Liverpool, Day 3

14 June, 2018
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Holy cats, what a crazy three days. I loved every minute of it. Well, almost every minute; I was just OK with sitting in the laundromat for an hour and a half. And, fellow Americans, this is a Liverpool “launderette.” Microscopic, but very clean, and the gal working there was super nice.

The day started with my 9:00 appointment at the Beatles Experience museum — the #1 Beatles attraction in the world, and one of the main reasons that an annual £82 million is added to Liverpool’s economy, courtesy of J/P/G/R.

Speaking of money, here’s another fun (or maybe not-so-fun) fact: The Liverpool airport is named after John (Yoko gave a bunch of money for it). But Paul, who bought an entire falling-apart city block and completely refurbished the London Art Institute and accompanying school buildings and turned it into a fully functioning university, providing hundreds of jobs, and who has given countless millions to charities and restorations all over town — doesn’t even have a street named after him. Don’t you find that odd? Not that Paul was/is an angel, mind. Everyone knows he’s been a straight-up self-promoter since the age of 18. But still — John *never* returned to Liverpool after leaving it. Pretty much washed his hands of it, except for one small donation to a sculpture in the town square. Paul has remained actively involved in the machinations of his hometown all these decades — yet John gets the airport? Hmm.

Anyway…the Beatles Experience was a fine one. Perhaps the best parts were the painstakingly detailed recreations, from the studio at Abbey Road, to the rooftop of Apple, to the Casbah (something I wish I’d had a chance to see this time around, as it was the very first place they played), to John’s white room at Tittenhurst where the “Imagine” video was filmed. Here are some photos.

Click on the first one to bring the photos up in gallery mode:

After the Experience, I walked to a cafe and had shortbread and a coffee, in hopes of waiting out the 40 MPH winds so I could ride the ferry. Nothing doing. So I made my way back to the hotel, summoned an Uber, and went across town to do the laundry.

When I got back, it was time for more wandering. I had an early dinner at an American restaurant near my hotel (it was tasty), then came back and got dressed for the Cavern Club and the Jacaranda — two important places in the early lives of the Fabs.

The Cavern is down a small alley; not at all the glittering entryway of stars. In fact, this is a perfect replica of the original Cavern, which was filled with earth in the 70s to facilitate the construction of the Merseyrail train line. However, they did use many of the original bricks in the reconstruction within the same area of the street in the 1980s.

Pursuant to modern-day safety regulations, it was expanded and properly ventilated, as well as sunken a couple more levels beneath the ground (I stopped counting at five sets of steps into the club).

The cool part was it was totally crowded — and not just with tourists — on this Thursday night at 7 p.m. There was a live act (guitar player) who had everyone singing along, and many were in various stages of non-sobriety, enjoying themselves.

It was hot down there tonight; I can only imagine what it was like back in 1961 from the stories I’ve heard and read. The condensation from the body heat alone made the walls cry, and everything was damp and smelly from burgers and BO. Can you imagine if a fire had broken out, with all those stairs to climb…insane. I walked around a bit and people-watched. It was definitely a party atmosphere. I tried to imagine this tiny place (now much bigger, with a gift shop and offices and extra seating space) when the Fabs played at lunchtime, all those years ago. Oh, to have been a part of that scene.

I ended my evening with a quick stop at the Jacaranda, where the Lads would go after school, away from adults, to have coffees and cigarettes. It looked as if they were getting ready to have a lecture or poetry gathering or something in the downstairs cove, so I hightailed it out of there, but not before closing my eyes and imagining George at a corner table, joking and smoking.

 

What a fantastic journey this has been so far. It was both a tribute to the Thriller’s memory, and an odyssey to find out more about the Beatles’ early story, in an effort to further understand why their music speaks so strongly to my soul. I’m still searching for that answer, but maybe I just need to accept it for the magical mystery it is. I hope you’ve enjoyed coming along with me; tomorrow starts a new journey to London and craziness with Suzanne! Until then…peace and love!

Liverpool, Day 2

13 June, 2018
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Man…a weird, emotional day. I loved every second.

Today I stood in several places that were heretofore just part of my imagination. I can’t count how many times over the last 50 years I’d wondered where these guys lived, how they lived, where they played, hung out, went to school, etc. Well today, I found out.

My entire morning was taken by David Bentley of Day Tripper Tours. What a gas. He’s so knowledgeable, personable, funny…it was a pleasure to be his singular guest for several hours.

He was also a great storyteller, and one of his tales blew my mind. More on that in a minute.

We went so many places and saw so much, I’m afraid I can’t remember it all in order. But we did see the two homes that the National Trust Tour (which I took later) didn’t feature: the boyhood homes of George and Ringo.

