Come 1982, in England, I was in a pretty good place, emotionally. I was able to move out of the flatshare with nutty Nora, and she had just introduced me to one of my all time favorite people, Patrick Marvin -- whose wit, sweetness, charm, and practicality won my heart in friendship.
More on Patrick, anon. But physically, in 1982, I was feeling very run down and wrecked. I’d take daily naps (just before dinnertime) in order to function and work -- because I did have to go to work at the Main Squeeze about five nights per week, from 6 o’clock until 1 AM.
The Main Squeeze was my new dysfunctional family, with characters who made you sigh, cry, and get so angry you could die (er, murder!). Hazel was the first person people met at the bottom of the stairs at the club’s entrance in a box office type box: a feisty Northern Irish lass, slight in size (about 5’5”, weighing 8.5 stone -- around 100 lbs.). Hazel must have been in her mid 30’s. She’d taken an instant dislike to me, “the Yank,” and was always carping away at me to do this and do that again and “Do it right, darlin’ -- and pull yer socks up!” She meant that as “Watch it!” and I got paranoid and nervous around her, always.
A nicer person was Hazel’s pal, Greg, who worked as one of the bartenders. Swarthy, wiry, a small man, only about 5’ 7”, with dark stubble where he shaved his head, sporting a Freddy Mercury mustache, Greg was as gay as the day is long on a Midsummer’s Night. He had masses of dark hair, almost like fur, on his arms and chest (Greg would wear tight lowcut tee shirts that showed off his hirsute hairsuit). You could barely see his eyes because he wore aviator-shaped tinted glasses -- but when I could, I saw he had lovely, long, curved-up dark eyelashes. In his mid 30’s, Greg was also an American expatriate who loved being around the English. Happily, he approved of me and we were friends of a sort. Unhappily, I heard he’d died of AIDS in the ‘80’s. . .
The other bartender, John, was a tall, slender, blond, blue eyed, blandly good-looking man around 30 years of age. He had a sort of modified Dutch boy haircut, an outgoing personality, and liked to flirt with the ladies (heterosexual? Yes). He had a resonant voice and maybe something of a drinking problem -- I wasn’t sure. Then again, Greg also liked to drink, but because these guys were responsible workers behind the bar, they’d pace themselves and when they did get blasted it was infrequent and seldom seen.
The cuisine at Main Squeeze, in the restaurant area, was award-winning continental, some tasty oasis between Italian and French cooking. Of the chefs, there were two I recall: one was Italian, robust and round, a mostly happy guy named Maurizio, I think. The other and most memorable chef, Don, was a guy from Devon. He was tall, average build, had mousy brown hair that was dead straight and lanky and a bushy mustache. His pale blue eyes had sleepy lids, and he was a pretty good cook, as I recall. Don was also something of a nutritionist. He’d cook staff meals with meat, which I refused to eat “Because I’m a vegetarian!” I proudly boasted.
Don noticed I was run down and probably anemic. “But darling, you really MUST eat some meat -- that’s why you’re all run down. You need red blood food!” At this point I was desperate to feel good again, so I slowly started off eating a few bites of burger, or lambchop (ugh -- I don’t like lamb), along with a hard boiled egg that I always made him cook for me.
Weirdly enough, after a week or two, I DID feel better. Guilt filled my guts with the dead meat it digested, but the rest of my muscles, skin, and bones said THANK YOU! By just adding a little red meat to my diet each week, the gains to my well-being were considerable.
Thanks, Chef Don -- it was a little thing you did, but had a tremendous impact on this little Yank who needed to pull ‘er socks up!!