Sunday, March 15, 2009

London Magic - November 2008 Theater, music, meetings and more...

Blog from London Town

Although the news on the television is grim concerning the UK fiscal situation, you'd never know it on Oxford Street here in London. Streets are packed with November shoppers, even though there are no good sales on (I wonder how many of the shoppers are Europeans coming over to take advantage of the low pound). And even though the weather here has been inclement, the pre-Christmas shopping has not abated.

The weather has not prevented us from wandering around on foot, as we are wont to do when we are here in town. On Saturday we walked downtown through Mayfair. On the road, Shuli, my wife spotted a glove on the street among the autumn leaves (We saw another pair yesterday; apparently it is a regular occurrence). We spent a penny and a few pounds at Fortnum and Mason near Picadilly, where we had some of the bwst truffles money can buy, and bought a couple of fancy bar chocolates (more on those when I give them a try). Then, we bought half-price tickets for Avenue Q. I don’t know what the reviews have been like, but I really enjoyed the play. The idea of having muppet-like characters grow up into dysfunctional, jobless, thirty-something creatures is wonderful, and the musical numbers are cute as well. The best part perhaps is seeing the actors on stage with their puppets, making the same facial expressions and shtick. It often seems as if the puppets are real and the actors are mimicking them. Well worth seeing.

The previous night we saw Billy Elliot, a riveting play about miners, class struggle, and artistic aspirations of a young boy growing up in Newcastle. We went to see the play with my great friend Peter Jackets and his family. Even they had some trouble dissecting the Newcastle accent (we had more, hoi!). Nevertheless, it was a powerful play.

Sunday was a 274 bus ride to Camden town, a brief walk among the stalls (including a bagel stand, but I hesitated to try their wares), and then a long walk back towards town along the Regent Canal, one of London's best kept secrets. The trees are changing color, the fallen leaves float slowly down the canal, what can I tell you?

Last night was a wonderful reunion with my baby brother David (now 48, mind you) who over the course of a meteoric career has become one of the top ranked economists in North America. He is a very busy guy, and I see him only once every two years or so, so when it turned out we would be in London at the same time, it was cause for celebration. We celebrated my birthday by dining at Sheekey, a really nice fish restaurant in the theatre district. If you like fresh fish, go for the wild halibut, it was supreme (the mushy peas were awesome as well). Dave and I topped up the evening with a duet of a classic Hebrew love song of yearning and lament (below).

On Wednesday evening we had a reunion with David Arch, who heads up Blistex, the famous lip care company that has bought our two-phase mouthwash. You can still find it in every nook and cranny of Saturday,

On Nov. 14th I saw Leonard Cohen again. He looked very good and fit, considering it's been twenty-four years since we last spoke. The last time we met I told him that I wanted to be a musician. He told me that he wanted to be a scientist. A very lovely and unassuming man.

On Nov. 14th I saw Leonard Cohen again. This time, with some 15,000 other raving fans at the Arena stadium near Greenwich (it might technically be London, but it was still a 45 minute taxi ride back to Marble Arch). Three generations of enraptured Leonard-lovers.

What can I tell you? He blew us away with his lyrics, his music, an impeccable band of singers and musicians who played everything from harps and hammonds to steel guitars and mandolins. The horn player who was remarkable, tried his hand at everything: clarinet, bass clarinet, tenor sax (wonderful), ewi (electronic wind instrument) and harmonica (have I forgotten anything?).

On Nov. 14thI saw Leonard Cohen again. The man is a legend, a prophet. His songs are his liturgy, we pray along with him. Who by fire? Who by water? He closes his eyes; we are in his inner world, as he fastens our ankle to his stone.
Leonard sang almost all of 'our' songs and some of his splendid newer ones. He didn't forget to do "The Famous Blue Raincoat" (one of the many encores).

On Nov. 14th I saw Leonard Cohen again. Will we ever meet again? I'm glad that I met you, I'll never forget you, I'm glad that you lighted our way.

Rock on, Leonard Cohen.

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