It's not everyday you wake up in a hedge. Actually inside a hedge. Getting your bearings in a situation like that is difficult, I had to do some deductions. Firstly:
Where the bloody hell am I?
Why am I in a hedge?
What did I do last night?
I pulled my way out of there and discovered I was in the parking lot of a Houston bar called Lola's: a hellhole bar in the Downtown area, frequented by Transvestites, Bikers, Hookers and drug dealers. No wonder I was hiding in a hedge. Naturally I had no money, and only a vauge recollection of the previous night. Next, I had to remember where I was staying, well, I knew what the house looked like, but where? Houston is a big place!
I headed off in what I hoped was the general direction of Bellaire. People look at you funny in Texas if you actually walk, everyone drives, even it seems, the 20 metres to the nearest shop. To my delight, I found some loose change, and found a liquor store. I had enough precisely for 1 can of beer. There is a God.
After 'breakfast' I continued in a leisurely pace, along the massive freeways, sincerely hoping I wasnt going in the wrong direction, after 2-3 hours I was giving up hope, then with only the luck which tossers like me get, the guy whose house we were staying at drove past! He saw me, started laughing and I got back to the house.
This is where I discovered I had been missing for 4 days, and a local DJ had been putting out bulletins asking people to look for a long haired English guy who had disappeared. When I had left previously, I was wearing a Black T shirt and shorts, now I was wearing a green t shirt and matching shorts, fucking weird. I started getting flashbacks of the last few days, 3 girls in a bed, watching Mrs Doubtfire, drinking a case of beer. To this day I have no idea whether I touched any of them , I doubt it. The next flashback was Ken passing out in front of the police, then a pyschotic coke dealer's house where the guy's girlfriend was hitting on me whilst he was on the floor in the hallway, pointing guns at the front door, convinced the Police were outside, and later, in some bar, a Biker who told me that if I wasn't so funny he would have stabbed me. Mmm.. interesting.
When I started to come down, it was a bad couple of days, where I was seemingly bouncing up and down on the floor, shaking so bad. I found a suicide note lying next to me, and after laughing at the hysterical drivel I had written on it, I got a big flashback: searching in the wardrobe for a gun I knew was there, I must have passed out before I could find it. Fucking typical, can't even commit suicide properly ! I then found out I'd been sacked from my Landscape gardening job. However, new opportunities were on the horizon....
Why was I in Texas? I still wonder. This is the story:
I had been working for debt collection companies in London, and me and a mate ended up working for a new firm in South London. Our job was not the heavy end of things, just illegal phone tracing. The company was run by a very nice old man, who was a bit doddery, and he spent all day in the pub. He was being fleeced by the accountant, as we discovered, a raging alcoholic, who had no experience whatsoever. My mate Steve, we had worked together in a few companies, somehow discovered that the accountant guy had the company chequebook, and was cashing in cheques for him and his mates to go on benders. The guy was a weasily scrawny type, and Steve was the complete opposite, and a bit of a rascal (I think he would settle for that)
So we came to an arrangement, fucking cut us in or you are going to have a very unpleasant time. So it ended up at lunchtime, driving to the bank, where the Accountant cashed cheques, and anyone in the car was getting 500 quid (pounds) for just sitting in the back of the car! On top of that, me and steve got bored of actually trying to find people, so we just picked out people with the same name from the phonebook, 10 quid a trace.
Of course the shit hit the fan, the accountant, Steve and the manager all got arrested, I didnt, I was in Margate, and after a phonecall from Steve, I stayed there. I'd got quite a lot of money, and surprisingly no job. My obvious solution was 'let's move to Australia!' my mate Ken had a better idea, he'd been a professional Skateboarder in Houston Texas, so I bought us tickets and the next thing I know I'm on a plane with a stinking hangover, so me and Ken started nailing the beers and wines again, and by the time we landed in Houston, we could barely walk. We got through customs, then we realised, 'what the fucking hell are we going to do now?!' The solution was to hire a rental car, we had no driving licenses, as we were both banned at the time, and you had to have a name and contact of a reference in America to hire a car. The only one Ken had, was of an old Skateboard repairer and his name was...the one and only 'Wild Bill' ! (you couldnt make this up) I looked at Ken in disbelief as they handed this pissed up twat the keys, accepting his reference, then we staggered to the car.
Ken reckoned that we should go to his old hangouts and see if he could find anybody. It was now about 10 pm, and seeing as he hadnt lived there for over 6 years, it seemed unlikely. We drove to Lola's, as mentioned. Ive been to some rough bars, but this was something else, graffiti all over the wall, the afore mentioned mixture of Punks, Bikers, Transvestites, dealers, you name it they were there, it was a tuesday and it was rammed. I nearly shit myself and thought I would never get out of this place alive. Standing at the bar, Someone called out 'Ken?' he looked round and there is only 5-6 of his old mates sitting there! Apparently Tuesday night was the weekly get together. So we ended up staying at one of their houses, for 3 months. To say we overstayed our welcome would be an understatement. We ended up working for this Mexican guy, landscape gardening, after an initial foray into house maintenance.
We had met this black guy, Arthur, who need someone to fix gauze all the way round the underneath of his grandmother's house roof. No problem, can't be that difficult can it?! One stipulation: on no account enter the house without knocking, his grandmother would shoot you if you did, she'd had a violent husband and now she kept a gun by her chair. Nice. We didn't get shot, because we didnt dare to go in the house. Arthur by the way, had this massive dent in his head where some rednecks had tried to kick it in. Being black in Texas was not a good thing, even by the 1990's. Anyway, we got sacked after we completely fucked it up, hence the Landscape gardening. Why the Mexican called it that, I don't know, it was just mowing Lawns. We started the day with our new boss, hitting the bong, and then all day smoking spliffs in the truck during breaks. Try doing that, with a hangover, in 90 degree heat, Jesus.
