Swedish Fish

Ingrid and I woke up at 11 a.m. Today was the Oasis concert in north London. Although it was July, it was cold and rainy as usual. We walked the three miles from Angel to Finsbury Park, the venue of the concert, passing the hundreds of kebab shops and cheap markets of Holloway Road along the way.

 For some reason nobody smiles in North London. This is the home of Irvine Welsh and Johnny Rotten amongst other heroes of mine. But I am glad to live in Angel, which is a cleaner mix of new bohemian and media types. Better shops, less fights in the bars, and more predictable drugs from the dealers.

 As we approached the venue, nearly all the pubs were overflowing with people. We could not get close to the doors let alone the counters. We found a small café in the area and ordered a bottle of red wine and some club sandwiches.

 It took forever to get our food. The restaurant staff seemed overwhelmed, like they had never seen so many customers before. One of the cooks had to run to the store every 10 minutes to buy more groceries, which slowed things down even more. The bottle of wine was gone before our sandwiches arrived. We scarfed them down and left in search of more alcohol.

 For about an hour we stood outside the entrance gate at Finsbury Park and drank tall cans of Stella Artois that we bought at a corner shop off-license. The concert security guards wouldn’t let us bring the beer inside - so we hung around and chatted with the kids coming into the concert. Several teenaged boys were already getting sick a whole hour before the concert started. 

 One kid in a Vines t-shirt heard my American accent and engaged us in conversation. We talked about how exciting it was to see Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. I told him I was from Seattle. He asked me if I had been to San Francisco to see them before. I told them that San Francisco was a 12-hour drive from Seattle. He seemed surprised and said it looked closer on the map.

 Overall, the kid and his friends didn’t look so good. They were greasy and spotty and couldn't stand up straight. Another skinny kid with spiked hair confessed to me that they had been taking pills since 12 a.m. the day before.

 I asked the kid if they had any more. He smiled, like he had been waiting for me to ask. I bought two off him and gave one to Ingrid. The pills cost ten pounds each, which is a lot, but Ingrid said we should buy them because they looked like they worked pretty well. The pills were yellow and marked with a popular fast food logo. They were quite big and tasted like cleaning detergent which is always a good sign. My belly was already full from pounding the beers, but I easily found room for the pill. 

 Not needing much inspiration to get well pissed, but inspired by the young ones, Ingrid and I emptied the rest of our beers and headed into the concert. We headed straight for the Carling tent and bought two more tall ones and then headed towards the main stage.

 The first band, The Coral, came on and they were not too good but at least they got things going. It started raining and then it started pouring. The ground transformed from green to brown and people were slipping everywhere, even on the giant interwoven rubber mats that were supposed to improve traction and prevent people from getting trampled.

 When the first band was finished Ingrid told me to get more beer and so I brought back four more Carling’s. A new band came out. They sounded like The Door’s and the lead singer looked like a drunken monk. I had no idea who they were. 

 I asked another group of kids flopping around in the mud. They were similar to the other ones we talked to - young and wasted. The kids were laughing and desecrating the drunken “corpse” of one of their mates. He was half naked and passed out on his back in a puddle of muddy water. The kids put a sign on him that read “Will Suck For Food” and then they opened his fly and stuck an empty beer bottle in the hole. Passersby dropped change on him. Some of the coins were even whole pounds. 

 Suddenly I remembered that I had taken a pill but reckoned it was a dud because I didn’t feel any different. But sometimes when you eat and drink a lot the pills take more time than normal to kick in.

 I reached in my pocket and threw a 50 pence piece on the kid and asked one of his so-called mates who the band playing was. “I don’t know,” he said, “I am just here to see Oasis.”

 Ingrid told me it was a Swedish band called “Soundtrack of Our Lives”. I had heard of them but never heard their music before. Eventually they came to what they probably imagined was a dramatic closing and then stopped. Moments laters, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club appeared and started kicking ass.

