In April 1972 it was my good fortune to make a trip to London with some German friends for a week. It was the sort of trip where few of us knew each other before we left, but most became fast friends during the trip, and several of our friendships have lasted through the decades.
It began, as so many of my high school adventures did, at Zweibrucken Air Force base in Germany, where my father was stationed. There being no Episcopal priest to tend to the small flock on base, a local German pastor would come on base to hold services in the base chapel.
More active in the church then than I am now, I was an acolyte and read the Epistle on Sunday mornings - oh, settle down, is that so hard to imagine? When we were stationed at RAF Bruggen the priest actually let me actually ring the church bells on a number of occasions, until it became painfully apparent to everyone on base (except myself) that I had no musical talent whatsoever.
Anyway, Hallowed Reader, this is how I got invited along when the priest took a group of German youths to London for a week. My knowledge of German being as good as my grasp of Esperanto (which my sixth grade teacher actually tried to teach us - more on that at a later time) I was pretty lucky that most of my new friends spoke English very well.
Spoke English well?
Ah, well, everal spoke two or three languages, leaving me in the linguistic dust.
What a fine time, London in 1972! Carnaby Street (where I bought Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book - I wonder what I ever did with that?), Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, Trafalgar Square, discos, pubs where some of us drank English beer ( I did mention this was a Church group?) and a visit to the British Museum.
We had thought to come and visit the King Tut exhibit, but the line seemed to stretch from London to Liverpool, so we decided that well, maybe we’d just visit the rest of the museum instead. I’d been there before, so I knew that, even Tutless, our visit would be well worth it.
And it was, believe me. Yet, oddly enough, what I’ll always remember best from our excursion that day was not any of the fine and wondrous things we saw, but a little old man guarding the exhibits in the Roman or Greek section.
I was walking with my new friend Ylva Monschein when we stopped before a bust of a famous person. Almost instinctively, Ylva reached out her hand to touch the face with her finger.
“Stop!” A wizened old man hurried over, explaining to us that when archeologists had found the piece they had found an inscription saying that there was a terrible curse on anyone who touched it.
We both drew back in alarm. Really?
“No,” he laughed. “I just tell people that so they won’t touch it.” He explained that they wanted to make sure that oil and dirt from people’s skin didn’t come in contact with the exhibit.
We both laughed with him.
Later in my life I worked a security job for a few years. While others around me imagined they were Joe Friday, the image in my mind was that old man in the British Museum, the Coolest Security Guard in the World.
Sad to say, I was never that cool.
I missed King Tut, but I did see the Dead Sea Scrolls
In the 1960s our teacher took us to see the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit at the British Museum. Maybe it would impress me more now, but at the time?
It just looked too much like the way I turned my homework in.
Buy your GOP congressman a copy of this book - not that they would read it
I'm a sucker for political autobiographies, and Man of the House: The Life and Political Memoirs of Speaker Tip O'Neill, by O'Neill (and William Novak) is one of the best. It covers his early days in Boston, his rise in Congress, JFK, the Vietnam War and the Reagan years.
It's sharp-witted and pulls no punches. Out of print, but hey, that's why they made used bookstores and the Internet. And it may be especially good reading this summer, when America suffers under one of the worst Speakers of the House in recent memory.
Quote of the Day
Words are vehicles that can transport us from the drab sands to the dazzling stars. - M. Robert Syme