Sunday, October 27, 2013

Later, Nevada. Yo ! California !

 S and I climb into her CRV and drive out of the airport. I am still processing a very long, somewhat stressful day. My nerves are pretty keyed up and my heart is pounding like a paint-agitator. A joint is produced and gratefully smoked as we cruise through the city towards our hotel, Treasure Island.  Thanks to years of visual indoctrination, Vegas feels immediately familiar. The hotels and casinos of this surreal town are iconic. My thoughts turn to," This is a city built entirely for temporary residents. " I believe that is unique among all other global destinations. Paris is an example. The city existed long before it became the lazy person's idea of a glamorous, romantic getaway spot. Likewise Rome, London or practically any other location. But exists solely to take your money and send you home. People live there, year round, to work at the places that will take your money and send you home. It's positively mercenary. And I respect that. We avoid the infamous "Strip" and arrive at the hotel.

The elevator lets us out on the 24th floor and we find room 2411. S opens it up and I see a smallish room with a double bed and a long, low couch by the window. It appears to be a good size for me, so I toss my jacket onto it. I figure S should have the bed since A) she drove nearly 4 hours to come and get me and B) she's paying for the room. Completely fair. There is a door near the bed. S says, "I tried to get us a double room but...." and then she opens the door. There is an apartment sized suite on the other side. I have just been punked. Awesome. The suite contains two bathrooms (one with a huge shower, the other with a massive jacuzzi tub), what appears to be a king sized bed (I am not an expert on mattresses), a big sectional couch and a dining table. Upon the table is a jar of weed, rolling papers and other appropriate items. I walk to the window and peer into the heavily illuminated neon landscape that is Las Vegas at night. It's breathtaking. I am still dying to hear my Vegas theme song (Trouble Man by Marvin Gaye. See previous post.) S hooks my iPod up to the telephone (...there's a 1/8" jack for input), powers it up with a USB-wall outlet cable and I press play....fucking perfect.
After some time I begin to relax. I feel better already. My luggage is MIA, but, I am with a good friend, enjoying a nice buzz with a spectacular could be far worse. I am fully aware of my First World Problem status. S wants to take a bath and I sorely need a good shower. We head to our respective washrooms and I look forward to hotel hot water : constant heat and lots of pressure. My own shower at home has a hot-water tank that I estimate to be about the size of a three mug thermos. I once was able to have a ten minute shower before the water turned ice-cold and I still look back on that day with something approaching nostalgia. Seriously. 

17 minutes and a good scrub later, I climb back into my clothes and roll another joint.  "Are you hungry ?, S asks me. "Fucking famished.", I reply.  We peruse the room service menu and decide on our meals. A south-western burger and fries for me, chicken Caesar for her. Dial the restaurant and we are told that due to the late hour, the menu is reduced. Quick discussion and we order : regular cheeseburger (medium. They ask!) for me and a "Rustic grilled cheese" for S. ("Rustic" apparently means that it comes with a slice of tomato. S has this removed from her order). Steep price $37.85. S tells me that she won several hundred dollars playing video blackjack while waiting for me at the airport, so, the hotel and the meal are covered. While awaiting the food, she goes to take her bath, since it took a jeezly long time for that monster tub to fill. I dial up The Orb on my iPod and wait for the food. 

No more than 15 minutes later, there is a knock at the door. A man in a somewhat retro-looking burgundy staff uniform wheels in a cart with two covered trays. I hand him $60 and ask for $15 back. He exits and I decide to wait for S to finish her bath before I tuck into my meal. The food was costly but manners are free, fuckers. The burger, I should add, is massive. Easily a full pound cooked. A pile of shoe-string fries and wee bottles of Heinz condiments make for a fine meal. I manage to wolf down about 2/3of the beast and figure the rest will do for breakfast. We're both pretty tired and at about 3:00 am. I head to my warm, accommodating bed. 

And sleep for nearly four whole hours. 

