I have arrived in familiar London! I left from the new International Terminal at Hartsfield which really shook me up – it’s very shiny but it lacks the brutalist charm of the old terminal. It’s also the site of egregious highway robbery – nine-whole-dollars and ten cents for a beer served to me from a dinky little “bar” that occupied a dark corner of a bare-bones food court. It looked to be an afterthought, and if it weren’t for the curious fellow bellowing like an inbred carnie from behind the counter I might not have even noticed it there.
The plane ride was painless. I sat next to two handsome Slovakian guys who’d inexplicably spent their time in the US in Acworth. Something about a church. They had about 30 letters in ostentatiously bubbly handwriting from their sisters-in-God that they were under strict instruction to “oPeN oN tHe PlAnE ❤ xox.” They told me that America felt like a movie.
I went through Immigration and was thoroughly intimidated by the stern lady behind the desk – it reminded me of my favorite quote from A Confederacy of Dunces – “You can always tell an employee of the government by the total vacancy that occupies the space where most other people have faces.” You know the type – a hybrid between a headmistress and a carrot.
I was greeted at the airport by Mark, a chatty limousine driver who grew up on the same street as my dad. Mark speaks precisely and carefully about everything – “I’ve just parked 60 feet ahead in the 11o’clock position.” A shining example of the quiet eccentricity of the British!
I hadn’t seen my grandparents in two years and it was great to be back at Number 4 last night for dinner. All of the original houses on their road have been knocked down and replaced with sprawling mansions, rendering their house a total anachronism. It’s very strange and comforting to go back to that time capsule every summer. I get a little older and they get a lot older, but the smell in the closet underneath the stairs (must and wood varnish) hasn’t changed in 50 years and the ancient grandfather clock in the hall still lets out a brazen knell every hour.
When I was little, my grandfather took the cover off the clock so I could see the guts inside. I stuck my hand in the dust on the top of the cover as an innocent form of graffiti, and my grandfather has since made a tradition of the dusty handprint. You can still see it – my hands at different stages of growth, each faded to varying degrees by dust. It’s an oddly metaphoric way of measuring time.