2009 – A Year To Remember

31 12 2009

I may not have finished the account of my journey across the USA on this blog as yet, but I am now back in the good ol’ U of K now and have had a Christmas cooped up in my parents’ apartment wondering about what to do with my life, in between chats with my parents about what I’m going to do with my life.

I spent the last few days writing this, hoping I’d be able to send it round the world via Facebook to everyone who I wanted to see it. It turns out I’m just too big for Facebook. I knew it would come to this…

Hello everyone.
Yes it’s that time of year again. Some of you may have got one of these emails last year, some not. If not, maybe you weren’t even my friend last year, or maybe I didn’t care about you much. Well look where you are now! You’re on the list and being forced to read my review of the year. It‘s where I make up for not bothering with Christmas cards by writing about the year I’ve had to make you all a little bit jealous of me (others may be envious, but that’s allowed as well). Last year, this email was described as “amusing” by at least one person. Okay, it was one person. Hello Michelle.

The year began somewhat surprisingly in January, and with my debut on a radio station for me. Dave started getting up and getting down with the kids at XFM. Matt Bowen was that desperate, he called me. Indie news for Mancs. It was here I was introduced to Mike McClean and the genius that is Producer Jim Salveson. Who else could look at a press release headlined, “NFL cheerleaders come to the UK” and think, “that’ll make great radio”? Jim did and it did. I was in on the interview with guest presenter Alun Cochrane, offering absolutely nothing more than a helping hand. There’s photo evidence of that hand. Thank you, Miami Dolphins…

XFM news unfortunately went the way of the dodo, the great auk and David Tennant’s Dr Who in 2009, but I think you’ll find it wasn’t my fault (it was Aileen O’Sullivan’s, obviously). I may have had a hand in it, but as I say, the cheerleader never complained.

Nothing happened in February.

But March, well let’s just rename it Rock-March shall we? I know it works better with October but still…
In the small matter of 18 days I managed to see Franz Ferdinand, Doves and Kasabian, all in small venues and all superb. I saw The Courteeners as well but that seemed to be a Mancs-night-out-Liverpool swaggerfest. It was like everyone else in the Academy was called Liam and had knuckles that dragged along the floor. We got hit by a pint. Hilarious!
It was the first of 3 views of Kasabian this year. Probably my band of the year? Probably. An astonishingly good live band, I fear I’ll never see them in a venue as small as Preston’s 53 Degrees again.

It was another good year in music for David.

May took me to Newcastle’s Evolution Festival to see Mystery Jets and Friendly Fires. Now then, Friendly Fires. Probably my band of the year? Probably. I saw them twice, having already seen them in 2008 with about 100 other people in Liverpool’s Korova. In Gateshead there was about 1000. Then I saw them in New York, which sort of trumps Kasabian. Sorry lads. Friendly Fires are brilliant, and I want to dance like lead singer Ed McFarlane (I know, I’m close but I’ve just not got the hips). I want to dance like him specifically because of the girls I was stood next to In New York’s Webster Hall:

“Oh…my…god…look at his hips! I want him like sooo bad?”

Yes I’m shallow. Deal with it.

The night in Newcastle was complicated by my sharing a Travelodge room with three women, two of whom were sisters. Terrible.

You can add Oasis and Blur to the above list. I was at Heaton Park when the lights went out for Oasis. I look forward to Liam’s “Oasis 2.0” project, cos that’s not going to be crap is it? Seeing Blur in Manchester was a highlight because I always liked them better and they provided the soundtrack to my teenage years. The important bits anyway.
I managed to top that by seeing Brian Wilson (in Liverpool) and Aretha Franklin (in Radio City Music Hall in New York), but they’re not The Courteeners are they?

Due to the lack of a major international football tournament, the summer was dominated by a couple of weddings. Before that, there had been a stag do trip to Poland that I really shouldn’t tell you about, but I got shot in the head from point-blank range and I will never, NEVER let that lie. The idea of 10 (there may have been more, I was drunk) fat Englishmen agreeing to being taken to a field on the outskirts of town – which was clearly used as a Polish army training ground during the week – and give them mock firearms, needed a bit more thinking. When whatever landed on the other side of the field went off with a small mushroom cloud floating into the sky, we should’ve asked a few more questions. Getting locked out of my apartment twice in the weekend was quite an achievement, topped only by Paul Skinner’s ability to wake up from a drunken stupor, answer his phone to me (stood outside with no battery left on my phone and a very nice kebab in the other hand), tell me he was on his way and then take time to turn his phone off before falling asleep again.

