Sunday, August 16, 2009

I spent part of last week in Leeds. There are few cities I would rather not visit again. I know – I’m perhaps not being fair. Well after visiting I can say that Leeds wasn’t very fair to me either.

On my first night in my ‘guesthouse’, a British term that loosely means a mediocre cross between a youth hostel and a B&B, I asked the hotel ‘manager’ where a chap could procure some decent victuals. He replied, ‘Everything around is good. Just walk up the street.’

So I did and I found the world’s longest stretch of kebab shops. I passed ‘Homer Chicken’ and two pizza joints. I looked in on a chippie that by the state of mould on the walls, doubled as a homegrown penicillin factory. I sauntered to a corner pub, which disappointingly looked like the very place where a fellow could get a pint of Tetley’s, a social disease, and a knife in the kidney. I kept walking.

After nearly an hour circling the University of Leeds, I was back where I started. I popped into a corner shop across the street from the campus to buy a paper. They didn’t sell newspapers, or so I was told, so I bought some ginger snaps and walked on.

Eventually, I made it to a pub called “The Library” a name that would appear witty there wasn’t a bar by the same name in every university town in the United Kingdom and quite a few in America as well. Upon entering, I went to the bar and ordered a hamburger. While waiting for my change, a 18 year-old came up to order drinks for his mates and cordially asked if ‘this lady’ was being served. By ‘this lady’ he meant me. I said ‘no’ and he said ‘oh, sorry mate’ before ordering 5 double vodka red bulls.

All this on a Monday night.

On Tuesday I decided to walk into the city after a disappointing lunch on campus consisting of a yogurt pot and some instant coffee. I made it just past the nicest building in the city, the juvenile court, when two aggressive drunks, begging for change, began heckling me with many loud expletives. Defeated, I went back to my ‘guesthouse’ for some decaf Nescafe and ginger snaps.

I have no small experience with drunken people, but for some reason the UK produces a very high number of talkative drunks that seem drawn to Americans. They are compelled to tell us three things: that they are drunk, that they are unhappy about something in their lives causing said drunkeness, and that they have been to Florida. Last night, while sitting down for a pub dinner at 6 PM in Glasgow, a morbidly intoxicated vagrant in sweatpants fell into our table and then began telling us of his marital problems. Then he kept telling my wife that A: he wasn’t gay and B: her husband was a very attractive man. And that he had been to Florida.

We eased him away after a very laboured conversation, and he fell out the door with the same dexterity he exhibited in falling into our table. It was most enlightening and a fateful warning against getting too close to anyone who would wear sweatpants in a public house.

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