On The Road With Jack

by Thomas William Parrott

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At around 4 in the morning I gave my bag to the check out lady at the Delta airlines desk and made my way through Heathrow Airport security, where I was sure I would be stopped because of the metal thermos of insulin I was carrying. This did not happen, nobody batted an eyelid and no one asked to see any documentation of what was inside the flask. I arrived in Paris still half awake and I started to realize what Chuck Palahniuk was talking about. The perpetuating feeling of deja vu...
Again here I went through airport security and nobody showed any attention to the metal flask filled with glass containers of , to them , an unknown liquid. They did take strong notice of the bottle of diet coke I had though, and that went swiftly into a bin. Uncannily, Charles De Gaulle airport looks exactly like the airport at the end of 12 Monkeys and I only wish I'd had my yellow raincoat with me to make the experience that little bit more surreal.

I got to stretch my french with a waitress when ordering my breakfast just before boarding, though I did feel ten euros for a replacement diet coke and three croissants was a little steep. Caught the flight with plenty of time, and sat next to a canadian girl who was going back home to nursing school after teaching for 2 months in Romania. Taught her how to play sh*thead with cards, discussed the pros and cons of cleaning up vomit, and watched 'Coraline' among other things.

Landed in Seattle Airport and slowly made my way to baggage claim, at which point the long arm of the American customs officer swooped down upon me and treated me to a full search of my bags. In a way, I was glad, the way I had gone through the other security checks had left me questioning the real security in the world airports. I had all my bags checked, and waited patiently knowing if I made any fuss I wouldn't be leaving the airport anytime soon.
After getting the all clear, I jumped on the monorail to another baggage claim, (very confusing) picked up my bag again and jumped on the bus to downtown Seattle. I had arrived.

The bus journey was good, sat next to a guy who was moving the last of his stuff from one side of Seattle to the other because his flat mate was so untidy and sat around all day doing nothing. It seems there are lazy bums the world over. He told me about the best things to do in the city and alerted me to the street kids, which coincidentally is the word today:


Jubalows. - the street performers and kids on the streets of downtown Seattle, who usually have no shoes and like to squirt ketchup everywhere.


I got off the bus at Pine market and decided to walk the rest of the way to my hotel, which is amazing, uber modern with Obey andre the giant posters tiled on the walls. My room is directly above a bar, and after sleeping most of the day I saw fit to go and have a drink there and meet some of the locals. Needless to say I spent most of the night in there.

It's now 6 am and the morning light has just peeked up over the harbor bay, think I'm gonna grab the camera and make the most of my day.

Day 2

Jet lag can have its advantages. Being able to stroll around the empty waterfront of Seattle harbor at 7 am is one of these. Nobody around apart from the odd jogger or sidewalk cleaner.

I made my way along the western waterfront from the hotel heading towards downtown, snapping away at the abandoned piers and walkways. On my way back up towards the Pike Market I met one of the many homeless people that scatter the water front by the western edge. At first I was very cautious of him, he had obviously seen me taking pictures so knew I had a camera with me.

I continued walking and he tagged along with me, and I soon learned that he was a very lonely, very down on his luck for whatever reason preacher from Miami. He told me ten years previously he had been set on fire and beaten within an inch of his life, and by the look of him I could tell this wasn't a tall tale. He didn't have a left ear. He showed me the remains of his guitar, a present from his late wife, which had been smashed a month before by some kids. It was destroyed beyond repair, but I could see why he hadn't thrown the pieces away. He continued walking with me for half an hour, telling me stories of how happy he was to live on the waterfront by the market and he seemed to know all the market owners, greeting them with a toothless grin every time. We walked pass a couple of Port of Seattle police officers too, who he also greeted like old friends. He asked if I would like to take a picture of him, which I did. Not once did he ask me for money, and at the end of the market I offered him the $5 in my pocket as thanks for the picture and the stories he told me. I walked back to my hotel and got some breakfast, and the thought that the whole story he told me could have been a rouse in order for me to give him money did cross my mind but, in a way, it doesn't matter. He made me smile.

After breakfast I walked towards the Seattle center and the Experience Music Museum, overlooked by the Space Needle. Walked round the Museum and got to be 2 inches from Jimi Hendrix's first guitar & lyric book and Kurt Cobain's favorite guitar; a blue Fender Mustang from the Smells like teen spirit music video. Unfortunately the museum doesn't allow photography, which royally sucks. I found it all really interesting, but a little too corporate for my liking. Everything sponsored by something and feeling of grunge put into a pristine glass cabinet doesn't sit too well with me. Part of me wanted to break off one of the 300 or so guitars making up a huge sculpture in the middle of the museum and throw it through the security glass surrounding the punk rock exhibit. Instead, I went to the 'jam' area , played the drum kit as hard as I could for the allotted 10 minutes, drew a crowd, collected my bag and left.

