May 2009, just outside London
Turns out that my best friend Greg, from when I first moved to San Francisco in 1979, and who I lost contact with years ago, found me on Facebook about a month ago. So when I happened to post a message that I was going to London, he suggested we get together as he’s being living here for a while.
Greg doesn’t have your average desk job. He’s a movie producer and he’s here filming Gulliver’s Travels with Jack Black, Emily Blunt and very friendly Jason Segel. So I took the bus to Oxford, then another bus to Woodstock and visited him on the set at Blenheim Palace.
I had been there once before with my sister in the 70s when we were both in college, and it was great to go back. Oxford is a fantasy – a university town from the 13th century, as is Blenheim – a storybook palace in the spectacular English countryside. Before I connected to Woodstock I enjoyed visiting the churches, the libraries and the school buildings of Oxford, where some of Harry Potter was filmed. The sophisticated nature of the tourists in this town makes for a very different tourist experience. The first time I went I was 21 and actually was able to handle Michelangelo prints – by myself – with plastic gloves they gave me. It was for many years a highlight of my life. And this time the Ashmolean Museum was sadly closed for renovations, but I could still sense a trust that the locals have in the visitor as I roamed the historic schools that make up Oxford. No guards. No rules. It’s close to a perfect world.
It took me a while to find Greg. First I found the sword department. There are soldiers in this movie. Pretty cool, but I decided not to try and borrow one. Then I saw a princess up on top of the palace. But Greg was out to lunch. I mean, where do you go in Woodstock?
As I was checking out the scene of massive amounts of production equipment, I heard his voice from behind talking to a colleague. Walked right by me, but fortunately, silver hair and all (both of us) he recognized me once I called his name. We spent the better part of the afternoon catching up in between takes (and more takes) and whatever else went on. Jason (playing Horatio) filled me in on the plot while Greg was busy. From what I could tell, it looks pretty hysterical. Look for it this Saturday, Christmas Day, 2010.
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