Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


Where I’ve been

Old Blighty.

Just under three weeks of business travel, and then one week of being sick, and then a week of catching up on things. That’s what I’ve been up to. 

Spent a week in St. Petersburg, Florida, where I got to revisit the Salvador Dali Museum, which I’d seen with my then-girlfriend (later wife) almost 40 years ago when we were mere children operating on the mistaken belief that we were adults. On that first trip, I drove her new car over the parking block I was pulling up to, stranding the car atop it and sending a shot of panic through my system because we were broke college kids far from any sort of help. The only thing to do was what I did:  Drive the car forward, all the way over the cement block, and pray. After a bad scraping sound, everything turned out fine. No such drama this time, because I walked from the hotel. It also turned out that the Dali Museum had moved:  No longer a low-slung ramshackle building of a single story, it’s now a multi-level building proudly designed by a real architect and with big signs all along the way directing one to it. It was perfectly Surreal to return to a museum that was now in a different place; I like to think Dali would have approved.

Weeks later, even tonight, out with my girlfriend and a bunch of her friends, everybody’s asking me how London was. “Surprisingly,” I say archly, “it was cold and rainy.” That comes with the territory (and is why I carried a telescoping umbrella in my jacket pocket). This was my fourth visit, and every time I add something new; this time it was a river cruise on the Thames, and a walking food tour of the East End, which included a visit to the shop that originated fish and chips, and also a divey local restaurant serving the best Bangladeshi food I’ve ever eaten. I also got to see London’s longest-running play, The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie, which certainly felt longest-running just during my visit. It also wins for most obvious. I took my 21-year-old son with me on this London trip, and he easily guessed the “shocking twist” long before the end as well. 

Probably the most interesting thing I saw on the trip was a mob outside Parliament protesting the looming end of cash. As I was to find out, practically nobody is willing to take cash any more in London. Birmingham, which we visited for two days, proved easier, but in London whether it was a restaurant or a shop or any other sort of place where money would seem to change hands, most establishments reject currency; they just want plastic. The people protesting outside Parliament rightly pointed out that poor people don’t always have such things as bank accounts and credit cards; more alarmingly, they noted that if the government doesn’t like you, it can cut off your access to your digital funds. As for me, I took $1200 in cash to the UK, but converted only $500 of it to pounds sterling — and was damn glad to find a few places to pass it off, most of that in a restaurant in Birmingham. As it is, I came back with a £20 note that I’ll be mailing to a friend who was good enough to ship back to me a book I’d accidentally left behind; I’ll still owe him £5.15.

When asked about London on this trip, I mostly I say that I came back with a viral infection that ravaged my voice, dropped a hacking cough into me, and sapped my energy, even though I was determined to play through at work. (My business partner later awarded me a recognition for being Committed — but that was after she’d pointedly Sent Me Home.) It started on a Thursday, and when I still had it the following Thursday, and my ex-wife could hear over the phone that I could barely squeak out a syllable even though I could cough plenty loud, she said, “You’d better go to urgent care!” Which I did, and got a battery of tests and a diagnosis of “viral infection,” and was packed off to my pharmacy. Even a week or more after that, I’ve still got a bit of it lingering. My CPA said to me the other day that it’s impossible to travel any more without getting sick, but I dunno:  I’ve traveled a lot the past two years and hadn’t had a problem until now.

So, where to now? Unless something unexpected comes up, nowhere far ‘til next March. 

3 Responses to “Where I’ve been”

  1. Adrian Burns Says:

    Keep it for your next trip, Lee! If anywhere takes cash by then. 🙂

  2. Dan Says:

    You were in St. Petersburg?! That’s where Dostoevsky set CRIME & PUNISHMENT, but he got the details all wrong–as if he’d never been to the place. The book as a whole suffers from it. If I were giving him advice I’d say, “Write what you know, Fyodor. Write what you know!”

  3. Dan Says:

    St Petersburg was where Dostoevsky set his classic novel CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, though he got so many important details wrong — climate, geography, currency, etc. — I suspect he never visited Florida at all. If I were giving advice I’d say “Write what you know, Fyodor. Write what you know.”

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