I decided after seeing grunge so delicately preserved that I was going to go and visit the site where it all ended so abruptly one spring morning in 1994. It was such a nice day, so instead of taking the bus to the other side of Seattle I chose to walk there. Best decision ever. After about 2 hours of walking I stopped for lunch at a huge health supermarket and got the super healthy choice of 2 pizza slices from the deli. I finished up and continued east.

Eastern Seattle is very different to downtown, mostly all residential, nice houses. The kinda place I wouldn't mind living if I had the money to. I came across a secondhand book store and bought a Tom Wolfe book for $2. Bargain. As I came towards the Eastern waterfront along Lake Washington drive, I thought I would probably be quite close to Kurt Cobain's former residence by now. I took some skittles out of my bag to up my sugars a bit and looked for a place to sit to rest for a minute or two. I saw a park up ahead with a bench dappled in sunlight. This was it. Viretta Park.image description


Nirvana fans have been coming to this tiny patch of grass with a couple of trees and 2 benches in it to pay tribute ever since Kurt Cobain took his life less that 20 feet away in his greenhouse on April 5th 1994. Both benches are literally tattooed with tributes and flowers and little memoirs. I took out my book, took off my shoes and stayed there until the sun started to go down.


Can't really top that.


The word today is Kurt. Rest in peace.

Day 3

Visited the Seattle art museum and went up to Washington Park and Fremont district. Did a lot more walking. The Fremont district of Seattle is quite strange, there is a huge rocket attached to the side of a building declaring that it is the centre of the universe. Also, at some point in the mid nineties during an art fair somebody sold a huge statue of Lenin to a market owner who then sold it at the Fremont market. It now sits at the corner of the entrance to this little suburb of Seattle, looming over the Mexican quesadilla restaurant just by it. I found it strange how a literally huge symbol of communism can be bought and sold at a -ahem (free)- market . Very strange indeed.

Before my little art adventure around Seattle I went to the Pacific Place Mall in central downtown Seattle. Here I indulged in the ultimate American extravagance of burger, fries, shake and a trip to the cinema. The burger joint was a 50's diner, vaguely similar to the imitation ones you find up in central London, except this was an american diner, in America, next to a movie theatre. I saw Funny People with Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen. The movie wasn't bad, but i dunno. Not as good as some of the other comedies I've seen from Judd Apatow. But saying that there were some funny parts that made me chuckle .

I've spent the last 3 nights at the American Hostel in Chinatown in Seattle. The hostel is good and I met a lot of cool people, the funniest being a swiss couple who I met on the first night who spoke very broken english, even to each other. There are some other english folks here too, from Manchester I think from the accent. They are loud and annoying. I explained this to the german couple in my dorm, who found it endearing that I didn't join in with football chants. I'm happy they know that not all the english are football hooligans.

Chinatown is nice, but the only thing to eat is very cheap and greasy chinese or japanese food. There's a big oriental supermarket up the hill, and after plodding around and finding the same restaurants at every corner I decided to get some rice and chicken and make my own non greasy dinner in the Hostel kitchen. It wasn't a bad effort but I made way to much and everyone else had their own food so I ended up throwing half of it away.


I've now left Seattle and have travelled to Aberdeen, a small logging town by the Pacific Coast. I'll tell you all about it tomorrow.


The word today is Dew'd

as in " I'm feeling thirsty. I need to get dew'd dude".

Aberdeen

Aberdeen is situated on the Pacific Coast on the Olympic Peninsula south west of Seattle. I took the greyhound bus to Olympia then the Grays Harbor Transit to Aberdeen. I arrived at around 5pm, and after getting off the bus I walked around a bit to get my bearings and walk off the bus cramps. Aberdeen is very small and very empty. It's a logging town and to most people, there's no reason to come here.

Aberdeen is where Nirvana was born. This is Grunge Graceland. Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic grew up here and this is where it all started.

image description I walked around the empty streets, which have strange small rusting metal sculptures of alien type animals on every corner, to find my motel. After walking for 10 blocks and still not finding the motel, I went into a Denny's Diner and got some food. I ate like a king for $10.

As I left the diner the sun was almost down so I made the decision to sleep under the infamous Young Street Bridge. Located north of the little town, the bridge is nothing spectacular, just another crossing over a small river. But underneath this bridge, a young Kurt Cobain once sat writing songs, wasting time and molding the foundations of what would become Nirvana. After he died in 1994, a third of his ashes were scattered here by his friends and family and his spirit rises and falls up the muddy banks with the tide of the Wishkah River. Excuse the word play here, but as a die hard fan, this is my nirvana. I unpacked my sleeping bag and after carefully attaching all my valuables to myself, settled down in the damp, sandy, muddy banks to sleep.

