The Little Drummer Boy

North America
September 1st 2010
Published: September 9th 2010
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Hollywood Pool Party
Tuesday June 8th to Wednesday September 1st, 2010

Global warming, we’ve all heard of it, the apparent increase in our planet’s near surface air and water temperatures and it’s projected continuation. I could have no arguments with the validity of such claims during my week long UK stay in June when following a beautiful week in Portugal temperatures and the accompanying humidity reached uncomfortably clammy proportions. however, reports from back home since my return relaying stories of incessant July rainfall could tempt me to say that the theory is basically just a crock of shit.

Grey May and June Gloom are the name’s given to Southern California’s two least sun soaked month’s of the year, a period of time when the coast is invariably masked with a low layer of marine stratus cloud which invariably doesn’t burn away until lunchtime if at all. This year, apparently due to the unwelcome presence of La Nina has seen this period extended through all of July to mid August resulting in the SoCal’s coolest summer since 1991.

Despite the unusual weather patterns and complaining Californian´s, to an Englishman July and August have still seemed glorious and have once again flown by
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I really must have an early night
in a blur of summer activity, weekends and beaches the undoubted high spots.

Just prior to my annual return home, an event I’d been counting the days down to the FIFA World Cup commenced. As per usual optimism for my fellow countrymen´s chances, as is everybody’s for their own the planet over was high although not quite high enough to warrant predicting their progression in the works sweepstake any further than the quarter finals.

The draw for England’s opening group game couldn’t have been bettered, the US of A on a Saturday lunchtime and the excitement and banter levels with neighbour’s and colleague’s alike in the build up to the match grew and grew. Just a few days prior to the big kick off I received a surprise e mail from one of my old footie strike partners James Kelly, another one who never used to pass, to inform me that he and his wife Sandra were in town on holiday, two more for the overseas bulldog contingent and with arrangements made and rendezvous’ met we then watched a tepid anti climatic one one draw in Barry’s Beach Shack memorable only for former canary keeper Rob Green doing a Jamie and letting the ball roll agonizingly through his legs.

The second performance, heralding even higher hopes and watched sat with twenty other in the main expectant Portites in a quaint little square in Lagos, Portugal on the first night of the Sea Horse annual golf crusade was ten times more turgid than the first although tinged with more tension than could be imagined. My role as the tour bookmaker, always made more stressful during a major soccer tournament when alcohol and overflowing pockets dictates bets on games tenfold in both extravagance and size meant I was quite relieved that England’s footballers once again proved themselves to be the over rated, over paid prima donnas that they undoubtedly are.

England’s eventual exit from the competition, watched back home from UK’s pastures green (The Sea Horse pool table baize to be precise) in the company of big Jerry, The Balmforth’s and The Batt’s was, looking back, as inevitable as night turning to day but at least enabled me to enjoy the closing stages of the competition from a completely unbiased if less than excitable view.

Once back in America after two hectic but enjoyable weeks seeing family
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July 4th celebrations
and friends but missing my adopted home Phil and I ventured to Legends at 10.30am on the Sunday morning of final day. Licking our lips at the promise of a hearty breakfast and bottomless Bloody Mary’s we arrived to find the place packed to the rafters (41% more people watched the tournament Stateside this year than any other) and no room at the inn. Undeterred we moved a few doors up the street and watched in nearby P.J.Molloy’s with, you guessed it, bottomless Bloody Mary’s and a hearty breakfast surrounded by nothing but a brilliant atmosphere and the red and orange colors of the finalists. For the next two weeks I longed for the sight of a round ball and the nauseating sound of a Vuvuzela immensely.

After an absence from Long Beach of one year the professional beach volleyball tour returned to Rainbow Harbor mid July and remembering it to be a great photo opportunity I did too. Long Beach girl and Olympic gold medallist Misty May Trainor was touted by the local press as being the main attraction but having watched her for five minutes, still in the process of shedding the tell tale signs of recent child birth and wearing a frilly pair of pink tutu style bikini bottoms that gave her the look more of frumpy Betty Boo than the top class sports woman she still undoubtedly is (she won the final) we went in search of something more pleasing to the eye.

We didn’t have to go far, about fifty yards to be precise to some of the smaller side courts where what have to be some of the fittest, most scantily clad athletes on the planet were throwing themselves around with abandon.

Neighbor Dana’s mumblings about the unfairness of it all, the guys for some reason wear knee length board shorts whilst the girls wear next to nothing did nothing to prevent her falling in love on more than one occasion whilst I stood back and admired the view, the Brazilian duo in particular bringing back happy memories of time spent in Ipanema and Rio de Janeiro.

