On Saturday, after seeing the Imperial War Museum and generally farting around, I decided to go dancing. The previous night I had finally managed to alight in a hostel which bore a striking resemblance to an old asylum, and had gone out dancing at a club that a visiting Brit had recommended when her band toured through Seattle.
The place was in Camden Town; a huge Gothic-Industrial club, with a fair amount of techno and EBM music sprinkled in. It was much closer to the dancing scene I was used to in Seattle, with plenty of darkly dressed Goths (PVC and Non-PVC) and more norms than you’d see at The Vogue or the Merc.
The place had two levels, with a dance floor the size of a school auditorium. Stairs led up to an upper level with another, smaller dance floor (about the size of The Merc’s) and an enclosed catwalk in which observers sit watching people on the main floor try to dodge a flailing Thog.
It was packed, about 500 people by my count. Before I got in, 30 minutes after it opened, I had to stand in a line for 20 minutes. I’ve never had to stand in a line for a goth club before, anywhere, so this was an interesting start. This kind of scene is obviously more prevalent in London than Holland, perhaps because London has plenty of angst to go around. It was decidedly strange to stand in line with a hundred people who looked like they could have been plucked off the dance floor of The Merc on any Friday night, but were speaking in a funny accent.
The dancing went ‘til three and so did I, not moving much from the stage. The music was a little more hard, a little more techno-goth than Seattle, but still quite good. These people know how to dance (well, some of them) which contributed to the experience.
Ok, weird European thing. In dance clubs in Seattle, when people get on the dance floor, they mostly dance. Or at least gyrate. In Europe, people will spot someone they know and stop to hold a 45 minute conversation with them. Other people will then accrete around the original pair like a human cancer until they take up half the dance floor. In between such clumps of knobs are the people, like me, trying to actually dance. If you tried this stunt in Seattle you would have an elbow, approximately 3 molecules across at its tip and attached to some cute 5’ 2” goth chick, driven straight through your ribcage. Sadly, I saw this in Holland and hoped it was a localized phenomenon. Nope.
I chatted briefly with another long-haired large male, had one or two attractive young women attempt to dance with me until they realized I was oblivious (I usually notice
The next day was spent at the Imperial War Museum (described elsewhere), and the next night I briefly hung out at the hostel’s bar. There I spent about an hour talking to a Korean gentleman who spoke only German. Since I have about 35 words of German and lousy grammar, and he had about 35 words of English and slightly better grammar, we were pushing the envelope of communication. Nevertheless we managed an hour-long conversation. He was studying Theology in Hamburg, if I remember correctly, and we spent most of our time discussing the history of religion and how current politics are affected by same. I was amazed at how much we were able to get across, but what was particularly interesting was that much of the success of the conversation seemed to be
In normal conversation most people don’t display all their cards. They tend to hedge a bit and avoid definitive statements of opinion, particularly on subjects like religion. It’s easy to obfuscate in your native language.
When you share so few words with someone, and yet are trying to get across fairly complex concepts, you can’t do this. You have to be as clear as possible, and this means reducing your opinions to the most streamlined, simplest terms possible. It’s a fascinating exercise which I think teaches you as much about what you believe as what the other person believes.
Eventually he had to catch up with his girlfriend and took off, and I headed out to a club called The Slimelight. This was a members-only club, but I had no trouble getting in. It’s located in an old Tube station, abandoned for years by the government, and turned into a three floor dance club. The ambiance is fantastic, with old stairwells leading to the various dance floors and respective bars, heads, etc, and others leading to blocked-off portions of the station. Covered in graffiti, lights, and speakers, it’s the perfect place to put a goth/industrial dance club.
I ran into and ended up hanging out with a couple of guys from England and Holland for the first half of the evening as I scoped out the lay of the land. The place stayed open till 7:30 am, and there was much entertainment to be had. Fairly good music, with the upstairs being hardcore trance and techno and the downstairs being goth and EBM. The outfits were pretty outrageous, with one girl wearing a spiderweb lace garment that thickened (a little) at strategic locations, and intimidating the hell out of most of the men. There were more lip-spikes and other Piercings of Destruction than I’d ever seen before in one place, though there was also a relative absence of tattoos.
Anyway, enough of that. It was an experience. So, unfortunately, was the walk home….
