I have been travelling so much lately, I’m not sure I know my own name. (I say this all the time). And it all sounds very glam, but it’s not. It really sounds very yuppie asshole, and maybe jetsetty, but it’s not that either. There are reasons for the way I live; there are things that drive the life that I live — and in reality my life is extremely mundane.
I suppose that if you’re not living it, it sounds much more exotic than it really is. But the reality is: I have been in Los Angeles, New York, London, Dublin, New York, and arrived back in London all since the first of this month.
So it was Tuesday night in London, and D and I were scheduled to have dinner with R and N, whom I had not seen in quite some time. In the mid-afternoon, D emailed and asked if I wanted to get a drink before we headed to the restaurant, and I did, so we met for a pre-dinner cocktail.
It was good to catch up. It always made me laugh because sometimes I wondered if D and I hadn’t worked out because I wasn’t British enough for him, since he always took great pains to explain things that I already knew. But he had no idea what I knew, or that I’d been a politics major at UCLA; that I could pick up a conversation about the life and culture and the political climate in most jurisdictions, sometimes better than the locals who actually had voting rights.
Then at one point, he made reference to commentary by a comedian and paused and asked, Do you know who Michael Palin is?
For a moment, I was too stunned by the question to answer. For a moment, I wondered about what kinds of Americans he knew; about who didn’t know who Michael Palin was; who hadn’t been brought up on Monty Python; who hadn’t…
It was funny. Funny-strange.
Then we finished our gin and tonics (I was never a gin drinker until recently), and we headed over to the restaurant to meet our friends at a wonderful restaurant. D and I were seated and waited for N and R to arrive. N arrived first.
N and I had both arrived from New York that morning — his trip had been quick and I teased him about never calling me when he travelled. But once R arrived, the conversation quickly turned to other things. Throughout our dinner, we laughed and chatted, and then got to talking about sporting events. There was talk of golf, and cricket, and yoga, and rugby, and tennis — especially tennis — as D had been at Wimbledon a few weeks prior.
D had a friend — an American friend from his university days — whom he’d visited in Chicago during the Ryder Cup last year, and whose name escapes me now. And when the subject of Wimbledon came up, he brought up this friend again.
Why do you Americans call it “Wimpledon”?
Excuse me? It was another question that stunned me into silence. Wimpledon??
The table agreed that there was some transatlantic disconnect between the British and American pronunciations of the name for the tournament played annually at the All England Lawn and Tennis Club. They further agreed that Americans pronounced their “T”s with a “D” sound, which was true, but beside the point. The point was…Wimpledon.
I didn’t know what to say, or do, except to issue a firm denial. I had, a year or two prior, briefly dated an Irish guy (recall: Chip Pringle) who had been a standout junior tennis player in Ireland when he was young, and was currently a member at the aforementioned club. He had never commented, one way or another, on my pronunciation of Wimbledon, but then again, that was maybe the difference between the Irish and the English.
Taking care not to say the name of the tournament, I continued to deny that the American tongue could be so clumsy. And D, N, and R continued to insist that Wimpledon was A Thing.
The situation did not resolve, but it was no impediment to a wonderful night with people I truly adore. We finished the dinner and parted ways in the lovely London evening. It was close, and hot, and dry, and clear — just like it had been last summer when we were in Portugal together. And it seemed that any distance between us — through time, or space — was irrelevant to our friendship. The only thing that separated us was a common language.