It’s going to be a long, cold winter here in the Northeastern US. So my thoughts are turning to summer and to the day I went “live at Leeds” in England, August 1972.
After taking a train from London to Cambridge I decided to hitchhike the rest of the way north to the Lake District near the western coast, less than an hour drive from Scotland.
I caught a ride on the outskirts of Cambridge from a lorry driver who took me into Leeds. I decided to stop in at a pub to catch some of the local flavor and started talking with Ian and Gil. They hadn’t met too many Americans and so decided they were going to show me some real Leeds hospitality.
Our first stop was a soccer match and it was a wild scene. Soccer is to Europe as football is to America, with soccer fans at least twice as enthusiastic and fanatic. The crowd was hyperkinetic and the beer flowed like water. By the end of the game my hosts probably had drank a keg’s worth each but seemed to be just getting started.
Ian insisted that I come to a party he was having that night so we drove to a small two-story row house. By the time we arrived, the place was already jammed full of people. An old phonograph was blasting the best of British rock.
I was hungry but there wasn’t much food. Of course, there was plenty to drink. And there were plenty of good-looking English girls but the din in the house was so loud that trying to carry on a conversation was an exercise in futility.
As the night wore on I lost track of Ian but around one in the morning he appeared at the top of the steps of the second floor. He raised his hand in the air with his finger pointed upward as if he were going to make an announcement but then proceeded to keel over face-first and tumble down the steps. Everyone there seemed to think this was hilarious. I thought he had broken his neck. But after reaching the bottom he got up slowly and staggered through the living room into the kitchen, mumbling something about the Rolling Stones.
About an hour later the crowd started to mellow out. I managed to find a place on the floor in one of the upper bedrooms and finally fell asleep. When I awoke the next morning there were bodies everywhere – on the floors, on the stairs, in the bathtub. I made my way down to the first floor, carefully stepping over people as I went.
I wanted to say goodbye to Ian and Gil before I left but Gil was apparently gone. I found Ian laying in a heap under the kitchen table. He had quite a shiner on his right eye, no doubt received when he had taken his fall. It looked like it was best not to disturb him.
I grabbed my backpack from a hallway closet and opened the front door. There was a slight chill in the morning air. For a brief moment I thought I heard some music playing somewhere. And then I quietly closed the door behind me.