12 Arnold Grove — George’s boyhood home

George, for those who don’t know, had a very loving, secure childhood and adolescence. His family were close-knit and supportive of him, and he never felt unloved. He lived in this tiny row house in Speke (a suburb of Liverpool) for the formative years of his childhood, before moving into more spacious quarters in Upton Green later on. George was born in this house. It’s now privately owned, so we couldn’t go inside. Same with Ringo’s boyhood home, which is undergoing a major construction project, so they had the area blocked off.

Fun fact: George and Ringo were born at home. John and Paul were both born in the hospital.

Most interesting to me was the history of how the Lads met and began making music. As is well known, they weren’t the Beatles first; they were the Blackjacks, the Quarry Men, then Johnny and the Moondogs, Long John and the Silver Beetles, the Silver Beetles, the “Beatals,” then the Beatles. It was John and George and some school friends first; Paul didn’t join till well after the now-famous Woolton church fete where he met John for the first time, and Ringo not until long after that.

I’ve always been particularly interested in their Hamburg years, when they really learned to play as a unit, and they polished their act under the most horrible working/living conditions ever — only to return to Liverpool and conquer the world. Such a great story.

Of course, David covered the Penny Lane story. There really was a barber shop and a banker who never wore a Mac (raincoat) in the pouring rain. There really were nurses selling poppies from a tray behind a shelter, in the middle of a roundaboutPaul really does remember “four of fish” (fish and chips you could buy for fourpenny) and firemen running about. What you may not know is that the song “Penny Lane” isn’t really about the street, per se, but just the general area around it. Still a classic.

After I said goodbye to David, I took the National Trust tour, which actually allows people to go inside the childhood houses of Paul and John.

Of course, no photography was allowed inside, but suffice to say that it was impressive how so much living could be undertaken in such small quarters and still call it a “house.” Incredible.

What sort of bothers me to this moment is a story David told me when we visited the cemetery behind St. Paul’s Church in Woolton. Blew my mind, actually.

Paul has always maintained that he made up the name “Eleanor Rigby,” as well as the story behind it. Well, David has another version on good authority, and I’d never heard it.

John spent a lot of private time in that cemetery, “talking” to one of its inhabitants — his uncle George Smith (Aunt Mimi’s husband, who died when John was 15). Other friends had witnessed Paul and John goofing off in that area, and then, when the monkey business was over, John would retreat to his uncle’s grave, lean against the headstone, and talk to him. All the Liverpool friends spent lots of time in that cemetery. Paul had to have seen this gravestone at some point. Anyway, at the time, John told his buddies he was going to write a song about a girl called Eleanor Rigby; even explained the circumstances (she suffered from depression, so she kept her public face “in a jar by the door,” and ended up dying young and alone). It was much later (1966) that Paul turned up at the studio and said he’d written a song about a person named Eleanor Rigby — complete with the details John provided all those years ago — and never acknowledged John for any of it. This is now known to many Beatles cognoscenti as the true beginning of the end of the band.

Interesting, eh? Maybe not. Truth is, Paul and John disagreed on many band issues. For instance, Paul claims credit for the entire tune of “In My Life,” but was never credited with such by John. Bummer, because that song has consistently been at #1 or close to it on every Beatles “best song” list since they broke up.

OK, enough yammering. Are you still with me? If so, I promise to dispense with the lecture tomorrow. :-) One more day in the north, then it’s off to meet fellow RtB fiend Suzanne in London. Wahoo!

Liverpool, Day 1

12 June, 2018
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Well here we are, in Jolly Olde. I think I may have overstated my worry about overseas travel, as I have received many congratulatory messages on social media for making it here alive — for “surviving.” hahaha OK, probably my fault. But enough already — please. I’m good. :-)

Speaking of overseas travel — or any type of long-distance trip when you’re cooped up in a cramped space with dozens of other people, I have three words of advice for you:

Noise.
Canceling.
Headphones.

I know that little Trevor (3-year-old seated directly in front of me) and little Georgia (also 3, seated several rows behind in the next cabin division) just wanted to get off that plane and go home. And six hours is a long time to make a squirmy toddler sit. But again….Noise. Canceling. Headphones. :-D

So along we went, soaring at 40,000 feet, and I monkeyed around with the video screen on the back of the seat in front of me. It didn’t take long to see that in some small way, the Thriller was here with me. On their “Classic Rock” music selection, they had the entire album End of the Innocence, which contains one of his favorite songs. I listened to it a few times over.

But I think he stayed on the plane, because it was insanity from the moment it touched down in Manchester. It took them f-o-r-e-v-e-r to find a parking space, and of course, I’d planned to allow myself 30 minutes to get to the train station (a 10-minute walk) after our on-time flight. Good, ja? Nah, not so good. I missed the first train, but fortunately I’d bought an all-day ticket. So I waited in the damp cold for an hour for the next one.

