11 February 2009


So Kathleen and I went out to Liverpool on Saturday. As we were waiting for the train in, I was commenting that I was feeling really good about the city recently. I mean sure Manchester is bigger, glitzier, and more cosmopolitan. But there is something about the city of Liverpool that has been growing on me recently. I have been reading bits and pieces of a small five-volume collection of writings on the city. Basically they are different perspectives and recollections of the city from famous and not-so-famous authors, politicians, etc. Everyone from Allen Ginsberg to Dickens to unknown sailors is represented. Some are just one or two lines about the city whereas others are a few pages in length. Perhaps it was reading about the history of the city as a major shipping port that did it. I have also been skating a lot and this has shown me another side of the city a bit more. And I have been running during the daylight more and getting to know it better in the early morning hours. Maybe it has been hanging out at FACT more. Regardless, something prompted me to remark: “I am glad Liverpool has retained some of its sketchiness.”
So as we set out on Saturday, I had this in mind. We spent the afternoon at the Walker Gallery which is a fairly well known museum in the area. After this we planned on catching a movie at FACT, but had a few hours to kill. I declared to Kathleen that in the next two hours we would find and explore new areas of the city. She was very game to this idea and very patient with my random whims as usual. I had seen a tea shop on a few runs that looked very intriguing so I set that as our ultimate destination. We slowly worked our way to the other side of town only turning down streets and alleys we had not been down yet. Along the way we found: a strange open block surrounded by run-down nightclubs, numerous empty lots that reminded us of all the 1970’s NYC crime movies we watched last year, a few sketchy looking tenement apartments intermingled with what looked like gentrified middle class housing, a random dog who was fine but scared me, and a group of skaters my age literally sculpting their own four-foot quarter pipe out of wet concrete in yet another vacant lot. Quite an exciting walk for sure. We ended up finding the tea shop whose website you can visit here. It is called Leaf and was started by a young woman who renovated a vacant space in a rundown warehouse. It was very well done and served a wide-range of tea and food. It had a bit for both of us in that it has described itself as for people into Punk music and knitting. As Kathleen said; “I told you knitting was not just for dweebs!” The girl running the place was super nice and I am sure we will go back regularly.
After tea, we made our way back across town taking a more direct route. We watched Benjamin Button at FACT (very good, but sad!) and I lost a new book I had bought at the museum. Afterwards we grabbed a quick bite at one of our favourite noodle places and headed to the train. At this point we were pretty exhausted and ready to be at home, a good day in Liverpool behind us. As we reached the top of the escalator, I heard our train on the platform below and we ran to catch it. In true NYC style I shoved my leg in the closing doors and forced them to stay open a crack so Kathleen could slide in as well. Sweet. Made it. Little did we know that we just rushed to get in the same train car as a couple of maniacs. I would put one in his late twenties and the other in his mid forties. Kathleen commented later that she first thought they were father and son. The father immediately started in mimicking my falsetto as I attempted to imitate Kathleen whining (Karma at its best). When I looked up to see what was going on, he quickly became all apologies for mocking me. Whatever. So I picked up a copy of the Sun Newspaper which was lying on the seat next to me. Immediately, the older guy stood up and stumbled over in a stench of stale alcohol. He ripped the paper out of my hand and threw it on the ground. He then spat out a bunch of words that neither Kathleen nor I understood, but we think had something to do with the fact that he hated that paper. He managed to tell us that if anyone (and he meant anyone) in Liverpool saw us reading the Sun we would get punched immediately. It has something to do with football and the fact that Liverpool had lost recently. Nice. He was laughing the whole time, but was very wasted and a bit all over the place. He next decided to sit down and asked me my name. I told him and he started in about my name for some reason and how it was pronounced. He chose to sit across from me and next to Kathleen so I put my foot up on the chair to be sure he kept some distance. Unfortunately that resulted in physical contact which was followed by handshakes all around (you know how some people just seem filthy to the touch?). 
Meanwhile the whole time Junior is just laughing uncontrollably. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the Metro Police coming up. All right, surely these guys will recognize that this guy is a bit off and they will take care of him. Nope. They simply walked by and commanded me to take my foot off the seat. Their appearance then prompted our man to start going on and on about how he really wanted to become a ‘train guard man’ when he was a kid because of the powers it would give him. He said a lot more, but we really had no comprehension. I would like to think we have gotten better at understanding accents in the two and a half months since we moved here. Not with him. His accent was as Scouse as could be. At this point, our stop was next so we positioned to make our getaway. Then out of nowhere Junior pops up from the next seat with a one pence coin containing a tiny mound of coke for dear old Dad. “Drugs?” one or the other or both said to us. “No.” Snort and it was all gone up the old guy’s nose. Kathleen and I just looked at each other and tried really really hard not to laugh and spilled out on to the platform. I think we laughed until falling asleep that night.
So was this guy a true representative of Liverpudlians? No. Not really. But as unexpected as the encounter was, it did just seem appropriate at the time. And I think it did make me enjoy our fair city even a bit more.

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