It must be London

Starbucks

Anything goes

It must be London. That's what my ticket said: London Heathrow. Everyone is dressed in gray, black, and brown, and the natives eat by piling their food on an upside-down fork held in their left hand (left-handed persons, one presumes, hold their upside-down fork in their right hand).

But, if this is London, they must have suffered an invasion of the brand snatchers since the last time I visited. Eek! American corporations flaunt their signs everywhere around the square: Burger King, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, KFC, Hard Rock, Ben and Jerry's, Haagen-Daas, and, yes, Starbucks! There were always some of these, especially in this area, frequented by US tourists. But this is too much!

To be honest, however, I was quite happy to see the Starbucks because they have a "hot-spot" from which I intend to connect to the internet and upload this very page and check my email. We'll see.

Phone boxes

One good sign: the British haven't forgotten what a proper phone booth is.

As usual, I booked a room at Manzi's Hotel, just off Leicester Square in the heart of the theatre district. Inasmuch as my main activity will be theatre going, Manzi's has three most important advantages: location, location, location. In truth, I had forgotten just how small English hotel rooms can be and that the concept of a non-smoking room is essentially unknown here. (To be sure, some restaurants now profess to offer non-smoking sections, but "non" is a relative term.)

Manzis hotel Manzi's Hotel
Strauss slept here Strauss slept here

Here are a few early morning snaps.

Leicester Square Leicester Square with official half-price ticket booth
People checking map of theatre locations People checking out the map of theatre locations
People relaxing in the square People relaxing in the square. Don't they know it's cold out?
Que for another 'official' ticket store Queue for another of countless "official" half-price ticket booths around the square
Everyone sells tickets Everybody wants to sell theatre tickets
Black taxi Classic black British taxi that has unfortunately succumbed to the lure of advertising dollars
London is crowded London is crowded
Look this way Being a pedestrian in London is extremely difficult, even with this helpful hints about where to look for traffic
Leicester Square underground station Leicester Square is one of the stops on the Piccaddilly line from Heathrow
Signposts for pedestrians These perky little signposts dot the landscape in Westminster
Piccadilly Circus and Regent Street Piccadilly Circus and Regent Street

The trip. My trip over was largely uneventful, but it did serve, by contrast, as a reminder of how much fun travel used to be. "The friendly skies of United"? Well, the skies were tolerable, but I have a few suggestions for the terminal personnel at LAX as to how they might improve their service to customers. Remember us? We're the ones that buy the tickets. It's no wonder United is bankrupt.

Theatre 1. For my first night's theatre entertainment, I chose a revival of Anything Goes. It wasn't the best thing I've ever seen, but it was far from the worst. It was actually quite fun to realize how many familiar show tunes come from that one musical. But I must say, the piece is more than a bit dated, er, out-dated that is. The big production number that closes the first act (Anything Goes) was very well done. I know this because it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

On the other hand, the production definitely wins my vote for Most Shameless Milking of the Audience for Applause During an Overly-Long, Drawn-Out, Over-Produced Curtain Call. I'd like to bring back the tradition of the curtain call being a spontaneous indication of audience appreciation, its duration and enthusiasm being true indications of pleasure received. The Anything Goes curtain call clearly went too far, so I guess it puts the lie to the title.

For tonight's viewing pleasure, I've gotten a ticket to Jumpers. It's a Tom Stoppard comedy that advertises itself as "bouncy and bonkers," "a high-voltate mixture of farce and philosophical argument," and a combination of "striptease, farcical misunderstandings, soupy songs, acrobatics, erudite jokes, a murder and a spoof detective." I'll be the judge of that.