I would love to say that it was a beautiful experience, but in all honesty it was cold, I was quite scared of being discovered under the bridge and the smell of the river combined with the mosquitos made it quite an uncomfortable night. (Another bad pun here) you could say there was Something in the Way. Never the less I can say I've spent a night under THAT bridge in Aberdeen, WA with the whispers of Kurt on the wind slowly sending me to sleep.image description















I was awakened by a large truck or car going over the bridge in the early hours of the morning. I packed my stuff up and walked for ages until I finally found the motel on the other side of town. I checked in, had a shower, climbed into bed and slept until the middle of the afternoon.

In the afternoon I walked around where the motel was and found a Salvation Army Thrift store where I bought some 2nd hand clothes. Most of my clothes were now beginning to smell, and apart from the fact it was cheaper to buy 2nd hand clothes than pay for the launderette, I quite like the fact I own clothes from Aberdeen locals.


The next morning I woke up early to get the bus back to Olympia, still with a smile ear to ear from the bridge experience.

Portland

I won't dispose how I got to Portland but it was quite a journey. Truck drivers must have the highest lung cancer rate of any profession.

I arrived on the outskirts of Portland at around 7pm and it took me about an hour to figure out where the hostel was and another hour to get there. I checked in and dumped my stuff into a locker and went into the garden to meet some people. I met a Bavarian called Mike, a guy from Las Vegas called Nate, a dude from California called Dan, an Aussie called Johnny and a texan girl called Rae. We spent all night drinking and causing mischief. In the morning, Rae informed us she had been turfed from the hostel and Dan and I spent most of the next day wandering the streets of Portland, buying trucker hats and looking for a bar which had old school video games in it.

After the 20th pinball game, we left and met up with Rae again. It had turned to evening, so we all went to check out the Art shows that are held the last and first Thursdays of every month. Saw loads of cool art including a piece that invited you to weave anything into the strings spanning the length of the room. It was already half completed with towels, old t shirts and clothes, video tape reels, newspaper cuttings, even old bicycle tyres and expired college I.D's. Our trio continued on into the night fueled by a sense of adventure... and alcohol. Met loads of other people, A surfer girl from L.A, more Texans, a mad musical duo called Mannequin Head to name a few.

I awoke on a strangers sofa, clutched at either side by two still sleeping bodies. After recovering from my hangover I went to go and see the Japanese Gardens in Washington Park. I thought it would be a nice walk, but I didn't know that the Gardens are situated at the top of a huge hill/mountain. At about half way through the park I stumbled across several strange small sculptures; a broken violin, a pair of spectacles, an old teddy, an empty suitcase. I looked around for an explanation and saw a huge monument at the end of a path, after reading the poem and description on the monument, I realized it was the Oregon Holocaust Memorial. It quite literally took my breath away and reading all about how it was constructed and how ash and soil from five of the Nazi killing camps was under the memorial brought a sobering reminder never to forget and a chill to my spine.

I carried on up the gargantuan hill until I finally reached the gardens at the summit. It was so quiet and tranquil up there that I immediately lost all of the hikers hill rage. It's the kind of place to declare your love for someone. I wrote a message on a pebble and threw it into the waterfall there. I think a few people wondered what I was doing, but one day I'll come back here to find that message.

That night I went out bar hopping with Mike and Nate, met some more locals and ended up in a bar opposite the Pharmacy Matt Dillion robs in Drugstore Cowboy. It was awesome. Kudos to you Gus Van Sant.

I caught the Greyhound to Denver in the morning and with the last of my cash bought some postcards for home.

Things to do in Denver when your debit card is blocked.

1. Plead with the glass eyed hostel owner that you will pay him in the morning when your card will work... and get denied.


2. Wander the streets looking for a cheap place to stay... and not find it.


3. Not let your crappy bank back in England get the better of you and go searching for Dean Moriarty and the rest of the beat generation... and realize that Neal Cassady died of exposure in 1968 in Mexico.


4. Still don't get down, book into any hotel under $100, sleep and leave in the morning. SUCESS!!image description

Denver to Memphis

The journey to Denver was much more exciting than Denver itself. The greyhound went overnight east across Oregon, right through Idaho, and twisted and turned its way through the Rockies following the Colorado River. At the many stops in Colorado I met both a Stan and a Kyle and there was a Kenny and his wife on the bus. I didn't have the balls to ask them each if they knew an Eric Cartman, but I secretly hope they all did. (for those not in the know, these are the main characters from the South Park cartoon, set in a small town in Colorado). The Greyhound bus must have sleeping gas in the air conditioner unit because I slept most of the journey.