 The sun came out and a giant rainbow appeared in the sky. It was Ingrid’s turn to get more beer. As soon as she left I felt my pill kick in and with the sun and the rainbow I felt like the universe was a good place after all and that I could do anything.

 Ingrid came back with more beer and we found a place on the rubber mats where we could sit down and still see the band. I kissed her. And then I proposed. I asked her to marry me in Sweden in October. She said yes. I told here I loved her. She told me she loved me. I told her how special she was and that I couldn’t imagine finding a better person to spend the rest of my life with. 

 When we go on a date she calls me and says “meet me down the pub”. She’s like a good mate except with long hair, a pussy, and tits. If I marry her I get instant EU citizenship. Fuck you, America. I am not playing - give it back to the Indians for all I care. Maintenant, moi je suis Européan. 

 Enough political bullshit. So I am now engaged. I was amazed I actually had the nerve to propose and then BRMC ended and we walked to the beer tent together to get more beer. I remember thinking no more individual efforts for the rest of our lives until death do we part. From now on we go to get our beers together.

 I have a hard time remembering anything clearly after that. I thought the next band was Oasis doing covers of the The Charlatans, but I couldn’t see straight and it was actually the proper Charlatans not covering anybody. My eyes were wigging from the raindrops and the sunshine and the MDMA. 

 When the band played “The Only One” or whatever their featured poppy song is, it started raining again and Ingrid wanted to go dance. We skipped past the people to the front. Massive waves of flesh knocked us about like a toy boat in an ocean storm. Mud was everywhere and limbs flailed as people tumbled and screamed by us. Good samaritans helped the hapless get up as quickly as possible before they got trampled to death by the next wave of people.

 Twenty or thirty times hundreds of people would slam into us again and start the process anew. It was anarchy in the UK. It was panic is the parks of London. The thrill of imminent death mixed with jouissance combined to make this a classic rock n' roll moment. 

 And then Oasis came on and 40,000 people screamed as loud as they could and rushed forward. Staying alive was not that easy because the kids were insane with drink, drugs, rock music and youthful exuberance. New Music Express later claimed the concert to be the top rated Oasis gig of all time.

 It was totally mental and now the same kids who were puking hours earlier were now moshing and furthermore bottles aimed at the stage were constantly whizzing by our heads. I got hit in the head by one of them, but luckily it was a plastic soda pop bottle and not a glass Beck’s one. 

 Shit. This was really the fun bit. Ingrid dragged me further forward towards the mosh pit forming at the very front. I lost all sense of time. I was knocked over at least three times and each time I seemed to avert death by centimeters. It was the same process as before but even more dangerous - a wall of kids knocked you over and then someone would help you up just before the next wave came and squashed you for good. I lost Ingrid and minutes later she came hopping on one foot over to me.

 Ingrid needed to get out of there because someone had stepped on her poor little Swedish foot. I wanted to stay because I didn't realize it was hurt pretty bad. When I realized she couldn't walk, I summoned enough strength to pick her up and carry her through the muddy crowd to the First Aid tent where they bandaged her. 

 The paramedic said Ingrid's foot looked bad enough that she needed x-rays, but the ambulance couldn’t go anywhere until the concert was over. I wanted to stay with her but they kicked me out of the medical tent for being too drunk. So I decided to get more beer and enjoy the main act. 

 The rest of the Oasis set was very good - the best band there that day. I was surprised because I thought they were finished after their last couple of shit albums. I am a pessimist when it comes to the life span of rock and roll bands. But it now seemed Oasis was over their sappy rehab crap and back into rock and roll proper. An unlikely comeback. In fact Liam sounded better than ever singing “Born on a Different Cloud” and the band jammed wonderful versions of all the traditional anthems that make the English feel happy to be English. 

 After the show we rode in the back of the ambulance to the worst hospital I have ever seen in Western Europe. Whittington in Archway. We got there around 11 p.m. We didn’t get seen until 9 a.m. after I complained eight million and four times.

