|Mozarmy Meet poster|
It's been a week since I attended the Mozarmy Meet in Manchester and I am simply overwhelmed with what I want to write about. In which case it is probably best to start at the beginning.
Firstly, I was exceedingly lucky to have someone to travel with. My friend, Stephanie, was even more excited than I was. This is hard to believe but she had never been to England before so it made it even more fun for me because she was so into it.
We landed in Manchester on Thursday evening after a short layover in London. It took about 11-12 hours so we were pretty exhausted but giddy with excitement. We booked our own flat through Airbnb and we had to wait a bit to check in. We were lucky enough to be staying in a cool little area with small restaurants and bars close by. We went to a bar called Gorilla and had dinner and beer. Stephanie and I both felt quite welcomed there and wanted to return but we just never had the time. Great food and service there.
Our flat was wonderful. If you have never booked a room through Airbnb, I really can't praise it enough. Basically, you are living in an apartment or house for less or close to the price of a hotel. Having a kitchen enables you to save so much on food. Also, you aren't confined to a small room with beds and a bathroom. You have space to hang out and relax. That's exactly what Stephanie and I did that first night. As you may have guessed, we fell right to sleep which worked out well as it was already 10 by the time we crashed. This was a positive in fighting jet lag as we were likely to wake up in the morning and jump right into UK time.
I did not bring any running gear with me because my idea was to do a lot of walking. So Friday morning Stephanie and I set out early to see some of the sights in Manchester. We started walking the wrong way towards the University of Manchester. But then received some help from the visitor's center at the University and we walked toward the Central Library, thinking that perhaps that might be where Morrissey's mum worked.
It's actually an incredible building with beautiful stained glass windows and lovely ceilings rooms. We checked out the main study as well as the music room. We could not have asked for a sunnier day and the interior of the library was made more vibrant simply by the sun shining through.
We saw a "Big Wheel" and lots of people shopping, walked through Chinatown a bit and then I made Stephanie stand in front of a street vendor sign that said, "Manchester Tart," then laughed like I was 11 years old. I am not posting it here because that would just be mean.
We rested in the afternoon because our plan was to meet up with Dickie Felton (The Day I Met Morrissey, Morrissey International Airport) and also Ewan and of course, Vanessa and Conor.
Dickie had the brilliant idea of meeting up at a bar high up high called Cloud 23. It was quite fancy as they served afternoon tea and had fancy beverages. Needless to say, we enjoyed the view and we skipped the tea and went straight for the beverages.
We went to a few more pubs and were joined by more Breakfast Champions before Dickie had to catch the train back to Liverpool. He could not make the meet up on Saturday because he had an important football game to attend the next day. Marine AFC.
But wow, how wonderful was it to see Dickie and Ewan and Conor again? The banter, the silliness, etc. We kept laughing at the beginning because Dickie couldn't believe we were there, then we started laughing because WE couldn't believe we were there. Its so strange when you see someone out of the context in which you have first known them. But also wonderful and you sense how very lucky you are.
We met up with some fellow Breakfast Champions from everywhere after that. Stefan Krix, Julie Hamill and her sisters, Louise and Rose Ann, Jose Maldonado, Adrianna, Hugh, and Andy Barnett among others. It was indescribable to meet people you "know" but have never actually physically met. And everyone jumped on the dance floor as the DJ under our orders played song after song of The Smiths.
Of course, Saturday was a BIG day. This was the day of the Morrissey tour and the day I unwisely decided to wash my hair.
We discovered that when you plug an American blow dryer into a converter plugged into a UK wall socket, you have yourself a blow torch. That means thoroughly drying your Southern California hair should be done with caution lest you burn your hair or face off. At arms length. For me, it meant partially dried wavy/curly hair. My hair was perfect for the 80's. Not so much for this decade.
Stephanie and I were pleasantly surprised that our tour was basically a van filled with all our friends. Stefan, Andy, and Adrianna were all on this tour. It wasn't hokey like I kind of thought it would be. It was cool because it had all the cool people on it. And when our tour guide blasted The Smiths, we all sang along.
Of course, it hadn't rained at all until then. And when we took our picture outside Salford Lads Club, suddenly gale force winds and rain began. No hope for my hair at this point. So my iconic Moz fan pic which will live on forever is me and Stephanie with my not-so-great-looking hair. But hey, what can you do?
(I'm so vain I am including the group shot we took because my hair isn't as puffy).
While Salford Lads Club is THE spot, it isn't just a cool exterior. It is also like American equivalent of a Boys and Girl's Club. They have great sports and outdoor activities available for youth.
Some other key spots we stopped were The Iron Bridge (which I envisioned as a railway bridge), Strangeway's Prison, the cemetery of "Cemetery Gates," and Morrissey's house on King's Road.
I guess the best way to explain being at all these places is that it's easy to imagine how Morrissey felt in those lonely early years. We, as fans, most likely get the "outsider" feel, the loner, being different, etc. I guess for me, I imagined him coming home from his horrible school day and walking over the iron bridge to get home, then climbing the stairs, going to his room and putting records on and dancing his cares away. Its important as a person who puts such value in Morrissey's writing and experience to look at his situation and imagine what it was like for him when those things were familiar, his every day. Each crack of the sidewalk was familiar to him. Each car parked on the road, etc.
I decided to continue Part 2 tomorrow. The Mozarmy Meet needs it's own post!