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Liverpool Calling

Mean Mister Mustard sleeps in the park
Shaves in the dark trying to save paper
Sleeps in a hole in the road
Saving up to buy some clothes
Keeps a ten-bob note up his nose
Such a mean old man
Such a mean old man
—The Beatles, "Mean Mister Mustard," Abbey Road

words and photographs by E-Rock .:.

It took E-Rock less than two hours to get robbed in Liverpool.

She-Rock and I (left) had just closed out a great weekend in Northern England’s Lake District, where we had attended my stepsister’s wedding and stayed in a castle that would have made a good home for Black Sabbath's early years. With a couple of days to kill before heading back to the Manchester Airport, we decided to hang out in nearby Liverpool with our good pals Steve Marsh and Sarah, his girlfriend, who is originally from New Mexico. It had been a long three days of severe partying, and we blazed through the English countryside in his Renault, listening to Sticky Fingers at high volumes—one of the great ways to recover your sanity and beat the fatigue.

Marsh, it so happens, is the manager of Liverpool’s Cavern Club, famous for regularly hosting the Beatles in the early ‘60s. (I guess they played during lunch. Can you imagine watching the fucking Beatles during lunch? E-Rock can. During lunch a couple weeks ago, I went to my favorite street-food cart, the Trini-Paki Boys, outside the Grace Building on 43rd Street and Sixth Avenue. A Beatles cover band was playing in Grace Plaza. Scary stuff. I think these weirdos had even had plastic surgery to look like the Fab Four.)

We got into town, and Marsh (right) zipped about the city like a drug runner, winding around ancient, narrow city streets. As he maneuvered the vehicle, Marsh also served as tour guide. “That’s where Lennon used to get pissed,” he said. “McCartney used go there for a massage,” etc. The man can tell you anything Beatles-related about the city. I guess that’s what happens when you work at a club frequented by drunken tourists from Wyoming and other strange places who wear “I’ve got blisters on my fingers!” T-shirts.

We parked the Renault in the middle of downtown and started walking. Marsh had to stop by HMV to pick up a disc that came out that day by his friends’ band, The Open. (E-Rock bought a copy too, and it was pretty good for a random pickup.) Then Marsh wanted to show us the club.

We walked down what seemed like six flights of stairs to get to the place. E-Rock often gets into phases where sunlight is not a priority, so the club suited me; it had a good, organic feel to it, even if it was a little touristy. But then I saw a flyer posted indicating that the Crazy World of Arthur Brown was playing there in a week. Holy shit. I thought Arthur Brown was dead. For any of you not familiar with his self-titled album from 1968, grab it if you want to get seriously twisted on silly, evil psychedelic craziness.

The Cavern Club closes at 6 p.m. on weekdays, so we only had time for a quick beer before heading back up its dark staircase and out into the city. When our party reached the car, something seemed wrong. The Renault looked as though it were rear-ended; the hatchback appeared rattled, and the things inside were strewn about. Upon opening the door, though, it was obvious that some little bastards had been in the vehicle. We had a lot of valuable stuff in there—She-Rock’s jewelry, our plane tickets, and my prized Joseph Abboud jacket. All those things were still there. The scum ended up taking three bottles of wine, hair products, and my Mets cap. (Note: If anyone in Liverpool reading this happens to see a little punk wearing a Mets cap, please kick his or her ass. A reward will be involved.)

After that, it was time for some serious beer drinking, so Marsh took us to Asda, the U.K. version of Wal-Mart, to grab a slew of Carlsberg Exports. The place was great, kind of like Costco , with a lot of fresh, high-quality goods. It was kind of surprising because, as the legend goes, it’s really easy to get a wretched meal in England, but it’s not because there’s a lack of good ingredients at hand. (E-Rock did have some ass-kicking Indian food in the Lake District, though, and some top-end Chinese in Manchester. She-Rock got a huge and wonderful plate of fish and chips one day that I thought would make her pancreas fall out.)

