A Sunday spent in the pub led to a rather wicked hangover come Monday morning. After a spliff and a cup of tea we went up the road for a fry-up. Veronica wanted to see the sights of London and Gulfboot was explaining to her about the size and immensity of the city. My head still beat like a kick drum. The last thing i wanted to do this day was look at Buckingham Palace or the Tower of London, i'd been to this city twice and managed to see neither, i was more into the Everyman Scene you could say, wandering the streets of different neighborhoods and taking it all in. On the other hand i didn't want to disappoint Veronica but the fact was i was still hurting pretty good even after breakfast and then as we ambled the streets of Streatham the grease hit the poor girl and a look of fear came over her face, she needed a toilet... fast. There was a maturity to this girl that i'd rarely experienced when i was younger. Gulfboot and i stood outside the fast food joint we'd found for her smoking a cigarette. Veronica emerged smiling and feeling better and we continued our walk. Needless to say it was a lazy day and i felt guilty for not having dragged myself into the proper tourist trap areas of one of the great cities of the world. We planned to take it easy that night so we could attempt the journey in the morning. Of course if there is one thing Gulboot and i were adept at it was debauchery and round about time the sun went down we were down the local boozing. Veronica not to be outdone took my hand and slipped another pill of E into it, she smiled and whispered in my ear that she had just taken one. She did love her Ecstasy and so i downed mine and off we went.
We were taking turns as to who slept in the bedroom and it just so happened that Monday had Veronica and i in the living room sleeping on makeshift mattress. Of course the drugs were doing the business and on returning to the flat we giggled our way into said room and shut the door to get back to our favorite pastime. The truth was she was my new favorite drug and i was a full blown addict. All i wanted to do was to be wrapped around her in the most primal sense, sessions of sex interspersed with talking, drinking water, listening to music quietly as we stayed up to the wee hours before falling asleep naked and exhausted. All the while knowing that each sunrise brought us closer to our impending departure. There were questions of course... what would happen when we got back? Being a fine pugilist in this department i ducked and dodged and said let's not worry about that now, let us just enjoy where we're at and who we're with. You can call me this Charming Man as Veronica threw her arms around me and smiled.
The sunlight of noon awoke us on that fateful Tuesday to the fact that we had slept in a bit too long. There would be no trip to the tourist traps instead there would be something much more important and valuable. There was a match that night at Selhurst Park and Veronica was going to get a true South London experience as our second leg League Cup tie with Burnley kicked off that evening. Veronica spent the day learning songs as Gulf and i were giddy with the anticipation of another match. Of course as the day progressed the clouds moved in and the damp and drizzle started up. A mid-week Cup tie at Selhurst between two old First Division sides was a bit less crowded than the Saturday league match and so inside the grounds we took our seats in the Holmesdale Road end and looked out over a mostly empty stadium. No worries though the 5,000 or so of us there made a wonderful racket.
Palace had drawn the first leg away 2-2 and with the away goals in our favor things looked promising. Ah but Palace is Palace and we never do anything the easy way at my beloved club. Right before halftime Burnley headed home a corner and the live score had us crashing out of the League Cup. The second half was a nerve wracking affair, football being the cruel mistress she is had me travelling thousands of miles to see what i thought would be 180 minutes worth of scoreless football from my club. The clock ticked and the game wound down and my mates were now muttering that i may never be allowed back inside Selhurst Park... Enter Andy Linighan.
With things looking more dire with each passing tick of the clock all one had to do was look around to see the worry and concern etched onto the faces of we Palace supporters. Veronica, in her usual way, was brilliant, it's as if she had been a supporter all her life and seemed to have an intuitive feel for the game. She was clutching my arm when Mikael Forssell's near miss had her shouting "C'mon!!". My mates looked over and gave me an approving nod. She was to engrossed to notice. And so the clock ticked and the anxiety ratcheted. As the second half stoppage time slipped away the ball fell to Mr. Linighan, on the pitch for all of seven minutes, who ripped a right-footed half volley the curled into the back of the net sending those of us in attendance into unmitigated bliss!!! There were hugs and kisses and high fives and suddenly i was now allowed to attend every game at Selhurst from here on out. But we were not out of the proverbial woods yet as the goal sent us into another 30 minutes of nerve-shredding extra time. All we needed to do was hold on as a draw would see us through. And held on we did with Burnley looking to ruin my evening it took an incredible save from our Latvian superstar goalkeeper Kolinko (yes that's a joke) to keep us in the Cup. At the final whistle we all let out a loud cheer, sang, and i looked at Veronica who was absolutely beaming. She had loved it.
So how is it that El Kono became King Kabob? After a brief stop at an Irish pub for a pint and a warm up we made our way back to Streatham. The local Doner kebab shop at the end of the road near the pub had come to know me quite well over the past week or so. We were all starving so we stopped in to get some grub, the guys behind the counter asking us how we were doing and we relaying the story of the wonderful match we'd just seen. They talked to Veronica about what she thought and she talked as if she'd been going to matches for years. Once again the guys working gave me an approving nod as to winning the heart of such a fine woman. As we conversed it came to pass that i told them we'd be leaving Thursday morning and the Kebab Crew all talked of how they were sad to see me go. That i had been a most friendly and entertaining American and that they'd hope i'd be back soon and when i came back that i'd be sure to stop in. I smiled and said yes yes i'd be sure to stop in and that's when it happened.
As Gulfboot would relay to me on our brief walk home, in all his years of kebab shop patronage he had never seen anything like it. On learning of my impending departure a look of sadness came over the faces of my three kebab making friends and they all began talking to each other in a language i couldn't understand before saying, we want a picture with you. Sure i said no problem, i'd be honored and then they told me to come around behind the counter. As Gulfboot told me he'd never seen them or any other kebab shop let anyone behind the counter other than employees but he laughed and said, of course they let you! They flipped up part of the counter top and had me stand in between them, the lovely spit of meat right behind us, while one of them snapped a photo who then wanted his picture with me so he switched with someone else before the drunk intelligence took over and Gulfboot said why don't i take the photo and they all piled behind the counter and arms draped around each other's shoulders we smiled for our photo.
Gulfboot would be leaving to join the missus in the States not long after i'd left, hence it was part of the impetus for this trip, a free place to stay, a chance to see my best friend, the opportunity to pull some shenanigans of legendary proportions. Having used all my vacation back at the warehouse at a job i didn't really care about i told them i'd take it unpaid and in fact could give a shit if i was canned or not. Stiv and i were rolling right along so money wasn't really an issue. On entering the shop shortly before he left the guys behind the counter immediately asked if i had made it home safely. Gulfboot said yes he did and then they said look! Placed prominently behind the register with a few other photos of their family and such was the picture of the Kebab Crew and myself, all smiles and friendship. Hence my title of International Ambassador of Goodwill and King Kebab. As we walked down the road and up the stairs to the flat, hand in hand with Veronica, talking excitedly about the match, it was another brilliant day in a string of brilliant days. But the adventure was almost over. The clock was ticking and we had less than 48 hours to go. This time Thursday night we'd be back in the States.