Tuesday, 25 September 2012
The landscape in and around Santa Barbara varies, from hillside trails for walking and riding that give way to beaches of soft golden sand and the often dramatic waves of the Pacific Ocean. The beachfront area is neatly landscaped with flowering borders and well kept lawns, stark tall Palms offering minimal shade from the sun and intertwined throughout with cycle paths usually patrolled by skateboarders and roller skate enthusiasts, all dodging the cyclists and walkers. The diversions from daily routine on offer for the local population included back in 1988, numerous bars and restaurants, cafe’s, and sports facilities, cinemas and shops. Highway 101 winds its way through town and then southerly along the coast towards LA, until turning inland at Ventura (North Los Angeles). The Four Seasons Biltmore Hotel, beyond the Zoological Gardens sits amongst private gardens and beachfront. Further south sits the small town of Summerland. A small number of bars line the roads running alongside Highway 101 and it was here that Mum and I found ourselves, in the evening following the “Blow-Job” declination.
We’d driven through Summerland earlier that week on one our “journeys of discovery” and Mum had remarked on how nice everything looked along the coast road. We’d eaten in town and had driven around until we saw a bar offering live music – “jazz”. We walked in through a heavy oak door and the bar was laid out left to right in front of us. A fug of cigar and cigarette smoke hung in the air, as a four piece played acoustic guitar, drums, saxophone and double bass away to our left in the corner by the front wall. The bar itself was low lit and dark, Mahogany tones, both in wood and leather offering comfort to the eye and the behind, as we perched on well padded tall stools at the bar. To our right and against the front wall, were sofa’s and tables and chairs, a range to seating, only now coming into fashion as customers seek more of a “Lounge” experience. A well stocked bar offered a large array of liquors and wines, bottled beers and draught American lagers. A large mirror behind the bottles reflected the bar and the clientele seated at its wide wooden expanse.
The bar was not overly packed; in fact it was easy to move from door to seats at the bar. To my left beyond Cynthia my Mum, were five or six more customers occupying bar stools, and a few more customers were seated as the bar turned towards the rear wall. I ordered glasses of wine for us and as this was still 1988, lit up a Marlboro and surveyed my surroundings, chatted with Cynthia and generally relaxed after a curious day. Once we were some way through our drinks, I continued my survey of the bar and I noticed a rather striking blonde haired woman sat with her back against the rear wall on the last barstool. I did not look at her beyond the usual “letch” and returned to chatting with Cynthia who was enjoying the Jazz music, which was far from noisy and we talked of all things American. Cynthia was really becoming a fan of American (California to be precise), the food, the weather, the people, the coast and especially the doctors and hospital. The only real thing playing on her mind was the need to attended Dr Braniff’s Consultancy to take a treadmill test, whatever that might be?
After maybe an hour, we were interrupted by the Blonde, who at closer inspection (an inspection that was to increase dramatically over the next few days) was strikingly attractive. Unnoticed by me, which is something in and of its self; a beautiful woman had moved around the bar and had sat next to mum. She must have been there sometime when she broke into our conversation by way of “I love listening to your accent”. I glanced up and past mum and took in her beauty, high defined cheekbones, full lips, deep blue eyes and neatly styled blonde hair that sat on her shoulders and framed her face, the light from the bar glancing off her cheeks and creating shadows on necks and against the side of her nose, under her eyebrows. Her voice was velvety smooth, her accent Californian. She wore a short thigh high dress, loose fitting from the bust down, and as far as I could ascertain, no bra, her breasts holding their own magnificently against all of gravities exertions; they were a Newtonian delight!
Mum looked to her left and would have said something along the lines of “thank you, how are you” etc. The blonde looked across at me and said, “I hope you don’t mind my asking, but are you George Michael?” I started to speak, I had to correct her misguided assumption, but mum shot back with, “Well, yes he is actually”. I don’t know where mum plucked up the courage to tell such a blatant lie, but that was nothing considering the backup story she and subsequently I concocted to cement that belief not only in our new friend, but almost anyone else who would ask whether indeed “I was George Michael?” in the days and weeks to come.