I'm up early and look out of my window. Vegas is much quieter and there is minimal morning traffic,  S is still asleep, so I turn on the TV in my room and surf channels until I come across a mini-marathon of Law & Order. Remember when TV stations only showed one episode of a show per day ? Weird. I also note to myself that it's pretty much the first time I have watched TV in at least a year and a half. Maybe longer. Well, fuck it. I'm on vacation, so, a break in routine is not out of the question. Around 10:20 I hear movement from next door. I move into the adjoining suite and greet S. She tells me that checkout time is 11:00, so she's going to call the front desk and ask for a late checkout. The desk person tells her that they can't offer us a later time, since every single room in this massive hotel is booked. Wow. We begin to pack up our few things and then we call the American Airlines baggage service, to see if my luggage has been located. Two very quick phone calls and we are told that it was in Chicago, placed on the first flight out and should arrive at McCarran by 12:49 pm. Less than twelve hours after I arrived. Holy fucking shit. Talk about efficiency. The people who take our calls are fast and very courteous. I observe that the one upside to a shitty job market is that people fortunate enough to be employed tend to want to stay employed, hence the friendly phone manners. Well,maybe not...maybe they are genuinely nice people....I can only imagine what sort of abuse they have to put up with from irate passengers who hold these poor people personally responsible for luggage that they have never seen or touched. 

The plan is to make a quick visit to the Hard Rock Hotel, have a look around at some of the musical artifacts, grab my luggage and head south to Joshua Tree, stopping at the Gold Strike Casino/Motel. It's one of S' favourite joints in town and the last of the real, genuine coin operated slot machines. The HRH is only minutes away, we park and head inside. I notice that all of the machines, and there are a powerful fuckload of them, all emit noise in the same key. C major, if my ears and memory don't deceive me. Makes sense, of course....that many machines playing music and sound effects in a variety of keys would be a cacophony. There is a small Beatles exhibit which catches my eye.
And this classy sign:

We drop a few shekels into some machines at a circular bar in the centre of the main floor. I sip my English Breakfast and S has a couple of French Connections (brandy and Grand Marnier) and we pass some time before heading back to the airport to retrieve my luggage. 

We are leaving town, driving south to Joshua Tree. First, however, we stop at the Gold Strike Casino & Motel. It's the last of the coin-op slot casinos in Vegas, possibly Nevada. Two things are going to happen. I am going to lose money and eat my own weight at a buffet. 
The buffet is a no-frills assembly of Salisbury steak, a gloomy looking fish floating in cloudy warm water, fettuccine noodles, mashed potatoes, crispy fried chicken, rice and three types of gravy. There is also a pyramid shaped pile of chili on a tray that I use on my noodles. Oh...and corn. Lotsa corn. The salad portion of the buffet looks especially, erm, dangerous. The chicken is the real highlight. Super crispy skin and incredibly moist and tender underneath. I make two passes and we decide to hit the road. 

The sun is laying an almighty smack-down on the highway as we pull out of the car park and onto the highway south. For the next four hours we will be driving through the long, flat expanses of Nevada. A state that is practically empty and unchanged once you leave the urban sprawl that is Vegas. There is a long, spiny crest of rock ridges that lays down along the side of the highway, like the skeleton of an enormous dead reptile that helps to navigate the way out of this desolate, arid place. 
The drive is largely uneventful, although the land is quite hypnotic and for at least a good hour, we are pursuing the moon as it arcs to the west.

We pull into Joshua Tree as the sun has already set. It is the evening of September 19th, 2013. 40 years ago to the day that Gram Parsons died in his room at the Joshua Tree Inn, where S & I stayed last year in preparation for her birthday. I didn't plan this date, per se. It just happens. I don't believe in omens or portents, but, I am pretty pleased with the coincident. Like arriving in Boston on St. Patrick's Day ( only with less violence, vomit and latent racism...), if I had to pull into Joshua Tree, which I did, since I'm staying here (d-uh....), this feels like the right day to do it. And I am in the best company to do so.

From this point forward, I am abandoning the standard narrative. Instead, I will post a series of essays dealing with various experiences and features of my visit. Not in a chronological order, but, as a series of sum experiences.....

Relax, after this fucking beast of a page, the rest will flow more gently.

I promise.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

...but I'm getting ahead of myself...

The morning of my departure is a series of small checks : Shower, shave, passport, cab fare, bag packed and triple checked...all good. The nervous tension that I always experience before a flight of any duration has ensured that I slept very little and I am a bit frazzled as I step out of the taxi and wheel my luggage to the Air Canada counter at Charlottetown's tiny airport.  Luggage is checked, boarding passes issued and I make the brief trip to Montreal in a sunny haze of anticipation and the rising excitement of a vacation in Joshua Tree, California. My good friend S is picking me up in Vegas, we'll stay the night and drive south to her home the following day. One night in Vegas should be an education.Less prone to gambling than, oh...I'd say 99% of the population of this staggeringly garish city.

