(A quick note on these tour journal updates: It’s been suggested that I’m referencing notes or some kind of diary in order to write these, but that’s simply not the case. I AM referencing my photos, but that’s all. Any and all info contained in any of these posts is pulled right from my fading memory of the events of over a month ago. I mention this for 2 reasons 1) I don’t want you guys to think I’m the kind of poindexter that sits around taking notes about what I eat all day and 2) Some shit may be totally wrong/left out. That’s because I’m pulling off a superhuman feat of memory just by being able to tell you that Dan’s sandwich had salami on it and mine didn’t 35 days ago…Okay. Back to Manchester: )
I woke up on the floor of Clare’s house to the sounds of moving day. I slowly got my shit together, met Clare’s parents and then bailed with Sam before there was any question of us doing anything to help with the moving. Sam said he knew a good place to get breakfast so we drove across town through shitty traffic, parked a zillion miles away and walked over to this little diner called the Coffee Pot where the line was out the door.
“This is odd” Sam opined. “This place is never this crowded.” It was about this time we realized that the huge amount of people fucking up our program were all hung over Stone Roses fans. We grumbled to ourselves for about 25 minutes while we waited for a table. When we finally got our table, it was covered in the grime of the previous diners, and it was the kind of place where we had to go up, order at a counter and prepay. There was a line at the counter, which was kind of a dick kick since we’d just stood in line for almost half an hour, but Sam assured me it was all good.
The menu was full of what I, an American with sensitive tastes, would refer to as ‘fairly gross sounding shit.’ For example, Sam was raving about how great the haggis was. I decided on the (and I’m using this next descriptor very loosely) ‘Mexican’ breakfast and went up to stand in the ordering line. Sam was also getting the Mexican. Well, we get up to order only to discover that the guy before me had just ordered the last Mexican. Nightmare. Now, here I am, starving, in line #two trying to hastily figure out if I want the veggie slop tray or the traditional slop tray. Sam ordered the haggis, which almost eliminated my need to order any breakfast at all, since just the idea of someone eating haggis makes my stomach turn, but eventually I settled on the veggie breakfast and a cup of coffee. You get one cup of coffee and the refills are a pound (about $1.60). I had more than a few ideas about how to make this place a little more efficient and cool (waitresses, a free refill or two on coffee) but I held my tongue while Sam told me all the things he’d do for a million dollars.
The list was terrifying, to put it mildly. Brutality, depravity, criminality, immoral debasing of innocents, none of it seemed to make him bat an eye when faced with a seven-figure paycheck. I guess I could have expected this from a guy who would wantonly eat haggis in public like it was no big deal. Sam expanded on this whole line of conversation by filling me in on some of the jobs he’d had in the past: perfume factory, cement factory…stuff that probably makes sucking a ten year old boy off for a million dollars sound like a breeze by comparison. The food arrived and quickly reshifted our conversation to how hungry/hung over we were.
Sam’s haggis actually looked pretty good. It was in a vaguely Benedictine style with the haggis in patty-esque slices that approximated the Canadian bacon of a traditional Benedict. Mine was a classic English dogpile of beans, tomato slices, mushrooms, an egg, veggie sausage and a deep fried hashbrown. And fuck me if it wasn’t absolutely delicious. Strangely, for all my anti Anglican culinary xenophobia, that meal still sticks with me as one of the tastiest of the whole trip. The woman who went around hocking coffee refills was also very lovely and kind. Overall, I left the Coffee Pot full, happy and making a vow to not be such an asshole about what I consider to be the right way to do shit.
Sam drove me to the train station, which was an insane blend of 80,000 excitable Stone Roses fans trying to get off trains to go see the show tonight and a different 80,000 Stone Roses fans trying to get the fuck out of Manchester after drinking themselves into a stupor last night. I looked at the sign and saw that a train to Sheffield was leaving in 2 minutes. I ran to the train, asked the conductor “Is this the train to Sheffield?” and then jumped on when he said yes.