I left Denver with one thing in mind. The Mississippi. The bus journey was much longer this time, but as I left Denver clouds were gathering and the sun was setting behind the mountains and it looked as if the Rockies were ablaze. Quite beautiful.

As the bus continued into the night the clouds got darker and heaver and as we drove through Kansas we headed into the biggest electrical thunderstorm I've ever seen. It might be because Kansas is so flat, but you could see the lighting everywhere, as far as the eye could see in the grey misty darkness of Tornado Alley, Middle America. Some people find thunder storms scary, but I love 'em. I sat as high as I could in my seat and tried to see as much of the fury as I could. After we passed the storm I tried to get some sleep, but a twenty year old smoker with the throat cancer side of a gravelly voice kept coughing his lungs up the entire trip, which made it almost impossible to get any shut eye.

We arrived in Kansas City very early in the morning and I sat on roof of the greyhound Station with two girls from Chicago watching the sun rise up the skyscrapers. Very almost missed the bus because they boarded everyone from the wrong door, which I found amusing because of the old 'Kansas City Shuffle' - while everyone looks left, you go right.

image description Old Husky lung had left the bus so I finally managed to get some sleep, and slept until the next change at St. Louis and then slept the entire way to Memphis. I awoke just as we crossed over the Mississippi.

As soon as I got off the bus I was soaked by the air. Air so thick with music, politics and culture you have to absorb it in order to move through it. The Osmosis of Memphis. I made my way through downtown in and out of hotels looking for a good rate. The closer I got to the river, the thicker the air. I love it. Booked into a hotel that overlooks the Wolf River Harbor, right next to the Mississippi. I grabbed my camera and got some awesome shots just as the sun went down over the Mississippi.Later I went down to Beale Street and got some whiskey and watched some Blues. amazing.

The Muddy Banks of The Mississippi

Today I went round all of Memphis. To the Civil Rights Museum located at the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, To the Rock and Soul museum, to Sun Studios where Johnny Cash first caught the Country. To Graceland, although not for very long. Kinda obvious, but there's a LOT of die hard Elvis fans there and after hearing 'Thank You, Thank You Very Much' for the millionth time being said by another person who was absolutely sure no one had ever said that at the gates of Graceland, I quickly exited. I'm sure if you're an Elvis fan it's everything you could ask for, but I'm not a huge fan of the King, so it kinda (triple heart) bypasses me.

The bus driver was joke though, spitting image of Christian Slater, I caught him having a smoke behind a fence and he told me about how he used to drive an eighteen wheeler around the country but lost his job because of the recession and a $70 turnpike ticket misunderstanding , so now drives the tour bus to Graceland twelve times a day listening to an Elvis DVD on repeat. He loves Elvis, He loves his job, He loves being able to wear flip flops to work.

I spent the rest of the afternoon down by the Wolf River and the Mississippi, listening to Grace by Jeff Buckley, this is the very spot he died in 1997 singing 'Whole Lotta Love' swimming fully clothed in the River. Carved a message into a piece of drift wood on the shore and threw back to the river 'Lover, you should've come over'

Last night in Memphis tonight, heading out to Sacramento tomorrow. California here I come.

I really like Memphis, but it does have a strange feeling to it. Kind of like the whole of the downtown area is a tourist attraction. Buildings of old red bricks that look like they've been dipped in some kind of chemical that makes them look like they were in 1930. I'm not to sure how to take it. For me its amazing, because I get to see all this history preserved, but it makes me wonder about the people who live here. How do they progress? or are they just stuck in this frozen time of never ending blues and culture and, as far as I can see, just for the tourist to come and photograph it. Compared to Seattle, where grunge is no longer and the remnants are there, but only if you look hard enough for them. That city has grown and become a thriving metropolis. Memphis is Blues and Rock 'n Roll, but what happens to this beautiful yet slowly decaying city once the generations who listened and played the blues and fell head over high heels for Elvis are gone? I only thing I hope is that the world realizes this is where the message of The Civil Rights Movement really sings true.


The simple fact that all men are created equal, so they can play awesome music together.

The Long Road West

The journey from Tennessee to California was a memorable one. Traveled across Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. I won't go into how I got to the Mexican border too much, but I've learnt a hell of a lot, mainly how to disguise my disgust about the situation I was in. Truck drivers with crumbling faces that spat brown spit into plastic water bottles. This is Texas, and that is chewing tobacco.

Texas is desolate. There is nothing there except sunburnt soil and decrepit buildings that look as if they've grown out of the sand like the brittle withered dead trees that surround them. Rusted cars sit on yellowing brown front yards. Everything is falling apart. There are at least five abandoned gas stations/ auto repair shops in every tiny town. Every so often there is a big parking lot full of brand new shiny and curvy pick up trucks. These are the American cars no-one is buying. Washed and waxed daily by mexicans in grey overalls. Texans love god, guns and gas, equally.

