Monday, May 9, 2011

Chapter X California Here I Come!

I have discovered that I am only comfortable writing about these events in my life from the never-never confines of my Bangkok apartment. The previous year in Mexico, I was unable to complete an opening sentence; during the last six weeks over the Easter holidays spent in front of an almost identical computer in California, I was unable to focus on continuing this autobiography. Perhaps, I feel a need to create a raison d'ĂȘtre, to justify my presence in Fun City; the otherwise painful act of writing is very much enjoyed here and since my brother's death, I am aware of Time's Winged Messenger and its waiting on no man. Not that I am under any different sentence of death than any other typical 45 year old.

Once again I have skipped years of my life to fulfill a reader's request
to get to the meaty part of my professional life as a record mogul.
Those years, from 1971 until 1976 I will return to in due course.
Ironically, during most of the 1980s, the favorite probing question
posed was not about the origins of the then failing Posh Boy label;
it was rather, almost always, aimed to discover the truth behind my
1982 marriage to my Russian wife, Anja. Well, 1991 saw that
marriage turn to ashes and the punk movement stir to renewed life
in the United States with the success of Nirvana, pace Bad Religion).

First, the preamble ...

It was absolutely fortuitous that I came to return to California from
Europe in August 1977. It had been 5 years since my father had cut
me off for my impudence of having crashed someone else's car in
the wilds of New Mexico, near Las Cruces, having fallen asleep at the
wheel. In May of 1977 I had returned from Sweden to attend my
father and step mother's visit to London, hoping to mend fences. Sure
enough, my father had indicated he would welcome me back if I
managed to secure passage. It was as though my father was giving
me a "Get Out Of Jail" card. Meanwhile, I was content to frolic in Britain.

I was aware of the punk rock movement in London; after all, the
previous year Michael Zilkha had taken me to Dingwall's to catch the
seminal New York group The Ramones at their European debut,
20 years or so before I was to befriend 2 founding members before
their early deaths. But the greatest impression I had received from the
assorted London goings on was that it was a passing and rather ugly
fashion movement rather than any earth-shattering musical counter
revolution; that erroneous judgment of mine left me excluded from
the then momentous goings on in the London clubs.

Instead, I continued my hand to mouth existence as a balletomane,
catching the 1977 Nureyev summer season at the London Coliseum,
longing to squire a ballerina, all the while 30 years, nay, 50 years out
of step with contemporary culture.  Sergei Diaghilev was my hero, the
consummate impresario, no matter that he was a confirmed anal
erotic, as was my lesser idol, Nureyev.

To fund my almost daily visits to the theatre, I actually did manage to
find a decent paying job as a "temp" doing market research for a firm
of architects in Marylebone. Within a week, my duties had evolved to
consist of telexing around Europe researching building codes for
windows and doors and compiling statistical data on the division
between aluminium and wooden varieties. Just 20, 30 years ago,
English was not the lingua franca of all western Europe as it is today
and my linguistic abilities, being able to read virtually all the western
European languages (even the Finns, for instance, were prepared to
answer my telexes in my now competent Swedish rather than in
English) coupled with my mathematical prowess came in useful.
I did make the mistake of compressing a year's work into a few
weeks' and though handsomely rewarded made myself redundant,
all the while waiting on an entry level job at the BBC previously
promised me by TV sports head, the effervescent Sam Leitch.

Rather than return to familiar haunting grounds in central Europe that
summer, an opportunity did present itself for me to enjoy an all
expenses paid holiday closer to home. In July, I had gone to
Cambridge for the annual reunion at King's College School; for years
I used to go if only for the sublime pleasure of listening to the final
choral evensong of the year in the magnificent early 16th century
college chapel, permitted to sit in the choral stalls abutting the
choristers and choral scholars themselves.

As a reflection, the last time I attended in 1991, accompanied by my
infant daughter, there was no other old boy present within 20 years of
my generation. Fortunately, of the year I now write, 1977, my old
favorite teacher, Chris Thompson happened to drop by, skirting the
dreary proceedings in the school's assembly hall (he was forever at
odds with his erstwhile boss, the headmaster Briggs), hovering on
the periphery just in case any of his former little charges were looking for him.

Years previously, Chris had developed a sideline of hosting
summer schools in the empty Cambridge colleges during the Long
Vac, the four summer months when the regular students were off
travelling the world. These grandiose sounding schools in august
surroundings catered mainly to geriatric Americans (who could afford
the hefty fees) and, to a lesser degree, far younger scions of affluent
European families, seeking to improve their command of English.

What made Chris's sham school work was that he recruited his
generally unattached former Oxbridge buddies to give scholarly
lectures to those interested in actually taking classes. He also enlisted
former students of his in their late teens and early 20s to function as
unpaid but well fed social directors for the more able bodied of the
students.Unlike regular term time in Cambridge with its male students
heavily outnumbering the female ones, during the summer there was
a scarcity of males for the legions of visiting English language students.

Chris' admonition to his young men was to fraternise as much as
possible, ever keeping a keen eye out for a student looking miserable
in her solitude.

After some weeks of this idyllic existence within the cloisters of
Gonville and Caius (proniounced "Keys") College, I fell head over
heels for a French student, Jacqueline T., who had been having a
pretty rough time of it until I showed interest in her. I had often seen
young lovers enjoying the day punting down the river Cam, searching
for a quiet spot to caress one another. This was my turn to
experience such joy and tenderness; before returning unviolated to
France, she stayed in my humble abode in London, ruining any hope
I might have had of getting over her quickly.

It was therefore perfect timing for my brother Gifi to call me
in a semi drunken state from a London winebar, the evening
after my love's departure and ask me if I were interested in
flying gratis on someone else's return charter flight to Oakland,
California the next morning. If so, Gifi wanted to help out a
stray American with UKL 50 in exchange for a ticket about to become worthless.

There I was, miserable as a love lorn dog on a hot, sultry August
night in London ... and the Golden State was being offered me on a platter.

I telephoned Jacqueline at home in France and she heartfully
encouraged me to go ... I, thinking, we would meet again within
a year and consummate our intense desire for one another. Scarcely
24 hours after Gifi's call, I was marching into the Bull 'n Bush, my father's restaurant in Los Angeles.

work in progress

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