Here's the enhanced version
of the trip to London:
The trip began inauspiciously enough. I caught a flight from Las
Vegas to Minneapolis / St. Paul. Along the way, I flew over St. George, the pretty,
yet culturally and socially bankrupt, town in southwestern Utah that I've lived in for the
past seven years. It was early November, and I killed some time aboard the flight by
filling out my absentee ballot. After a short nap, I looked out the window to see a
lake I recognized. It was Lake McCaughnahy, in western Nebraska. It's outside
of Ogallala, a tiny town that my wife and I considered moving to in 1999.
After a short layover in Minneapolis, I was held captive on a Northwest
Airlines / KLM plane for over four hours while the plane was ripped apart for a succession
of repairs. Let's contemplate something: You've boarded a plane that is sweltering.
After nearly an hour's delay, a message comes from the cockpit: "there's
been a delay!" There follows three further hours of broken
promises and delays. Airline staff open doors in order to get fresh air into the cabin, as
the ventilation and cooling systems are inoperable. "Please remain in your
seats! It is not safe to approach the doors, as there are no stairways attached."
Mind the gap, indeed! Thanks for the help, Captain!
Why were passengers boarded onto a troubled plane one full hour
before the scheduled take-off when airline personnel knew complicated repairs were going
to delay the flight? Why were all passengers lied to about the cause of delay?
When does it become obvious that the best thing for an airline to do is allow passengers
off the plane? Airlines wonder why they have to coin phrases like "air rage"?
After twelve hours of plane travel (including the four hour hostage ordeal), I eventually
got into London. Through the clouds, I recognized Kenney Jones' Hurtwood Park Polo
Club on the approach to Gatwick.
While in London, I stayed with my friend, Rupert, and his two great kids, Luke and Molly. Rupe
lives in the North Kensington area, near an historic, beautiful cemetery, and two gas
works towers. Rupe took me on a walking tour of the neighborhood to familiarize me
with the area. One of our first stops was the gas works, and on the way we discussed
Clash bassist Paul Simonon, who has been painting for decades. Paul has done
cityscapes of several gas towers, and he happened to be there that very day, painting away
(You can kinda find him in ther red circle to the right. I didn't bother him by
asking for a close-up photo). It was fantastic odds to run into him and be able to
chat for a few minutes, but that seemed to set the tone for the trip: Several odd
coincidences and opportunities put me in places with people I'd never arranged to meet
during the trip.
One of the next coincidences came the day I spent the afternoon with Boo Oldfield. Boo, of
course, is the lady Ronnie Lane lived with from roughly 1980 until 1984, and was
instrumental in getting the A.R.M.S. concerts together. We spent several hours one
afternoon talking, and when I left her flat I decided to look up one of my old haunts, the
Dublin Castle pub. On the way, I was forced to take a detour because the police had
cordoned off a few square blocks. The detour put me directly in front of a club that was
the venue that night for a gig by Sid Griffin.
Due to an error of some sort, the gig didn't get listed in London's entertainment
magazines, so I didn't know about it until I stumbled across it. Sid, of course, was in
the L.A. band, Long Ryders, before moving to London several years ago. His solo work, as
well as his work with the Coal Porters and Western Electric, is even better than that
legendary band. He's also worked with Mac McLagan, helping put together the recently
threatened Faces box sets. Recently he's been doing solo gigs and opening for Billy Bragg
and the Blokes (with Mac, of course, on keys) in the UK.
It appears that the corporate buyout of scores of pubs has dried up the classic live music
venues in London. Subtract from the ranks those clubs that specialize in techno-drone
disco rave drivel, which I can't classify as either live or music, and the London
music scene begins looking relatively grim. I'd been looking for a decent gig since I got
into town, and Sid saved my ass. New York-based Tandy, touring to support their solid new album, Lichtenstein's
Oriole, opened the show with a fine set. Sid's ninety-plus minutes onstage was filled
with songs from throughout his career, as well as nods to the Byrds and Gram Parsons. This
very impressive set was finished off by Tandy joining Sid's band to knock out a couple of