Editor's note: Corey Pein makes his triumphant return to Portland in June as a
WW news writer. For now, he's in London, where he reluctantly filed this dispatch.-Beth Slovic
I arrived at Hyde Park today at 9:30 am—just about the time the bars were closing last night in Portland—for the dumbest assignment ever. Walking into the park, I was stopped by a radio reporter. "Are you here for the wedding?" he asked. "Yes, but I'm a journalist, too," I said.
He frowned. With something like 14,000 journalists in London to cover the same meaningless event, I probably wasn't the first passerby to beg off an interview this way. "You're American," he said. "Why are you all so interested in this?"
"I don't know," I said. "Ask my editor."
"You got rid of the King! You should just forget about it!"
I agree completely. All this noise about the royal wedding seems to me strong evidence that people are lemmings, ever ready to follow their idiot leaders over a cliff. I did not want to cover the "global event of the century.
" I do not want to be a lemming.
Until I foolishly agreed to this assignment, I had managed to avoid reading any advance press coverage of the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton—no small feat. Scores of people died yesterday in suicide bombings and tornadoes, but it was all a blip on BBC1, where the announcers went on and on about Kate's dress and Will's sash. One of the tabloids gushed over the wedding attire of the prime minister's cat.
OK, I liked the cat picture, but honestly, the only member of the British royal family I've been paying attention to in the past several months is the little-known Prince Andrew, a glorified arms merchant
who is personal friends with an impressive number of dictators and pedophiles
. That is a story. The wedding is not.
No one I know in London cares about the wedding. Some friends are using the day off—the wedding is a national holiday here in England—to get out of town. Most of my neighbors are Somali, Pakistani, Indian and Polish immigrants who have other things to worry about.
Until yesterday, in fact, I had no indication that any living human honestly looked forward to the marriage of two strangers whose undue wealth, status and fame encapsulates every undemocratic and unjust tradition that continues to enslave the human imagination.
What happened yesterday was I went to the local coffee shop, and the barista asked if I'd like to purchase a commemorative Will and Kate wedding mug. She was genuinely offended when I told her I was trying to avoid the whole thing. As she poured my coffee into one of the commemorative mugs, she said, "You may be trying to avoid it, but you'll have to drink your coffee out of it." I laughed, thinking it was a joke. She just scowled at me.
So, yes, there are people who actually do care about the royal wedding: Preteen girls and their grandmothers—or so I gathered from the scene in Hyde Park. Is that sexist? I'm just reporting what I saw. And heard. There was a lot of squealing at the sight of "Wills."
To be sure, some of the most fervent royal wedding watchers were men.
Two jumbo screens had been erected in the center of a field, for the benefit of thousands of Londoners who were interested enough in the wedding to spend their holiday watching it, but couldn't be bothered to travel another mile south of the park to see the procession first-hand.
There was a tent selling fish and chips, a tent selling ice cream and hot chocolate, and a tent selling bacon rolls and coffee. All were dwarfed by the massive tent selling Pimm's cocktails and bottled beer, which had drawn a small crowd by the time the wedding procession began at 10:30 am.
The bar tent wasn't packed because most people, including my party, had brought plenty of their own booze from home. And I mean plenty. By the time Will and Kate exchanged vows, it was obvious that half of the people in Hyde Park had a pretty solid buzz going.
There was audible mockery at the color of Kate's dress (white). For a split-second, when the audio cut out, I thought there might be a riot. But overall the vibe was surprisingly free-spirited (for England).
As I watched a man in a hoodie spill champagne over a fashionable stranger, then laugh in her face about it, I started to realize: Portland would've dug the royal wedding.
- Getting drunk before noon. That's what it's all about.
- Best cycling day ever, anywhere. The streets in downtown London were shut down: No cars, only buses, a few taxis and lots of bikes, going as fast as they want, and taking up every lane. Look at this guy. He could've ridden that thing all the way from Portland.
- Face paint and "football" jerseys. Go Timbers! Er.
- Dressing up.
- People dressed down.
- Lots of facial hair.
- Dogs welcome.
However, there were some very un-Portlandly things about the royal wedding. For instance: Anarchists were not welcome.
There was a big do-to about a supposed black bloc plan to disrupt the celebrations—all bogus of course. This "Anonymous" fellow above showed up, however. There was lots of Jesus talk. The Anglican Church is not as relaxed as you might think. The food was bad. Mmm, mushy peas. The beer was bad. Microbrew is an unknown here. The coffee was worse. I had to add several shots of Bailey's Irish Cream to mine in order to make it palatable. Ultimately, as I came to see, the similarities outnumber the differences. The next royal wedding should be in Portland. It'd be a hit.