Friday, 4 September 2009

Big Portions, Cop Cover Ups, Leroy Brown and Boob Jobs

Leaving Crete wasn’t too much of a hassle.

I’d anticipated that the three coach journeys , the 4 hour plane journey and the 2 hour train journey once in London would be a right ball ache but it went surprisingly pleasantly, helped by having delectable Ozzy bird Danica with me as far as the aiport and a laptop crammed full of music and movies to delve into once cocooned in a foetal position on the plane in my Economy class seat.

England was the expected shitty weather, grey skies and drizzle. I was only there about 48 hours but was reminded yet again about just how much I HATE my own country at this point in history. The weather was one thing but the headline in Tuesday’s copy of Metro did nothing to assuage my rage at a nation which only 200 years ago had an empire but now can’t even produce a decent national football team.

The story was that a woman who had just had her 7 month old baby cremated spent an extra ten minutes in mourning by the coffin before making her way out to her family to be consoled and led grief stricken to the funeral motorcade and driven home. The crematorium in their infinite compassion sent her a bill of 86 pounds (eight sixty per minute) for the extra time she spent with her deceased offspring due to keeping the next set of mourners waiting. When contacted for opinion by the newspapers the crematorium offered to waive the fee as there were ‘extenuating circumstances’.

My faith in law and order was once again fully restored when I visited Angel in London (yes, my colonial cousins we really DO have a zone in the capital called ‘angel’) to sort out my bank accounts. Milling about the streets with the self confidence of a peacock in mating season were at least…ooh…15 or 20 PCSOs, strutting proudly with their stab proof vests, lack of arrest powers and lack of right to exist. I saw one proper cop the entire time I was in London and only then through the window of a police van as it cruised past.

As usual I started bleeding money the minute I landed in England. As my mate was putting me up for the stopover I nipped out to the 24 hour grocery store to buy some food and drink and 2 days supply came to nearly 12 quid

Hey, ho and away we go.

I resigned from the English police over a year ago after bullying and disability discrimination. Usually when this happens people just walk away and forget about it or seethe in silence. Not this puppy. After taking it to the Chief Constable (who fobbed it off to HR) and then to Professional Standards I was put in touch with a Detective Inspector in that department who, according to my contact in the Police Federation, was a ‘good guy’ and had devoted a lot of time to my case. Thing is I’m not na├»ve and was only too fucking aware that they were going to do shite all about it. We arranged to have a face to face meeting when I returned to the UK, which I guessed in advance was only going to be a formality so they could say ‘well, we listened to him’.

I met the Federation rep for a cup of coffee round the corner from the Police HQ just before the meeting to finalise what we were going to say. He told me casually that 6 Sergeants in his (and my former) area had been sacked in the last 12 months. I asked him for I knew any of them and much to my extreme dismay it turned out that one of the few sergeants I had ANY respect for, an inspiring and courageous officer who stood about 6 feet 4 and weighed about 22 stone without an ounce of fat on him, had been not only binned but sent to prison for 3 months for assaulting a suspect. He also told me the circumstances of the ‘assault’ and that the probationer who had been with the sergeant had been the one who ratted on him and got him arrested, fired and sent down. In case anyone thinks I’m encouraging police brutality let’s put it like this. What I’m told this sergeant did, did not involve physical contact, merely a threat and is something 90% of the population of the UK would wish they could have done given half the chance.

The meeting with PS lasted about 30 minutes and was predictably a fob off. The Inspector pointed out twice that it is against police regulations for former officers to make complaints against the force they worked for, IF the complaint is about events that happened while they were employed. He then added that he just HAD to give me the chance to put my side of the story over after having read my very emotive letter in January (detailing just how bad I felt about how I’d been treated),

How magnanimous.

He concluded his part of the meeting by saying ‘we believe you were treated badly, but we can’t prove it was unprofessional. I don’t think I’d have wanted to be treated like you were but like I said, we can’t prove it was more than robust’.
Translate all that as ‘we’re embarrassed you raised this as it makes us look like bullies but the only reason we even gave you the time of day was so we could say, if you go to the Press, that we gave you a fair hearing’.