That lemon vodka stuff was wonderful – especially if that’s what happens every time you drink it.

The photos of Dave playing football – in his ohsotight shorts – were purposefully put on the big screen at his wedding to put people off the hors d’oeuvres so he could save some money.

Always Ready

We’d prepared for our trip to Eastern Europe by…going to Eastern Europe. In early January Rob, Roy, Rick and myself (I somehow got invited despite my lack of alliteration) ventured to Budapest. In Hungary it was -15c. During the day. It was a three-shirt-night-out, but some of the bars and clubs are some of the best I’ve ever been to. The food was spectacular and that lemon vodka stuff was wonderful. It was a feature of the year.
The baths, where you nearly died of hypothermia just trying to walk the ten yards to the pool, were brilliant. It’s like an adult water park. Not an ‘adult’ water park you understand, although it was very steamy and easy to spy on….no David, leave it there.
I’ll always remember nearly throwing up on the subway and wanting to kill Roy Blagg. Never has one small man been so chirpy with a hangover. Bastard.

The chronological nature of this post has gone out the window due to my mind being lost. I’ve just had to text 2 friends to ask if I did indeed go to Budapest this year. It seems I did.

So after Dave’s stag do, his wedding. And a lovely day it was too. Well, it poured down and Wynyard Hall developed a moat, but it was the people that mattered and we were all there. I ushered, which involved getting people to their seats, nodding when the bride had arrived and performing an impromptu version of, “You Make Me Wanna” on the stroke of midnight. At least that’s what I think happened. I have very little recollection of the next 36 hours, but I ended up in Edinburgh. Rik showed me round his adopted city on a Sunday night and for a third night running I got completely leathered and woke with no idea where I was. I was in rik’s living room. He had a good thing going there with a cocktail bar, and left it all to go travelling around Australia for god knows how long. Who goes travelling to Australia when there’s….America!

Yes, the final 3 months of the year were taken up by my trip to the states. Some called it a trip of a lifetime. Others called it a mid-life crisis. I ignored those people, mainly because I couldn’t look them in the eye and say it wasn’t, but there I sat on September 10th, sat on a Continental flight to Newark, wondering what the hell I had done.

What I’d done was start the best three months of my life. It’s almost fully documented in my blog that so many of you kept reading, even when the envy rose to dangerous levels. It’s not finished yet because I’ve not got round to writing the last page. I don’t really want to finish it.

But here’s the thank yous:

In New York:
David at the Hudson Hotel. A lovely man.
Alan and Tom. Two lovely men who looked after me for over a fortnight and who I hope I’ll get to see again, but I’m not sure I ever will. That’s life I suppose.
Nick Ciavatta (of www.frigginfabulousradio.com) who was the first person who spoke to me in a bar and just happened to be a former radio station PD. Typical! Thanks to all his friends in the Blind Tiger on Bleeker St. as well.
That guy Jamie in the queue for the pizza shop who asked me if we had pizza in Europe.
Ray and Mandy the Australians on the train to DC. We’d just won the Ashes. Brilliant.
Aretha. Genius.

In Washington DC
Ruben Lobowski. A wonderful guy who let me stay in his beautiful house and showed me round DC. Top man.
David Leahey. Blimey, we went to primary school together and here I turn up out of the blue. A fine afternoon pint or three. He plays piano in the White House! (next time he’s going to sneak me in).

In Quebec
Claude Carrier. He became my first travelogue interview with his views on Quebec’s struggle for independence and his hatred of the French. Right on brother!

In Boston
Dan. He had no furniture you could be comfortable in and he got me so drunk that I lost 4 hours of my life, resulting in officially the worst hangover
John Griffin. A true hero of my trip. He’d never met me before yet put me up in his great apartment, took me to the ball game, took me drinking on several school nights and finally directed me to a beer festival where he turned up to see me skittle ten pins down with an empty beer barrel. Boston was great. John was a big part of it. Firm handshakes all round.

