Oh good, the Americans are here.
“Just wait and see what I got,” says Tiffany Jaksic. She is standing outside of Westminster Abbey in her sundress; she is holding a plastic bag of loot. “I got about 52 pounds of Will and Kate merchandise.” The royal wedding coasters, the coffee mugs, the playing cards, the oversize pen. She bought it all in Covent Garden. She found all this stuff, and while the cashier was ringing up the original stuff, she rummaged around on the counter and found more stuff. Hard evidence for the folks back home in Tennessee.
Jaksic knows this is a ridiculous display of excess. She feels it is her duty as an American.
Easter weekend ended, and the tourists began. A recent news poll said that only 6 percent of Americans were “very interested” in the wedding. The ones who have bothered to cross an ocean — to watch in person what will probably look better on television — are the top echelon of that small percentage. Not merely American tourists, but Advanced Placement Anglophiles. The AP Anglophile can tell you what a Jammie Dodger is and where to buy one, and how “circus” means “circle,” but Piccadilly Circus isn’t one. For the AP Anglophile, traveling to the wedding is much like returning to the womb.
“Within two hours of seeing the date announced on the ‘Today’ show — ” begins Marcia Anderson.
“Well, you saw it on ‘Today,’ I saw it on ‘Good Morning America,’ ” her friend Denise Callegari interjects.
“Right. Within two hours, we had booked four different hotels around London.”
Bases had to be covered. What if Will and Kate got married at St. Paul’s Cathedral? What if they got married at Windsor?
When Westminster Abbey was announced, they renounced all other options and went with the one near Trafalgar Square. Anderson and Callegari, from Texas, are joined by Anderson’s twin, Mari Boepple; Callegari’s sister, Michelle Bordelon; and another friend, Cindy Bernard. The extra bodies were necessary because the group plans to spend the days preceding the wedding sleeping on the parade route — in shifts, in sleeping bags — to secure a good spot. They have also brought a collapsible table. And chairs. And signs. And hats.
Today, their main objective is to locate the real estate, somewhere along Whitehall Road.
“This used to be Whitehall Palace,” one member of the groups says.
“This is where Charles II — ” says Anderson.
“Charles I,” says Boepple.
“Was beheaded.” The only English king to die that way.
“I almost came for Diana’s funeral,” Callegari says. “I needed closure.”
Instead she has come now, on this infinitely happier occasion, about which she will always be able to say, I was there. I saw history. I wore a rosette with Will and Kate’s faces on it.
A man and a woman appear near the Leicester Square subway station, consulting a map.
“I think this is the way to Lie-chester,” says a man in the American dad/tourist uniform of a polo shirt and khaki cargo shorts.
“I told you, Franklin, it’s pronounced Lester Square. Don’t embarrass me.”
Franklin sighs. Franklin has been warned about this before.
Americans attack the wedding with such fortitude.
Kate Pez dispensers? Will bobbleheads? Too much? Not for the Americans it’s not.
“Here’s what you do,” offers Kim Krzanowski from Delaware, explaining how to get the most out of an excursion to London. She has to leave the day before the wedding, but plans to work the city while she can. “You go to Harrods, but go to the food court.” The food court is reasonably priced, she says, “and you still get the Harrods bag! It’s a travel secret.” Buy one scone, you get the same bag as if you buy a $400 pair of shoes. “You got to have the bag.”
People say that what enthralls Americans about the wedding is the fairy-tale aspect, but they are probably also envious of the spectacle. Even America, with its endless resources and capabilities for pageantry, cannot have a royal wedding. Not unless we crown a king.
Americans bring to the wedding a sense of wonder. And kitsch. And a willingness to be a little loud and a little bit pushy, the way Americans do.
In the middle of scouting for the ideal spot to plop, the quintet of women from Texas and Louisiana pass the Horse Guards Building, where a mounted member of the Household Cavalry sits on his steed and stares ahead, stony-faced.
“Excuse me, are these [horses] the Queen’s Bays?” Anderson asks, referring to a special bloodline.
The guard does not answer because he is not allowed to move.
“Are they the Queen’s Bays?” she asks again, sweetly and earnestly. “Excuse me?”
He can see he will not shake her. He does the unthinkable. He looks down at the Americans. And he nods.