Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Clark Griswold Story

Has anyone seen the movie In Bruges with Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell? I think it is a little obscure in America, but it really is a fantastic piece of Irish cinema. Anyway, there is a scene where one of the main characters meets an American in a bar in, well, Bruges. Part of the dialogue goes like this:

Ken: You from the States?
Jimmy: Yeah. But try not to hold it against me.
Ken: I'll try not to...just try not to say anything too loud or crass.

As an American, I did find it funny. I don't think we're a very crass nation of people generally, but our accent at times can be a bit biting, which stands out if you're somewhere else in the world. London, say.

So I get on the Underground going from Heathrow to the hotel and am really enjoying myself. (See yesterday's post where I basically rhapsodize about how much I love the London Underground for days on end--and finally, just when you think I'm about to get to the point, it ends and you feel like you've just wasted 15 minutes. Don't feel bad. It took me an hour to write it, so how do you think I feel?) Anyway, I'll set the scene for you. Everyone is sitting or standing quietly, feeling the air from the tunnels blow through the car and across their faces, and reading. There are newspapers stacked along the backs of all the seats, donations from previous passengers, and as people board they select one and find their section. Women pull novels out of purses and fold them over. Teenagers nod silently to the music from their iPods. I was sitting on my suitcase, also reading, when the doors open and a few more passengers board, finding a rail to hold on to. The doors close, and just as everyone starts to sway to the rhythm of the rocking car and the train plunges into the dark tunnel, a voice rings out sharply.


Oh sweet divinity. It's one of us.

I can't look. No, I have to. Everyone else is trying not to but they're looking anyway so I lean around the person next to me and there is Clark Griswold. He is middle-aged, dark haired, balding. He is wearing a Hawaiian shirt, shorts, and high socks. His voice is drowning out the train itself. Fortunately, his reception is cut off as we go into the tunnels so he puts his phone away and pulls out a guidebook. It is the size of the JC Penney catalog.

People in London are well used to tourists. I don't think they mind it when their peaceful commutes are interrupted by vacationers of the American persuasion. But there is a reason movies like European Vacation get made. I wondered if later he rented a car and drove around a roundabout for a couple of hours.

Listen to me, trying to pretend I am any better. But if you are American, and you want to try and hold on to some semblance of coolness while in an exotic European location, beware of this man:

And this one. No dignity here either, folks.

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