Wednesday, January 29, 2014

You'll Never Walk Alone

My friend Grogs said told me that whether Liverpool win or lose when your actually in Liverpool you win. I know hundreds of people who have spent many a weekend watching football, drinking swill, dancing at clubs, hitting the seedy streets on stags and hens, and everything in between In Liverpool. I however have not. Living in America most of my adult live has meant I’ve sacrificed doing things that my mates take for granted. Things like going to Liverpool for the weekend.

We celebrated like kids on Christmas when Stevie G calmly tucked home a peno (that shouldn’t have been given) to equalize against an organized and very up for it Aston Villa. We were going to win 3-2, maybe 4-2. We danced in the stands and sang with the Kop. But as the clock quickly approached 90 minutes it became apparent that a draw was going to be a goof result for us. Suarez was getting the crap kicked out of him. Sturridge slowed – lack of game time catching up. Steve G was off his game, and our full backs looked hungover. No super last minute thumper from Steve G. In its place, some golf claps and a slow exit.

My first Anfield experience in 20 years ended in a 2-2 draw. It was a game we were supposed to win at least 3-0. Myself and Grog did the shuffle out of the stadium onto Anfield road, heading toward the boarded up houses like something out of the wire. They call it the Anfield Regeneration Project. It was after a little bit of crowd bumping that we made the democratic decision to have a pint in the nearest pub we could find. This happened to be The Arkles and was indeed a pub for “home fans only”. You don’t get this in the USA. And it’s a shame it has to be like this in the UK but alas some things never change.
‘Order 2 each Kel’, shouted a buoyant Grogzer as he discussed the game in depth with a bloke from Cork.  “Johnsons shite”, and “what was your man Cissokho like? He was running all over the place doing nothing” The post game discussion was happening behind me while I waited for shoddy Guinness  served straight up in plastic glasses. And when I arrived back with the swill in hand and a couple of packets of crisps in each pocket it suddenly dawned on me that we were in Liverpool and despite the draw we were both in great form. Onward.

We took a cab with a bunch of Swedes and headed for a night in the city. Liverpool is friendly and they embrace the Irish as their own. Scoucers are pretty much a nationality themselves. And years of immigration by Irish, and the hoards that travel each weekend for Liverpool games have meant we are adopted. Myself and Grog embraced the welcome and had an amazing night which was part reliving youth and nostalgia. Nothings changed in the 30+ years I’ve known Grog. And while returning to the hotel, fairly steaming, after a great night, I thought it could have been 1994, 2004, or as it was 2014. This is why I like to think I have the best friends in the world. And this is why growing up doesn’t have to mean growing lame. If its too loud, then you’re too old. And believe me, its not even close to loud. 

Peace and Love

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Day In Manchester

After spending a week working in the office it was really nice to head into Manchester to check out the city. I met up with my brother and nephew who were over to see Man United play Swansea. It was great to catch up with family. It always is. The rest of the day was spent in record shops and searching for the elusive epic beer bar that I was sure existed in Manchester.

I could easily lose myself in Manchester's record stores. The city itself is really great with a wonderful old world architecture that blends with the new Europe. Take a five minute walk off the beaten track to the Northern Quarter and the streets turn from commercial chain shopping to Bohemia, with record stores, cafes, indy clothes shops, and cool people. The musical history of Manchester is on par with any city in the world. They love their sounds. Joy Division, The Smiths, The Stone Roses, Oasis, to name a few. The streets Ian Curtis walked have changed but the Northern Soul remains. And the record stores that don't exist in Boston are alive with slabs of vinyl from every genre.   
I was lost in the tunes despite not owning a record player in the UK or even buying anything. I just looked at all the records I will buy before I head back and went old skool at one store selecting a load of techno and listening to the records on a 1200 turntable. Brought me back to the old days of record buying. Its inspiring that it still lives and thrives in Manchester.