“I knew it was you, I saw you from my seat over there” she said pointing to the spot where I’d noticed her sitting when mum and I had first sat down. “Hello” I said and reached across to shake her hand. Her fingers held my hand for slightly longer than a normal handshake would require; her eyes held mine throughout until she let go of my hand. “Can I get you a drink, we were about to order another” I said. She said yes, so I decided on a bottle of probably Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, knowing that I had to buy a pricier bottle, in order to not ‘give up the jig’, before the preliminaries were out of the way!
“I’m Monique” she said, Ah! Monique, her name fitted her perfectly. Within seconds, she had gotten off her bar stool, lifted it around Mum and placed it between Mum and two feet or so from the bar. I had to shuffle my seat backwards, away from Mum to allow Monique to reach her glass, which by now had moved between mums glass and mine. This girl was keen I thought, make no mistake, don’t bugger it up! As she was manoeuvring her seat, Mum cast a glance towards me and cracked a sly smile and patted my leg, as if to say, “over to you son”. I was still stunned at the audacity shown by mum, where she’d gotten the nerve from and frankly why she would say such a thing? Later, much later, when regaling friends with the story, she said I was George Michael to see what the girls or indeed waiters, hotel managers and others would say and that it was fun. Mum was to commit the sin of lying about her son’s true identity again, in a truly audacious way in a few weeks time.
The conversation between Monique, mum and I focused mainly on why Monique should find George Michael sitting in a small bar in Summerland, California, with his Mum? I proceeded to build upon Mum’s lie, saying that I (George) was touring (as she undoubtedly knew, being a fan!), the East Coast at the time, (George was on the Faith tour). Moreover, that I, (George) had a few days between shows and had decided to fly my (his) Mum out for some R&R in Santa Barbara. The Q&A continued and despite obviously not wanting the world to know where George (me) was staying, confirmed that yes, indeed, we (they) were staying at the 5 Star Biltmore Hotel, just around the corner, on the beach. Definitely not at a 3 Star Motel (due to the pool it was 3 Star) on State Street, in downtown Santa Barbara! So, a back story was created, Mum began interjecting with snippets of information, such as “He is a lovely man, treating his Mum to such a nice holiday” and “He hasn’t got a girlfriend at the moment you know, all those girls in the videos are models!” At which Monique shot me a glance that meant unequivocally, “You can have one if you want one, me!”
Whilst many of you may consider the story so far and the rest to follow, to be the words of a big-head (I was I admit back then quite a confident/arrogant sod, not so much nowadays I hope), and no doubting that I am self-assured, I do wish to appear to brag, but given this is an autobiographical account of my life, think that I may as well tell this and all the stories reflecting who I am, as accurately as possible.
So, I felt that even if Mum and I had denied that I was indeed George Michael, Monique was of a mind that:-
A) She fancied me (George),
B) She was going to have me (George), and finally
C) I was of a mind that I could have successfully chatted my way into her knickers anyway, whether purporting to be a world famous singer or not.
There, I’ve said it and I stand by it.
The evening progressed, Mum and Monique talking about clothes, shoes, (Mums weakness), travel, holidays, etc and ended with the three of us agreeing to meet for dinner the following evening and Monique had ventured as far as to continually touch my thigh, hold my hand etc, as she made a point during conversation or as she reached for her glass. There used to be, (it maybe still there) a lovely restaurant on a corner in downtown Santa Barbara (the name slips, sorry), that had a nice garden and terrace tables so we agreed to meet there. As the evening drew to a close, with mum showing her tiredness, we made our plans and said goodbye until tomorrow. Monique left slightly before us, which was good as she would have wondered why George was driving a hired Chevy Saloon and not a more up-market model or indeed where was his chauffeur?
As soon as Monique had left, after lingering kisses to each cheek, the journey between which, she gently brushed her lips against mine, Mum turned and said “She’s lovely Jonathan, I think she likes you”, with a naughty glint in her eye. Mum could be many things; she loved to laugh, loved intrigue and a challenge, moreover I discovered that she could be very duplicitous, almost conniving and I was going to be the pawn in her tricky game. I was going to have to maintain a charade long after I had tucked mum up for the night, if as I planned, I played my cards right and ended up exploring more of California and Summerland’s beautiful scenery.