So, land at YUL without incident. Check the  next boarding pass for my flight to O'Hare and move to the appropriate gate. Easy.  It's well marked and there are a few people waiting already, even though the flight does not leave for 90 minutes. The screen over the desk clearly states that this flight will begin boarding at 2:45, which leaves me more than enough time to grab a bite to eat. I find a gourmet bagel place and I buy a ham & brie bagel, with a large iced green tea. $13.99. Fuck it, I am starving.

Back in the waiting area, time passes and I occasionally get up to look at the screen, in case the next flight is delayed. No change, the minutes roll by and I begin to mentally prepare myself for the next leg of the journey. It's a five hour flight from YUL to ORD. Then a final hop from ORD to McCarran (LAS). S will be waiting for me at LAS, we will dump my gear in the hotel room and head out for a wee tour of the loudest city in the west.

I start worrying when there are less than 15 minutes to my next flight and there is no one at the desk to check us onto the plane. Walk across the lounge and look at the departure screen again. Right gate, right time. Hmmmmmm....

There is a tightening sensation in my stomach that is partially worry and partially a really expensive bagel. I will mention that while I have my iPod and a great set of headphones for the flight, I don't wear them in the airport. They act as great noise filters and I don't want to miss any important announcements over the public address system, which I hear every once in a while. "So-and-so please call the ticket desk on the white courtesy phone..." etc. Fuck. My plane is due to leave any minute now and there is NO ONE here, besides a few other passengers. One final check of the screen and then I decide to go ask somebody, "What le fuck, tabernac ?".

Air Canada got me here, but, my next plane is United Airways. I find the closest UA desk, about 150 yards from my gate and approach the gentlemen behind the counter.

"Excuse me, I'm due to fly to Chicago and there is no one at the gate, I've checked the departure screen several times and according to my boarding pass I am at the right place. Can you help me ?"

The gentleman takes my boarding pass, eyes it back and front and begins punching keys on his keyboard and looking intently at his monitor. A look of mild annoyance washes over him as he tells me, " This plane left 10 minutes ago. Did you not hear them paging you ?"
 I have moved from strong concern to downright What The Actual Fuck-ery..."No. I did not hear my name called, as there was no announcement regarding either myself or the flight. I have been sitting at the correct gate for well over an hour, and I have been checking the departure list, which made no mention of the flight leaving from another gate. Do you mean I am stuck here ?!?"

"Well, sir..." he says in the sort of voice reserved for snippy waiters who have just rung your credit card and found your number declined, "...the flight was moved to another gate. When you didn't appear for the initial boarding, your name would have been called over the public address system. Do you mean to tell me that you didn't hear it ?"
"That is precisely what I am telling you because no such announcement was made. "

"If you are late for your flight it is customary to page the passenger to ensure that there is no further delay in departure." (this bastard is clearly enjoying this)

"I am well aware of this policy, as I have heard several announcements to this effect..." and I list the five names that I have heard over the P.A. since I have been in the waiting area.  "None of those names are mine. Check my passport."
"I don't know what to tell you sir, there would have been an announcement. Were you outside of the airport ?"

With as much politeness as I can muster, I tell this little cunt that I have not been outside the airport since I had two cigarettes, right after my flight from YYG touched down, over two hours ago.  At this point a younger gentleman at the desk looks at y pass, taps the keyboard and says, " I'm sorry, sir. This flight left 15 minutes ago, from gate mumblefuck (I don't remember the actual gate...sue me). They should have paged you." Although he is relaying information that has already been dropped on me, his manner is noticeably less arrogant than the other wee mammal standing next to him.  II'll check to see when the next flight to Chicago leaves, we should be able to get you on that plane."

"I would greatly appreciate it."   "There is another leaving for ORD in two hours, we can get you on that one. " A great sense of relief washes over my brain as I hear this.

Shit. Fuck. Fuckity-boo. I have to let S know that I won't be in Las Vegas on time. At this point, I should mention that my iPod is picking up the free wifi at the airport, but, for some reason, I can't send any messages from it....neither Facebook nor my texting app. are working. This is not a great time to be stuck in an airport with no means of communication.  I explain my predicament to the desk attendant that I don't wish to strangle, that I have no cel phone (he looks genuinely shocked), and that I need to call ahead so that my friend doesn't begin to worry over my no show in Vegas....he offers to dial the number for me and with genuine, deep gratitude I take the receiver from him, hear S' voicemail and leave a somewhat frantic message..."HithisisDavidImissedmyflighttoChicagonotmyfaultIswearImonanothrerplaneandIshouldbeinVegasbyeleventhirtywhichisonlytwoandahalfhoyrslaterthanIplannedIhpeyougetthismessagesoyouarentwaitingaroundIlltrymessagingyoufromChicagobye!" Seriously.That's how it sounded.