I got up at half past cunt the following morning to take a night bus to St Pancras and from there to Gatwick. Security to check in was reassuringly tight with at least 2 checks on my bags. Flight was boring and the seats not as large as the last time I flew to the US in 2001. Had some old boy next to me who kept knocking back glasses of red wine and refused the in flight meal (that they then refused to give to me when I asked for it). He slept whenever he wasn’t drinking and I was actually afraid he’d piss himself as he’d imbued so much claret. Whiled away some of the 9 hours by watching Star Trek and Wolverine on the chair telly. The latter sucked but it was a very pleasant surprise to watch the Enterprise reboot as it kicked arse. Captain Kirk as a bad boy who fights like Jason Bourne, who’da thought it? The fact that Winona Ryder played Spock’s mother reminded me that I am in fact getting older though.

Landing in Atltanta and my pal Jess met me at baggage reclaim. She spotted my red buff (or doorag as they apparently call it over here) and hallooed me across the packed hall. Walked out into blistering heat from an air conditioned airport and was reminded of that bit in Chronicles of Riddick when they are hiding in the shade on prison planet Crematoria.

Cue a blur of fun and frolics in the land of the free. Nearly everything I’ve seen here so far is eye opening, soley because it’s soooo different to the UK. Everything from the size of the roads, driving 20 miles to a friend’s house for dinner (as a child that was a Sunday trip to grandma’s), 5 litre containers of milk, huuuge jars of peanut butter or cars the size of small yachts. Friday night we had a party and I ended up getting to meet two friends of Jess’s, one of which is very cute, in her early 40s and has grandchildren. She thought it was very endearing when I called her a GILF and was giggling the rest of the night. The other was a MILF and when she complained she couldn’t remember the last time she’d been kissed I chivalrously obliged with a sweeping embrace and tongue kiss. We ended up spending the night together, marred only by how much I’d drunk and the fact that her cats kept coming in and jumping on us.

After a week we took off to Nashville.

I’ve had pals on Facebook from the capital of Country and Western music for quite some time but had never seen the place up close and personal. We didn’t know that the Tennessee (sp?) Titans were in town for a game when we rolled in, meaning the streets were packed full and the hotel resembled Heathrow Terminal 5 a week after it opened. We had a decent room on the 8th floor and while the ladies got spruced up me and Mark took a short tour of Broadway, taking in the views of lots of blokes in cowboy hats, huge belt buckles and Levi’s jeans and plenty of females with summer dresses and cowboy boots. Found a souvenir shop that had acres of predictably goofy merchandise and surprisingly quite a lot of Elvis stuff, which is fairly odd as the King hails from Memphis. Later that night we went to one of the more famous bars The Stage where some good ole boys were belting out a boot skooting tune or seven and the mural on the wall had huge paintings of Johnny Cash, Willy Nelson and others just to set the scene.

Being English I had to keep reminding my self that this wasn’t a theme night and it would be perfectly normal in Nashville to go out wearing a 10 gallon hat, crocodile skin cowboy boots and to get all emotional every time “Sweet Home Alabama” is played. The wretched smoking ban has extended to this side of the pond and while outside smoking a fag a guy pulled up on probably the flashest Harley Davidson I’d EVER seen. Just to flaunt convention he also had no crash helmet on and his licence plate was “REDNEK”. I got him to take a photo of me standing next to it and pointed out that you have to attend the Bulldog Bash in Stratford Upon Avon where the Outlaws and Hells Angels have an unofficial truce and huge hairy blokes with ridiculously expensive choppers behave like perfect angels and the police do what they always do and have a complete overkill on manpower just in case the nasty bikers actually do do something naughty.

