Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hin Und Her

The happiest of happy Valentine's Days to everyone who might be reading this today. Despite the fact that cynicism on this special day won't grow old until long after I do, I shall endeavor for one time to steer clear of it. I can guarantee you though, nothing says V-Day quite like traveling, especially the part where you sit in an airport for a couple hours 'cause your flight has been delayed. London is now behind me, as are the three days of perfect weather and the lion's share of my bank account, and Hamburg lies seemingly near on the horizon, but never gets any nearer as I plod along. My apologies if I should trail off suddenly here and there, I'm trying to keep my eye on the announcement board to see when we'll have an airplane...

I expected Luton to be a much worse experience all around. It's really not that bad. Much better than Heathrow with it's histrionic security measures and hour long trek on the Piccadilly line. Luton is smaller, easier, and seemingly closer: my express train this afternoon took only 20 minutes from St. Pancras, compared to the longer hauls out to Gatwick and Stanstead. Even a local only takes 35. Certainly, one benefits if St. Pancras is within easy reach of their residence, it being situated centrally yet north-ish. It was great for arriving on Sunday evening and heading out to Tottenham (NNE), just a few stops on the Victoria line. Journeying from the absolute other side of town today — Chiswick (SW) — consumed a fair portion of the afternoon.

New York isn't the only city in which significant transportational delays come about when granny forgets her purse and it suddenly transforms into a suspicious package requiring the bomb squad to offload and dispose of it. I was overjoyed to be stuck on the District line yesterday for a a solid stretch of minutes (yes, only minutes) while an unattended package was investigated and, presumably, disposed of. But, given the history, I suppose we NYC-dwellers are the ones who inherited the suspicious package practice from the Brits and not the other way around. I'm just thankful that one doesn't find any "IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING" posters plastered around the tube. In their place are a series of ads for volunteer policemen:

Volunteer Popo
But how exciting is it really to discuss trains and transportation when you get down to it? My readers, being a cultured pair of chaps, require a much more refined and sophisticated stimulation to find satisfaction: Booze. Sex. Rock and roll. Foolish acts of heroism. Well, we'll get to it all eventually. One day at a time...

Back in May, a good friend of mine haphazardly introduced me to the King's Head Tavern, if only by suggesting that we meet at the Angel tube in Islington, then walk around until we found a suitable place for a couple pints. It's a fascinating hub of the neighborhood, with a theatre in back and one of the most welcoming, warm pubs that I've found in London up front. Even fully pressurized with cigarette smoke in May, it was still a wonderful stop for a pint and a chat — clean air puts it up and over. I try to stop by every time I'm back in London. Most nights, they have some form of live music in the pub, a variety of bands from rock to folk to blues to jazz, which play in a hazily-defined corner-slash-stage in a corner near the front door.

When I stopped in Tuesday night, it was blues. And not just blues, one of the most honest and inspired live renderings of electric Chicago blues that I've heard from a band not directly connected to the Chicago Blues lineage. Now, it's no surprise that I would find great blues in England, what with the tradition begun in the 60s by Eric Clapton, John Mayall, The Rolling Stones, et al, but what really floors me is that I have to come all the way from New York to London in order to find it. Doubtless, it would be unfair to claim it impossible to find great-sounding blues anywhere in the US of A, but I can say from experience that finding it in New York is just about impossible. Readily available is a steady stream of weekend warriors from Long Island for whom the Blues began with Stevie Ray Vaughan and was refined by the likes of George Thorogood, bassists with 6-string Warwicks and SWR stacks, drummers who couldn't play a proper shuffle if it would bring eternal peace to Earth. Over and over the 12 bars they go, grinding subtlety, groove, and reverence into the ground one chorus at a time. I spent many hours at blues jams when I first moved to the city, trying to find my entrée to the grand scene of New York. I remember it well.

The band on Tuesday was led by a guy named Erik Ranzoni, and featured the relentless drumming of Alan Savage, one who sinks his teeth into the groove and doesn't let go for the duration of the gig no matter how much it shakes. No frills, no flash, it's exactly what that music needs, and it's surprising at how difficult it can be to find in the states. Sans bass player, they played as a quartet of piano/vox, guitar, harp, and drums, and one never missed the bass; chalk it up to a strong left hand and a keen-eared guitarist. * All together, it was about the best surprise I could hope for wandering into a pub on a Tuesday evening. I wanted to play, but the saxophone had chosen to remain in Hamburg for a few days. She tells me she's a little weary of traveling.

Well, I hope that everyone is having (had?) a wonderful Valentine's Day evening, and that all you travelers are having more luck than I. Don't get screwed by the airlines, twist it around to your benefit: go ahead, you know you wanna join that illustrious Mile High Club. Take it out with a bang!

* I would mention the names of the guitar player and harmonica blower (a nod to Charles), but they elude me. Sorry, guys.


Blogger Vicki said...

Ooh dammit if I´d known you were there before I´d have recommended this awesome bar in Brixton
Still, any excuse to go back, hey?
Alternatively, save your pennies and work that tan (and pastel de nata tummy) in 75 degree Lisboa. Mmmmmm...

6:29 PM  
Blogger David said...

Ohh, verdammt, you know how fraggin' tempting it is. 75. Piss off, that's wot I gotta say. Brixton pub next time around...

9:23 PM  

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