Shit. My luggage....

"Don't worry, sir. If you weren't on your designated flight, they would have pulled your luggage from the cart. It will be on your next flight to O'Hare, and you can pick it up when you arrive in Las Vegas."  "Really ? I mean, seriously ?"  "Yes, sir. It's policy. "

So....while they more than dropped the ball on getting me to Chicago on time, they have made good on my ticket by getting me the next best thing. Literally. I proceed to the gate for my next plane and I don't care if I shit my jeans, I am not leaving this gate until the plane is boarding. No fucking way can I miss this bastard, it's the last flight to ORD today....

At this point, I will return to my opening screed :

I was exactly where my boarding pass said I should be, the departure screen kept telling me I was in the right place and there was NO FUCKING ANNOUNCEMENT regarding a change in gated, nor was my name ever called to get my ass on the plane. I am not fucking making this up. This really fucking happened.

Shortly before we were due to land at ORD, the pilot addressed the passengers, " It looks like we'll be landing just ahead of a heavy storm in Chicago. We should be on the ground in 15 minutes." He was right. We landed 15 seconds before a massive flash of lightning lit up the entire runway. Thing is, the ground crews won't come out to the tarmac when there's an electrical storm overhead. Around the perimeter of the landing area, there are placed a number of rods that detect electrical strikes, and if they are less than 15 minutes apart, then nobody moves onto the field.  For the next hour and 30 minutes, we were stuck inside a very small jet : exactly three seats wide, with a narrow aisle running the length of the interior. The attendant on the flight asked if anyone had to make a connecting flight after we disembarked and a number of us raised our hands. She took our information and spent the next 20 minutes calling other desks at the airport to find out the status of our flights. Thankfully, all traffic had ground to a halt because of the storm, so, our flights would all be waiting for us. She deserves a huge bottle of something expensive for taking the time and effort to reassure a plane full of irritated passengers. She was fucking awesome....

ORD is massive. I mean, it's fucking immense. I found the first available street exit and went outside for a few consecutive cigarettes. I needed 'em. Started chatting with an airport employee who was also having a smoke break. "Where are you from ? ", he asked. I told him I was from PEI, and to my surprise he knew where it was. I told him I was heading to Joshua Tree for a well earned sun"n"pot vacation. He asked what the weather was like back home and I said, "Well, the day I left we were expecting a high of 15 degrees. "
"Jesus ! I'm from Florida, that kind of cold would kill me...."
"That's Celsius, not Fahrenheit...."
"I know.", he said.

So, one flight left to get me to LAS, where my friend was likely beginning to wonder what the actual fuck was going iPod had all of about 17 seconds of juice left, so I couldn't tell if she had received any of my flurry of messages. Oh well, nothing I can do....just get there and figure it out.

I managed to sleep most of the way to LAS, and when I got off the plane, I followed the majority of people off...presumably to the baggage carousel. Not so, it turns out. I ended up at a transit stop, where I met a fellow from Glasgow who was as lost as I was. We formed a confused duo, looking for any sign of our luggage. Eventually, I approached a man with a uniform who told me to go to the other end of the airport, where our stuff would likely be waiting for us. I was starting to feel the weight of a somewhat stressful day as I climbed back onto the train that took us to Terminal 3. Once there, I found the signs pointing to my baggage and, presumably, my friend and possibly freedom. Another few minutes of walking and I heard a woman call my name, "David!". I looked ahead in the small crowd and saw S, waving and smiling. HUGE FUCKING RELIEF! I made it. We embraced tightly and I nearly shed a tear. Such a frustrating series of small incidents had put a pallor over my expected optimism and excitement. She looked amazing and I felt like a million dollars :wrinkled and green.

She had been waiting at the baggage carousel and asked me what my bag looked like. I described it and she pointed to a couple of items that were similar, but, not my wasn't there. At all. Anywhere. Accepting my fate, I went to the baggage claim desk and explained my predicament. Essentially, missed my first flight to Chicago, hadn't seen my bag since I have my claim ticket ? The woman who processed me in Chicago took it, possibly by accident. Do I have my passport ? Sure, here you are...... Can I name five items in my case ? Sure, I list off the first few items that I know are in my bag.
"Well, it is probably in Chicago or Montreal. Here's your file number, call this telephone number in the morning and we'll let you know if we find it. " Both of the women at the claim department were very friendly, very understanding and went to good lengths to help me as best they could. I had no change of clothes, but, I felt reassured.