I arrived in El Paso in the dead of night, and half asleep made my way into the Greyhound Station. Everyone was speaking spanish and looked at me clueless when I asked about catching the bus to California. Luckily a woman who seemed to hate everything and everyone in El Paso told me the bus to Sacramento left in an hour. What luck! I wouldn't have to stay in this dire place. A place where the automated grinding metal cogs of America meets the traditional gears of Mexico. This machine desperately needs oiling. I picked up some snacks and supplies for the trip and caught a quick nap on a rickety, uncomfortable bench.

I woke up just as people were getting their tickets checked and after quickly dropping off a postcard with no stamps on it I boarded the bus. The greyhound bus journeys have been alright so far, budget to the extreme but nothing to put me off it. As the bus left along the river and the 30ft border fence that separates El Paso from Juarez, I attempted to get some rest. What can only be described as a cocaine fueled moron kept me awake the entire ride to California. Consistent sniffing, talking, an inability to stay still for a second and more trips to the loo than me after a bucket of sugar. The bus was fully booked so there was no opportunity to switch seats at any point. A word of advise to anyone looking to travel around the south west of America by Greyhound. Sit as close to the front as you can.

I reached Los Angeles at lunchtime the next day, where we switched buses. In the daze of the Californian sunshine, sleep deprivation and good old fashioned forgetfulness, I managed to leave my journal on the bus. Running around the bus station asking every goddamn unhelpful baggage handler where the bus that had just come from El Paso had gone turned up nothing. In the end the supervisor finally located my journal and gave it to me as my bus to Sacramento was leaving. I just made it with seconds to spare. Thank you, thank you, thank you Los Angeles Greyhound Bus Station Supervisor.

I sat up front away from coke head jones this time, next to a recovering alcoholic Christian called Eric, just back from a Jesus camp in the San Diegian desert where they dig holes and write scripture. He had quite a story. He didn't impose his religious views on me so I happily chatted with him for the duration of the ride to Sacramento. I wished him well on his journey and made my way to the Hostel.

Sacramento is a gold rush town, during the Californian Gold rush this was one of the main ports . - There's my bit of history for the day. I wandered around the block in once again empty streets after checking into the Hostel. I found a liquor store, bought some beer and drank alone at the quiet Hostel. The next day I walked to the Old town, which is a massive tourist attraction. It looks a bit like Back to the Future Part III. Covered walkways, gravel roads, train tracks disappearing into dust, that sort of thing. The old West. Everything was overpriced tat and every other shop was selling 'Fresh Taffy'. I have no idea what taffy is, but it looks too sweet and too full of chemicals for my fragile blood sugars. I slowly walked back to the Hostel. That night I met a very omniscient Hawaiian who liked to talk and an English girl from Guilford. She had been traveling for six months and had been all over Asia and Australia. We talked travel and she recommended New Zealand and I recommended Belize. I left for San Francisco in the morning.

San Francisco

San Francisco is amazing. The city of hippie is truly livin'. I checked into the hostel and met two Londoners who had been to Burning Man Festival, who happened to know someone I work with. Small world indeed. Yesterday I walked up and around Haight Ashbury with a Los Angeles resident who had never been to San Fran. I think he was a little freaked by the hippies lounging around Golden Gate Park smoking a LOT of marijuana. These are the children who keep the Summer of Love, when was it now '67? '68? '69? alive. Although I'm under the impression its more about hanging out and smoking pot in the Garden where it was all happnin' forty years ago than actually upholding any of the ideals that kick started the whole hippie movement off. But still, very groovy man.

In the afternoon went round the Art Museum in the center of the Golden Gate Park. Met a very attractive dread head girl and viewed the entire city from the observatory. It was foggy, but she was beautiful.

Today I went to Pier 39 to see the sea lions and all the tourists umming and ahhing at them. I was in Pier 39 eight years ago and had my young heart broken here via email. I was eager to replace that memory with new one. I did. Shrimp lunch, delicious. How adjusted to heartbreak I've become. I continued along the bay and up a hill to try and get a good view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Unfortunately a white blanket of fog covered the bridge with only the southern entrance peeking its head out. No Kodak moment for me. I then walked down to Chinatown to see the alley where Jack Kerouac used to hang out. Dipped my book in the blood of the puddle in the centre of the alley where a John Steinbeck poem is carved into the concrete. Felt a beat in my heart and gave a dollar to a homeless man who was sitting in a doorway wondering what the hell I was doing putting a book in a puddle. I think he cottoned on when he saw it was a copy of 'On the Road'.



-Here's to you, our Jack.

Portland (again)

My last night in San Francisco I spent with Dezi, whom I met in the Art Museum, and her nine month old son. We spent the evening listening to Johnny Cash, watching and giggling at her roommate attempt strange yoga moves, drinking and then drunkenly bleaching my hair (told you I'd write about it). I headed back to Portland the following day.

