An Englishman in Phoenix, Arizona in 1989
When I moved back to Phoenix from Los Angeles in 1989, I had developed a taste for learning about a much bigger world than I had been exposed to growing up in Minneapolis, and going to ASU in Arizona. I had met people from all over the world, and for the first time had become fascinated with seeing things from other people's point of view. And one of the point of views that amazed me was a friend from England named Stuart, who lived in my apartment complex in Phoenix.
Yes, I know when you tell a story like this you're supposed to change the names to protect the innocent, but Stuart wasn't innocent. I have no photos of him, only this cartoon that I drew poking fun of the fact that he tended to make long-distance calls to London from his friend's phones. Back in 1989 that was ridiculously expensive, and he ran up my phone bill one month to over $200. Yes, he paid me back.
Stuart was very old (at least 45!), very tall, and had an incredible British accent. Like most Americans, I can't really differentiate between the "Queen's English" and any other accent from Liverpool to London. Not really. And like most Americans, I was fasciated by Stuart's accent, which now I realize would be best described as "Cockney". Girls thought he was wonderful, and thought he sounded like James Bond.
But Stuart was more than just an Englishman, he was a world traveler. He drank a lot, and would talk about the places he'd been, usually waking up in some strange country with a hangover. He was about as opposite of me as it could possibly be. I have always needed to be in familiar surroundings, but to Stuart it was all the same. He would be fine anywhere in the world, as long as he could find a place that served beer. He was an International Man of Mystery, and his favorite beer was "whatever someone else was buying".
I don't know what happened to Stuart, and I hate to say it but I'd imagine by now he's drinking beer with the angels. His flame burned bright, I can't imagine that it's still glowing. But who knows? I got a Facebook request from the wife of a friend I hadn't seen in over thirty years who was kind of that way too, so he could be also alive and well.
Anyway, Stuart worked at an antique shop on 7th Street, just south of Gay Denny's, around the corner from Hanratty's. He really didn't know much about antiques, but that accent of his was very valuable, and somehow when Stuart said something it sounded what we would call now "Antiques Roadshow" talk. He made good money there.
There was a song that was popular in the 1980s that always makes me think of my buddy Stuart, and the lyrics went: "I'm an alien, I'm a legal alien, I'm an Englishman in New York". It was all the same to Stuart, he didn't live in Phoenix, he was a resident of the world.
Posted by Brad Hall