Friday, March 18, 2011

Chapter 7:The Alpha Geek


Don't worry, my moment of high geekery will come soon enough. If you can't wait, skim down and look for the ***GEEK ALERT*** later in the 'blog post.

We slept in this morning, recovering from our late night return from Paris. After breakfast, we went back to the room and Mary Beth decided she needed to lie down for a little while. I had some time to myself, and (based on a suggestion from a friend, thanks Adam) decided to take an excursion on my own to see a football stadium.

A little background. I've been a soccer fan for a while, but I've never really found a Premier League team to get behind. Right now, all I do is pull for teams that have American players on them. That's kinda fun, but nowhere near as fun as having a team to pull for.

My friend Adam is a massive Arsenal fan (called a "supporter" over here), and I told him that I would give it a try this year. So, basically, Arsenal and I have been dating this year, to see how it goes. Arsenal is located in north London, so I thought I would take the opportunity to head over and at least see the grounds. I stopped off to pick up a 20p tabloid and a Union Jack umbrella to fight off the rain.

It was a different experience riding the Underground on my own, without Mary Beth around. In all honesty, it was kinda fun, much easier to imagine myself as a Londoner on his way to a match before going back to work on Monday.

I arrived at the proper station (cleverly named "Arsenal") and made my way to Emirates Stadium. It was a quick walk through a nice little neighborhood, and I crossed a bridge and took a walk around the stadium. It's a gorgeous structure, although it's weird to see a huge (70,000+ seat) stadium nestled in a residential neighborhood. It felt more like a baseball stadium than a football one.

I went through the two gift shops, one of the very few people shopping on a rainy Friday afternoon. Amazingly enough, none of the employees said a word to me as I shopped. It was work to get someone to break away from talking with each other to take my money for the postcard I bought. Maybe that's a British thing, but it was definitely noticeable. It's definitely odd to have been treated better by the people in Paris than the people from Arsenal. If Arsenal and I are dating, then meeting Arsenal's family certainly didn't do the relationship any favors.

It's not like the performance of the team has been helpful. Arsenal is known as a team that plays amazingly skilled, technically proficient football but never quite get around to, you know, winning anything. They're second in the Premier League, and have been eliminated from the Champions League and the two domestic competitions they were in this year.

(Translation for American readers. Most professional soccer teams (known as "clubs") play in their domestic league, and also in a separate tournament with other teams in their countries. England has two of those tournaments, the FA Cup and the Carling Cup, which no one cares about unless your team loses, at which point supporters get upset at their team. In addition to the league and the domestic competitions, there is the UEFA Champions League which pits the best clubs from around Europe in a tournament to crown the best club in Europe. The Champions League is the real big deal, at least as big if not bigger than the Premier League. Got it?)

So it's fair to say the relationship between Arsenal and I isn't going well. Still, I've been following them all year, and being on the grounds, I have to admit a sense of connection with the club. Maybe there is something there, we'll see.

***GEEK ALERT***

(No, the soccer stuff wasn't the geeky part. That's how bad it is.)

I got back to the hotel room, Mary Beth and I cleaned up, and we headed back to the Underground for the one planned activity we had for the evening.

The Doctor Who Experience.

For those of you not familiar, Doctor Who is a British science fiction show about a time-traveling adventurer that saves space and time from monsters. It started in 1964, and it still going strong after a ten-year hiatus. I got hooked on it in junior high, when a friend of mine introduced it to me on a sleepover. I loved the campy action, the threadbare storylines, and the sheer British-ness of it. When I was sick and lost my hair as a kid, my folks bought me a curly-hair wig so I could look like Tom Baker, the Fourth Doctor. The long scarf I have on my topcoat to this day is an homage to the Doctor.

Quite honestly, Doctor Who (along with Monty Python and the Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy) was a fixture of my childhood, and ultimately one of the reasons I wanted to come to London in the first place.

I wasn't disappointed. The "experience" itself was very similar to the dearly-departed Star Trek Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton. You go through an interactive "story" where the Doctor takes you on an adventure. We got to see a fully-working replica of the TARDIS control panel (don't ask, it'll take too long to explain), be threatened by Daleks (ditto), and generally save all of space and time.

I'm not embarrassed to say I ate it up. God bless Mary Beth for going through the whole thing with me without laughing or rolling her eyes one. Or filing for divorce. She's truly an amazing woman.

After the Experience, we went through a display showing props and costumes from the show, interactive displays about some of the effects (so THAT'S how they got that Dalek voice!) and told some of the stories about how the show was made. And then, of course, there was the obligatory gift shop that I had to peruse.

Once we left the hall, we went and had lunch at Pizza Express, a far more upscale place than the name indicated. We came back to Bayswater, shopped a little, and came back to the hotel to relax. We watched TV for a while, including the Red Nose Day telethon, which is analogous to the Jerry Lewis Telethon, except that it's not just for one charity. And, of course, Jerry Lewis isn't there. But, heck, they even had a mini-Doctor Who episode on it. Winning!

We then went out for dinner at Bella Italia, which apparently is the European version of Olive Garden, as we saw one just about everywhere we went. The food certainly would suggest that, as it was adequate Italian food, but nowhere near as good as the place we ate in last night. We did a little more shopping on the walk back, then went back to the room to turn in for the night.

Tomorrow, we head to Birmingham for the Aston Villa-Wolverhampton Premier League soccer game. Settle down, Arsenal and I aren't yet at the stage where we're exclusive, so there shouldn't be any heartbreak involved with little Aston Villa tryst.

The London photo album has been updated, you can see it in it's full geeky glory here.

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