The Low Lows played Brighton the night before last, and we got there early enough to go for a walk on the beach. Oddly, there is no sand there. This makes for a nice walk if you’re worried about getting sand in your shoes, but it’s tough going if you’re wearing cowboy boots.
Brighton is apparently headquarters for the UK’s crusty gutterpunk population. Some of my best friends are crusties, so I feel I can say this without fear of outrage or reprisal: You wouldn’t think crusties would settle so close to the water, lest someone bait them with a shiny piece of facial jewelry, lure them into the ocean and then forcibly bathe them. I would have thought the risk was just…. too great. Then again, the pebble beaches wouldn’t hold much of a bathtub ring, would they? How would anyone know it hasn’t happened already?
The club in Brighton was called The Hope. Lovely place, also a second floor club. The engineer was talented and a very nice guy. All in all, another very successful gig. The drive back to London was painless, though it was Daniel’s turn to have the queasies that we have been passing around. Poor guy, he seems to have suffered more than the rest of us.
Yesterday, the weather here in the UK finally lived up to its reputation- it pissed down rain most of the day. Just the sort of miserable cold drizzle that London is famous for. I took the train to Waterloo Station, caught the North Line to Camden Town, and got off the train on Mars, I think. I have never seen anything like Camden. First of all, though, when I did get off the train, the police were EVERYWHERE, randomly stopping people and asking to see their documentation. I heard them asking a guy who spoke only Russian or Polish “How long have you been in this country?” [translator speaks other language, guy answers] “What is your business here?”
I have to say, there’s an element of authoritarianism to life in London these days. I just have to put that out there. Random stop-and-harrass questionings are kind of a bad precedent for personal freedom. Couple this with the thousands and thousands of closed circuit television cameras in the UK, and there’s a disturbing anti-privacy trend at work here. Discuss.
I briefly thought about being the sort of person that cops hate- and stopping and asking them “HAS THIS MAN DONE ANYTHING THAT MAKES YOU THINK HE IS GUILTY OF A CRIME? IS HE FREE TO GO?” I would do it in a heartbeat in the US. I don’t think the police should be able to randomly stop people, but then, I grew up with a thing called the 4th Amendment. The British don’t really have one of those. PLUS, I wasn’t carrying any documentation of my own, except my US drivers license. I didn’t have my work permit or my passport with me, because I like to leave those somewhere safe when I am out wandering around.
I met David, old friend and musician who shared my earliest musical experiences- we grew up in Columbus, Georgia together. He’s been living in the UK for about ten years, and has, for the most part, really Had It With The English. An American black man in the UK working in the music business is going to run up against certain cultural and class barriers, and he’s ready to get the hell on to something else, I think. However, he was glad to show me Camden, which I must say… as I have said before this morning, I have never seen ANYTHING like it. Camden is a huge open market, with both permanent and temporary stalls. If I wasn’t broke and traveling with limited space, I might have bought a ton of silly stuff yesterday. Walking through Camden market is a feast for the senses. Music blasts from every direction, the smell of food, coffee, wine, incense and freshly sawn wood (there are even furniture shops) come wafting in, and there are people of every description in every direction- Chinese immigrants, punks, goths, West Indians, pervy looking old guys following the UK Suicide Girls around, people of every size, shape, odd hair color… It was truly mind-boggling.
David and I then rode over to SoHo and met frequent commenter here and friend Vicky, and we had dinner and some coffee. Vicky was an angel, and bought me the Banksy book that I was swooning over. I have seldom been happier about a gift, sincerely. Thanks, Vick. I read it all the way home on the bus and nearly missed my stop.
Then, suddenly, there was Daniel and… The Swinging London Architects!! Tori and Christiane took us on the Walking Tour of SoHo as we struggled to find a bar that wasn’t both too crowded to enjoy and/or playing the “Theme from Footloose!” at tooth-rattling volumes. We finally settled on an underground bar called Freud. (I was disappointed that there was no sign that said “Ask about our Mother’s Day specials!”) (Also, how could you have a bar called Freud that doesn’t allow cigar smoking? Hello?) The music there was loud, but not so loud that we couldn’t talk.
It was also packed, but people were largely stationary. We spent hours there talking and watching people. It was a nice time, actually. It was an excellent way to spend our last night in London before heading out on the rest of the tour.
On the way to catch the bus back here to Kim’s, I saw two people having drunken sex in a phone booth. SoHo on a Friday night: The aftermath isn’t pretty. Also, I felt sort of out of place, since I was the only one not eating a hot dog or arguing with a policeman. I ended up helping two drunken Frenchmen to find their bus out to Pimlico. Who knew that I would use my high school French classes to say “Look, if you’re gonna vomit, do it before you get on the bus….”
(Monsieur, si vous allez vomir, le font avant que vous montiez dans l’autobus.)
I got back to the flat, and Parker and I packed and talked and I tried to fix the internet connection here because it was down for some reason. I finally got it working and talked to Lisa until, gulp…. 5 am.
I need to get cracking. Keef will be here soon, and we have a long drive in front of us.