A bar in Johns Creek called The Red Rabbit has a karaoke night on a Wednesday night and pints of beer for a dollar a glass (well, plastic cup). The barmaid, like a few women I met over there, has had her tits done and has massive pert boobs and obliged by posing for a photo with a bottle of Bud stuffed down her cleavage while waiting at table. She wanted me to get up and sing but I refused, not solely because the stage was the size of a barn and there were about 100 people drinking in there but everyone who was going up to sing had a REALLY good voice. This could have been the acoustics, a backing vocal on the track or just good vocal breeding in the Atlantan populace. They got up one at a time to sing songs I’d never heard of, including the delightful “Leroy Brown” with the chorus:

“And its bad, bad leroy brown
The baddest man in the whole damn town
Badder than old king kong
And meaner than a junkyard dog”

Still, Alabama Slim comes into town and whups his arse by the end of the song, leaving him looking like “a jigsaw puzzle with a couple of pieces missing” so he got his just desserts.

The size of meals in the US was something I expected but still managed to catch me off guard. Sending out for Chinese food one night I was given a plate of sweet and sour that in the UK would have been a two person special plus two cartons of rice and fortune cookies. After shoveling most of it down and sitting there feeling sorry for myself with my belt undone and my trousers open I wondered just why no one in the UK has yet to catch on to the fact that they are being short changed with regard to take outs.

A friend of a friend has just been cast in a HBO sitcom. He is about 38, Israeli and good looking but comes across sometimes as a bit Sasha Baron Cohen. He asked me to help him with his accents, especially British, as his character is a barman who needs to be able to impersonate people as a plot device. So I suggested we try Scottish and told him to imagine the scene in Braveheart where Wallace’s wife has been killed and he has slaughtered the horrid English soldiers and rounded up the clans to fight the filthy Longshanks. I told him to repeat “a country of our own” and to imagine he was a kilt-wearing, claymore slashing, hairy highlander and that the pride of his nation was on his shoulders. He tried several times and each one came out akin to Rowan Atkinson’s Curry House sketch or the Sikh from It Ain’t Half Hot Mum. After about half an hour of him trying and failing I pointed out that William Wallace never sold curry or had an arranged marriage and he’d be better off with a dialect coach.

The simple joys of owning a car were highlighted by the fact that while everything was in easy reach provided you had a motor, walking to the store was summat else. The nearest food shop was a good 20 minutes stroll from the flat and 2/3 of the areas near the shops were bereft of a sidewalk, meaning I had to walk on the grass embankment. Further, the roads were almost all big, fuck-off ones that would be classed as a bypass in the UK so I was constantly aware of the procession of hurtling metal on wheels that was cruising past while I attempted to navigate my way to Dollar World. Also using mobile phones while driving is NOT illegal in Atlanta, meaning nearly everyone I got in a car with would receive, send or even type texts with the pedal to the metal and have long conversations with everyone from significant others to divorce solicitors. My host got narked off a couple of times when I made comments about her driving or the fact that the traffic lights had turned green. I had to point out that in England cops park up and wait to catch people doing this and it’s 3 points on your licence plus a £60 fine.

I was waiting to get asked for ID in a bar, solely to be reassured that I am young in flesh as well as spirit. After visiting about 4 bars and several grocery stores and buying booze in each one no one asked me to prove I was over 21 and then we went in Taco Macs and the waitress politely asked me and my friend to prove our age. Flights of angels sang as I reached for my UK photo driving licence only for me to spot, written on her name badge in small letters “we ID everyone”.

Oh well!!!

Took in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds to while away one afternoon while Jess was at work and as predicted it was utterly awesome. My friend Enzo Castellari directed the 1980s movie that this is a remake of and he can be spotted in the cinema scene at the end as a Nazi general holding a menu. Gotta love Tarantino, if only for creating an opening sequence that outdoes the entirety of Spielberg’s Schindler’s List in just 20 minutes.