After being sacked, Ken was himself sacked, for 'borrowing' the Boss's truck when he was on holiday, and doing the rounds himself, pocketing the money, very clever son! So the next most logical step was of course to become drug dealers. Cocaine was everywhere and Ken being an ex Skater, knew all the local dealers. If you have been a professional skateboarder and now retired, the chances are that you don't want to go and work in an office, do the math. By the way Cocaine and strippers go hand in hand, or at least they do in Texas, both are a mental experience, expensive and keep you awake all night. But I digress.....
We were 'fronted' an Eightball, and we were off. One of the best places to deal was the Blue Iguana, well it would be, if you were good at it, and didnt shove most of it up your own nose. We ended up doing the lot, minus one sale, which we spent on beer, and next morning realised that we had just ripped off a Texan gun toting drug dealer, whoops!
Luckily, he was an old friend of Ken's and had half expected this to happen, so we got away with it. We had to blame it on being English. We kept out of his way though afterwards.
Ken knew some Mexican bodyguards from the skating days, and we went to hang out with them, Dino, and can't remember his brothers name, twice the width and size and height of us two, they dwarfed us, and looked terrifying. Again, never judge a book by its cover, they lived in the 4th Quarter, in Houston. Not a nice place, but they were nice as pie, and up for a laugh. By the way, if you wanted to test the dangerous quotient of the 4th Quarter, drive through it late at night with all white passengers, and stop at traffic lights. Never stop at traffic lights there. Ever. In the dark you could hear running feet coming straight at you, and it wasn't to ask you the time, a group of 'gangbangers' (for want of a better term) appeared, shouting at us to get out of the car. Maybe it was time to leave, we did, Quickly.
We had a game with Dino and his brother, me and Ken would swan into a club, such as the Blue Iguana, with them towering over us behind, swagger up to the bar, and Dino would look down at the quaking barman, wondering who the fuck we were, and say, '2 Bourbon and Seven's for these gentlemen please', and then they would just stand impassively behind us in silence. The whole club would be looking. Then our 'bodyguards' would escort us out of the building, and we would all go and get pissed somewhere else.
I swear I must be the only guy in the universe who hates Reggae, but has met Bob Marley's mum. In Houston they have a Bob Marley reggae festival, 2-3 day event , and she is guest of honour every year, and because we knew DJ's, we ended up meeting her. Can't remember what we talked about, we were fucked. We were with a group of people Ken knew from the past, and out of earshot, he was given not so glowing references by them, confiding to me that once he had stolen all their coke. No change there then! I agreed that he was a conniving sneaky bastard, and should never be trusted. So Ken was ostracised for a day at least, and I was the good guy, Two faced, Moi?!! I still ended up lost wandering around a more stoned than Woodstock festival site, trying to remember who I was, the rest is a blank. Remarkable that they have a Reggae festival at all, bearing in mind they were still lynching blacks 60 years ago!
At weekends, after we had hooked up with these 2 girls, names escape me now, we had met them in a bar (where else!) one of them would drive us down to Galveston, on the Gulf of Mexico, Playboy hangout, Mickey Mouse looking mansions, and good beaches. Of course we were fully stocked up with the requisites. It's quite a long drive from Houston, and one major road takes you there, pretty barren, just the occasional Store and Gas Station. We used to come back at night, and it was a little bit intimidating, you've seen the films...anyway when I finally was back in England, one week there was an article in the Sunday Times magazine ( posh me!) about the most dangerous roads in the world, and which was the most populated with serial killers?, and of course at Number 1? The Houston to Galveston highway! Nice.
We met this guy, Dave, as redneck as you could get, who, like everybody else, ran his own business, building/house maintenance etc, he threw some work my way, I can't remember what Ken was doing, Living off this pyscho stripper he'd met I guess. (After I left, he moved in with her, and she kept getting him arrested and banged up for the night, on domestic abuse charges, which was bollocks.) We would hang out in Dave's house, listening to Stevie Ray Vaughan, getting stoned, drinking whiskey, and playing our new favourite game, 'Cocaine Jenga' the more lines you had, the braver you would be at building the tower. Dave lived with this nuts woman called Mary, fresh from rehab, who took a bit of a shine to me, especially my accent. I sometimes crashed there as we weren't particularly welcome back at the house, and at night, she would come down, with her AA book, and get me to read out the steps to her whilst she sat there staring intently at me. Don't know if she was trying to tell me something! Whatever, it didnt work. One night, me and Dave went out in his big fuck off redneck truck, with massive wheels, it felt like a tank, he started showing off, and lost control, and crashed through 4 gardens, bounced through a ditch, through a hedge; and I smacked my head on the windscreen. I was covered in blood, Dave said we better do a runner, so we legged it, leaving the truck there. (He reported it stolen, in the morning) If it wasn't for those bumper wheels, god knows what would have happened. One of my last memories of Houston was opening the door to some girl who usually bought weed from one the occupants, she was crying, and started going on about Kurt Cobain had just died, she was hysterical. I placated her by explaining who gives a shit, he was a sad miserable wanker, she ran off. Did I say something wrong?!!I was glad when I finally flew back to England.
The remnants of the whole escapade remained even when I got back. We were out in a friends car, tripping away, and we got pulled over by the Police. I was being rude, as usual, and he asked for my name, which stupidly I gave, he went and checked through the computer, next I'm in a Police cell for the night, and probably all weekend due to a public holiday, still tripping, they also found drug residue in my pockets. There had been a warrant out for my arrest for over a year for outstanding drink driving fines, which I had completely forgotten about.