Sunday, August 03, 2008

England Trip - August 3rd, 1983

Today our group joined throngs of tourists in Stratford-on-Avon where we toured the Shakespeare properties, shopped in the Bard stores, and quaffed deep of the cup of Shakespeare. The only thing missing was The Bill Shakespeare sunshine summertime musical revue theater featuring Falstaff the banjo player. Hello Branson, are you listening? We got the hell out of there after lunch.

Coventry was our next stop. Lady Godiva's ride through town has been overshadowed since the Germans bombed the city in World War II. The bombed out cathedral walls remained; a park and memorial decorated the grounds. Otherwise, they rebuilt the city as one might expect. Judy Oden told me that many victims were buried in mass graves outside of town.

I was always a bit surprised when Brits pegged me for a Yank at first glance. Its obvious now, the blue jeans, the sneakers, and the tattoo of the Gettysburg address on my chest, but back then, I was naive about the way I reeked U.S.A.

I walked among the downtown Coventry buildings. I explored the side streets and cobblestone passages, when a man sitting on a stoop across the way, motioned for me to join him in conversation. He smiled as he waved me over. "Excuse me sir. I wonder if I might have a word with you."

I was an 18 year-old guy from Kansas, but I knew people on the street, even in a calm mid-sized city like Coventry, did not want to merely have a word with me, they wanted something else.

I glanced at my watch. "I'm sorry. I don't have time." I walked away. In retrospect I should have been more direct. Maybe a 'No thanks' or a 'I don't think so'. The man's demeanor changed in an instant.

"You don't have time? Why I ought to give you 18 stitches up the side of your head," he yelled after me.

I made a left turn down a side street that went in the direction of the hotel. I didn't look back. He kept yelling at me but he didn't follow me. I turned the corner and ran. It was a block back to the hotel. It was the only negative experience I had with anybody the entire trip.

Maybe he wanted to ask me the time and when he saw me look at my watch and tell him I didn't have the time, that pissed him off. I'm not sure. I should have gave him my Romeo and Juliet bath towels from the Stuckey's in Stratford. That would have been a right Scotch cracker, which is a fake British slang term David Cross made up on his blog, and I'll bet he's never even been to Stratford, but I have, 25 years ago today.

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