Portland is still my favorite American city. Its like a gathering with all the best friends you've never met. This is compared to California that seems to refuse to let the party end. Both very cool but Portland tips the scales. I arrived very early in the morning and sunk into a sofa at the hostel for a few hours for some kip because my room wasn't ready yet. After a quick shower and getting checked in early in the afternoon I met some Canadians who were sampling the strip bars of the NorthWest, and were in town for the NorthWest Music Festival. I glanced at the line up for the festival and I noticed Mudhoney were playing that night.

Grunge Lesson One

Grunge - Musical movement of the late eighties and early nineties, originating from the American Northwest. Major bands of 'Grunge' include Nirvana, Mudhoney, Tad, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Pixies, Sonic Youth and Soundgarden.



The hostel organized a bar crawl of the local Breweries, and seeming the gig wasn't until midnight I decided to tag along. Met a pile of other hostelers, a Kiwi surfer dude, two Californian girls, a thick accented Irish man and a French actor called Pierre. Our little tribe went on into the night, to all the breweries, to the gig (which was amazing), to countless bars. At one point all of us were packed together in the back of one cab speeding to the outskirts of the city, the girls sitting on our laps, with some secret intimate moments interweived with drunken reditions of Modest Mouse songs. We finally ending up back at the hostel in the late hours of the next morning.

The next day was spent carefully nursing my hangover but in the evening Pierre and I went around the Portland Art Museum that was open during the night for a special event. It was mediocre. My last day in Portland I hung out with Pierre again met some more locals, and went back to venue where I saw Mudhoney to discover that Black Francis was playing.

Grunge Lesson two

The Pixies - Forming in the mid Eighties, Pixies are seen by many as a catalyst of grunge bands rather than actually being one. Albums such as Doolittle, Surfer Rosa and Come on Pilgrim were all huge influences on the musicians of the Northwest, particularly Kurt Cobain. Consisting of Black Francis, Kim Deal, Joey Santiago and David Lovering, the band play a kind of indie surf punk rock. The band disbanded in '93 but reunited in 2004. Each member has been known to perform separately, most notable being Black Francis solo work and Kim Deal's 'The Breeders'



So in I went to see the gig. It was just as good Muhoney, but very different. Mudhoney have an energy and after nearly 25 years of playing can still pull a crowd of rowdy, sweaty head bangers. Black Francis is alone on a stage with a guitar and a voice that resinates through every part of your soul. Breathtaking.

I awoke early the next morning to catch the Greyhound up to Seattle to meet a friend from home. We spent the next 3 days catching up. He had met a group of people on his bus from Canada and we spent most of our time hanging out with them. We were the finest collection of drinkers from around the world. Two Aussies, two Canadian, two Irish and me. Needless to say we had an amazing time and visited nearly every bar in the Belltown District of Seattle. One night we ended up viewing the illuminated skyline from a Seattlites apartment window but mostly it was spent staggering around in a large group clapping and singing 'Blister in the Sun' through deserted downtown Seattle at 2am. Also caught a show at the Crocodile Cafe. Hope Sanderville was playing. It was rubbish. All the lights were off and she walked off stage after people (including myself) took photos. I asked the barmaid if it was a venue policy or an artist request and she told me that she was obviously too vain to perform an entire set. I agreed. Still, got to have a drink in the Crocodile Cafe. After my deborturous three days we left for the bus station at too early am in the morning. Kevin went back up to Canada and I started the long trip back to California. We've saved our grins in our bags, souvenirs of the time we went to Seattle... and got very drunk.

I stopped by in San Francisco on my way back and the entire city was covering in fog. You couldn't see more than half a block. It had a very fairy-tale feel to it, which suits it to me, especially through rose light grey tinted spectacles with hazy overtired eyes. I think I may write a leaflet on the positions of sleep to try when overnighting on Greyhound buses. I finally reached my destination of San Luis Obispo early this evening, I'll tell you all about it in a few days.

San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo is located about equal distance from San Francisco and Los Angeles. Tucked away close to the coast, this small Californian town is absolutly stunning.

I got off the bus really tired and stinking to high heaven. I had no idea where the hostel was from the bus station and spent fifteen minutes repacking my sleeping bag and organizing my belongings on the side of the road. I got a ride with two local girls I had met on the bus to the hostel, which took much longer than it needed to, I think they were excited about having an englishmen in their car and kept asking me say quotes from London gangster movies. I, of course, humored them. I got to the hostel and learned the bus station was only a five minute walk away.

