(It took me, what, more than a month and a half to cover events that spanned only a few days? Well, here they are now — complete — all the little blurps squoze out like the contents of a waning toothpaste tube, together in one spot.
I have no idea if they even work together as, having so laboriously eked, I can’t bear to look at the thing. But I suspect it will remind you just why we keep our toothpaste in the tube and not spread out in the larger world, segmented and with nothing to scrub.)
Unwrapped (The Riddle Inside the Enigma Inside the Bacon)
So, yeah, I left a comfortable cocoon in West Yorkshire to return to London.
And when I say comfortable, I’m not ignoring the fact that I was sleeping on a twice-folded blanket on top of an uninflated air bed or that the the roof was open to the sky as winter fought heating to a standstill or that I had to wash standing at the sink with moistened cloths due to shower leakage and one more ceiling hole.
In my life, this was comfortable.
Still, I had a show to do in London and that meant I could make some money.
Not much, but I needed it to maintain my level of comfort.
Of course, I had no funds with which to take the bus that I needed to get the coach I had to use to get the train which I intended to take me down to London. So I walked, backpack on back and briefcase in hand, to Halifax and the coach debarkation point therein contained. Fortunately, my load remained tolerable, as I’d left my clothing behind to lighten my burden.
“The Lord loves a man who travels with empty bags.” — Johann Sargus
Rumaki, Part 2
Hours later, in London, the massive amount of promotional support from other comedians, fans and friends paid off handsomely, if handsome is an adequate description of a showroom with not a single audience member. Fortunately, I had another show scheduled for next week. For seven days, though, I would have to make do without any money.
Backpack on back and briefcase in hand, I walked in darkness from the West End to Hammersmith.
As a developing monsoon enveloped me with wind, cold and wet.
But things were looking up!
The jungle winds blew me, speculatively, into a Piccadilly Starbucks, where I learned, to my relative astonishment, that I had about five quid strewn across three Starbucks cards. This meant over the next days I could buy some bananas or a piece of cake or a sandwich — if only at Starbucks prices — with my dedicated ‘bucks non-cash.
I would definitely survive partway to my sure-to-be-profitable show, seven days hence.
Plus, when I got where I was staying, I was able to surreptitiously grab a slice of bread, an indication, perhaps, of another, non coffee chain-based avenue to survival.
Yes, a happyish, cloud-touched, windblown arrival surrounded the aforementioned bread cadging. Here in Hammersmith was a place a man could cadge figs in.
This was a Cadger’s Paradise (apologies to Cadgio).
And soon sleep came, as it does to all men who have a friend who owns a couch. Then, of course, wakedness. And then the question a man with a show next Monday night needs to hear on Tuesday morning.
“Where will you be staying when I go to visit my family next Monday, early morn?”
That’s right. Early in the morning of the day when I would be doing my next show — the one that I needed to be successful so that I could make some money, any money — I would be sans domicile, forced to walk the streets all day, arriving at the venue dirty and tired and without a place to lay my head once showtime was done. Unless, of course, I could find a new place to stay. This kind of stress I didn’t need.
What could I do but head to Westfield, home of free Mac usage, plentiful food samples, and a Starbucks at which to use my cards?
The Rumaki Code
At the start of intermission, I looked at my phone and saw that I had missed a call.
I suppose I could’ve
looked for another place to stay in London. Or again slept under the stars inside a house in West Yorkshire.
But while in Westfield I’d found a $430 one-way fare on Kuwaiti Airways. And e-mailed my father about it.
The customs man was shocked that I’d spent 4 1/2 months in Kuwait.
(And it didn’t even say “Jew” on my passport.)
Oh, but I’m getting ahead of myself. (I’ll never mention this again.)
Robin Ince’s show was an enjoyably ramshackle reimagination of music hall wherein jugglers shared the bill with scientists of every stripe, even horizontal ones. (I was jealous, my highest compliment.) Thank Godlessness, I’d gotten in, as a ticket had not been waiting for me when I got there. It was 5 minutes before showtime and if anyone bothered me that close to a show, it would, um, bother me. So, I considered leaving and listening through a glass pressed against the wall of the apartment I was crashing in behind the theater.
Instead, I decided to send a tweet. If Robin was checking, great, if not, the drinking vessel at home.
He was checking.
And so was my father — checking his e-mail.
And so was I, checking on my missed call, which was from my e-mail-checking Pop.
Thus I learned, in the lobby or thereabouts, between halves, that dear, old Dad had loaned me the money to buy the ticket. The kind of loan where he had, like, already bought it.
Wow! You’ll Never Guess What I Found
Okay, I know it’s too soon to take another break from the story but this is just too important. Today I found a public bathroom with a completely dry toilet seat.
