Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tourist Adventure in London

     Back in the 1970s, I went to England for a week.  No longer any kids at home, our youngest, Anna, way off  studying theatre at UCLA.  Norm couldn’t spare the time, but when a local group put together a cheap (“Mother, don’t say that, say 'inexpensive' ”) charter flight I couldn’t resist and off I went alone.
     One noon in London I found myself exploring Soho, in a narrow street of tall wooden houses all connected like townhouses.  In front of one entrance was a restaurant sign, offering “macaroni al forno” -- irrestible.
     “I’m afraid there are no seats on the ground floor” and I could see for myself  that the place was full.  “But if you’d care to try the first floor” --  so I started up the narrow wooden staircase.  Same story, full house, and that staircase doubled back on itself all the way to the top floor before I heard “Would you mind sharing?”  Well of course I wouldn’t; dining with strangers is a tourist adventure.  “The table in the far corner has an empty place, back there with the two young ladies?”
     I snaked between the tables, and the young ladies smiled a welcome.  Settling into the corner, I put off the moment when I would speak and reveal I was American.
     “Here I am in the farthest corner, five stories up, and the place is jam-packed" I was thinking. "Don’t see any exit except that narrow wooden staircase way over on the other side.  I’m all alone, nobody knows I’m here.  If this place catches fire no one will ever know what became of me.” 
     But another part of my brain was watching the young ladies, making a note to write Anna that girls in London seemed to wear a lot of eye makeup.  And then – maybe I wasn’t so welcome.  They were whispering to each other, jabbing elbows, “Go ahead!”  “No, you.”  “Just ask her”  and finally one of them said,
     “Excuse me, but we were wondering if you were an American.  Because you look like a friend of ours, Anna Lank.”
     They were from California, taking a summer course at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.
      I never did think Annie and I looked much alike.  Just dug up pictures from the early 70s -- what do you think?


  1. Wow, what an amazing story. I'm envious, because the only time someone recognized me in England, it was someone I'd far rather not have encountered. (In Blackwell's, yet.)

    And of course you and Anna look alike; I thought so when I met her at a JASNA Rochester meeting. Same goes for Ari, whom I met in Chicago at your breakout at the 2008 AGM.

  2. you never told me this story! i wonder if one of the girls was libby russler! of course we look alike. but really, i want to know how the macaroni al forno was....

  3. A wonderful story! Don't give up......