A Shakespeare wrote, “All the worlds as stage, and everyman must play his part”. I was to play two roles over the next few days, simultaneously, all very Shakespearean!
Wednesday, 19 September 2012
After a lazy time sat with the Ranch Hands and cowboys, Mum and I got into the car and drove back through the Lake side camping area, toward the exit. Mum asked me to stop the car and once again got out and wandered down toward Lake Cachuma. I followed and she seated herself on a large boulder and looked again at the Santa Ynez Mountains in the background.
“When I die, I want my ashes scattered here in the lake” she said, without a hint of irony, given the events of the last month. I looked at her; she smiled at me and said, “As well as a bit in Spain, a bit in Alderney (her birthplace and from where she had been evacuated during the Second World War), a bit in Leicester and a bit in Norwich with your Dad”. “You’re only small mum, are you sure there’s enough to go round?
That’s quite a journey for someone” I said, “I can see a competition for seats on that trip from Mark and Helen, Richard and Julian”. “Well, I am just telling you, that’s what I want” and with that, she stood and walked back to the car, as if a decree had been made that was to be followed without question. Almost medieval in a way, like a task for a Knight, a journey was to take place in the future that would result in the Queens ashes being spread across her lands, foreign and domestic. I wondered who would be footing the bill for that lot, as I walked behind her to the car.
Onwards then to Solvang and we sped through the Wine country towards a small town, dedicated to Denmark and all things Smorgasbord! As well as shops selling everything Danish, there was a Fortune Teller, numerous Cafes and Restaurants invariably called Pedersen’s, Andersen’s or Helga’s, and wide sidewalks with quaint hand painted benches beneath arbors covered in flowers. Mum loved it.
We went into a cafe and looking at the menu filled with numerous delicacies, ordered salt beef sandwiches, pickles and coffee. The menu offered a Smorgasbord, as did most eateries and we walked over to look at the display of cooked cold meats, salami, sausage, cheese, salads, pickles and breads laid out under glass and chilled in a continuing fight against the heat of the Californian Summer, that burst in through the doorway every time someone came in. The air-conditioning whirring away above our heads and sending a chill blast of cold air down into mum’s coffee cup, eliciting a “tut” and a “tsk” every few minutes as her coffee rapidly lost its heat.
The menu was ripe for my 'famous' impersonation of English spoken with a Danish accent, which Mark had laughed at so much, I thought he was going to have an asthma attack and which I am sure inspired a small but definitely audible but odourless 'fart' from mum. With tears rolling down her face, she tried to eat her way through her sandwich but eventually had to tell me to “shut up Jonathan!” in order to be able to finish her meal. Besides, we (me) were drawing strange looks from the customers and staff.
Solvang offers among its delights, rides around town in a horse drawn carriage and we paid the fee and took our seats for a twenty minute tour around the more notable buildings and what most likely would have been a detailed history from the driver. His Danish accent was far better than mine, but given that I kept asking questions in my best” Daneglish”, he soon got irritated (pissed off actually) and asked if I was “trying to annoy him”.
That he asked it in a straight American Accent, without a hint of Danish to be heard, made me lose it, and he sulked (silently) all the way back to the stand. So now I had mum annoyed at me for ruining her ride and a tour guide/carriage driver, threatening to drop me for taking the piss out of him. The fact that his accent was as put on as mine was lost on him. I walked off as mum apologised to him and left a tip. After an ear bashing from mum, and an apology from me, we drove back to Santa Barbara and our Motel.
The following morning was a beautifully hot, Californian summer’s day and so we decided to relax by the Motel pool. This actually required that I go to the supermarket to get fruit, definitely Peaches and Oranges, fruit juice, pastries, potato chips, National Enquirer and other “gossip” papers and magazines for mum and a copy of Rolling Stone for me (I had to keep abreast of the music scene, as all budding rocks stars do!). By late morning we were laid out beside the pool, or rather mum was, as I threw myself endlessly into the pool and posed as much as possible in front of the girls who were starting to come out from their rooms and seek a sun bed beside the pool.