But no paper, right? No joy lasts forever.
Well, this one did.
There was a bountiful supply of paper. (And it wasn’t even Bounty.)
Now, that flight on Kuwaiti Airways — the one my father bought me the ticket on. It wasn’t to Kuwait, it was to New York.
And this was Tuesday night.
(I was still in West Yorkshire on Monday.)
Now, despite the apparent imminence of a hasty retreat,
there were still — in the day ahead — more fragmentary edibles to cadge from my host’s nearly-bare larder, more samples to be et at Westfield, and, most importantly, more web-based business to be taken care of using the display computers at the Apple Store.
Specifically, I still had ZERO money (though there was enough for one coffee on the Starbucks cards) and I had, naturally, to get to the airport.
Which costs money. (See what I mean?)
But who cares about that?
In recent days, I’ve found myself in what may be the most Sound of Music-y area in the world!
First, I heard a girl, walking with her family, singing Edelweiss and then, close by, mere days after that, another girl, maybe 17-20 years old, singing I am 16, Going on 17 while waiting for a walk signal. Even I contributed to the S of M quotient, da-dee-dumming the same tune as I moved along the thoroughfare.
Who knows? Maybe someone heard the first girl and started to hum, then someone else heard it and the Music traveled continuously from person to person during the days between my first encounter and my second.
Maybe someone heard me and the Sounds of “Sound” continue there still.
Could be that the first girl wasn’t even the first.
Could be there are multiple SM strings crisscrossing like a sonic cat’s cradle through these few, rarefied streets.
And in case you’re interested, though I did consider walking from Hammersmith to Heathrow, I found someone via web access at Westfield on Wednesday who could give me the cash to get to the airport on Thursday.
We would meet at Starbucks, Thursday, ’bout noon.
Thursday Morning, Around 11:30
While bathing/getting ready to leave, someone tried to call me.
I was in the other room and didn’t hear it.
I’d given my airport tube fare benefactor my number in case of change or problem but didn’t have her number, so didn’t know it was from her. My plane was leaving at 2:50. There was little (no) margin for error.
And I had no credit on my phone with which to call back and find out if I was fucked.
The Scent of Pine is Largely Gone
There was a voicemail message but, of course, without credit, I also couldn’t access that. So, I rushed toward the meeting point, backpack on back and briefcase in hand, hoping, if the call had been from my underwriter, that she had not already been and left, her call having been intended to summon me more quickly down.
Leaving London, I thought; I hoped, I left my key behind. There’d have been no way to get it to my host if I hadn’t but now there was no way for me to get back into the flat if I didn’t leave the country as expected. I’d have to wander, sans lucre, for hours unknown.
Fortunately, my load remained tolerable and my pace was swift, as I’d left almost all my remaining clothing behind to lighten my burden.
She wasn’t at the Starbucks. Yet.
Unless she’d left.
Maybe the call hadn’t been from her. But how could I find out?
Too much stress.
Gotta get a coffee.
Was enough on my ‘bucks card to get a small black?
Maybe, but, damn, I’d left my wallet at the flat. Along with the key.
Couldn’t get back in. No time anyway.
The number of the missed call had started to seem familiar.
If true, it couldn’t have been her.
I realized that even with no calling ability (and no coffee),
I could — ’cause my phone had free Twitter access — tweet a direct message to someone who could then call the originating number of the call I’d missed, find out who it was from and convey to me the information via call or text. (For North American readers, in the UK you can receive calls and texts on your cell phone even if there is no money in your account.)
Thus my “landlord” in West Yorkshire dutifully informed me, using this patented mulitichannel transmission method, that the call was from comic, warbler and spats-wearer, Earl Okin.
So, THAT’S why the number was familiar. He was one of the people I’d attempted to contact when seeking a way to the airport, as he lived in the area and (so to speak) had a car. I could safely ignore him now. And since the call was not from the woman I was awaiting, I could relax and not drink coffee. She would be there at noon.
She was not there at noon.
Indeed. she was not there at 12:40.
My international flight was, you’ll recall, scheduled to depart at 2:50. Now, even if I had the fare to the airport, how could I get there in time?
And as has been more than established, I did not have the fare.
Frantic Fingers Flew
What I did have (I remembered belatedly) was my netbook, which I had to have as, unlike clothing, a computer can never be discarded no matter its weight (and this one — unlike the situation — was not weighty).
Rumaki, Part 19
Damn it, I could not ignore Earl Okin any longer. Maybe his nearby vehicle and he were available to save me.
If they were, I couldn’t ascertain it.
