Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Robin Slick finally gets to visit England...

An official UK rainbow

(Sorry about this -- I still don't have the benefit of the cool band and touristy photos Matt and Julie took which of course are on their laptops, but I did manage to get this one.)

So yeah, in case you haven't noticed the billboards I've posted all over the universe, I spent last week in England with my daughter, Julie, who plays bass with McRad. Her boyfriend Matt also came along, and well, what can I say, I'm finally able to write about it without crying. Meaning: I WANT TO GO BACK!

You have to understand -- being the music nut I am I've wanted to travel to the UK ever since I heard my first Beatle song. (Yeah, yeah - I probably said that somewhere here in another post, but it's just so true)(and wait...isn't that a lame Bad Company song...Johnny was a schoolboy, when he heard his first Beatle song? Yeah, it is. I knew it sounded familiar when I typed it). But you know, life got in the way...everything from when my Mom died and I became legal guardian of my little brother...then had kids of my own, blah blah blah. So how crazy that it was ultimately my daughter who made the dream come true; though okay, okay, I was planning on getting there within the next year or two anyway now that both kids are more grown up than I am.

Anyway, I really want to talk about the music but I want the accompanying photos and I should really make that a separate post. So let's make this one the tourist piece.

In a week's time, I got to see Manchester, Newcastle, Lancaster, Leeds, and London. I skipped over Liverpool, which was the final leg of the tour, because it was Halloween and well, I'm a wus frightened of punk rockers let alone punk rockers in masks. Okay, I'm more afraid of being moshed or thrashed, having had it happen to me once before as previously mentioned and not ever wanting to go through it again. Nah, the real reason is, I adored London and wanted to stay longer which is why I made the decision not to go on to Liverpool, but eventually I ended up going back to Manchester early because that's where the hotel was and we had to wake up early for an 11:00 a.m. flight home. Manchester is so much like Philadelphia I could not believe it, and what do I see there but a big sign announcing "Coming Soon: Urban Outfitters".

Hahahaha - that's the store that started in Philadelphia as an arty, hippie place selling everything from Indian shirts to bongs, but rapidly changed with the times so that now it's a staple for every rich suburban kid to buy their own $40 CBGB t-shirts in an effort to look as cool as their downtown counterparts, who ironically buy their clothing at thrift stores.

Newcastle was insane. One thing that troubled me about England in general, though, was the similar problem we have in Philadelphia and New York. Here, we have all this gorgeous architecture downtown - buildings erected 200 years ago -- and now because of outrageous rents in the city, the only ones who can afford their rentals are the big corporate chains. So imagine my dismay to see 500 year old buildings in the UK with the same atrocity - a Subway Sandwich Shop, a Starbucks, etc. in these structures which should be fucking museums. So Newcastle was especially disconcerting, because they have these gorgeous, cobblestone roads which are straight up and down (walking down them is fun; but while trying to make my way back up the hill and realizing that it was next to impossible for an out of shape, former smoker like me, I had this terrible vision of Julie having to fly me home in a body bag...the true end of my lifelong dream to be in the UK) and these crazy, ornate old buildings...and they are fucking chain stores. It's just so depressing.

Anyway, I love the accent; I love the culture. The following evening in Lancaster, when presented with our meal, we were told "You's is whose these is for". I laughed with delight -- just hope I didn't offend. When I went for a walk down Penny Lane -- and damn it, I thought it was the Penny Lane but that's not in Lancaster, it's in London -- I think -- and suddenly stumbled on a river practically adjacent to the street, I asked which river it was and was told "it's not a river, it's me radiator. It's sprung a leak."

Oh man. Such great, great stuff.

I broke away from the band altogether to explore some more in Leeds the following day. That was a very cool city, but again, I was struck by the similarities to both Philadelphia and New York, as well as a little bit of Boston. I wandered around; got an unexpected tour of their public library which is all stained glass and marble and just totally breathtaking. (and of course I didn't have the camera...I'm getting really nervous that the reason Julie and Matt haven't sent me photos yet is that I'm about to get 1,000 more photos of Matt. Ha! Oh well...Julie already just sent me one of Matt in Manchester in front of a beautiful church in Albert Square (?)(can't remember the name) which I would post now had she not sent it to me sideways and I have not a clue as how to photoshop it).

So now I'm getting hungry and there's cool little kiosks set up within an enclosed, outdoor mall type place. Okay, that's confusing. I mean, it's outdoors, but it's in a three or four block courtyard type setting where no cars are allowed and yeah, these little kiosks sell all kinds of interesting food, but what caught my eye was a UK staple, stuffed baked potatoes. Oh man, England is surely the land of the potato, and next to my family, writing, music, and's the potato that does it for me. So over the course of the week, I had them stuffed, fried, chips saturated in curry; and even some flavored with Thai Chicken seasoning. (I don't even want to know how they manage that one...just hope I'm not the first person to die of Avian flu via a chicken flavored chip but that of course would be poetic justice as well, I suppose).

But just as I'm about to order my potato, I look up and see a Virgin Records Megastore.

"Oh, let's go in there," I say excitedly, even though there's one in New York for fuck's sake and I have a no corporate chain policy when it comes to CDs. But...this was England, and I wanted to see if they carried my kids' CD (Rock School soundtrack) and really, just to browse and see if they had certain CDs I've been trying to find in the States for years...for example, the American Dream, whose album I've had since the seventies, briefly released their CD 20 years ago via Rhino Records. (Yeah, so like, if any of you reading this have this your price). I was so excited that as I passed through the open double glass doors leading into the store and was yapping a mile a minute as usual, I failed to see that there was a second set of glass doors and they were closed.

Ever walk head first into a thick, glass door? Ever do it while you're talking and walking fast?

Once again, that body bag flashed before my eyes.

I thought I had a concussion and I did a nice job on my kneecap, too.

I don't even remember what CDs I looked at...I kept touching my forehead to see if I was bleeding and I no longer wanted that potato, damn it.

But even though concussive and dazed, I had such an incredible time -- so amazing I'm still not sure if it really happened or it was a dream...and the day ended up with me getting seriously drunk on Stella Artois.

Yeah, it's true what they say about the pubs in England. They are everywhere and they are fucking fantastic. I'd be a full blown alcoholic if I lived there. The beer is so much better. In fact, I think next year I'm going to go on a beer tour of Europe. Yeah! But in the meantime, I promised my son a trip back there for his birthday in May, and I'm seriously thinking of renting a place in the lake district for an extended time so that I can write. Because just being there made my creative juices flow, and I know that I could probably knock out the first draft of an 80,000 word novel in a month.

So next it was on to London, and really, London is New York. Soho in London is Soho in New York. Well, okay, London's Soho is cooler. But that could just be me. I also hung out in the posh (and tourist) district by Victoria Station and also ended up in a section adjacent to Soho which could very well have been Times Square. was just all so incredible.

I'm probably leaving tons of stuff out so I may be back from time to time today to edit and add things.

Okay, so now that I've probably bored you all to tears, I solemnly swear that tomorrow I will talk about the music. Man, I met some really talented musicians on this tour and I'd really like to introduce you all to some of them via links, photos, and sound clips. Hey, I wonder if I can do sound clips on this blog. Gotta ask my son when he gets home.