The Obispo Hostel is the smallest hostel I've stayed at, situated on a quiet area in a building no different to any other on the street. I checked in, threw my bag on my bunk and jumped into the shower. After 30 hours of traveling I can tell you there is no better feeling than a good shower and a cold beer. That night I went and grabbed a few of the latter with some of the hostel staff. The next morning I awoke to the sound of beds being dismantled around me. The girl in the bed below mine had been attacked by bed bugs and the hostel was undergoing an industrial clean. It was like something out of CSI. Beds being stripped and rigorously inspected, floors being manicly scrubbed, rooms cordoned off. I quickly got dressed then had some breakfast and headed out to explore.

I walked around for the best part of an hour trying to remember San Luis Obispo. I had come here with my family eight years ago, and I was desperatly trying to piece together the memories of coffee stops and copy shops. All american towns and cities are build on a grid system so inevitably every one I've visited soon all melt into one. A sunny cross street is surprisingly common deja vu. I soon gave up and went into a record shop.

I was like a heroin addict searching for a memory of an old dealer and stumbling into the Afgan poppy fields. American record stores are nothing like english ones. They actually sell records you want to buy. Also, the majority have a used/ 2nd hand sections with great albums for between $2-8. Three or four comfortable leather chairs line the back walls with turntables and CD players for you to sit and listen to your choices. The walls have posters from concerts held in the nearby counties and towns. The shop assistants have encyclopedic knowledge of every music type from every decade stretching back a hundred years. I picked up a copy of 'Magic Potion' by The Black Keys on vinyl, strapped a pair of headphones on and slipped into the beat.

I left the store after the side A finished and went on to find an awesome comic shop and two great thrift stores. I sat talking to an assistant with a very pretty smile and stunning green eyes in the second one. I returned to the hostel some time mid afternoon, with some new old shoes and a bag of wonders.

I struck up conversation with Emily, the bed bug victim and one of the members of staff from the night before, Jesse. After discussing the in's and out's of a dolphin's sex life, we decided to go to the seaside. Our trio jumped into Jesse's car and zoomed the seven or eight miles to the beach. About 2 miles away from the beach we entered the fog that was covering the coast that afternoon. By the time we reached the shore we couldn't see more than 100 ft and we stripped down and just stood there staring into the abyss. We all looked at each other then bolted into the freezing waves. It seemed like we were totally alone in the sea. Every so often in the mystical mist a haunted figure of a surfer could be seen and then silently disappear into a murky wave. We started saying we were in the twilight zone and took turns attempting to recite verses from 'The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner' while our limbs adjusted to the cold water and grey waves crashed over us.


"Water water everywhere and nor a drop to drink, water water everywhere and so th... wait wait is that a jelly fish?" Indeed it was.


We walked along the beach through the shallows, and every once in a while came across another few souls wandering along the beach, equally intrigued to find others on this purgatory beach. As we reached the end of the sand, the crumbling yellowy Californian cliffs became these strange white purply smooth bumps that flowed into the ground. They were very brittle and a fine white dust surrounded the edges on the sand. Caves, some big enough to park a bus in, others so small you could just about fit in the openings if you were slender enough peppered these strange bumps. We explored the ones we could until we realized that the tide was coming in and we all were getting pretty cold. We headed back to the car and traveled back in silence until Jesse started laughing about how strange the whole experience had been. It was infectious, and as we pulled in front of the hostel all three of us were chuckling away.

The next morning I got up and went to buy my ticket to LA from the bus station. Unfortunately there was no Greyhound station, no Greyhound desk, and no-one knew when the Greyhound bus was arriving or leaving. I walked back to the hostel cursing my own stupidity of not checking this piece of information when I had the chance in San Francisco. Luckily, Emily said she would give me a lift to Santa Maria, about 30 miles south where there was a Greyhound station and I could get a ticket. I packed my bag, jumped in her pick up and off to Santa Maria we sped.

We arrived in at the Greyhound station and off I trundled with my bag. The next bus was at 11pm. It was 11am. The station was closing in an hour and reopening at 6pm. Wonderful. Emily said she could wait for a bit but she had to be back to start work by 3. I said it was OK, and walked about a mile with my bag in the sweltering heat until I found a tree in some shade on a College campus. I climbed up it and slept for a while.

I didn't sleep for very long, mainly because tree branches aren't that comfortable, and I noticed there was some kind of event happening at the college theatre. I walked over to the entrance to find out that it was a classical guitar concert. I got some food at the food tent nearby and got talking to a group of young and old guitarists on a bench. One of these was Stan. In his mid eighties, he was a Scottish born American living in Long Beach, and would be driving home after the concert finished and asked if I would like a ride to the Santa Monica Hostel seeming he would be going past it on his way home. I jumped at the chance. What was an english drummer like me doing waiting for a bus that would never come anyway?. I waited for another hour up my tree for the concert to finish, and we properly introduced ourselves to each other over a diet coke before heading out on Route 101. The time whizzed by and we were entering Los Angeles city limits by 6pm. We parked up right outside the hostel and I thanked Stan for his kindness and wished him safe trip home. He was, by far, the best hitch I've had this entire trip. Beats those Texan truckers any day

DogTown

On the corner of Bay and Main in Santa Monica Los Angeles sits a small yellow building. It looks very ordinary, two windows with grills and a graffiti covered door. This is the former location of the Zephyr Skate shop. This is where skateboarding was born.

