London – Museum Madness

(photo: Omygod! They’re REAL mummies! – British Museum)

I was attacked by an Underground train today. I got off the verrrry loooong escalator at Leicester Square and saw my train at the stop, doors wide open. I sprinted in for the kill, only the train was faster than me. The doors slammed shut on my body, smashing my legs and hands before I could pull them out. Luckily I managed to pry free. The doors didn’t open again to set me free, so I would have been dragged along by the beastly train. I have battle scars left: a black line straight down the side of my pant leg where the door smashed into it, a bunch of scrapes on my hands. Somehow no one else seemed to notice, so I dusted myself off and pretended like nothing happened, just like everyone else. When in Rome…

But that was nothing compared to my next scare: loose stool!! Aiiieeee! And at the Design Museum toilet! There is very little worse than having the runs while traveling to a third world country with no plumbing (is that an oxymoron? Is it safe to assume that by definition a third world country is a country that does not have adequate plumbing?). Imagine the 8 hour flight to Nairobi with diarrhea every 1-2 hours. Horrid. Especially for my neighbor. I started to review my recent ingestions and find a culprit. The nasty airplane yogurt? No, the package was fine. The sushi at SFO? No, everything should have been cooked, no raw meat. The foul-smelling tap water at the Ace Hotel that I’ve been guzzling? Maybe we have a winner. With great relief, I did not have another episode since then (yet. It’s been 7 hours). Whew.

Aside from those happenings, today was primarily a Squeeze-as-many-interesting-museums-u-can-see-in Day. I took full advantage of my all-day Underground pass and went to the:

-British Museum and saw the dead Egyptians on display. I mean mummies. It was weird. And weirdly fascinating. Dead humans displayed alongside decorative arts. The British do have a knack for objectifying most things, including people of color. Speaking of scientific objectification, I would have loved to see some better quality CT scans of the mummies. A much more socially relevant piece was Romuald Hazomé’s La Bouche du Roi piece using plastic petrol containers used by the poor folks in Benin who have to overuse the containers to bike as much petrol as they can to make money. He cut them up to be mask-like and set them up in a slave ship formation, to show how much slavery and colonial economics still has huge impact on the people of West Africa. He says, “In many ways, slavery has never ended – many people live in the same kind of conditions, bound to work their whole lives for rich bosses, who use them without regard for their humanity, and who then throw them away, like refuse.”

-Design Museum: wealthy, talented and immensely creative white boys design stuff for other wealthy white boys. I like the use of good design for functional items, but sometimes the aestheticism gets boring and played out.

-Tate Modern: the best part of this museum was getting dismantled in the massive Hogarth room: a gigantic steel spiral tube slide for adults made by an artist whose name I can’t remember. I almost made it through the museum, when they closed off what turns out to be the best part of the museum: Guerilla Grrrls and a few people of color artists (!!). I was so museumed-out at that point that I did not have the patience to meditate on the colour fields of yet another Rothko painting.

I have managed to eat only ethnic minority foods here. My bowels are grateful for sparing them the repetitive fish-n-chips experience. Yesterday night, ramen. Today’s lunch: bi bim bop (that’s right! There was a bi bim bop and kim bop shop next to The British Museum!). Today’s dinner: Maoz Vegetarian falafel sandwich on whole wheat pita and fresh veg toppings. And British chips. It came with the meal. I was only able to finish half of those butt plugs.

I had wandered into Picadilly and Oxford Circus to check out the shopping scene. Not very interesting, considering that the only store I wanted to see: A Bathing Ape (Bape), closed 20 minutes before I showed up. Instead of shopping, I stared at the black and Asian dudes closing up the shop. They stared back with blank faces. They’re really cool. I guess Londoners are not late night shoppers like New Yorkers or East Asians. Shopping all seems to close down by about 7-8 pm.

That was OK. It turns out I was pretty pooped. I fell asleep on the Underground ride back to the Ace Hotel, much to the amusement of the British dude in an office suit staring at me from across the way. Ew.