After the Manchester Academy show last night, two girls led me to a nearby bar called Big Hands. We sat down across from a haggard grey man with a thick accent. After a few moments, he suddenly threw both of his middle fingers into the air. How had I sparked such hostility so quickly? I asked one of the girls, and she explained to me that people do this all the time in Manchester when they don’t like the music. If a shit song comes on, a Manchurian raises two middle fingers in the general direction of the DJ, or if there is no DJ, simply flips off the air. Vulgar United Kingdom, I am back.
I crashed at the girls’ apartment. Bright and early in the morning, they told me that it would probably cost 20 quid for a cab home. I had an hour before the van was set to drive off at nine, so I decided to brave the two-mile walk. The girls showed me the route on Google Maps, but it was complicated. Besides, half the time, I can never find the street signs when I’m in England. Thus, my technique was simply to ask street sweepers and cyclists and delivery men which direction Whalley Range was (the neighborhood where Darwin Deez was staying).
It was incredibly inspiring to wind my way through that Manchester maze of squat, red brick residences and commercial streets lined with closed stores. Alone. No map. No phone. I had a similar feeling three years ago, when I did my first solo European tour. It’s the “no safety net” feeling. The feeling of flinging yourself far out into the unknown and having faith that at some point, you’ll connect back with a familiar face that will bring life back to normal. In 2008, I had landed by myself in Amsterdam and spent the afternoon under the spell of magic mushrooms. It became time to meet up with my tourmates in Rotterdam. There was a moment where I was suddenly running late for the train, and then I wasn’t sure if I had boarded the correct line, and then wasn’t sure if any of the other passengers could speak English, or if i looked psychologically stable enough for someone to dare to help me. This is the no safety net feeling. It filled me again in Manchester.
People kept pointing me in the same direction, but with a noticeable air of skepticism, continually estimating that I was at least 2 miles away, and that Whalley Range really wasn’t the best place to try and reach on foot. I hopped over the divider of a busy street and spotted a person up ahead on the sidewalk. I decided he would be the next person whom I would ask if I was still on the right track. As I approached, I caught a giant silver van in the corner of my eye, parked in a driveway to my right. Sure enough, it was branded with the unmistakable blue Elephant Riders logo. Amazingly, I made it back! I had flung myself far out into the world and the world had caught me.