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The waterfowls near the pond in St. James’s Park gather near an old man throwing bread crumbs in the water. Pelicans in the distance lounge in the pond, aimlessly; like me lounging on this wooden park bench. How many people have sat on this bench and gazed into the drifting water? Millions? A band near Buckingham Palace drums their way into the ears of all the people meandering by. Children try to get out of their strollers: the lucky ones run in the park while their parents tirelessly chase them under trees and around the grass that wears a speckled coat of white flowers.  Men walk by wearing suits- I wonder why they prefer the stiffness to loose clothing and sneakers?- and women walk arm in arm with them; they smoke their cigarettes in the sun or in the shadowed, peaceful circles where the sunlight rarely goes. Blue skies triumphantly skim over London, while the dimmed moon hanging in the east waits its turn to light the world. The band makes its way closer to me. I can see red trimmed clothing and the glint of their instruments in between trees.  A ten minute walk and I’m sitting on the steps of a statue outside of Buckingham Palace. The clouds behind the palace are dramatic: the sunlight cuts through in hundreds of places, like a golden curtain in the sky. Tourists mill about everywhere. All of them take photos. I walk up to the palace gates and watch the guards in their funny fur hats and red coats march back and forth. Then the rain comes. And I think to myself: California seems so very far from here…

I have spent the afternoon walking through the streets of London: Oxford Circus to Piccadilly Circus to The Mall to Trafalgar Square to Westminster Abbey. I left my flat not knowing where I would go. Sometimes that’s the best way to walk through life- with an unplanned eye. All the while I have thought it strange how the days here in London cannot make up their mind. The sun will shine and the rain will fall and the clouds will paint everything in grey and the sun will break through again like there was never a drizzle- all in a matter of hours, sometimes minutes. I think the weather in London is a nice metaphor for life: turbulent, reckless, shape shifting, grand, daring, spectacularly insignificant yet important, like a rusty nail holding a picture frame that contains a photo taken when you were young. I came to London ignorant of the faulty weather, but it still doesn’t bother me that the sun doesn’t shine as often as it should. It bothers everyone else, but not me, why should it? Why should happiness hang on sunshine? There are much more meaningful things that come with rainfall: dreary thoughts, introspective tidings, dancing in puddles, jumping through life with water everywhere, splashes of love songs, things that can be collected in buckets, her makeup spilling in the rain and off her face, electronics put away, shoelaces ruined, running through the world with the next destination so clearly in mind.

I place my thoughtfulness in my back pocket and take in the sights before me while walking to Green Park Station. I leave my camera in my knapsack and watch the rain stop. The sun appears briefly but the grey clouds come on once more, like they were pulled back by the lasso of London. Green Park Station ruptures with people relying on trains instead of their boots. I leave the station and choose to walk up the road, past eyeless statues and gardens and homes that loom all London-like in the midday sky. A woman stops me and asks for a light. I happen to have one in my pocket, though I have given up cigarettes for the time being. I talk to her about California and Santa Monica. She tells me about London, and her life in the past month, which has consisted of work and wine and work and wine. I leave her under an awning and continue my trip north.

The night passes and I sleep in my flat as the wind ushers in London with wind that slaps the blinds. I wake in the morning and find a coffee shop where my writing can breathe. I listen to music with my headphones and write of home and the people I miss there. Around 4:30pm an old friend sends me a text and I meet him and his girlfriend in a pub near Shoreditch High Street. It’s happy hour and I buy a bucket of beer for ten pounds. We drink and catch up on life. Henry tells me about Bakersfield and Chloe tells me about their trip around the world. They glow with the excitement of their stories, and I find it extremely pleasurable to hear them talk about what life looks like from a well-traveled perspective. We leave the pub and meet up with their friend, George, for some Indian food on Brick Lane. The street is filled with restaurants and men stand in front of them, trying to entice us inside with special offers that probably aren’t so special when the bill comes. We eventually find a nice place and I tell Henry to order food for me since he is an expert on the cuisine. He orders a plethora of plates and we all share everything and laugh into our pints of ale while the night sinks slowly over the street and into our eyes. We leave the restaurant for a concert a few train stations down the road. I don’t have a ticket but they sell some at the door, so we go inside and drink more and listen to the Allah-Las. The band is from Los Angeles and they remind me of home. I dance to the tune of California; we all do. I bid farewell to Henry and Chloe at Euston Station and travel back to my flat with a belly filled with beer, food, and music, sweet music.

Then I reflect on my previous two days and the people who made them so special. I wonder why it took me so long to come to London, and think it sad that money prohibits so many people from flying here. I count the starts and wonder which lucky ones brought me here. I open one more pint and sip it until my waking eyes become tires eyes and fall asleep knowing the morning will greet me with a train ride to Windsor Castle, where I will continue on this impossibly wonderful journey of mine…

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8 thoughts on “London on a Sunday Afternoon

  1. “To Hanging in the East waiting (my turn) to LIGHT the World”

    Here’s to watching the rain stop and to the start that becomes one long successful ride! Keep writing with flair. Love, a dad in awe

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