On the Canyon Trip
Well, what can I say? A few things! But what a 9 days it was. And no-one tried to kill Maxwell.
So hello, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and thank you for making my year:
Phil – hotel room-mate extraordinaire.
Lotte – Incredibly Dutch and much fun. For the tea times…
Suzanne and Graeme – a married couple who managed to put up with us.
Erika and Sonia – extending the entente cordiale.
Sarah – from the Lakes, and related to him out the Inbetweeners. But there’s more to her than that!
Ursula – German. Efficient.
Richard – New Yorker stunned by us Brits on a regular basis. More in horror than anything else
Maxwell – From Stoke. The reincarnation of Jade Goody in male form.
Eddie – our intrepid guide. A bit of a dude. His Las Vegas antics. Can’t say any more than that.

In Las Vegas, San Diego and LA
Chris Luckett for coming over and seeing me. I was getting a bit lonely and I’d have only got into LOADS of trouble on my own. We even got to see Hugh Grant in action with 2 blondes. At the bar!
Courtney in Encinitas. She served us beer and gave us food. Then invited herself to Liverpool. The cheek!
That very odd looking guy at the border in Tijuana who wanted us to help him because he’d just got out of prison. Sorry for running away quite so fast. Well, not really.

In San Francisco
Winifred. She saved me from the hell of being in a bar full of people in fancy dress on my own. She was in fancy dress.
Wendy. Another nice Dutch lady. On another tour. Wendy and I met on Dylan’s bus tour, got disappointed by big trees that should’ve been bigger and went to see the Day of the Dead parade thingy.
Anna. Half an hour’s chat in a Mission bar (that should’ve been longer – at least 45 minutes) and still friends. Thanks to facebook for that.
That girl who came up to me at the bar and said my accent was hot. It took 51 days for that to happen. I was promised better.

In Arcata
What a place! Thanks to TV camera-person/film-maker/facial-hair-grower Josh Keppel, and Aaron and Leslie.
Thanks to the place with the fabric all over the place and the musical instruments and the brilliantly odd people.

In Portland
Well, Katie at Steelhead brewery in Eugene to start with. 9% beer??
To everyone at the hostel who ate my birthday cake, but particularly…
Janis from Canada. She only came to Portland to see a band, but met me. How lucky is that?!
Amanda, Amy and Elliot for the birthday 80s night out

In Seattle
Simon and Kat for the Scrabble session. Dave wins.
Alina and Yesenia for talking to me at the Fanfarlo gig and getting us thrown off the balcony.
Stephen for the drinking sessions.
To Anders for tagging along on the trip to Vancouver.

In Vancouver
To Kat for coming out on a wretched night and being great company, while introducing me to biro tattoos. You’ll never regret them…!

In California
Lindsey and Zak Akin. Fabulous people with a fabulous dog.
Susan and Chuck. Great hosts in Hanford.
The Akins and The Basmajians. The best Thanksgiving dinners I’ve ever had!
Nate and Xenia. For helping with my initiation ceremony on that amazing night in Yosemite.

And back in NYC
Holger for coming shopping and taking an hour in a shop to try on 10 pairs of jeans and buy none of them. And for the hot chilli Chinese meal.
Nikki for showing us some parts of New York we never thought we’d see, during a 64 mile, sorry, block walk (it felt like 64 miles)
And Alexandra for being out with me on my last night in New York – and the USA.

Thanks to everyone that followed the trip and gave hints and tips on where to go, some more salubrious than others – thanks most of all for those!

Back home I must add those people who made 2009 a really very good year. I stumbled (being the operative word) upon some lovely new people to go drinking with. The Northern Irish Massive were so nice, two of them took Louisa off my hands when I went travelling. You’re very kind! But I’m afraid I’m not having her back. So, Una, Shauna, Frankie, and the newlyweds Mairead & Andy, and the rest of you (there’s a lot aren’t there?!) thank you for letting me into the round. I’ll buy one soon.

Did i mention I'd met Elbow? In Bury!

Speaking of newlyweds, congratulations to Emma and Lee and thanks for a lovely wedding darn sarf. It was a great weekend and you all looked smashin‘.

Katherine and Karen, welcome to Liverpool. You’re most welcome. Let’s face it, you’ve spent enough time here and it’s about time. To the usual suspects: Rob, Louisa, Liverpool Football Club… thanks for being there, even if some of you were completely useless at times.

You all made 2009 possibly the best year ever. EVER.

Until 2010 of course…

See you next year.

(did I miss anything?)

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