The happiest event of the summer was undoubtedly the arrival on July 21st of 9lbs 3oz’s of noisy flatulence, Henry James Leng, first child of Dan and Lisa who had tragically gone through the trauma and heartbreak of losing prospective triplets just over
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The little drummer girl. Neighbor Portia shows how it's done.
a year ago. Mistakenly assuming the possession of a decent camera to mean I must be some sort of photographer they’d asked me to take some maternity pictures a week or so before the birth and I felt honored to be given my first commission and oblige.

I didn’t tell them that despite completion of my six week night school course in SLR camera use that I still had next to no idea what the hell I was doing but fortunately they were thrilled with the outcome, so much so that I’ve been asked back to take some of a fast growing HJ in the coming weeks.

One Christmas when I was maybe twelve years old my parents acceded to a year of constant harassment from my brother and I and presented us with a second hand snare drum complete with stand, sticks and brushes. Despite my initial excitement which by boxing day had almost completely dissolved I had neither the heart nor the audacity to tell them that one drum on it’s own was about as much use as a chocolate fireguard. Times were undeniably hard and I’d always believed, as I still do in, that at
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Maxi Jazz at Glasto. Wasn't there, taken off the telly but good pic all the same.
that time of year in particular it was the thought that counts.

Maybe they’d misheard us, misunderstood that it was actually a drum ‘kit’ we craved but it mattered not, we simply set about devising ways aided solely by different folds of a solitary tea towel of extracting as many different sounds as possible from the over worked pig skin at the same time ensuring that they paid for their negligence, the soundtrack of their lives for the next two years being the sounds of Iron Maiden, Motorhead et al blasting from an open bedroom window accompanied by an out of time, unholy monotone, occasionally duotone racket.

Finally the penny dropped and we realized the futility of it all. No matter how many different tones we could manage to squeeze out of that one drum we weren’t going to become the leather clad rock stars we aspired to be and the snare, sticks and brushes, collecting dust and generally getting in the way were dispatched swiftly to the solitude of the loft.

That love of drumming never left me, a fact that didn’t go unnoticed by neighbor Jeff at a number of our balcony palooza’s when the occasional wine influenced air guitar solo that I’d be in the eyes closed, head lulled sideways midst of would spontaneously be replaced by a roll on the imaginary drums and a crash on the imaginary cymbals. His reasoning was that an electronic drum kit, where the sounds are relayed to the brain by means of headphones producing very little external noise would be perfect for a frustrated apartment dwelling percussionist like myself.

He suggested I took a look on Craig’s List and no more was said until one evening a couple of month’s later when sitting alone in my apartment his brainwave came back to haunt me. A phone call and ten minutes later I was in the Jeep heading for Redondo Beach returning an hour or so later with a reduced price kit purchased from an Argentinean surfer with no English and no bass drum pad, about as useful for mastering the art of drumming as was a solitary snare drum which, not surprisingly given my allergy to sitting still for longer than one minute is just one month later already collecting dust and getting in the way.

With something always happening somewhere or other in Southern California the weekend’s inevitably continue to be the highlight of the week. Throughout the last handful of month’s the City of Long Beach alone has staged a Grand Prix, a Gay Pride, a Funk Fest weekend celebration of all things black n funky with three stages erected in the downtown area to tempt you to forget your worries and ‘get on down’, weekly Thursday night ‘Parties in the Park’ where my apartment block adjourn’s for picnics and wine with entertainment provided by the LB Municipal Brass band, Tuesday night Movies on the Beach or in my case movie, the appalling ‘Where The Wild Things Are’ and last weekend, Red Bull Flutag at Rainbow Harbor where those magnificent men in their home made flying machines attempted, usually with very little success, to propel themselves Icarus style across the harbor water from an equally man made ramp.

Despite all this social activity gigs throughout the summer have actually been quite rare. Kings of Leon disappointed at the Hollywood Bowl although did give me the chance to visit for the first time what has to be one of the world’s foremost natural outdoor arenas, Ted Nugent was as usual a self opinionated laugh a minute on top of playing some killer rock’n’roll, so much so that I went twice in three days and just last week there was Y & T at Hollywood’s Key Club.

I went alone direct from work, spent an hour or so on Hollywood Boulevard mingling with the tourists watching Justin Timberlake film his latest movie outside Chinese Theatre and then when gig time approached made my way up Sunset Boulevard. It was the weekend of the Sunset Boulevard Music Festival, Slash was appearing at the nearby Roxy and the Strip was busy, more so than usual for a Thursday evening.