Wearing only my jeans and a knackered pair of Converse with the pacific wind in my hair, I rented a board from Jay's rentals in Venice beach and spent the whole day surfing the sidewalks and alleys of Ocean Park, Santa Monica and the walkways of Venice Beach. I felt like a king, a true lord of Dogtown.

Venice beach is scattered with tiny shack shops and musicians trying to make a living from the thousands of people from all walks of life that come to the beach everyday to check out the scene. I suppose I'm one of those, but I didn't let anyone know. Imagine Camden market times ten. With a beach. Sand and surf. Women wearing bikinis and large sunglasses and tanned tattooed muscle men walking with prowess. Then times that all by ten and add Californian sunshine and more homeless. An equation of bohemia.



As the heat of the day faded and the evening air attracted more and more people to the Santa Monica beaches, and I swerved the hundredth couple, I decided to ditch the board and find some food further up the road. I grabbed a hotdog combo on the Santa Monica Pier and began to reflect on the amazing time I've had on this trip.

Melrose & Home

About ten months ago I packed a small bag and headed out to the airport with a plan to catch the first flight to Los Angeles, for a desperate change of scenery and to walk down Melrose Ave with a diet Mountain Dew in hand and a chance to clear my head. I never caught that flight, and ten months later I made that stroll down Melrose. I'm glad I didn't spend the money then for a little pipe dream. Los Angeles is too big. It's impossible to get anywhere without a car, and even then you'll get stuck in traffic. The public transport is confusing and seems to take you in circles around places you vaguely recognize. I took three separate buses up and down Venice Boulevard.

I found a really awesome looking vintage shop on Melrose Ave, and wandered in and started browsing. I'm quite into retro fashion, and this shop had loads of awesome gear. A kind of mix between Indiana Jones and seventies stuff. I tried on a few shirts and a really cool beat up leather jacket. None of the clothes had any prices on them, which I found odd, so I inquired. There was a reason none of the articles had a price. The leather jacket was a thousand dollars. The two ripped, moth holed shirts I was holding were three hundred and fifty bucks each. I frowned at the shop assistant who had noticed I was english and told me she was from Portobello Market. What, born and sold on it? It truly amazes me when clothes like that cost that much. There is no justifiable reason for a ripped knackered jacket to cost a thousand dollars. Maybe if James Dean once owned it, but I strongly doubt he did. I would spend a thousand dollars for James Dean's leather jacket. And a moth holed shirt that didn't fit me very well costing 200 quid? maybe if it hugged me perfectly, made me look seven feet tall and as soon as I left the shop wearing it a plethora of beautiful supermodels threw themselves at my feet, I would consider the possibility buying it. If that 350 dollar ripped old shirt got me an evening with Shannyn Sossomon I would buy it. But we all know it wouldn't so I exited the shop and continued down to a 2nd hand book shop a few blocks away.


I love old book shops to begin with, and when the books are piled high and the owner is a small jewish man with wiry grey hair and thick rimmed brown glasses dwarfed by the towers of literature around him it makes my heart skip a beat and my eyes grow larger.

I spent close to two hours in the shop, climbing up and down old ladders to view weathered books high on the summit of shelfs. I wanted to own the whole shop, old jewish man and all. There was a room just off the main shop, with boxes and boxes of old books on old bookcases, only one dim light in the corner and on each old box was written 'new arrivals' in squiggly letters, obviously written by an aging hand. I sat and read little bits of books and bought a few for my own collection. As I was leaving I heard the end of a phone conversation;


"No Abe, not today, I've been feeling beat and I've still got to sort out Politics and Counter Culture..."


I have this vision of him putting on a superman outfit with a St. David star on the chest and flying off to combat the streets of Hollywood. Clearing up all those darn tattoo shops and pipe stores.



Every morning after breakfast I've taken to walking the four minutes from the hostel to Santa Monica Beach and having a swim, well... a repetitive battle with the waves. I wish I could do this everyday. Its such a great way to start the day. Tomorrow I will do the same. Tomorrow I will then catch the shuttle from the hostel to Los Angeles International Airport. There I will catch a flight to Atlanta, and from there a flight back to Heathrow. Tomorrow I will return home. Tomorrow I will return home. Tomorrow..

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