A Journey To Paradise Turns Into The Trip From Hell
It all started when I was asked to play concerts around Tahiti, the island paradise in the South Pacific, memorably celebrated in Gauguin’s paintings of local girls and women. The dates neatly coincided with the onset of the Great British Winter, thus would I avoid its early rigours. Out there the thermostat reads 25 degrees (77 degrees Fahrenheit) on an average day in December. So I jumped at the chance.
The first sign that things might not go to plan was the sudden change of flight itinerary at the airport check in. Bad weather in Los Angeles was blamed. OK, I thought. I have travelled enough to accept things I can do nothing about.
Not surprisingly I arrived late into LA, and missed the connecting flight to Tahiti. It was 11.30pm. I waited for my luggage. And I waited some more, but it didn’t show up. So there I was at midnight – no luggage and no flight, with the airport closing down for the night.
Nothing for it but be patient, hoping to catch a flight out to the paradise island the next day. Clutching a small bag and my guitar I wandered around until I found a socket where I could charge my phone. When I say a socket, I mean not a socket but the only socket in the entire terminal, the size of two football pitches.
More about football in a minute.
After charging the phone I felt the need to discharge myself and go to the loo. It was so quiet and peaceful in there: the entire public toilet to myself at 3am. Men’s toilets are weird. The pedestals are set at different heights. Some are almost at floor level, which suit 3-year-old toddlers, and others are set up there for basketball players whose inside leg measurement is about six feet (1.80 meters). I fall somewhere in between. Oh my, I thought as I stood there with the white tiled wall six inches from my face, Tahiti feels so far away.
And then as I pulled up my zip a strange weightless feeling took over. The zip had come loose. I yanked and pulled at it but couldn’t re-engage it. I pulled my trousers down and squatted on the floor closely examining the zip – unconcerned about someone walking in on me. No, it was no use, I couldn’t get it to work. So now I was bagless, flightless and zipless.
As it happens, I am a bit of a football nut and was buoyed up by the thought of the World Cup Final that very morning at 9am (bear in mind the time change). Nothing would get in the way of that. If not on a giant screen, I would watch it on my charged-up phone. Until reality took over. At kick-off time I was huddled around a monitor screen with an official trying to work out where was my luggage.
I have made up a bad joke for my predicament, which I think is better understood by classical guitar-playing football fans: “I feel so Sor to be Messied about like this”. There, I’ve said it. Thank you for listening.
Eventually I did get to Tahiti, a day late, but my luggage didn’t. I arrived a few hours before the first concert. With no formal clothes to get into I adjusted the jacket over my T shirt, pulled the Panama hat over my bald spam, and started to head out the door. And then I remembered I was zipless.
Have you ever thought that the guitar can be a source of great comfort, and I don’t mean musically? Every time I stood up to take applause, I shielded my lower part with the guitar up front. I loved my guitar in those moments more than ever before. Just imagine the advantages we have over, say, flute players.
But what a predicament off-stage. I could sew myself into the trousers and defy the call of nature, or press my hands together in my pockets and look straight ahead.
The story isn’t finished. But tomorrow I may put an end to this farce and buy a new pair of trousers. Now, I wonder what has happened to my luggage?
Thank you for reading.
Photo: Stuck at LA airport