Everything old is new

My wife Robyn and son Avery in a Stonehenge selfie.
My wife Robyn and son Avery in a Stonehenge selfie.

Druids would be nice. I mean, they don’t have to be chanting in a circle. They could just stare enigmatically from under their hoods as if they were in a trance. But no druids today. We are in the middle of nowhere. At Stonehenge. You’d think they could move Stonehenge a little closer to London. It’s way out there. Nearly an hour away. Also Stonehenge is roped off like a rock star. There’s an audio tour of Stonehenge. Of course, there’s an audio tour. How could there not be one? I wanted to climb up on the giant slabs, really get my mystical fill of the place. But did I mention it’s roped off? And no druids? I don’t mean to complain. I’m just saying.

The crazy thing is that we now know that Jay Z and Beyonce are following us on our European tour constantly trying to one-up us. That sounds paranoid. But you have to look at the facts. Our first stop is Paris where we take pictures with the Mona Lisa. Pictures quickly surface in the tabloids of Jay Z and Beyonce with their pictures taken with the Mona Lisa. Of course, they’ve managed to wiggle behind the security barricades to stand directly beside the picture. Then it emerges that they are in England. I’m sure they were able to lounge all over Stonehenge in their tour. They probably had high tea with druids on Stonehenge. The sons-of-bitches.

I am digging the history. We take a tour of the Tower of London. See the Crown Jewels. Very nice. Sparkly and all that. One of the guards called Beefeaters is marching around with a giant pike. My son Avery asks a great question. “Can a Beefeater be a vegetarian?” It’s a puzzler. He stumps me with that one. The queen is coming for a ceremony. So, we have to walk way around the tower to get to our boat. Great, first Jay Z and Beyonce are stalking us. Now the Queen of England is mucking up our travel plans. Plus, we can’t find a few of our touring party. Our tour guide is worried. “Where are the Beisendorfers?” she asks. Is that their real name? I want to ask. Wow! That’s an amazing name. I make a mental note to myself after the much-delayed Beisendorfers finally rejoin our group that whenever a member of my family is slow in leaving for an outing, I will use them in my complaint. “C’mon! Don’t be such a Beisendorfer! Let’s go!”

He looks like a beef eater.
He looks like a beef eater.

I’m having deja vu. Big time. I was in London once before as a sophomore in high school. My French class came in 1981. We were on a 7-day tour of Paris and London. It was supposed to make us more cultured, broaden our horizons. Kind of an epic fail. Much of the trip is a blur to me since I spent most of it trying to impress a red-haired girl named Rochelle who sat next to me on our giant tour bus. She was from Maryland, which sounded like an exotic place at the time. But isn’t at all exotic now. Nothing about the crown jewels or the Palace at Versailles or Mont San Michelle seemed nearly as exotic as Rochelle from Maryland at the time.

The monarchy fascinates me. It’s just weird and archaic. And cool. It’s so absolutely old and dowdy and fussy and brilliant and shiny and fun. The queen has an undeniable mystique. Our tour driver explains that everyone pretty much adores the queen but has utter disdain for her son Charles. He’s got the personality of cold pea soup. They all secretly hope the monarchy skips him entirely and his son William gets to be King. Prince William and his wife Kate are the rock stars of the monarchy. But our subversive driver says his personal favorite is William’s younger brother Prince Harry. He’d really like to see him become king. Harry is the black sheep, the bad boy of the royalty. If William and Kate are like Jay Z and Beyonce, then Harry is like Kanye West, an unpredictable and fiery presence who shows crazy potential and then blows up like a comet. You can easily imagine Harry getting utterly smashed at William’s coronation as King of England and snatching the crown away at the last moment in front of all the ministers and Lords of Parliament and stuffy people in attendance just like Kanye taking the microphone from Taylor Swift at that musical awards show to explain she didn’t deserve the award she just won.

We almost have high tea in London. Not at Stonehenge, of course, like Beyonce and Jay Z. We almost have high tea in a fancy store that sports a fancy restaurant. But we have come too late for high tea. Can we have low tea? I ask Robyn. No. We can’t. No such thing. High tea looks a little complex from a distance, intimidating. There are certain formalities that have to be observed. Robyn would know those formalities. Avery and I would not. High tea looks like something straight out of a Dr. Seuss book with its many tiered platters rising impossibly. It looks like something the Cat in the Hat would balance on his tail easily, but like something Avery and I would muff. I’d hate to fail High Tea. But we’re too late. So, we just take an incomplete on the High Tea and head back home.

It’s a good trip. Despite not having high tea or sitting on the slabs at Stonehenge or finding out whether Beefeaters can be vegetarians. Along with a miniature version of Stonehenge in chocolate Robyn purchased at the Stonehenge Gift Shop (of course there’s a Stonehenge Gift Shop) and a 3-pound giant triangle of Toblerone I chewed through in less than two days, I did manage to bring home a horrible head cold. Robyn says I promptly passed this head cold on to her despite the fact that we evoked our family version of infectious disease isolation protocols the instant I started sniffling in earnest.

I don’t know where I got the head cold. Possibly, the Beisendorfers.

Cool dragon in the armory at the Tower of London.
Cool dragon in the armory at the Tower of London.
Everything old is new

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