 The receptionist apologized for the wait and she explained that independent of how you long you wait, the hospital always treats the most serious injuries first. 

 During our time in hospital purgatory we made friends with some of the patients in the hospital and they bought me coffee to help sober me up. The pain of the injury had instantly sobered Ingrid so she drank tea.

 Just when I felt we were ready to be seen, a guy came in at 4 a.m. with multiple stab wounds. It took both of the only two doctors in the hospital to patch him up for four hours. I remember explaining to Ingrid that he probably deserved it and they should let him die so they could bandage her foot and we could get the fuck out of there. They hospital wouldn't even give us any pain killers because they thought we were still too drunk.

 The other patients seemed used to waiting so long for medical attention. I made a joke to the nurse that Americans weren't called patients but 'impatients'. She didn't laugh and she didn't move us any closer to the front of the queue.

 One poor man's bald head was smashed open with a hammer or something. He looked like an extra in a horror movie just coming out of the make-up room. He sat there waiting forever because he was too in shock to complain about not being seen sooner. When we left the hospital he was still there talking to himself about the weather.

 The strangest guy in the Emergency Room however was a tall kid in his early 20’s with a bohemian goatee. I heard him tell the receptionist that he was feeling depressed and hadn’t been sleeping well. She asked him if he thought about killing himself and he said 'yes'. 

 I thought they would tell him to go home and do it, but they didn’t. They told him to take a seat and a doctor would see him in 6-8 hours. He sat down for the wait. What could be more depressing than that?

 It made me reflect back to when I had been so depressed at the same age. What advice could I give him?

 Go for it, you pussy! There are real sick people here. People who want to live but can’t. Here’s a knife. Slit your wrists open - and then you will skip to the front of the line.

 Finally, 10 hours after we arrived, a nice Irish nurse looked at the x-rays. She was pretty sure it was broken and claimed that Ingrid needed a plaster cast right away. Duh. There's medical science for you.

 Ingrid's foot injury was a freak accident. It could have been me. It could have been anyone. The NHS (National Health Service) sucks, yes, but at least it’s free. I learned a long time ago when I visited the former Soviet Union that you get what you pay for. When we got home from the hospital I scored a couple carry-out breakfasts from a local café for Ingrid and me and then we fell asleep.

 I wanted to make love to her, as my new fiancé, but I was too tired to be on top and Ingrid couldn’t very well ride me in her state. My headache was so bad I wanted a beer but there weren’t any left in the fridge. Plus I was pretty dehydrated so I chugged half a bottle of Volvic mineral water and went to bed, totally knackered.

 We woke up at 6PM. I went to store to buy Ingrid a couple days worth of frozen food because she couldn’t cook anything too complicated by herself. Ingrid specifically requested frozen pepperoni pizza and lasagna. I wanted her to be healthy so I got her a Caesar salad as well and some anchovies to sprinkle on top. In case the pain got too unbearable I picked up some cans of Carlsberg Export lager as well.

 On the way home I looked in a jewelry store for an engagement ring. The only one I liked was 250 pounds, which is all the money I had in the world. The store was closed anyway. Shit. I am a hopeless romantic. I bought her flowers instead. When I got home we ate the food and watched the Pink Panther. 
Suddenly Ingrid looked at me and said,

 “Hey, didn’t you propose to me yesterday?” 


 “Well... do you still want to get married?” 

 “I don’t know. I think I’m too scared. No, actually I am terrified.” 

 “But then you can get EU citizenship and we can be together.” 

 “God I fucking hate America.”

 “So do I. I love you, baby.”

 “I love you too, baby.”

 “Where do you want to live when we get married?” 

 “Italy or France. For the next ten years or so.” 

 “And then can we move to Stockholm and have a family?” 

 “Okay. Yeah. Whatever you want, baby.”