Met a Police Sergeant while over there. A very attractive 30 something woman who came out for a beer one night at the Red Rabbit bar and was gob smacked to hear my stories about how neutered the English police are. She had apparently shot and killed someone in the line of duty (she wasn’t boasting, just illustrating the fact that US police are armed while UK cops’ most lethal equipment is pepper spray, which I saw 16 year old girls carrying in America) and said she found it hard to believe that we would transport prisoners and/or suspects in a police car that had no grill between them and the driver.

She asked me “what if someone becomes aggressive?”.

“Ah, well then you pull over and request the cage van”.

She shakes her head in disbelief. “What if someone has a gun when you arrive at an incident?”

“Then you back off and call Armed Response”.

“Where are they?”

“Minimum of 20 minutes away”

She stares at me then asks “what if someone’s already been shot. They could bleed out before help arrives”.

“Has happened”.

She continues to stare at me incredulously, then “the vests are only ‘stab proof’ you said?”

“That’s right”.

“So what happens if a bullet hits one?”

“It penetrates it. A few officers have died because of this. Kevlar isn’t exactly bio-degradable, it poisons the blood stream”.

She orders another beer and we change the subject.

My friend has a poodle called Willoughby who was a wonderfully playful mass of slobber and wool until she decided to take him for a trim at the doggy barber in town. Me and her pals were sitting in the bar having a beer when she sent photos via her cell phone of her newly spruced pooch, who now resembles a greyhound. It took the barber 12 hours on and off to shave him as she uses a hand razor and not an electric one and she didn’t want to hurt him. When we got home a completely different dog was waiting for us at the door who looked about 20 kilos lighter, actually had eyes instead of slits amongst candy floss and looked nothing like a poodle any more. Next morning he had me and Jess in stitches as he would walk past her full length bedroom mirror, catch sight of his own reflection and growl at it menacingly for up to a minute before sauntering off and then coming back 10 minutes later to do it again.

I discovered the “joys” of HD TV while State side. I had been led to believe this would be the equivalent of dropping pure Ecstasy after winning the National Lottery but it turned out that the only really noticeable effect it had was that it made Tony Soprano’s sweater look slightly brighter or the grass on the baseball pitch look more lush.

Still, I caught up with some bloody good HBO offerings including Hung, Entourage and another show called Rescue Me about firemen in New York city. God bless Flat Screen technology.

Flying home was stressful as my pal owed me $143 and we couldn’t find a bank. Eventually she pulled into the drop off zone at the airport, gave me her ATM card and PIN and I pegged it into the Arrivals lounge to get the money. After a kerbside check in (yes, they offer that too) near the main road I found out that the pound has finally regained strength against the dollar and for $140 I got about £76.


Had a final McDonalds once through passport control (a pre-requisite of travelling to the States) and settled into my seat to find a quite delightful, attractive woman had the one next to me. Better than the alcoholic old codger from the inbound journey. We had a good chat while I lamented the fact that some genius had put exactly the same films on the outbound flight at the one I’d arrived on, meaning it was Star Trek again. I tried Fast and Furious but after 15 minutes of Vidal Sassoon models doing stunts that Batman would have balked at, I switched it off.

The stewardess came up with the food trolley and just after I’d settled on chicken not pasta, she was distracted by her colleague on the other side of the corridor and then put the tray back in the hatch and went, “I’ve just been told I have to start with number 22” and served the people sitting behind us. I was none too pleased, especially as this meant we would be last ones served by the woman pushing a trolley currently adjacent to seat 1j and 1k. Ten minutes later and the original bird suddenly comes back with “turns out I was right after all” and plonks a chicken dinner on my tray. The final straw was when my neighbor asked to see the choices and the stewardess barked “I’m not going to do that for everybody”.

I waited until the trolleys were out of the aisle and had a word with the Purser who at least appeared embarrassed and said she would “have a word”. 45 minutes later the stewardess appeared, crouched down next to us and apologized profusely. I shook her hand and thought no more of it….except to realise that I won’t be flying Delta again.

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