Next up was the search for some real beer. I heard Manchester had a decent subculture around craft beer. I saw a list in the Guardian Newspaper but none of the bars were located in the Northern Quarter, and I had to imagine that alongside great record shops and coffee shops there must be a decent beer bar. A quick look on the Google machine offered Port Street Beer House and it was perfect. I found home! Absolutely fantastic beer selection from all over the world including many of the beers I know and love in the USA. Obviously I was all about new experiences and some of the drinks were beautiful. I kicked the session off with some Magic Rock, a brewery out of Huddersfield. Started with the Cannonball IPA and then progressed on to the amazing Human Cannonball Imperial IPA at 9.2%. It actually had a very smooth taste and was almost too easy to drink. I'm not saying I'd put it on the level of Maharaja IPA or 90 minute but it was still very tasty.

After the Magic Rock I moved onto Kernal Brewery out of London. They have very minimal labels on their beer and a lot of IPA's with different hop selections. I tried the 7.2% IPA with Centennial and Amarillo hops. Smooth and very solid IPA, similar to Founders Centennial. Its so great to see these breweries popping up and churning out IPA and 2xIPA. I missed the rise of this in USA so its nice to see it happening first hand. My conversation with the bartenders was joyful, and then I met Des. Good beer bars bring beer lovers together. Des is a local beer obsessive and he gave me an education like I've never had before. He has fallen on tough times and his hobby, and the thing that keeps him sane, is his passion for beer. Im gonna meet him again in a couple of weeks and we are going to tour the best beer bars in Manchester starting off in Salford, home to a great Belgian beer bar. He is also gonna take me to Salford Lads Club so like every other raincoated lover I can get my picture taken.
Leo pulling the pints
I started to get drunk and I don't know what the IPA I had on the right is!

Des gave me the heads up on all the great beer festivals in Belgium so I am gonna hit a couple. Bruges has a world class Beer Festival that happens on the same weekend as Cyclocross World Champs. I need to figure out how I swing both. If I have to sleep on the street I'll make it happen. Its all about experiences, right?

Solid first week in the North West and settling in nicely. Missing my friends back in BOS but if every week is as quick as this first one I'll be back before they know I've left.

Peace and Love,

Monday, January 6, 2014

Warrington, UK

I am going to start blogging again. Not because I've been inspired to write - I never could write to begin with, but because a significant life change has happened upon me and I want to capture it. It started today. I arrived in Warrington, a small town between Liverpool and Manchester to start work for New Balance Europe. Its a short term gig, maybe 8 months. And as much as I'm super down to be leaving my hometown of Boston, I am also relishing the opportunity to embrace the European lifestyle. Truth be told, its not a move I wanted to make, it was my only option, and was given to me by the awesome company I work for. I am so grateful to NB for how they have looked after me. My GreenCard has been held up by the Government shut down and therefore I need an extended time away from USA. Another company would have said tough luck, but NB found me a job and I need to embrace this. Its amazing that I feel so sad to be going away for a short period of time. And the more I look at it I realize that its circumstance that has me sad. I would probably be pretty sad if I was still in Boston but I'd feel more in control. How to combat this is to embrace the new experiences. Basically I am gonna become more like my old self and I am gonna fit more into the next 6 months than most fit into a lifetime. Only wonderful experiences, things I talk about doing but actually never bother to even try. Yeah work is gonna dominate, and thats my priority, but I will ride my bike up the great European climbs, I will drink Trappist beer - straight from the source, I will see football matches and go to festivals, I will drink espresso in every small village I can visit, I'll see all the great cities. Maybe I'll make some of the best friends in the world. Or I will meet a lady who will like me for me. Either way its gonna be an adventure and I am gonna capture it.

I set the bar low coming to Warrington. I had no reason to do this. I just love Boston so much that it can only pale in comparison. However, day one wasn't too bad at all. The people in the office are incredible. The place is very friendly, the staff in my hotel are some of the nicest I've come across in many years of travel. And through contacts I am quickly being plugged into a social scene of great people. My plan to get back to Drogheda every other weekend is already cracking. I want to get after it and not miss an opportunity to have a great experience. Manchester has a great music scene. The history is incredible and some of my favorite bands hail from the grim streets. The Smiths. Joy Division. Stone Roses. I'll be walking those roads. Lots to come.

In the meantime, I am digging the new Bombay Bicycle Club tune Luna. Its very poppy and makes a middle aged dreamer smile.

Peace and Love