Mar 27, 2006

OXFORD, England – 
Lisa and I career through North London, tracing spider veins on the A-Z road atlas. Halal butchers flash past, then pawnbrokers, greengrocers, news agents, sari shops, row after row of higgly-piggly red-brick terrace houses.

Two up, two down. The floor plan's almost always the same. Unless someone's opted for an attic conversion or wedged a chip shop downstairs.

Familiar, comforting suburbs give way to green and pleasant land. The rhythm of this road is embedded in me. Oxford, the city of dreaming spires, was north on my personal compass for nearly ten years. I miss it, though a return seems improbable: like most journalists, I prefer to be a small fish in a bigger pond.

Mind you, the Headington shark makes a minnow of me ... and most.

Bill Heine, a fellow Yank and Radio Oxford presenter, commissioned a 25-foot plexiglass sculpture. In 1986, he lowered the headless form through his roof, as if Jaws plunged from the watery British skies and shattered the slates.

"The shark was to express ... a sense of impotence and anger and desperation," he told reporters. "It is saying something about CND, nuclear power, Chernobyl and Nagasaki."

Only in Oxford would decapitated, displaced megafauna convey the "make love, not war" message.

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