The train was packed. I sat in a 4-seat booth with a table with three of the most hungover people I’ve ever seen. I put in my headphones to drown out their inane babbling as the train started moving and that’s when suddenly I began to doubt myself. This was my only train ride of the trip without Dan and I had no one to ask any questions to. Was I supposed to be going to Sheffield? Or was it Southampton? Fuck. I was hung over and sweaty from running and I couldn’t remember. I sat there mumbling “Sheffield? Sheffield. Yeah, Sheffield. ‘Okay, uh see you in Sheffield?’ Yeah. Yeah dude. It’s Sheffield. See you in Southampton? No. Sheffield. Sheffield” for about five minutes before I realized I was speaking aloud with my headphones in and my three tablemates were staring, slack-jawed at me.
I got off the train in Sheffield and texted Dan. He didn’t respond, so I quickly got on the internet and found out that the name of the club was the Graystones. I walked across the street from the train station to the pub, where I hoped to order a Guinness Extra Cold and find out the directions to the Graystones.
The pub was nice enough and the bartender looked like he was an understudy for the guitarist of Thursday circa 1998. I ordered a Guinness and asked him and some blokes standing at the counter if they knew where the Graystones was. Well, these people were the dumbest group of mongoloids I’ve ever encountered. The bartender was affable enough, but had no idea. The two young guys at the bar were from out of town and were just passing through back home from seeing the motherfucking Stone Roses. That left the old man in the pirates earrings who knew where the Graystones was, and INSISTED on explaining to me over and over again how to take a bus there, even though it involved 2 transfers, it was the weekend and the busses were running slow, and I’d already decided (and told this old man) “fuck this, I’m taking a cab.” The Stone Roses deesh started getting in my face with their spittly, ruddy excitable air guitar and loud, stupid voices and tried to talk to me even when Dan finally called me and I was on the phone and trying actively to get away from them. The old man in the pirate earring was similarly screaming bus directions at me and eventually I ditched my beloved Guinness in the face of such loud buffoonery and made for a cab.
I met Dan and our buddy Simon, a Sheffield local, and we headed straight for the botanical gardens where we saw some open aire theater, went into a bear pit and even saw a troll on a petrified stump. We then went to another ‘American Diner’ where Dan ordered a flatbread pizza with red peppers, Simon got a massive chicken sandwich and I ordered a plate of donuts, because I’m six.
After that, we went back to Simon’s house where a repair man who couldn’t stop farting was fixing their stove or something. Simon has a bunny who was real cute and kind of acts like a cat, and a nice schoolteacher wife who was grading papers on the floor. Dan was doing a very complicated laundry thing and the whole thing was as pastoral as it was dull (as I’m not all that into watching someone, even one of my closest friends, do laundry with the molasses-slow precision of that halfwitted Vegetable-stand guy from Amelie). The bunny mitigated the dullness, but the farting repairman kept it weird. When we walked in, Simon said “did he have a dump?”
We finally headed over to the club, which was damn nice and located in the back of an extremely well maintained pub. The backstage was bright and lovely and aside from the fact that they tried to give us a case of Desperados (that’s the beer with the tequila already in it, folks!) as our beer for the night, the whole experience was downright lovely.
The show was packed and once again was, in the opinion of Sam, Dan and myself, the best show of the tour (one thing worth mentioning that I have neglected until now is the ‘Dan-Man.’ At every single show on this tour, an older, middle aged man has shown up, stood front and center and been very polite through my and Sam’s sets only to be swept into rapture during Dan. The Dan-Man is almost always bald and carrying myriad items for Dan to sign. IT was eerie how unwavering in presence the Dan Man was on every single stop on this tour).
After the show, the promoter took us to this bar where the very pretty bartender was wearing an elaborate wig and they sold alcohol for ridiculously low prices (especially by British standards). They had great names for their specialty shots, my favorite being “the Bad Decision.” We hung out there until we were good and liquored up and then we got a ride back to Simon’s brother’s empty apartment where Dan and I drifted into sleep together on a bare mattress. Our next trip was to take us into the northlands, home of giants and shockingly passable burritos, but dummies like us wouldn’t get to Glasgow without fucking it up pretty badly first.
Tune in tomorrow for the first of what turned out to be our many train disasters.