One train switch and an hour later, I was walking into Liverpool Central Station. A nice gentlemen told me how to get to my hotel. Fifteen minutes later, I walked into the beautiful lobby of the Nadler , ready to get off my feet after schlepping my 17-lb. backpack all over creation. They said sorry, but my room wasn’t ready yet. Oooookaaaay. I sat in the beautiful lobby and tried to not fall asleep. In 30 minutes, they came and got me. A nap was definitely in order, as I’d been awake for about 22 hours.

Then it was exploring time. I walked the narrow streets (many with the cobblestone and bricks still showing) and ended up at a pub on Bold St., where I had my first proper meal of fish and chips. Delightful! (But I couldn’t finish that enormous serving.)

After some more curious walking, I decided to turn it around and head back to the hotel, but not before stopping at Greggs and picking out a Spiky Mikey for a bedtime snack.

It’s late now — after 1 a.m. –and I’m still getting accustomed to the time change. I think I’ll sleep till 6, then escape somewhere for a quick breakfast before David, my private tour guide for the day, lah-dee-dah, comes to pick me up.

More tomorrow, fiends — thanks for coming on the journey with me!

Detours

29 May, 2018
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Greetings, all. I know — it’s been quite a while.

I wanted to write to you after the interment ceremony back on 27 April, but I just didn’t have it in me. Not much to say when you’re feeling kind of empty. But the days since have been so full of activity with the school year circling the drain, it didn’t really give me much time to dwell on it. And as I always say, he wouldn’t want me to dwell on it. So I try to honor that, for the Thriller, but…easier said than done, ja?

2015, in the peak of health- a beautiful Aussie specimen

It’s been a spring full of  disappointments, joy, revelations, more life changes, and a handful of mixed emotions. What a crazy, zig-zaggy road it’s been.

Three weeks ago, we lost Pax. He fought a brave battle after suffering an event that kills many dogs outright. I had another wonderful 11 months with him, and I will miss him forever.

I held his face in my hands and kissed his snout as he drifted away peacefully. I hope he sensed me there, talking to him. I have never known a sweeter dog. He loved everyone he met, and so many loved him back. Such a precious soul.

I’ve enjoyed having my four grandsons nearby — what fun!

The Odyssey is 13 days away. I’m très excité. But I confess it’s taking a back burner to my worry about sister Mavis, who’s in the hospital yet again with an infection and pneumonia, following her abdominal surgery last month. As my departure date looms, I get a little more nervous about leaving.

Sometimes, I admit wondering why things just can’t be easier. Then I think of people whose lives are truly difficult, and I’m ashamed to have complained about what many would term an embarrassment of riches: I have a good job, a comfy home, decent health, a loving family, and good friends. What do I have to complain about, seriously? I know — not much. So I’ll quit it, and just concentrate on paying all this forward, in gratitude and servitude, as so many people have shown that same grace to me in word and deed over the last five months.

Good to be back, writing to you. I hope you’re well. Four more days for me, then another school year is in the books. That alone is tap-dance worthy.

Hugs to all.
RF

Odyssey 2018

7 February, 2018
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I confess it makes me sad to look at all our past Odysseys in the category list and see the gaping hole that was 2017. Twenty-seventeen was a sad year, and I’ll always view it that way. I’m starting to become accustomed to the notion that I will never “get over” the Thriller not being with me; rather, I’ll just learn to deal with it better. And I’m all right with that, because I know that’s what he’d want from me.

He also wanted me to take this upcoming trip for years. So I’m doing it.

Odyssey 2018: The Pilgrimage.

Fully 40 years in the making, it’s going to be quite the reward for my outrageous fandom. I will try to not act like a giddy fool.

Now, to those who know me and my issues with aeroplanes, you know this is a big deal. And not only am I flying to UK this summer, I’m also flying out to Sacramento to visit Kay. Whaddya think of that noise? Me and my Valium will get a major workout on the runways.

My sister Vicki and sister-in-law (also Vicki, and a native of Manchester UK) have been super helpful with the details of what to do in Liverpool, and where to go, how to get there, and what to do stateside to prepare to leave. I’ve also done some research on good tips for women traveling alone, and I must say I’m really looking forward to it. Super huge thanks to my sister Mavis, who will take great care of my pups so I don’t have to worry at all. (Fellow pet people know what I’m talking about.)

Super-coolest detail, though: if the planets align and she can swing it, my dear fiend and fellow RtB citizen Suzanne will hop a plane from her home near Amsterdam to join me for a couple of days on the London leg of my trip. How fun is that?

So, come 10 June, I’m traveling to northern Illinois to visit with my four fabulous, crazy aunts, stay the night, and then drive to Chicago to jump on the plane to Manchester (if I must fly, I prefer direct flights and don’t mind driving a bit to grab one — and the price was right this time). From Manchester airport, I’ll get on the train to Liverpool to relax for a bit at the Nadler, then start my wanderings. Can’t wait.

Are you doing something fun or outrageous this summer? If so, do tell — I don’t want to feel like the Lone Ranger here.

Love to all.