Tried tweeting Lizzie Roper, though I’d cut her off in my mind after she, having called me her favorite Twitterer, stopped following me. But, you know, she lived close by. (Not close enough, though.)
Sent out a general online cry for help from people in the Hammersmith area, tried to contact my missing money-supplier again and again, and was, of course, delayed in these efforts by computer issues.
Finally, I simply had to leave.
In the street, between Starbucks and the Piccadilly Line station I hadn’t the funds to enter, I wondered how I would tell my father I had squandered both his airfare expenditure and his opportunity to still be thousands of miles away from me but (at least) on the same continent.
It Would Have Been Different If I’d Been in New York
Tell a subway clerk you gotta get to the airport and he might let you in or else a cop would and then you’d be set. But in Britain, clerks hide behind the rules — “There’s nothing I can do,” rather than, “Let me see what I can do.”
One good thing about British bureaucracy, though, is that it’s inefficient and often leaves things undone. These are the holes you can wriggle through.
Such a hole was before me when I got to the tube station. An exit gate was wide open and nobody seemed to be watching it.
I didn’t have the advantage I had a year ago
when I had long overstayed my visa and could have escaped the kingdom by being deported. True, I didn’t want to be on a list, but this time ’round, a fear of my father’s reaction to wasting his money made deportation seem like a preferred if elusive option. There wasn’t really enough time to get to the airport, anyway, so, maybe, fortune permitting, I’d get arrested if I walked through that hole and they’d cast me out as undesirable.
I’ve read the Daily Mirror and know that no one gets thrown out of Britain for that. If I wanted a free flight courtesy of the queen, I’d have to stick around for months.
Maybe I needed to just walk through and see if I could get on the tube, putting off the issue of how I would get out ’til I got to the Heathrow end of the line.
Forgive Me My Trespasses
I moved toward/to/not quite through the open exit gate.
My forward motion, once I reached the outside edge of the gate, may have been continuous, but at a pace so slow as to look, to the naked eye, like stillness. Or I may have been hovering for a moment at what incorrectly appeared to be ground level. In any event, before I was fully through — and had I ever even committed to slow-brazenly going through? — I was spoken to.
By a voice.
From a person.
Which didn’t have to stop me, ’cause if I spoke back, I didn’t necessarily have to stop. But scanning the area constantly with my eyes as I moved (without movement) had probably not been such a good idea. The voice (from a person) asked what I needed.
Well, I needed to get through without somebody noticing me or stopping me.
So at this point, then, I needed a new plan.
As I said,
the simple fact that I was spoken to didn’t mean I couldn’t slither furtively toward the westbound platform and be off on my way to getting stopped at the other end of the ride for not paying a fare (or — if I could avoid that — arriving too late to get my flight). The fact that the inquiring soul was a transport employee was what mandated a new plan.
So, I stammered something and was pointed toward the station manager’s hut where I pled my case — logically and with the required level of emotion — carefully laying out the nature of my cashless traveler’s plight. In other words, I bleated like a needy sheep (apologies to Jay Leno).
Well, the station manager was obviously a lover of mutton ’cause he — miraculously, as this does not happen in the United Kingdom — let me in.
It wasnt’ 1 PM yet,
so I thought I might just make it, if I didn’t have trouble on the other end getting out of the system. The notion that I might make it all the way to the airport only to be turned back like an undesirable rejected by customs (tubeland security?) was disturbing to me.
I felt confident, though. More confident even than about time.
And luckily, on the train, there was a keen time-killer and ace distraction, namely a woman who looked just like ascendant musical comedian, Tara Flynn, a friend of some friends of mine. I examined her for the majority of the ride and if she had not been so tall, she could have been Tara as far as I was concerned.
Okay, here we are. Terminals 1, 2 & 3 (or something like that). These are the normal terminals. Surely, this is the right place to get off.
Only I don’t know for sure.
The Woman Who Looked Like Tara Flynn
Was also going to the airport. In fact, she stood to get off before I did and in doing so revealed by her shortness that she was Tara Flynn. (She also revealed it by telling me when I asked.)
I introduced myself ’cause I knew she would know who I was and, you know, I wanted to remove the sting of having stared at her for the better part of an hour by explaining that I was scanning, repeatedly, to see if it was her and if not, why not and who was she anyway (if you know what I mean). Turned out (she claimed) she hadn’t even noticed as she’d been “with the faeries” or some equally Irishy thing. I don’t know if the fact that I looked like a hobo who rides the air rails would have made a poor impression on its own but when I was forced to part from her as she left the tube station while I prepared to negotiate with the exit guard, I may just have underscored my position in the underclass in her mind (her mind is well-known for its centuries-old caste system).
