London, 2019

In October of 2019, I stopped in London, my favorite (or favourite) city in the world, on my way to and from Berlin. My first stop was at the Berkeley Hotel, in Knightsbridge. By strange coincidence, a friend of mine, Rob Beckham, who manages Brad Paisley, was also staying in Knightsbridge that weekend. We texted a few days before I left the US, and he invited me to join him, Paisley, and the whole crew for a trip down the Thames on a private water taxi to the O2 Arena. Paisley was performing there that night, with Chris Lane opening. Even though I knew I was arriving in London that morning after an overnight flight, I said I’d absolutely be there, jet lag be damned. Paisley and I had met before through Nashville Film Festival, and also because we belong to the same Masonic Lodge in Franklin, TN (that’s a whole other story). Rob and I met for drinks at 4pm, got on a water taxi equipped with hors d’oeuvres and Champagne, and headed down the Thames. Rob had gotten me an all-access pass to the O2, so I was able to wander around backstage at the arena taking pictures with my iPhone 11 Pro (I didn’t bring my Sony). The arena was packed, and Keith Urban made a surprise appearance toward the end of the concert. It was a long, but unforgettable, day and night.

The next day, I had plans to spend the day with my near-namesake cousin, Stacey Widlitz, her husband, Roger, and their adorable daughter, Zara. I met up with Roger, who is Scottish, at a sports pub where he was watching a rugby game, Japan vs Scotland (Scotland lost). After the game and a couple of consolation beers, Roger and I wandered through some streets in Belgravia, met up with Stacey and Zara at a playground in St. Luke’s Gardens, then had an early dinner at a gastropub in Wandsworth. Toward sunset, we walked along the Thames. Roger eventually said his goodbyes, took Zara home, and Stacey and I finished out the evening at a wine bar in Battersea. It was another beautiful day in London.

On the way back from Berlin, I stayed for a few days at The Pelham in South Kensington, which is now my favorite neighborhood (or favourite neighbourhood) in London. The pubs, the cafés, the diversity, the crowds, and the faces are a photographer’s dream. The hotel is right around the block from the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Natural History Museum. A beautiful old carousel stood in front of the latter, and I enjoyed watching the faces of the kids and parents as they spun round and round. The Victoria & Albert Museum was overwhelming, and the garden and pond within was a great place for tea and people-watching. On my last evening, I popped my head into one of the parlors at The Pelham, and was astonished to find a Donald Trump impersonator sitting there. After my initial shock, we took the obligatory selfie. He turned out to be an American actor and professional Trump impersonator named Dennis Alan. He was there to work with the renowned photographer/artist Alison Jackson, whom you can see seated in the background. We sat and chatted, and Alison asked me if I’m famous. I said, “No, but I wrote something famous.” She wouldn’t believe me at first, but showing her the results of a quick Google search convinced her. Dennis and another man who was there were overawed that I wrote “She’s Like the Wind.” The whole encounter added just the right note of weirdness to the end of my trip.

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