I like London. As a native New Yorker, it's the next best place to be. I've been there, oh, 30 times or so since I started living in Germany, mostly on business, but have spent all told several months there over the years.
Like any major city, there are good place to go and there are places that are a tad seedier. Some even less attractive than others.
Like any major city, London has its undercultures and hidden places, where people go to consume goods and services that are outside of the "normal" track.
One of these is the gay culture, where homosexual men meet. I got no problems with that: just not my thing. They tend to be discreet, but there is, of course, a number of gay men whose political attitude is one of flaunting their sexuality and demanding acceptance. These folks have their own clubs.
In London, gay clubs center around the former industrial area around the converted Battersea Power Plant. Don't know why, probably because the rents are fairly inexpensive. These clubs are, shall we say, not the most reputable establishments? Dark rooms, a flamboyant clientele, strange and bizarre subcultures of the gay subculture in England.
Now, this isn't exactly a secret. If anything, it's well known.
So why is the US spending around $1bn to build its new embassy there? Yes, $1bn: the cost of building in London is extraordinarily expensive. At a time when President Obama talks the talk of fiscal responsibility, the State Department is certainly not walking the walk. I can well imagine how well this will go down in fly-over country.
Seriously: who is in charge of doing due diligence at the State Department?
I know that the current embassy at Grosvenor Square has its share of problems, largely unhappy neighbors.
But this? Put simply: embarrassing. Seriously. The embassy is going up in a neighborhood well known for its gay clubs. Lovely.
One consolation: the statues of Eisenhower (been up for ages) and Reagan (to be put up shortly) will NOT be moved to the new location. I guess we should be happy for small graces...
Now, the Grosvenor Square building has been sold for $850mn, so the additional costs are fairly modest. But was it so hard to find a site not near some of the ... less reputable night spots in London? I mean, even Soho would have been a tad less disreputable.