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Thanks, Mate

John W. Pinkerton


I'm not a great traveler, but I have been to Europe…not by choice.  I was kidnapped by the United States Army and shipped off to Germany for about a year and a half.  Even in Europe I didn't travel much, but I did manage to take a little trip over to London for a few days. 

After hitchhiking through France, I was transported across the English Channel in a good sized boat that was gently rocking to the extent that it damned near caused me to lose my lunch.  When I got my feet on solid ground, I oriented myself to London and rode one of those pleasant, civilized trains into the big city.  Once there I found a bed and breakfast accommodation near the National Museum.  I think
I was on the fourth floor.  I didn't have much interest in the museum; I was more interested in finding Picadilly Circus.  I wandered through the streets and subways of London never coming across anything that resembled pictures of the Circus which I had often seen.  Late in the day, when I popped up from a subway tunnel, there it was all lit up in all of its glory.  It's kind of the Times Square of London.  I had actually been there a couple of times earlier in the day and didn't recognize the landmark because it looks a lot different before the sun goes down. 

On my second day in London, I decided I needed to
see the Palace.  If one is in London and doesn't visit the Palace, I suspect one might be subject to criticism later.  After consulting a map of London, I was able to find one of those red double-decker buses which landed me right in front of the Palace.  Of course the Palace is a nice building with an ornate fence and  fellows in red uniforms guarding the grounds.  I was quickly bored and wondering what to do next.

I guess it was pretty obvious that I was an American---heck, even I could spot an American in a crowd of thousands of Europeans---because a fellow about my age approached me and told me that there would be a parade coming by shortly with the Queen in a carriage.  Well, that seemed like something I'd like to see, so I decided to hang around for a while.

While we were waiting on the Queen, the stranger and I continued our conversation and after telling him my basics---US Army, Germany, Louisiana, English major, and LSU---he shared some information about himself.

Apparently he was a lot brighter than I was: he was working on a triple-doctorate at Oxford.  I recall one of the doctorates was in math.  Holy moly, I was impressed.  I felt a little better about myself when he pronounced Georgia as Geor-gi-a when relating how he had some friends from there.

Anyway, he asked me if he could help me find some other sites in London.  Yep, the Tate Gallery.  He knew what I was talking about and even offered to accompany me there, so after we saw the Queen and her carriage pass by (pretty boring), I got on one of those double-decker red buses with my triple-doctorate friend, and before I knew it, there we were at the Tate Gallery.

At that time, probably '67 or '68, the Tate was a very British looking building with a lot of steps leading up to the front doors.

When we opened the door and stepped in, I was in paradise.  Within arms length was a half dozen Giacometti sculptures.  Immediately my guide looked down at what to me was simple spiral chromed or nickel plated sculpture which my new acquaintance christened “Pi.”  Well, I guess that verified that he was actually a math major.  The space was so cramped by hundreds of works of art, it was like being in Disneyland on an acid trip.  Monets, Manets, Turners, Rouaults, Matisses.

By the time we got to the Museum's coffee shop or tea room, whatever, I was relieved to sit down and decompress from all that I had seen.  As my new acquaintance and I chatted about what we had just witnessed, it became increasingly apparent that he didn't care a wit for art, but he appreciated my enthusiasm.  To this day, I'm grateful to this fellow for steering me to the Tate.  If I had trouble locating Picadilly Circus, I may never have located the Tate on my own.

I told you about how the art was so crowded together at the Tate in '67; apparently, they had acquired more art than they really had room for.  Since then they've renamed the old Tate as the Tate Britain and built Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives, a marvelous new museum.

Unfortunately, I've never seen or heard of my London guide since that day, but I'm forever grateful to him for guiding me to the Tate.  I'm sure he's still somewhere in London using his triple doctorate to his and England's advantage.

Thanks, mate.