I am the Passenger: A Eulogy
The perennial passenger.
So what does an Irishman who’d come by with his guitar to serenade me with weepy Irish songs (the Irish can compete with the Hungarians for misery, I’ll tell you that) have in common with a classic Iggy Pop song? Well, it’s the kind of thing that could only have happened to Yudge.
I’d been living in Leicester at the time, and one afternoon he’d taken the train down from Sheffield, armed with gee-tar and a bottle of red. We met up in town first, had a couple of pints at this dodgy pub full of arguing Scotsmen, then landed in a tapas place with a pitcher of sangria rapidly disappearing between us. After that it was back to mine, where Teddy and I were regaled with tragic musical tales of lovers lost at sea and potatoes that refused to grow – all this to the accompaniment of that very potent bottle of red. In between this melodic misery we had the comic relief of Iggy Pop – and I made my mate sing “The Passenger” at least three times, too. Damn, even now I still love that song!
When the bottle had run dry and we’d likewise run dry of songs (not even The Beatles were sacrosanct), I realised I either had to offer my sofa for the night or pack this Irish crooner into a taxi. The taxi won out, since there was plenty of time to catch an early evening train back up north to Sheffield. However, when the clock struck midnight (okay, the digital face on my bedside clock) and I hadn’t received so much as email or text, I became concerned; it was only an hour’s journey. I texted, I phoned, neither of which yielded a result. Where in hell had he vanished to? Had he run into a mate and gone down the pub? – or worse, run into his estranged wife and her gangster boyfriend? There was nothing I could do but go to bed and hope for the best. He was a grown man – surely he could look after himself. He may have had the heart and soul of a poet, but he’d grown up on a rough estate in Belfast.
The following afternoon the phone rang. No, it wasn’t Sheffield’s version of the Old Bill trying to touch me for bail money. It was the errant Yudge, telling me that never again would he go near red wine; from now on he’d stick to white. It seems he’d fallen asleep on the train and ended up in Leeds – and there were no more trains back down to Sheffield. Thus while I’d been frantically staring at my clock, he’d been wandering about Leeds city centre armed only with his guitar and a terrified expression, being eyed up by all sorts of shifty characters, until he finally ducked into a hotel that had a vacancy on offer at the extortionate rate of 160 quid. It ended up being the most expensive day out this “passenger” ever had. Clearly, this was no story that was destined to see print in a volume of my Erotic Travel Tales anthologies!
Now I’m not trying to upset anyone who might be from Leeds (heartfelt apologies to the Kaiser Chiefs!), but nearly everyone I know who’s been to Leeds has run into a spot of bad luck. One guy I know went there for a night out with his mates and ended up having the crap beaten out of him by some local lads just because he walked down the wrong street. Another guy I know had his wallet stolen from out of his jacket pocket while having dinner at a restaurant (along with his return train ticket home to the safety of rural Lincolnshire). Now I’ve been to Leeds, and I managed to get out unscathed. Mind you, I did leave before dark – and in the safety of a Peugeot that sped away on the M1 with pedal to the metal! So in my opinion, Yudge had a lucky escape.
Alas, he died three years ago this coming August Bank Holiday weekend.
On the day of his funeral, I had to fly to Greece to teach one of my erotic writing workshops on the island of Skiathos. He’d often spoken of moving back to Greece, where he’d spent the early days of his marriage. Since I couldn’t make the funeral (I don’t believe in funerals anyway), I thought it more significant to bury his photo in the sand at the beach. Afterward, I went to light a candle for him at a little church that I found open during siesta. It was empty, save for a handful of other candles that had been lit. Half an hour later I returned to look for the priest and hopefully communicate to him to say a prayer for Yudge (he was Irish Catholic, though I doubt he’d have minded being Greek Orthodox for a day). Unfortunately, there was no sign of the priest – or of anyone, for that matter. Nor was there any sign of the candle I’d lit. The other candles were still there, burning away – but mine had vanished. And yes, I’d put a euro into the box!
Was this my friend’s idea of a joke? Because there was no earthly explanation for that missing candle. It’s a shame Mitzi TV wasn’t around back then – we could’ve done a Greek Tales of the Unexpected!
It took a year before I stopped expecting my phone to ring at 1am in the morning. We thought nothing of calling each other at outrageous hours – we’d usually be up anyway. Perhaps we both suffered from the same malady: he always told me we were too delicate for this world.
He was right. And so was Iggy when he wrote that song.
My mate Yudge was, indeed, the passenger. And I’m willing to bet anything he still is!
Click here: http://www.youtube.com
Tags: Arctic Monkeys, August Bank Holiday weekend, Belfast, crime, dead friends, death, Erotic Travel Tales, erotic writing, erotic writing workshop, friendship, Greece, Greek island, Greek Orthodox, guitar, Iggy Pop, Irish Catholic, Irish songs, Kaiser Chiefs, Leeds, Leeds city centre, Leicester, Mitzi Szereto, Mitzi TV, offbeat, pubs, Sheffield, Sheffield steel, Skiathos, Tales of the Unexpected, Teddy Tedaloo, The Beatles, The Full Monty, the loss of a loved one, the Old Bill, The Passenger, trains, travel, travel and places, wine