Street parking on Sunset Strip itself is practically non-existent and all along illuminated baton waving entrepreneurs attempt to entice you into small patches of waste ground they’ve somehow earned the right to call their own charging upwards of fifteen dollars for the privilege.

I’ve nothing against someone using their initiative to make a quick buck in fact I take my hat off to them but I still felt a great sense of pleasure when a vehicle slowly manouevering out of a metered parking space at the foot of an inclined side street just fifty yards from my destination caught my eye. I instinctively swung around, pulled in behind it and parked and, remembering my first visit to Sunset two years ago when I’d returned to my car to find a ticket for parking adjacent to a hydrant immediately stopped the first local looking passer by.

“Am I alright to park here ?” I asked.

There was a meter alongside and a bay painted on the tarmac but this was Hollywood and it could easily have been a trap. Together we scanned the lamp post signage and following a brief conferring agreed that all was fine and that if I chose to I could legally stay put for up to four hours. I fed the meter with the little silver nickels and dimes kept in my ashtray for such occasions and feeling pretty pleased with myself at having saved the price of a couple of beers left for the show.

It was well past midnight when I returned, I climbed in ready for the forty five minute drive home and as I turned the ignition noticed what appeared to be a strangely familiar piece of paper flapping under the wiper blade. Promo flyers advertising some social event or other are quite common in this area of LA, even more so during Festival weekend but I could tell straight away this wasn’t one of them and as I reached around and grabbed it the word ‘Citation’ hit me right between the eyes. WTF ?

I clawed the envelope open, scanned for the ‘Offense’ box and read aloud the three words written alongside; ‘Parking on Grades’. I read it again and it dawned on me I had absolutely no idea what it meant. I spotted another of the ubiquitous car park attendants in the distance, locked the car and strode up the street to approach him.

“Excuse me, but can you tell me what this means ?”

He took the slip from me, scanned for a second or too and then handing it back nonchalantly replied

“Have you turned your wheels into the kerb ?”

“What” ? My nonplussed look must have begged him to elaborate

“You have to turn your wheels into the kerb when you park on a hill”.

Hill ? My car was parked in the first available legal parking spot twenty yards from
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happy after england extended their stay
a main road on a slope that must have been at a guess about a 1 in 40,000 incline. Muttering obscenities I thanked him and drove home.

I’ve probably accumulated fifteen or so parking tickets since my arrival in the states and all have been paid without argument including a couple I probably could have got off with but I’d finally had enough of single handedly trying to save the State of California’s flailing economy and a carefully worded pardon request is currently winging it’s way across LA to the City of West Hollywood.

Now summer is slowly drawing to a close, I say slowly because as I write the temperatures outside are in the late seventies and I’ve begun the process of mentally preparing myself for the next influx of visitors. The three stooges, Big Jerry, Peter and Spike are due in little over two weeks and believe me that takes some mental preparation.

Before all that though there’s the small matter of a trip to be taken. A few weeks ago I started to feel the travel bug buzzing and the urge to explore returning. I wanted to go beyond America and Colombia is a
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The Canadian gals, maya n Marcie
place that had always intrigued me. I´d heard good reports of it during my round the world experience and almost on a whim I decided that I’d use the long weekend of Labor Day and go there.

I fly out of LAX tonight for a six day visit with nothing but my first two nights’ accommodation in the capital of Bogota booked and I’m excited. People have asked me why and what I´ll be doing. My reply to the first question was for an adventure, the second a shrug of the shoulders. Who knows what will happen, certainly not me but hopefully I’ll still be around to let you know in the next instalment.

Additional photos below
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Chester races with The Batt's
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Jamie with Shell swan's smash n grab

18th September 2010

I did pass once
Matt, I think your memory has gone. I can quite clearly remember passing to you once but you smashed it over the that was the end of me passing to you !! All the best Jimmy Kelly. Was out with Lace last week over in Liverpool at the Matthew Street Festival. He was absolutely smashed and over a meal at the end of the evening reminded me that a was a grey haired old twat !! thats what best mates are for.
20th September 2010

Better Memory Than Me.
Well if that's the case Jim then you've got a better memory than I have ! I'll have to check with Jamie to see if can remember cos I certainly don't. ;-)
14th August 2011

Alright Bill,its the pass master here,you must have had a thousand assists off me.I remember JK never used to pass to me either back in the Cambridge United days,think he scored about 100 in a season and i laid on 99 of em!
16th August 2011

Remember One !
I remember one and one only, in Wales somewhere playin for the Swan when your pass to my perfectly timed diagonal run was slightly behind me but I somehow took it into my stride and buried it in the bottom corner ala Grant Holt ! Also remember you losin it completely with The General after a bit of light criticism about your work rate !

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