And that, finally, brings us to pizza. Had we stayed in Manchester the night before coming back to NYC, She-Rock and I would have gone to Matt and Phred’s, a jazz club there that gets talked up for its pizza. Instead, we ended up getting pies from what Marsh described as the “second-best place in Liverpool.” Pizza Santa Lucia, on Lark Lane, is just a few blocks away from his apartment in the Aigburth neighborhood.

There is an evil and frightening back story to Pizzeria Santa Lucia. A few weeks before we visited, Marsh and one of his coworkers walked by the establishment. Out of nowhere, some dude comes out and pinches the coworker’s girlfriend’s ass. The coworker said something like, “Hey what the hell are you ...?” and he gets punched in the jaw and has to go to the fucking hospital. (She-Rock and I noticed that Lark Lane, though a pretty street that’s kind of a hip business district, had a lot of men between 18 and 40 getting lit around 2 p.m. on a Tuesday.)

Well, the same coworker was there with us the night we went to pick up our order. His jaw still wasn’t right from the previous episode. The coworker and I were standing outside smoking while Marsh negotiated the bill, and I could tell that the chap was on edge. He went into the liquor store across the street and picked up a twelve of Stella Artois, I hung around out front, and we met Marsh in the car.

“I saw that motherfucker standing on the corner,” Marsh’s friend said.

“Hell,” I said. “Let’s smash his teeth in. Play ‘piledriver’ with his ass.”

Marsh calmed us down and convinced us that the guy wasn’t worth it and that the cops wouldn’t do a damn thing, anyway, even if we cornered the scum like the syphilitic brute he was. My adrenaline was still on overdrive from getting robbed, so I was up for anything. And Marsh’s friend definitely was. But Marsh has a good talent for crowd control and said that listening to ’70s Neil Young, eating pizza, having some beers, and hanging out with our significant others was always better than violence. Isn’t it? We probably would have been taken over by a huge gang of brass-knuckle boys, and who knows what would have happened then? My modeling career would have been shot.

But after eating the pizza, E-Rock thinks, in hindsight, that it would have been better trying to kick that honky’s tail around the city for a while.

Not that the pizza was surprisingly bad. I mean, who in the hell would think pizza in England would be any good? You’d have to be out of your fucking mind!

But here’s what we had, all 12-inch pies:
1. A Cheese and Tomato (plain pizza; above left) for £5.60 ($10.03).
2. A Vegetarian (right) for £6.50 ($11.64). This thing had cheese, tomato, mushrooms, olives, green peppers, onions, pineapple, and “sweetcorn.” The “sweetcorn” was basically corn. And don’t ask me how the crazed Hawaii pizza pineapple thing made its way over the Atlantic.

3. Finally, the Mafioso (above right), a “hot and spicy” veggie pizza without the peppers, sweetcorn, or olives but with Tabasco and chili, for £6.50. E-Rock thinks they took a veggie pizza and simply dusted it with cayenne.

Like our editor, I grew up in Kansas, so I can tolerate things like this if I’m hungry, as long as it doesn’t have worms crawling all over it. But it was pretty bad. I won’t spend much time here explaining it, but in a nutshell, the pizza tasted like a cross between a frozen pie and Domino’s with way too much stuff on it, baked in an electric oven, with thick, half-done crust.

So what’s the South Park-esque moral to this story? E-Rock isn’t quite sure, but here we go anyway. Get ready for violence in Liverpool if you ever travel there. If you go to England, stick with ethnic or pub food—and certainly stay away from the pizza, unless you want to seriously test your luck. And if you live in New York and have friends from the Island in town, be sure to take them to one of Gotham’s pizza Meccas. They will probably cry and go into violent fits or seizures, but who knows? Maybe they’ll light a fire under someone’s ass over there to start up a good joint. I’ll bet if Marsh ever visits, we may one day see a brick oven in the Cavern Club.

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