MY HEART GOES OUT TO BUFFALO
Some time ago - back in 1994 - I took a road trip to upstate New York with my buddy JJ. To us it was a big American adventure. To everybody else in upstate New York, it was winter. Let me tell you something we have both discovered from this bitter experience.
There is winter and then, there is Winter.
We took an overnight Amtrak out of Penn Station and before too long, things began to look like this:
Which was a little worrying as we were thousands of miles from home with a grand total of £60 between us. In hindsight, we probably could have thought it out better. That money doesn't translate to a whole lot more these days either. Still, it was pretty exciting to be on a warm train travelling north into the darkness of the night - rather oblivious to what was really going on outside.
When we reached the end of the line, it was 4am. The station was in darkness, there were no people but us and a very lonely (yet kind of sexy in the dim light) looking machine that would feed us M&Ms by the handful in exchange for a quarter. So we did what any battle-scarred rock-types would do, shrugged our shoulders at the predicament and tried to go to sleep until the day arrived.
The laws of physics clearly state we should have died that night as we later discovered the temperature had dropped as low as -32 (that's a minus sign, not a dash). Many people did die that winter. I don't know how we escaped it. Likely because we were immortal and our engines were full of adrenaline coated coal. Having established that it was Extremely Cold, when we woke, we went outside to find it looked something like this:
The snow was easily eight feet deep and it was still snowing.
It's kind of hard to find where you're supposed to be going when everything is buried under a pile of snow. That was the first time that I had ever seen first hand how places like Moscow and other traditionally winter-like places keep functioning when it gets bad.
Anyway, to cut a long, cold story a lot shorter than it is. We were picked up in a car by a friend and we drove even further upstate - and I promptly fell in love. Over the next few days, I fell in love with how you could walk into a warm radio station and get your music played simply because you were British. I fell in love with the frozen lake and the idea of opening a rock club on its edge and I fell in love with the dream that such a stupid idea might even work. Talking of clubs, I also fell in love with a barmaid at a club called The Lost Horizon but that might have been the all you can drink for $5 thing they had going on at the door.
There was one night - in which we were safely inside a house in which there was a TV and a fridge - we got totally snowed in. We sat up all night in front of a fire, repeatedly watching The Bronx Warriors and collectively decided we had been slackers and dusky dreamers for long enough.
If we couldn't hatch a dream in a snowbound America, then where the hell could we?
Many hours later, JJ had it figured that he would come back to the UK and work on becoming a DJ in a club. For my sins, with my band falling apart at the seams, I figured I had best have a back up plan too. I would launch a magazine. What the hell did I know about running a magazine other than I could see how some did it (that sucked) and how others did it (in ways that really didn't suck).
When we eventually made it home - after spending our very last shared dollar on a lottery ticket at the airport (because that's The American Dream) and despite it looking like we might have needed that dollar for some food due to something like this:
... we got home and got to work.
Twenty years later, progress has been good to say the least. We both probably take for granted and have long forgotten how we dug ourselves out of our snowed in mindsets of the time. JJ has DJ'd (by my rough estimation) over 3000 nights at his decks in The Krazyhouse in Liverpool (amongst others) and I have published/edited in some form or other, over 200 magazines and easily written over a million words in the process.
For both of us, the work continues.
It doesn't really matter what any of us think of those loose statistics - they mean nothing to anybody aside from J and myself (and even that's debatable) - but what brought me to write this was that yesterday, an old friend got in touch, I heard news of an old friend that died, news that some other old friends had been asking about me and I got to wondering what it was all about.
Then, really late last night, I came across a piece of paper 'hidden' in the pages of a book I surely can't have even opened since back in 1994. On that sheet of paper is a song I had clearly intended to write called 'Dream Under The Snow' - which is an awful song title every single day of the week. That's all it says though. There are some sketchy pencil notes beneath but it remains unfinished - nothing bar a working title with a line under it which I guess makes it unstarted, not unfinished - written by a 20 years younger version of myself.
A message from a previous version of me to an older model? Who knows.
All you need to know is, in the worst winter I have ever lived through, I fell in love with America and found enough of myself beneath the snow to save myself from oblivion.
Winter Is Coming. Shovels at the ready please.
The pics used throughout this post are of the snow that arrived yesterday in Buffalo. People of upstate New York: for those about to dig, we salute you.