The guy did let me out. I didn’t even get all emotional like I had when fighting to get in. And this guy wasn’t even Indian or similar like the entry guy was, he was a regular-looking historic-type Brit.
Which I kind of counted on, figuring he’d want me to get out of the country.
And, thanks to my extraordinary rail-timing luck, if they were allowing passengers in ’til an hour before the flight, I would be able to oblige.
‘Cept, according to the sign I saw after my tube exit, my flight was leaving from that weird terminal you needed to have stayed on the tube to get to.
I was asked by someone who Tara Flynn was.
But I don’t see anything that indicates it’s something he/you need(s) to know. Those who know, know. Those who don’t, never will.
What’s relevant is I now had to figure out how to ask the guy who’d just let me exit the tube system if I could, um, go back in.
I would only go one stop.
Who was that gonna hurt?
I often like to say (though like may not be the proper word for it) that I am dependently wealthy. On my own, however, I am poor.
But proud. (Ish.)
I mean, geez, I was stuck in London for 3 years because I was too proud to ask for help getting out. This time I wisely decided it was best to not be a schmuck and have tons of time unnecessarily et up while I proved (or didn’t) that I could do it on my own. I realized I like seeing my family from time to time, so, as you know, I didn’t hesitate to ask my father for a “loan” in order that I should get out while the gettin’ was good. (Though I did hesitate on the basis of timing. Ya gotta ask in the right way at the right time or you might not get or — if you do — it might be a more unpleasant getting.)
Frankly folks, I was mightily impressed with myself when that statuesque Newsnight producer I knew only minimally from the King Street Starbucks agreed to meet and give so that I could get to the plane. A big dilemma, followed by a walk to Westfield, a few messages via the Apple Store and I’m set. Man, that Andrew knows how to surf life’s currents, yes he do.
Of course, I didn’t feel so self-impressed when she didn’t show. “Why, oh why,” I asked myself, “has this person to whom I’ve not grown close forsaken me?”
I guess it’s true what they always say — you shouldn’t put all your somewhat-golden eggs in one basket.
It’s hard, though, to ask a second person for money that you’ve already borrowed, even if you haven’t gotten it yet. These are, I suppose, the dangers of being dependently wealthy.
As is the fact — which I’ve more than alluded to before — that if you get money from Daddy, he expects you to turn up. Yet now, after almost missing my plane and then not missing it, I may miss it again as it’s almost an hour before my — it bears repeating — international flight.
So, even if the letting out guy lets me back in, I may be, how you say, up shit’s jetway without an unoccupied restroom.
Rumaki, Part 27 (and counting)
Still, before failure could be officially declared, I did have to deal with the letting out guy, who was now — via the strange alchemy of direction and time — the letting in guy (promotion?). I constructed my question carefully to maximally minimize my chance of rejection.
“Is there any way for me to get to Terminal [whatever] besides going back in there?” I cannily inquired.
Naturally, there being no other way to get to Terminal Whatever (and it was this cavalier approach to terminals that led me to even be in this situation), the good-hearted gent would feel obliged to let me back in to this, my only way out.
But he didn’t.
He wasn’t being a shit. There was another, perhaps better, way to go (at least if you’d already gotten off the tube). A FREE train, the continuation of the Heathrow Express
But I had to get to the area. On foot. And there were like three different versions of the train, with mine, I believe, the third one scheduled to come. In like eleven minutes or something.
Then, in the vast terminal, where the fuck was Kuwaiti Air? After traversing the entire hall, I finally saw a sign directing me but where it directed me was wrong, so I wandered blind back in the other direction and Kuwaiti Air was right next to the sign that had pointed me elsewhere.
NO ONE was lined up there.
The girl asked if I was going to some city (which she named but I don’t remember it) but of course, I was not. When I declared my intention to go to New York, she seemed shocked and disturbed to hear it. I tried to check one of my empty bags but she said flight was already closed.
I didn’t have the money to get back to more central London. All I had was some American change to get a bus or train to where I’d be staying if I got to New York. And the airport money exchanges won’t touch coins. I didn’t have enough for London Transport even if they did.
“Don’t take anybody after him”.
The words were spoken in a humbly authoritative, accented voice. It seems the flight was closed to bags but open to me. I rushed to the gate where I was promptly delayed for an hour or two. Others were disgruntled but I didn’t mind. There were Chassidic Jews waiting to fly on this Arab airline. The earth was good.
Once in the air, I asked for and received extra food and they poured me a second Guava drink without even being asked. The sky was good too.
So, it was a lovely flight. But it would have been hell for Brits as there was no alcohol.
I was headed in the right direction.