"Let's have a look at your passport then?", Andy asks me.
This is a question that gets asked a lot amongst travellers. The more stamps, the more respect. Like medals of honour, proudly pinned to the blazer of a war veteran. Because I have already predicted his question, my passport lies conveniently within reach.
It's the summer of 1992 and we are a month into a ten week contract, working as kitchen staff, on a children's summer camp on the Upstate New York / Massachusetts border. Our lodgings are basic, our free time sporadic and our boss, a lunatic. We need all the distractions that we can get. This often comes in the form of alcohol.
We've been sitting in my tiny room for the past few hours, drinking Budweiser, discussing our travels of the past years, and generally trying to outdo each other with our tales of debauchery. I am desperately searching through my memory banks for my next tale, in response to Andy's latest offering. A story of a travellers cheque scam which he is had going for the past 3 summers in America, and which he intends to perpetrate again within the next month. He assures me that it is the easiest crime in the world to commit, and encourages me to give it a go. Of course, I am interested. I mean, what 23 year old, with itchy feet and a thirst for adventure, would not be? It beats, the offer of selling my passport, which I got in Egypt in 1989.
Disappointingly he flicks through my passport with only a moderate interest. At this point in my life, my travels have been limited to Israel, Egypt and a load of countries that require no visa. All very cool, when you're showing off to your friends back in the mill towns of Lancashire, but hardly impressive when surrounded by people that have travelled the globe far and wide. He's about to hand the passport back to me, when he notices the photo page.
"Fucking hell Andy kid, this photo is amazing, you look just like Corey Haim", he exclaims.
Although I fail to see the resemblance between myself and Corey Haim, his interest in my photo could not have been more perfectly timed.
"I have a great tale to tell you about this photo", I inform him.
In eager anticipation, he cracks us open two new cans of beer and we make ourselves comfortable.
The car chase
It's a red hot day in the late summer of 1988. I'm 19 years old, have just returned from my first holiday without my parents and I will be heading for a new life on a kibbutz in Israel within the next 6 months. More importantly, I have my own wheels. For the first time in my existence, I feel as though life is overflowing with independence, opportunity and excitement.
Beside me, in the passenger seat of my MKII Ford Escort, sits my mate Dave. An extremely bright, yet rebellious lad with a penchant for Gothic clothing. The car windows are wound down and Dave sits with his black leather, fingerless gloved hand draped out of it. We have spent the afternoon in Bolton shopping and are now on the route back to Rawtenstall where I intend to get a passport photograph taken at the local bus station.
My car can only be described as a total nail. It really is on it's last legs. I bought it over a year ago and failed to fill it with oil for the first 4 months. Consequently the big end (whatever that may be) has gone. This means that the car knocks. The faster I drive, the louder it knocks. This is only remedied by turning the stereo up to max.
My car is stationary. I am in the inside lane, of two lanes and the traffic lights are on red. We're at the front of the queue patiently waiting for the lights to change. When behind us, a horn starts to beep, and continues to do so for the next 20 seconds. "What a wanker!", I say to Dave before reaching my arm out of the car window and gesturing this very fact to the driver of the offending vehicle, by employment of five slow, yet very precise flicks of the wrist. I turn back to Dave with a smug (that told him) kind of look on my face, and I'm expecting to be greeted with similar glee. I'm wrong. In fact, his face is filled with anxiety and his skin has turned a strange shade of green.
Turning my head to see what Dave's looking at, I am faced by the demonic stare of a guy whose arms are bigger than my legs, and whose head looks like it is going to explode with anger. Although his left hand remains on the steering wheel, his fingers are pointing directly at my head. His right hand has been thrust out of the window and is now banging on the roof of his car, like a hungry gorilla at feeding time.
