Patsy Gallant – From New York To L.A. (1976)
I’ve emptied the fruit machine in a gay bar just once in my life. You think it’d be easier, the Venn Diagram for fruitchat.co.uk and fitlads.net is two completely separate circles. But even so, it’s pretty vivid in my mind. It was one of those Monopoly-themed machines from the early 200s back when the jackpot was still £50, not £70. £25 repeater. Didn’t even have to do anything special to it, just played a few spins and hit invulnerability mode. Easy.
The bar was in Canal Street in Manchester, which was one of those places I was stunned to find out actually existed and wasn’t just something on television, like Ashby De La Zouch or the room in supermarkets where they take the shoplifters. I was studying in Lancaster and always ended up in Manchester to see third-tier indie bands just as an excuse to get out. I was with some Brummie girl who had attached herself to me. I realise now that she was crushing on me because she saw me as an “authority figure” (who isn’t turned on by the editors of student newspaper music sections?)
She was a queer girl. Short. Really, really short, but not that shortness where there’s some short-person anger and energy in them. Just a scaled-down human being on every single level. I knew she had problems because she fucked one of the university’s main drug dealers, and that tends to be something people who are happy with their life don’t do. Her family were Irish as well, so there’s a furlong of alcoholic abusive father stereotypes I’m more than happy to assign to her to explain why she was so intent on going with me to watch The Whateverthefucks in a 100 capacity venue somewhere near Paddington Station.
It’d also explain how I’d ended up in this gay bar. Post-gig, we’d been wandering aimlessly about, and when you’re that age you don’t understand the value of just sitting down and drinking somewhere sensibly. Everything has to be an adventure, why throw down £20 at Yates when you can walk half-hour and spend £50 in some Ugandan bierkeller?
So we’d wandered around after this gig and she’d beckoned me into some random bar on the basis that Erasure were playing. I know, I know, but it was late and I was half-cut at the time. Plus I went to an all-boys’ school so although I’ve never fucked a guy I’m basically 85% gay anyway.
The girl randomly showed back up in my life maybe three years ago, her band had supported The Fall on tour. She made some loose references to “dark periods” in her life. Drug addiction? Homelessness? Being on the game? They were all possibilities. She had a university degree and a marriage certificate by the age of 23, and anyone who has both of those but isn’t a Christian fundamentalist has to have been through some shit in their life. She asked me to manage her band, I turned down the offer, and when she left in the morning I realised she’d stolen series 2 of Curb Your Enthusiasm on DVD off me. Strange girl. Never really wonder or care what she’s up to now.
But yeah, the evening I spent £50 on shots in a gay bar with a tiny Brummie who may have later gone on to be a crackwhore was as a result of a Monopoly fruit machine jackpot, and as each and every single one of those coins came out (n/h) of the machine, “From New York To LA” was playing. I have never felt more like a pimp than with an empty pint glass full of loose change stumbling to the bar as this song played loud and shirtless Swedish guys pashed in the corner. I mean, one thing you have to appreciate with life: you don’t get to choose your moments.