|Soho Square, Spring 1992|
However, I consider the following quote to be one of the more refreshingly evocative passages from that journal:
You know boogers are consistently black in London.My only Pepysian entry had nothing to do with the Great Fire in London but it did have to do with a great fire in Los Angeles when a white jury found the LAPD officers who beat the crap out of Rodney King not guilty. Seeing the photo of the burning LA neighborhoods on the cover of someone's Evening Standard on the Tube was a startling juxtaposition to my life in London.
I ended up settling down in the BUNAC hostel for my six months. I shared a room with three other people and a kitchen with 26 others for the cost of 45 pounds a week. It ate up about forty percent of my income, but I couldn't have had a more central location, just a stone's throw from Charing Cross Road, Soho, and the British Museum (and Persephone Books which didn't exist at that time).
I didn't get a job I interviewed for at the Westminster Abbey Bookshop. Thank god. What would it have been like to wait on tourists for six months? I did, however, take the first job that was offered to me. It was working in a store in the Trocadero Centre at Piccadilly Circus. Talk about tourists. It was absolutely awful. I had just finished my college degree (the first in my family to do so) and this was the best I could do. I quit about 45 minutes into my 8-hour shift. I offered to stay for the whole shift, but thankfully the manager (the owner's daughter) let me leave. I have never felt so relieved in my life to walk away from a job. I felt like I escaped a prison sentence.
|I only worked 45 minutes of that Tuesday evening shift.|
A few days later I interviewed for a job at the Sydney House Hotel in Chelsea. When I made the appointment for the front desk clerk job that was posted at the BUNAC office, I assumed it would be a crappy little back-packers hotel like the one I stayed at in Bayswater when I first arrived in London. Shows how much I knew about Chelsea at the time. It turned out to be a wonderful little jewel box hotel with 21 rooms in two old townhouses. It had been open for about a year and was run by an amusing but intimidating French speaking Swiss man who had also done all of the decorating. For someone who came from modest means and who had just spent four years being a poor undergraduate (and who indeed was sharing a hostel room with 3 others, etc.) the hotel was opulent. The chandeliers in the lobby were Baccarat, the bathrooms were swathed in marbled, the robes were plush, the amenities were Molten Brown, and the lobby perpetually smelled of stargazer lilies. And each of the rooms had its own distinct design. (Understandably, but somewhat sadly, the Sydney House updated their decor many years ago, so it doesn't look much like the place I remember.)
|They lobby always smelled wonderfully like stargazer lilies which|
are oddly absent from this photo.
|Lots of red toile made up the Paris room.|
|This was called the "Honeymoon Room"|
|I don't remember the name of this one.|
If you have ever watched Fawlty Towers then you know what my life was like for six months. Granted, none of the managers were like Basil Fawlty, but I think all of the guests from Fawlty Towers were reincarnated as guest of the Sydney House. Do you remember when Mr. Fawlty asked a deafish old fussbudget if she wanted the hotel "moved a little bit to the left"? There were a lot of guests like that.
And speaking of guests, we had a few interesting ones come through. Although he was only there to pick up a guest at the hotel, the Texas millionaire who was caught on film sucking Fergie's toe came in one night. But most importantly to my young gay self, was my brush with Rupert Everett. Now, in 1992, Everett had only been in one or two independent films and was pretty unknown in the U.S. That is, except for those of us who fell in love with him in the beautifully elegiac film Another Country. One quiet August night while manning the front desk I took the following message for one of our guests:
|The carbon copy of the actual message I took from Rupert Everett, my imaginary boyfriend.|
[There was a whole paragraph here that Blogger decided should magically disappear for no apparent reason. It described the moment when Rupert Everett entered my life ever so briefly. I wonder if he still thinks of the young American who gazed up at him wistfully from the front desk of the Sydney House Hotel?]
|Rupert Everett cuddling Cary Elwes in Another Country|
And speaking of skipping my dinner break [which I was before Blogger deleted it], one of the great things about my job at the Sydney House was that employees got a hot, free meal made by a west African woman named Joyce who always called me Thompson. She was also responsible for keeping the cooler stocked with room service staples like her amazing lemon tarts which I secretly wolfed down when no one was looking.
In some ways that job in London seems like a million years ago and in other ways it seemed like it just happened. I wish my journal from that time was a different kind of journal. But it does remind me that on 4 May 1992 I went into a second shop and bought my first Virago Modern Classic: All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville West and A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood which I think was my first Isherwood. A nice little bit of information from the days before I started by reading log in 1994. As is my follow-up commentary on those purchases:
With these books around who wants to read stupid old Jack Kerouac? Not me! On the Road has to be the lamest "classic" I have ever come across.Not much has changed in 20 years.