Sunday, November 04, 2007

Mancunian Meanderings

Since I appear to have been lucky enough to find an open network at this here Manchester Starbucks, I figured it would be as good a time as any for a ramble through the blog-o-sphere, especially on an unexpected day off. Seems that Starbucks all over the UK have deemed autumn the season for Charles Mingus, Joni Mitchell, and Miles Davis. Of the latter, I've heard quite a bit off of Kind Of Blue so far. Every time I hear even the slightest portion of one of the songs therein, I remember why it's the most popular jazz album of all time. It's just that good. Thus if one can get over the "I'm in a foreign country and I'm wasting time in a Starbucks!?" train of thought, it can been a pleasant place to pass an hour or two here and there, with the added bonus that I can use my phone credit to pay for internet access at the "low" rate of 75p/10min. Not as good as the free of now, but far preferable to the £15/24hrs at whatever hotel we find ourselves at on any given day.

While in Manchester this past May, I was either sick or insomniac for the entire time so never really had much of a chance to explore or enjoy the fabled nightlife. Last night attempted to make up for that; I joined some local folk for an outing that began at a divey, student-packed karaoke bar and ended at "the Copacabana" with a pathetic, intoxicated attempt at salsa dancing. Back at the hotel, I found some fellow bandmates at the bar, and so the night turned into one of those by which we earn our keep in that timeless brotherhood of touring musicians. My head is moving like porridge today, another reason why I'm quite at peace with camping at Starbucks, staring out the window, and occasionally typing something...

A Saturday night out is a Saturday night out pretty much anywhere, booze, bustlines, 'bauchery and whatnot, but each place has its subtle distinctions. At the karaoke bar last night, I noticed that a surprisingly large number of people were singing along with Michael Jackson's "Blame It On The Boogie" and the Marvin/Tammi version of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." More so, even, than those who chimed in to help out some poor chump with the chorus of "Livin' On A Prayer." It seemed perfectly normal to those I was with, but I can't imagine that ever happening in the States. How many people even know "Boogie," or can sing along to more than the chorus of "Mountain?" Evidently the effects of the British soul obsession have endured over time, and still run deep. I had a similar thought when I went out for a friend's birthday in London several months ago. We spent the evening at a club in Soho on a Saturday, which had two DJs trading sets for the duration. One played mostly 50s R&B and some 60s soul, and the dance floor was absolutely packed. I was shocked, in the most pleasant of ways. Perhaps such a thing would be possible in the States...

On the other hand, I found a few people who had no idea who Johnny Cash is. I didn't think that was possible these days. No charming rendition of "Boy Named Sue" from yours truly this time around.

I just discovered that Starbucks UK employees are not allowed to give partial refills for a few pieces of shrapnel. As the guy told me, "Uhh, I don't think I can do that. I'd have to charge you for a new drink." Another £1.60 for a half cup of brew? What crap.

Never have I been in more dire need of a laundromat than I am right now. On previous tour legs, it always seemed to happen right before I'd truly run out of everything. My last couple attempts to do laundry have been thoroughly foiled, including a half-baked effort earlier today. I've resorted to washing necessities in the sink (very thankful for that brief moment of clarity during which I put a Gatorade bottle full of detergent in my suitcase) and already bought seven new pairs of socks in Glasgow. They were 25% off and I thought I was getting a deal at £13 until I thought of it as nearly $30. Best not to convert. As long as I can dry my current sink load with the iron, I should be able to make it 'til London, though I unfortunately know exactly what I'll be doing with my first hours in Kensington. No lazy stroll through Hyde Park; I need underwear.

It never seems to get light here at this time of the year. The sun carves a low arc through the sky, making for about six hours of evening bracketed by a couple hours of twilight. I doubt the angle from horizon at high noon is any greater than 20°. * Things are a little different up here on the 53rd parallel. At 4:30, it's getting dark already. And as my battery seems to be waning as quickly as the daylight, now is a good time to sign off. With a six hour bus ride in store for tomorrow, I just may post some more words in the near future. Until then...

* 21.2° to be exact, according to this site, which makes me pine for the 33.9° of New York City. Ain't getting any better anytime soon.


Blogger Ben said...

Re: Global musical tastes

In Peru they LOVE '80s pop music. Just love it. It plays everywhere.

1:54 PM  

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