This was in 1997, I think.
We’d arrived in Philadelphia three hours earlier, we’d only just escaped from this con we got tangled up in at the train station, it was sort of a kidnapping thing. We had effectively been kidnapped for ten to fifteen minutes. But as Michael Ende says: “that is another story, and will be told at another time”.
All you need to know is that we were shaken up, scared, but also very relieved. Glad to be alive. We checked into this place, a university dorm that was empty over the summer and being used as a youth hostel.
Nat said: “Do you want to… I dunno, I mean it’s okay if you just want to stay in.”
I said: “No, I'm okay. Let’s go check out that music store.”
There was this music store in Philadelphia that Nat had heard about from his room-mate. It was supposed to be really big, with a good range of different stuff.
It was getting dark. Possibly in light of our experience that afternoon, Philadelphia looked like a cold, mean, dirty city. It looked like it meant us harm. Also it was hard to navigate. The music shop was in a “bohemian” part of town. It took us a couple of tries to find, but then there it was. It was closed, but opening again in an hour or so.
There was a bag lady standing near the door. When we got close she hobbled into our path and pointed at me. She said: “Hey. Hey you know who you look like?”
We didn’t really want to talk to her, but she was right there, so out of a sense of politeness I said: “What?”
She said: “You look like Eric Clapton.”
We laughed. I really didn’t look anything like Eric Clapton. My brother and I both had long hair, and I guess Clapton had long hair in the 60s or 70s, but the resemblance ended there.
Nat said: “Way to go.”
The old woman turned her finger to point at my brother.
She said: “You look like… Alice.” Her voice had a menacing tone.
I think Nat was losing patience with her, because he said: “Uh-huh. Who the hell is Alice, man?”
I thought she meant Alice Cooper, like maybe she was on a rock-star thing. (Note that this was years before the "Who the Fuck is Alice?" song.)
But the bag lady said: “Alice died this morning.” Then she burst into a peal of witch-laughter, exactly like creepy old women do in horror movies.Nat was pretty shaken up. We both were. And off the back of the thing at the train station, we both arrived at the same decision: fuck Philadelphia. We left first thing in the morning and spent the extra time in Boston instead.