The blood trickled down his neck, formed a small pool in the cracks of his sun-dried skin, ran onto his jacket and dripped onto the floor. I stood behind him in line in a small convience store in Banbury (Ban-bree) England, home of the new Kenny Roberts raceshop.
"Come to England" commanded the King (Roberts). I jetted over to England on the local no-sleep and 'please crush yourself into this small seat' airline and was met at Gatwick by World Superbike photographer Mark Wernham who drove me down to Banbury (Thanks Mark!) in his sporty Peugeot camera-hauler.
As Wernham talked about the new Nikon F-5 and the 600mm lens he had just mortgaged his entire life to buy, after an eight hour flight and a frantic half day of preparation ('what do you mean my passport isn't in the drawer?') I sat back in the seat and instantly fell asleep, content that it was something like 5:00 in the morning back home and I hadn't slept a wink in twenty-one odd hours.
Sleep, blissful sleep.
I didn't dream in my impromptu nap but as my body recharged against the fatigue a sound slowly began to creep into the background. I analyzed the sound and slept at the same time: engine, diesel engine, much valve train or combustion noise, spinning high revs. As I came out of the murky depths of sleep I realized that we were moving at a great pace, Wernham's little Peugeot was screaming its heart out as he tried to get my to an appointment with the King on time.
There are plenty of medical stress tests for hearts but few as severe as slowly waking up from a nap and looking out through the windshield and seeing cars coming at you in the wrong lane, as your driver rips along at 120mph. It is my experience it will take you from REM to fully awake, on the verge of blowing ventricles right out your chest, in about .03 seconds.
Wernham, bless his now abused Peugeot, got me to the King's stone castle on time for my appointment to be the first press guy to see the Modenas KR V3 500 (let the parodies of Tone Loc's late 1980's hit "Funky Cold Medina" begin now).
What you won't read about is the moments of desperation I had when I couldn't immediately locate my tape recorder and notebook when it came time for Roberts and me to sit down and talk.
So, of course, I unpacked all my bags right there in Kenny's conference room, the King right there with me, waiting somewhat patiently. Future guests in KR's conference room will no doubt see a plaque proclaiming the room as The Place Dean Adams Stacked his Underwear on the Table.
Because of travel restrictions I spent a few days in Banbury seeing the sights and generally trying to run a magazine from another continent. At one point AR proprietor Jim Hansen was going to hire the Concord to fly me home as "it would be cheaper than paying for all these Trans-Atlantic phone calls."
With some time on my hands I observed the English as best I could. They are a nation of clean people, I will say that, but then again I didn't go there with the impression that the English use outdoor non-shielded 'squatting' holes in the ground to relive themselves.
No, the English are clean, yet they wear the centuries of hardship and oppression on their collective face. A hard-working dentist-orthodontist could clean up in England.
As near as I could tell, the English are fascinated with the unclothed female human breast. This isn't nation-specific of course but the English plaster their magazines with photos of topless women. Not just motorcycle or recreational magazines either, but as near as I could tell near every magazine in England features topless models in one form or another.
They're straight-up about it though, I'll give them that. Instead of hiding their titillation with artsy concepts like back-lighting or shadows, the English run their topless photos in full-bleed, full-frame, tightly-cropped, "Here They Are" shots with no apparent shame.
For an American it's bizarre to be reading a newspaper in a crowded English pub and turn the large pages only to find yourself staring at a blonde in her birthday suit. Note to future travelers to England: when The Sun runs a headline reading "Melinda's Boob Job" rest assured it isn't a story on how some woman screwed up a career, it's the real thing.
While in Banbury I remembered that freelance writer Alan Cathcart lived nearby and after a few phone calls Alan said he'd drive down and take me to dinner. According to Cathcart the best Thai restaurant in all of England is in Banbury and he made the reservations. As for the food I don't recall, but the Thai beer tasted like weak Grain Belt and it certainly did the trick. (My one clear recollection of the evening: Cathcart saying, "You wrote a Mike Hailwood story without talking to me? Hailwood used to hit on my wife.")
Cathcart, world traveler and all, said he'd be down a half an hour before our reservation to pick me up at the hotel.
Being he is Alan Cathcart I sat in my hotel room (which was a nice pre-death fitting of a casket) and wondered what piece of four-wheeled exotica he'd drive down from his home in Warwick: perhaps a Bentley or an polished old MG. Adding just the right amount of bizarre twist to the journey, Cathcart showed up in a Dodge mini-van. Yes, Alan Cathcart drives a mini-van, a left hand drive, brand new top of the line, imported from the States Dodge mini-van with Pennsylvania plates and maybe even that fake woodgrain trim that by all rights should be outlawed. Riding shotgun to the restaurant in a left-hand drive car in right hand drive England made the beer go down much easier (Note to Cathcart: Sorry Alan, I'll buy at Elkhart)
Being that this is a motorcycle website I should tie this column in with something motorcycle related. Here it is: I was almost run down by a Banbury Pizza-Hut delivery boy riding a RZ125. Good enough?
Oh, the bleeding man. I walked into a convience store or "newsagent" as the English refer to them and noticed that the floor looked like somebody had lightly gut-shot a doe, or so it seemed. Blood splattered on the floor in quarter-sized blotches every feet and collected in a small puddle whenever whoever was leaking the red stuff paused in the store ? from the pool in front of the potato chip display it seemed he had a long decision-making process over which brand to buy.
Of course, I ended up behind the bleeding man in line to purchase our goods. After looking him over it was obvious that this man, six-three, 200 pounds (no idea how many ?stone' that is), black leather biker jacket, had just, as my grandmother used to say, had the boots put him. Someone had just given this man the beating of his life a few moments ago, as the area around his left eye was swelling shut as I stared at him unabashedly, and the blood pouring from hole in the back of his head had not even begun to dry.
Judging by the people in the store, seeing man bleeding profusely at ten o'clock in the morning is not out of the ordinary in England.
When he moved up to pay for his chips and cigarettes he turned to look at the inquisitive Yank behind him and said, "How's going, mate?" through swollen lips.
"Oh, normal," I answered.