Walking home from the dance club at around 6 am or so. I’m tired as hell, but pretty mellow/happy. It’s bright out, Sunday morning, not many people on the streets. The usual for almost any city on a Sunday morning.
The club I went to is about half a mile East-Northeast of King’s Crossing Station, which is itself NNE of the hostel by about 4 ‘blocks’ or so. King’s Crossing Station is a huge building that looks like a Victorian era castle or mansion, and it’s quite impressive. The neighborhood is a little run down, but that’s true of pretty much anyplace in London.
As I’m walking down the street opposite the station I see 5 black men, scruffy, and one young white girl. The girl is talking to them and meandering around until they see me approaching. Then the men wander off down a side street and the girl approaches me.
She’s about 12, maybe 13, and she’s walking towards me wearing a white shirt and plaid pants. She walks with an exaggerated saunter that would look hilarious in other circumstances.
I walk past and she follows. She’s still sauntering, though it’s more difficult because I’m moving quickly now. Her eyes roll occasionally as she talks, and she does that thing with her jaw that some people (particularly kids) do when they’re lying or trying to fake it through a conversation.
“Do you have a cigarette? I’ll buy it for a pound.” “No, sorry, don’t smoke” “Are you a policeman?” “No…” “You want me? It’s 20 pounds for half an hour, and I got six friends in a house just up from here. You get your pick.” “No, I don’t think so, not my thing.” “Listen, come with me, I’ll give you a number for if you anything later.” “No, I’m just going to keep walking.” “You smoke pot?” “Yes, but I’m not buying any. Goodbye.”
My bet is that her six friends were male and large, likely the same gents I saw talking to her earlier, and it would have been a game of ‘fleece the tourist at knifepoint,’ but frankly I was so rattled that that angle didn’t even occur to me until later.
I went home and slept until late in the afternoon, waking up frequently and thinking about the 12-year old clipper girl.
I got up and decided to go see the British Museum, figuring that for a low-impact effort. The Museum is near my hostel, in the opposite direction from King’s Crossing. But before I went to the Museum I went for breakfast and then ran by the Station to price tickets to Bovington and Duxford and the aircraft and AFV museums there.
On the way back from the Station, maybe three blocks away, I see another girl talking to some East Indian guy on the corner. My first thought was obvious, but as I walked by I saw that the side of her head was bloody, blood on her hands, clothes slightly torn, shivering.
My face gave me away, I’m sure. After I walked by she caught up with me about half a block later. She asked for a train ticket. She said she’d been beaten and robbed, and wanted to go home. The side of her head was plastered in dried blood, there was blood on her hands and her lips, and one of her front teeth had been half broken out. She was maybe 13 or 14.
She’d written down what she needed for her ticket on her hand at some point, though the writing was blurred. The other guy had given her part of the fare; she needed the rest. It was fine if I went with her and bought the ticket. When I asked what the hell had happened she replied that three guys had wanted to have sex with her, she’d said no, so they’d gotten pissed and kicked the shit out of her. She said she felt better about herself for saying no, even though it’d gotten her beaten. Her ribs hurt.
What Duri should have done: Gone with her to the station and bought the ticket. Seen her on the train.
What Duri did do: Simply gave her the money she said she was short and fled.
It was simply too much.
I got a very ginger hug for my troubles. Maybe she actually used it on a train ticket.
I’m going to be seeing cities much more battered than London. I need to grow a thicker skin. But, fuck ….
I’ve seen some nasty crap in other places. Pittsburgh was pretty ugly, and I’d seen rape victims just after the fact, riots from the middle, and what it was like to have people try to kill you with their hands. Chicago was contrasts, with riches on one street and rags on another. Gunfire every night from three blocks away in a hellhole that they use as an example of American hellholes, the cop cars shot full of holes and the cops within never getting out no matter what goes on around them, while a woman walks down the street three blocks in the other direction with furs and gold covering her and man walks along a ways behind her urinating as he goes, out of his mind.
I’ve never had a child try to sell herself to me, or me to her ‘friends’. I’ve never had to look at a bloody and beaten girl and wonder if I was giving her money to get her home or giving her money that she would give to her pimp, to keep him from beating her again for a little while, maybe give her the next spike.
It makes my soul hurt.
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