As a guest, I was not allowed to go to any of the meetings, or any of the dinners, so I was stuck at the hotel's restaurant.

On Thursday night, there was an evening boat tour of the Thames, with box dinner provided.  Except for guests.  I stole one to avoid starving to death.

Saturday was the Sabbath, so not much going on. Lee and I went sightseeing, got lost on the way back, and had dinner at the hotel.  The Conference hosted a dance that evening (the Sabbath is over at sundown), but as a guest, I wasn't allowed to attend.  I spent the night watching television.

On Sunday we walked into town, but by the time we got there, we were too tired for sightseeing.  We returned to discover that the hotel restaurant was closed on Sunday.  And there's no pizza delivery to the Isle of Dogs.  And, of course, guests were not allowed to attend the Conference dinner.

I would have starved to death again, but someone with a car drove into town and brought me (and the other guests) some fish and chips.

Is this any way to run a gay Jewish conference?

On Monday the conference was over, thank God, so Lee and I spent a few days in Oxford, Stonehenge, Cerne Abbas, Bath, Canterbury, and York.

I've been to Britain two or three more times since 1993.  I never liked it, especially London.  Give me Paris, or Amsterdam.  Or Osaka.  Or Irkutsk.

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