To make matters worse, he is driving a Toyota MR2 sports car. The kind with headlights that retract into the car's bonnet. These lights are currently flashing and popping up and down at the same time, as if the car is alive with anger. It's owner, meanwhile is playing verbal charades with me, and his charade appears to be telling me to "GET OUT OF THE FUCKING CAR". There's only one thing for it. I slam my foot on the accelerator and shoot the lights. It is evident that I am never going to beat him for speed. Clearly I am going to have to use either tenacity or blind stupidity, if my face is going to remain intact. It goes without question that I choose the latter of these two options.
If there is any junction that it is safe to drive through a red light at full acceleration, this is not it. On one side there is a fiercely sharp hairpin bend and on the other cars are flying past me at a furious pace. The net result of my actions, is predictably chaos, with cars slamming on their brakes as if they were on their driving test and the examiner had just slammed his newspaper on the dashboard. I leave a trail of destruction in my wake, but unfortunately these obstacles prove no problem for the gorilla in pursuit. He also shoots the red light and negotiates the mass of confused traffic with the skill of a professional racing driver.
The distance between my current location and my destination is ten miles. That's ten miles of countryside and linear villages. I know that Turton village should be coming up in approximately three miles. At Turton village the road splits, and the turn that I require goes off at a 45 degree angle. Of course, there are traffic lights here, as it is considered to be an accident black spot. These lights are hopefully going to be my salvation.
I approach the traffic lights at full speed whilst making mental calculations about how I can use them to my advantage. What if they are on green? I'll hit the bend at maximum speed and hope that I don't hit the pub wall, oncoming car or wipe out a pedestrian. What if the lights are on red? I'll hit the bend at maximum speed and hope that I don't hit the pub wall, oncoming car or wipe out a pedestrian. That's right, I'm screwed.
I am not sure how to feel when I see that the lights are on red and my distance to their approach is less than 50 metres. But I know for certain how I feel as I shoot through them at 60 MPH on two wheels. I feel as if my arse has just exited my head and my nervous system has been plugged into the national grid. Pretty much the same way that the guy crossing the road feels, I would say, as he dives for cover. To my side, my terrified goth navigator informs me that my newly formed enemy has emulated my actions, and is still in pursuit.
To cut a long car chase short. This act of complete lunacy goes on for at least nine of the ten miles between Bolton and Rawtensall. That's nine miles of blind bend overtaking, nine miles of trying to put at least one car between mine and my aggressors vehicle, nine miles of incessant knocking noises from my under my bonnet and nine miles of arse twitching, knee trembling fear.
I'm no altogether sure why the raging beast in the Toyota MR2 decides to stop chasing us as we approach Rawtenstall, but I eliminate boredom from my inquiry. Maybe he passed his house, maybe he valued his life or maybe he needed to urinate. Whatever the reason, a mile out of Rawtenstall we suddenly realise that he is no longer in pursuit. Cautiously, I slow down.
When we arrive at Rawtenstall bus station a few minutes later, I am still not fully convinced that I am not being followed. I therefore treat my approach to the photo booth like a military operation, weaving around the back streets like John Rambo. Once I'm there, I fumble to get my coins in the slot and try and feign a smile, whilst still half expecting a heavily muscled arm to shoot through the curtains to grab me by the neck. During the three minutes that it takes for the photos to develop, I am a nervous wreck. When they are eventually deposited into the little slot, I grab them quickly and rush off back to the car. Here I find Dave hiding in the back seat. And that's the end of the story, until a few weeks later when we decide to drive to Bolton and pass the junction where the whole episode began.
"Hey get a look at this", Dave says to me.
"You were in the wrong lane all along. Look! The lane that you were in is only for traffic forking left. You must have been in his lane".
And bloody hell, he's right. The whole thing was my fault.
Corey Haim part 2
"Fuck me Andy kid, and that's how you ended up looking like Corey Haim?", Andy shouts out.
He calls the other kitchen staff in the room to examine my passport photo and they all fervently agree.
"Maybe I need to get into more car chases", I tell them. "Who know's! Next time I may end up looking like Tom Cruise".