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A Rat Race

From the Album  A Chair by The Window

When the New York city streets
Prepare themselves for midnight
You can feel the tension in the air
It’s there you’re going to find them all
Crawling from the woodwork
Rising from the sewers of despair

Do you want to buy my drugs?
Do you want to meet my sister?
Five dollars and she’ll show you a good time
Guns for sale any kind you want
Let them do your talking
Walk with them down the avenues of crime

It’s a rat race, it’s a fight for life
Only the strongest will survive
It’s a rat race, don’t you hang behind
And the only prize you’ll get is to stay alive

When the New York city streets
Prepare themselves for daylight
Painting over the dark and deadly grime
It’s there you’re going to find them all
Crawling from their mansions
Walking to their world of legal crime

Would you like to buy these shares?
We can make a killing
There’s always someone on the street who’ll pay the bill
You’re feeling sick, come to me
My business is to care
I’ll cure you, but the cost is going to kill

You want the child, that’s my game
I can buy you justice
But you’ll work for half your life to pay what’s due
Vote for me, I love you all
I’ll build a better world
Then maybe I will build one for you too


It was 1989, and I had just made the final break from my first wife. I left Derby at 2 a.m. and drove to Heathrow airport with no idea where I was going or what I would do. With guitar in hand and a suitcase by my side, I looked up at all the possible destinations and made a shortlist. Gstaad, Italy, Los Angeles, Spain or India. The previous year we had gone on holiday to Los Angeles, and I loved it, but this was not a holiday. I needed to consider my future in either squash or music, although I was open-minded should anything else come along. I eventually decided on New York. I loved how everyone in Los Angeles was so happy and friendly, so I assumed New York would be the same, only with more opportunity. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

On my arrival at JFK airport, I booked and paid for a hotel room and asked a taxi driver to take me there. After an hour of going round in circles, he told me he couldn’t find my hotel so dumped me at a different hotel. He charged me a fortune, and as he didn’t speak English, there was not much I could do about it. The hotel looked ok, and I was too tired to argue.

I was surprised at how reasonably priced the hotel was, and when I took a walk outside, I realised why. I was constantly pestered by men trying to sell me a wide variety of drugs and women and the atmosphere was terrifying. The next day I explored the city and was walking down a side road when I saw an elderly woman driver make a silly mistake. A policeman shouted at her “Watch what you’re doing, you asshole!” I then went to a shop to buy a laptop. I was charged extra for the operating system which I didn’t know was already built-in, a memory module that he never installed and software that I later found out was not genuine. Finally, I had lunch in a restaurant where I was so scared of the waitress. I accepted her recommendation through fear of my life. The next day I booked a one-way ticket to Los Angeles.

I have to say that my brother thinks New York is the best place in the world so I must have just been unlucky.