By now my hair, styled as closely as possible as to George Michael had his, was almost bleach blonde on top, swept back and close cropped into the neck. Topped off with my brand new Rayban Aviators and black Speedo trunks, I figured I could almost pass for George, except for the fact that I am pretty sure he’d be staying somewhere other than a Motel on Main Street, and launching himself into the pool in vain attempts to impress women. (Although you never know!)
After lunch beside the pool I was becoming quite tired; the exertions and posing were wearing me out and I said to mum, (who would never waste the chance of a tan) that I was going back to the room for a rest. I picked up my gear, slipped on my Espadrilles and wandered through the gardens around the pool, across the car park, past the laundry room where the Ice machine was and to our room in the middle of the single storey block. All doors faced the car park and I wedged the door open, so I could see across to the pool (an eye always on mum) and lay face down on my bed, facing the door, reading my magazine.
About fifteen minutes later, a shadow passed in front of the open door and I looked up to see a guy aged mid-twenties, tall, slim and dressed in t-shirt and trunks holding an ice bucket. “Can you tell me where the Ice Machine is” he asked, “yea, straight down the walkway to the corner; it’s in the Laundry room” I replied. “Thanks” he said and wandered off. Five minutes later he was back again, holding a full ice bucket and leaning on the door frame. I looked up again and he smiled and said “Got it” brandishing the ice bucket in front of him, “great” I said and focused back on my Rolling Stone.
“Do you want a blow job?” he asked. I looked up at him again and said with the manliest voice I could muster, (which probably came out like a squeak) “Erm, er, no thanks, I think I’m alright as it goes”. Now I figured that that refusal on my part was polite but firm enough and clear enough. I had thanked him for his (kind?) offer, but had declined, given that I had no desire to succumb to being noshed off by a tall, smooth, albeit brave, gay American male.
“Are you sure?” he said, “my boyfriend and I were watching you over by the pool and I told him I wanted to give you a blow job. He said I should be careful, in case I get punched, but you look like a nice guy and I want to give you a blow job, so please, can I give you a blow job?”
“No, thanks” I said, “I really don’t want a blow job at all; I am fine as it is”. So for a second time, I had politely declined his invitation to fellatio, “bye”, I added by way of closing, again smiling nicely so as not to cause offence.
“Do you have a nice cock?” What was it with this guy? I nearly said ‘that’s for me to know and for you to find out mate' but didn’t; instead falling back on that age old but powerful statement that delivers a clear, unequivocal response, leaving those on the receiving end under no doubt as to the state of play. “Fuck off”.
He looked at me; I was no longer smiling; paused for a second and walked away. I lay there wondering if I looked as if I was open to such offers, decided I did not and returned to my Rolling Stone. “It’s just that it took a lot of guts to ask you and I am pretty sure you will enjoy it” he said. I sat up on the bed, facing him once more. He was stood there with the same eager to please look on his face that my previous refusals had failed to wipe off.
I stood up, walked up to the doorway and slowly shut the door in his face. I walked over to the kettle, made myself a coffee and turned on MTV, to watch some videos and take my mind off recent events. Just as I settled down, I heard a muffled knock on the door. Deciding I had had enough of being polite, I pulled open the door and said “look mate, fuck off, I do not want a blow job, so fuck off will ya!”
Mum, with a startled look on her face walked past me into the room, put her bag on her bed and went into the bathroom. I shut the door, turned around and sat on the bed drinking my coffee and watching MTV. Mum said nothing until she came from having her shower,
I told her the first part of the story and she said, “but you’re not gay are you Jonathan? What made him think you were gay?” I looked at myself in the mirror, bleach blonde hair, tight t-shirt, fit, muscles in the right places, Speedo swimmers and Rayban’s. “I have no idea Mum, no idea”.
Never mind the fact that George Michael had not yet ‘come out’!