Straight to S' car we go.

Ever since I knew that I'd be flying to Vegas, I've had one song that I want to hear as we cruise through the night to our hotel. Adjoining rooms, people...we're close, but not THAT kind of close. Minds out of the gutter, please.

My iPod had no juice left, so.....I had to wait until we got to the hotel (Treasure's pretty swell).

Here, for your edification, is the song I NEEDED to hear. Close your eyes and picture driving through downtown Vegas at night with this pumping on the stereo.  It's fucking perfect. Vegas at night (theme)

Monday, July 08, 2013

y thoughts upon seeing Man of Steel :

First, the annoyingly specific questions:

Why would a major newspaper still rely on a photocopier ? (Unless it was only used as an excuse o flash the word "ALERT" on the screen, because, everyone knows the sense of dread and panic that a Toner alert causes....)

If Kryptonians were engineered for purpose and function, why the mid-Atlantic accent for Jor-El ? Or the vaguely Teetonic accent of the bald geezer who interrogates Kal-El. (Said bald fellow is played by my friend, Mackenzie Gray)

If "Evolution always wins..." as the female Kryptonian soldier alleges, then, shouldn't Kal-El be treated with a touch more respect ? He is, after all, the only true remaining case of Kryptonian evolution ?

Is the blogger that Lois Lane "leaks" the story to named Woodburn as a reference to Woodward and Bernstein ?

Seriously...the internet, desktop publishing, Rss feeds.....why a photocopier ?!?
One answer should suffice : It's fantasy. Relax.

Also, Martha's current dog is named Dorothy. Kansas - Dorothy. I see what they did there.

On the whole, an enjoyable movie. Costner is used to great effect. I think it's generally good to avoid casting him in high concept roles...especially if the role calls for an accent. Of ANY kind. I can watch Diane Lane in pretty much anything, so..good call there. Final verdict : Man of Substance:2 - Man of Style: 3.A narrow victory for the wrong Man. Although, at least the film has an ending that even Pete Townshend might enjoy. Or at least hear.

Although they exist in separate Comic universes, how awesome would it be to have a sequence where J.Jonah Jameson and Perry White have a classic Testy Boss-Off ? I guess I'll have to wait for the unsuccessful movie which will be turned into a Broadway musical and then returned to a high budget movie musical. Because that is probably still a thing...

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

What you're about to read took me under an hour to write. Top to bottom. I hadn't been thinking about this just fucking happened and I don't mind saying I'm fucking proud of this.

Cogito ergo sum : I think therefore I am.
Cogito ergo rum. : I drink therefore I am. 
Cogito Fargo sum : I think darntootin' I am.
Cogito ergo Spam : I pink therefore I ham ?
Coolio ergo sum : I dank therefore I am. 
Cagedo ergo sum : I shank before I slam. 
Congresso ergo sum : I blink therefore I scam.
 Quahogito ergo hum : I stink therefore I clam.
Cogito ergo huh? : I think therefore I am....I think....
Cyclopo ergo sum : I wink therefore I am.
Cogito lingo sum : Methinks perchance one is.
Cogito dingo sum : I reckon . too bloody right I am, mate.
Cogito bingo sum I think therefore I....four under the I. I - 4.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Joshua Tree. 

The words have a strange power of their own. Is there any other tree whose name carries an almost mythic quality? Not even fucking close. For many people, their first thought upon hearing the name is of what is widely believed to be U2's finest album. Fair enough, I guess. (I'd nominate Achtung, Baby ...) Yet others picture the image of the tree itself. Its survival in a largely plant hostile environment, its extreme age and its almost unearthly beauty.

The drive from Crestline to Joshua Tree doesn't take long and we arrive in the late afternoon. The landscape is flat and dusty, broken up by short shrubs and the truly weird, almost Seussian desert spruce. We check into the Joshua Tree Inn not long before sunset. We have reserved two rooms, the Gram Parsons suite and the Emmylou Harris suite. Our friendly young desk clerk is a small fellow, with long dreads, giving him the look of Faith No More's drummer, Mike "Puffy" Bordin. I tell him that several years ago, I purchased their Flying Burrito Brothers shirt online.  "Wow, we don't sell those any more. You've kinda got yourself a collector's item."


