Life Changing Moment – Kew Gardens to Central Park


S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y Night! (x 4)

Keep on dancin to the Rock and Roll,
On Saturday Night, Saturday Night.
Dancin to the Rhythm with a Heart and Soul,
On Saturday Night, Saturday Night.

Saturday Night, Bay City Rollers (1974)

Indeed, it was a Saturday night but the year was 1975 in the spring time. It was the best looking party listed in the London Village events monthly magazine. The party address was a few streets from Kew Gardens tube station. We, myself and Hugh who now shared the Brown Street W.1. flat with Brian, drove to the house. Our navigation was spot-on perfect, made possible by the best technology available at the time; the A-Z Street Guide of London. (A real printed book and still in print.)

I have fond memories of that corner of south-west London, thanks in good measure to LV events which forced this north-London kid to explore areas previously unknown to him, and a girlfriend who introduced me to the car-free village high street and quaint pubs of Strand on the Green.

Call it what you will, “right place at the right time” or life changing moment, but given time to think, most people can recall such an incident in their lives. Many cite the occasion they met their significant other. Now, this is how I make enemies. The coupling to which they refer occurred as a result of lengthy work place interaction. Sorry, that doesn’t count. Nothing wrong with the methodology, but to qualify for my life changing moment classification it has to be a “moment.” The 1998 movie Sliding Doors staring Gwyneth Paltrow illustrates how a momentary deflection, while descending a flight of stairs, materially alters her life and relationships. Watch it, you’ll like it and it’s set in London.

So, Hugh and I arrived at the Kew Gardens party house. With a wine filled paper cup in hand, I set off to checkout the rooms. Not much happening except for a cluster of people, about seven or eight, in the corner of one room. I joined them. The conversation was dominated by… no that’s not accurate. One young man was speaking energetically and everyone was listening keenly. I did too.
“Then we went to the Harlem Dance Theater. They were fantastic,” he said. “So much energy.”
His name I learned later was Richard, and Richard had recently returned from a trip to New York City.
“In fact,” he continued, “everything there has so much more energy than anything in England.”
I sipped and listened and listened and sipped. The cadence and content of Richard’s holiday report continued in much the same way for five or so minutes. It was then that the Chablis brat-juice kicked in.
“So,” I interjected to stop the flow of words. “If you think New York is so great, why don’t you go live there?”
“Well actually,” Richard replied, with the enthusiasm one would expect given the build up, “I am.”


You can say I was rude (I’ll take it) but nobody else thought to ask. And nobody else in that group was sleeping gratis on the floor of Richard’s apartment in Greenwich Village, New York City a few weeks after the Kew Gardens party. His flat was on Sheridan Square close by the Christopher Street subway station and a short walk to Washington Square.

Following his “actually I am” comment, I quizzed Richard about what he did and how he had found a job in New York. It turned out, like me and many others in our 20’s, he was a computer programmer. We bantered about what we were doing. At some point I said something like, stay in touch and, “once you’re there, can I crash at your place?” We were both in our early 20’s so Richard’s answer was, “yes, of course.”

That’s what I mean by a life altering moment. Another party, another room, a few minutes later and someone other than Richard would have been recounting their vacation story. That summer of 1975 was my first visit to the United States, a trip which never would have occurred had I not picked the Kew Gardens party from the London Village catalog. I visited New York again in 1977 and after 1981, I went to live and work in California for a period of time. I can trace the actualization of my California experience all the way back to the party in Kew, on that one evening, to that one room, and to my snotty, parochial question.

Thank You, Richard, wherever you are.

Keith Howard
Comments are welcome below.

Please add a comment if you would care to share a life changing moment.

Or, if you were in the LV circle in the 1970’s, I would love to hear your memories and post them for others to enjoy.