Wednesday, 18 June 2014

A New York State Of Mind In Aldershot.

Having squandered a little time with my good lady wife in the shopping metropolis that is Aldershot in Hampshire, i felt that we needed a little down time from window shopping at Luis Vuitton, Cartier and Lidl. Knowing there was a newly built restaurant nearby, we decided to give ourselves a treat and eat our lunch New York bar and grill style.

Carefully dodging the cabs on Maddison and 4th, or Aldershot High Street, we made our way to the mall, sorry, 'Morrisons' next to the Police precinct where 'Aldershot's finest' do their business of cleaning up this dirty town. 

Ok, it was a Frankie and Bennys, but the idea of sitting in a leatherette booth, eating a burger and fries appealed to me. I also liked the idea of being watched over by hundreds of black and white photo's of 50's mobsters, baseball players and random, portly looking Italian American gentlemen who in days gone by would have made sure that if i showed any disrespect, i would be 'sleeping with da fishes,' not in New York harbour, but in the local municipal duck pond.

I needed to get myself into a New York state of mind. I needed to think 50's, i needed to think mobster. Sauntering inside, i imagined myself in the real New York, sorry, 'Noo Yoik,' ordering a 'Cwaaffee,' lighting a cigarette and chewing the fat with 'Little Tony' and 'Paulie knuckles' at the bar.

However, instead of seeing the Statue of Liberty out of the window, if i squinted really really hard, i could see the reflection of the Army surplus store in the windows of Morrisons. A Police cruisers' siren cut the air... Or was that an ice cream van? It was hard to tell in the cacophony of what is 'Downtown' Aldershot.

Instead of Tony and knuckles, i got Sandra from Basingstoke at the bar, a waiter who i shall call 'Spotty youth,' and leatherette booth's filled with Aldershot locals, keen to take advantage of the lunchtime specials between breakfast and the fish and chip shop.

I soon learned that to get between the locals and their afternoon fries in this part of town could result in unpleasantness that could start in what is known here as an 'Aldershot Minute.' You could end up getting 'whacked.'

As the voice of Johnny Burnette singing 'You're 16, you're beautiful and you're mine' filled the air, i looked over towards the open kitchen area where the short order chef cooked ribs in a curtain of flame. Disappointingly, Little Tony, knuckles and the rest of the East Side Mob were not sat there playing cards, discussing the 'rubbing out' of Don Giovanni from the West Side, in the increasingly violent turf wars in Aldershot over who controls the drugs, the gambling and VD Veronica who plies her trade near the War memorial in Central Park, next to the swings.

Ignoring the fact that Johnny Burnette was hankering after 16 year olds, i looked over to the more private booths in the far corner. Joe Pesci was nowhere to be seen, Robert De Niro and Ray Liotta had gone out shopping with the kids and Al Pacino had obviously said goodbye to his 'little friend' and retired to Eastbourne to shout 'HooHaah..!' at little old ladies.

Dean Martin started to warble about a moon hitting your eye like a big pizza pie....

I snapped out of thinking about the consequences of such a lunar and culinary disaster when 'Spotty Youth' asked to take our order.

"Pastrami on rye, tomayto, (not tomato) sour cream... Hold the mayo with pickle on the side..." Is what i wanted to say, but didn't. I also refrained from using 'BaddaBing,' at the end.

"Two cheese burgers and chips please." I replied in my Midland accented English. 'Spotty Youth' smiled at me as he asked if there was anything else. I looked at him. In my mind's eye, i could see myself saying, " What? Do you think i'm funny? funny how? Funny like a clown?" but resisted.

"No, nothing else thank you." I said. Returning my gaze to the window, i marvelled at the buildings opposite as they towered a full 3 stories into the damp, overcast sky. The town of Aldershot, known internationally as 'The Crab Apple' and the world over as 'The town that never sleeps' (Except between the hours of 11pm and 6am.) certainly had the vision in those days of building big, i thought idly to myself.

I looked around once more and decided that Aldershot, however hard Frankie and Bennys try, will never recreate that New York state of mind. My mind wandered and in it, a line from Scarface appeared...

Tony Montana: Me, I want what's coming to me.
Manny: Oh, well what's coming to you?
Tony Montana: Aldershot, chico, and everything in it. 


Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.