Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Portobello Golden

I recently received the unhappy news that Boss Goodman has died. That's us above, on a sunny afternoon in Brighton, England, in 2011. Boss was a friend of Mick Farren, and so he became a friend of mine. He was a legend in his own right. Among other things, he was the road manager for the Deviants and the Pink Fairies. He was a DJ and a booking manager at clubs such as Dingwalls. And many other things I don't know about, I'm sure. When I met him, in late September 2005, he was a chef at the Portobello Gold pub in the Notting Hill area of London. Back then, I took this snapshot (!) of him:

My first-ever visit to London came at the end of a nearly two-week journey through Scotland -- my first overseas trip ever. The trip was amazing, but hectic, and I was worn out by the time I got to London. And then, to perfection, at the end of that very intense trek through a beautiful alien world was a surprising sense of home in a stranger. Boss could not have been a nicer person. We spent several hours together over the course of two days, and he was very kind and funny and generous, treating me like one of the family. I saw him again a couple other times over the years, and I am glad I did. But I wrote about our first meeting, at the Gold, in my blog from that 2005 trip. Here's an edited version of "All Roads Lead to Boss Goodman."

Boss Goodman suggested we meet at the Portobello Gold at 3. It was a short walk from the hotel, about 15 minutes, and, as it was Saturday, the famed Portobello market was going off. A riot of booths and wares for sale. Clothes, shoes, antiques, trendy stuff, jewelry, handbags, tools, fixtures -- just anything and everything, as the song goes.

I found the pub and went inside under the tall blue sign with big gold letters vertically spelling THE GOLD. Stood there blinking for a moment, then walked around to the right side of the bar.

I spotted him at the far end, and recognized him from the picture I'd seen. Not too tall, but a big guy with short salt and pepper hair and casual dress. I peered at him and approached, pointed at him, and he at me. "Are you Boss?" I asked, although I knew. He was, of course. On the counter next to him was a white plastic bag, like a grocery bag, containing a bitchen pair of shoes he'd just bought in the market, oxblood wingtips. totally cool.

So we chatted, and he bought me a drink, John Powers neat. We talked about Mick, my trip, his heart attack, the city, and getting some Indian food later on. I then drank a shot of absinthe, and soon we went on up the Portobello Road, eventually to his place to hang out some more. I was feeling pretty good by that time. It wasn't hot out but not cold, a little cloudy but pleasant. The market dazzled with its produce, leather goods, tapestries. Souvenirs and faux-couture.

We caught a cab to Boss's apartment, where I met his roommate. We smoked, listened to music, talked. I toured the little garden his roommate planted behind the flat. So pretty and inventive, with every niche and nook used wisely.

Presently we went off to the Indian restaurant. We took the bus, which was not scary at all [note: back then I had an irrational fear of taking public transport in foreign nations] due to Boss's presence. We were standing on the corner waiting for the bus, talking about whatever, and I felt strangely happy to be there. I think Boss did too. It was like we could be sudden friends due to our mutual friendship. It was cool.

At the restaurant, we ate and drank soooo much. (Moan.) It was all so good. Just playing with the papadams and sauces/condiments: a coconut/curry hash, the raita, mango chutney, weirdly addicting pickled lime, and some chopped onions with maybe mint? (Didn't have that one.) Boss was really into combining the flavors -- mango w/lime, coconut w/raita and onion ... that was fun. We had chicken tikka masala, chicken makti masala, lamb w/tomatoes and peppers, motor panir, eggplant something, pulao rice, garlic naan ... some kinda salad ... plus beer for them and wine for me. And Drambuie at the end. 75 pounds for the whole feast ... crazy! Delicious.

Went back to Boss's in a mini-cab and smoked some more. Hung out and got tired. He called me my own cab, and I was back at Le Dump in no time flat. A rather eventful and enjoyable first day in London, but I am sooo tired (and not a little drunk). Which is probably why I feel too awake. 

So RIP, Boss Goodman. I believe there is a memorial happening today in England somewhere. I wish I could be there to celebrate him. Instead, I'll raise a glass in his memory on this side of the world.

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