He takes us to our rooms via the restaurant (closed), and offers us a mug of his homemade chai. It's damned good.  SB is in room 7 (Harris) and I am in room 8. (deep breath as the door opens). The room where Gram Parsons spent his final days. The room, let's face it, where he died. Gram has exerted a strong influence in both my writing and listening. His Cosmic American Music, a blend of traditional country, folk, R'n'B and British Invasion was utterly unique for its time. His one album with The Byrds, 'Sweetheart of the Rodeo' a true classic, containing what many believe to be his signature song, Hickory Wind. Years later, wretched bands like The Eagles would reap millions by their pale imitation of Parsons' truly great vision. His two stellar solo albums, post-Burritos, introduced the world to Emmylou Harris and their duets were heartbreak and love personified. In mid-September, 1973, Parsons checked into his traditional room at the inn, and days later died from an overdose of morphine and alcohol. He was 26.

Since then, his room has been visited by fans from every corner of the world, as the guest book in his room will attest. We music fans do love our tragic heroes. The room isn't terribly large, but, there is a beautiful double bed in the centre and the walls are decorated by original works of art. Some of which were created by Parsons' friend and musical ally, Ian Dunlop. There is a small courtyard out back, with two comfortable lounge chairs and a tiny alcove with a fridge, where I place my beer. Oh, I almost forgot...the door which leads to the courtyard is actually gold-plated. Clearly an homage to the Burritos' classic song, Sin City.

There is a large pile of CD's in the room which have been left by musicians from all over the world as a tribute to the fallen Grievous Angel. I decide not to listen to any of them because, frankly, I just don't care about them. SB and I arranged this one night sojourn months ahead of my trip and I don't want to share it with anyone else. Fucking hippies.

The sun has set and the temperature drops pretty quickly. SB and I are hanging out in her room and out come the guitars again. I promised myself that I wouldn't play any of Parsons' songs while I was here. (later on I cave and play a thoroughly pedestrian version of Hickory Wind...) We pass the guitar back and forth, much like the previous night in the cabin. SB plays a haunting version of Elvis Costello's Night Rally and I play almost every sad song I know. And I know a metric fuck-tonne of them. I'm not sure why, but, something about the desert air allows me to hit higher notes than usual. This seems counter-intuitive, but, it's pleasant nonetheless. Around 11 pm a swim in the pool is suggested. I haven't brought anything remotely swim-worthy. Skinny dipping seems to be the logical option....until we get to the pool. Fucking freezing. We return to the room and continue our little performance, well lubricated by quality weed and Mexican beer.

Closing in on 1 am, we both become fairly hungry. Somehow, the idea of eating hadn't really occurred to either of us. SB has brought, fortunately. bread, Swiss cheese and pistachio nuts. Obviously, put 'em all together. It's a damned fine sandwich. I mean, really good. Subtle and tasty and not too filling. I'm of the opinion, and I'm not alone in it, that cheese improves fucking nearly anything. For instance, I like cheese and peanut butter on a hamburger, so this sandwich seems like a natural progression from that.

We spend a little time in the courtyard attached to my room, but, the bulk of the evening is spent in SB's suite and yard. She has brought Cooper to the motel, which is technically frowned upon...but he behaves very well and it's unlikely anyone would be aware of his presence. The last few songs of the night are played and I return to my room. Laying on the bed, I stare up at the exposed ceiling beams and contemplate that this was, in all likelihood, Gram's last view of the world. Eerie and just a little sobering. Sad, really. I drift into a deep sleep and if there were any dreams of relevance, I don't recall any of 'em.

I wake at 10 the next morning. Our check out time is 11. SB has already been up for a while and has taken the trouble to brew me some tea in the breakfast room. I take a good, hot shower and prepare myself for the day's drive to our next destination: a cabin in the town of  29 Palms, another high desert community.

Directly in front of my door is a memorial sculpture to GP. A large, bronze replica of an acoustic guitar and an altar upon which many people have placed small offerings....coins, guitar picks, a shoe....SB and I take pictures of each other and then prepare to leave.

The next few days will see me meeting some more of SB's friends as we prepare to celebrate her 40th birthday, nominally the reason for my vacation.

It's the fourth day of my time in California and I've already covered more geography than I would in three months back home on PEI. How fucking awesome is my life?

Yes. It's a rhetorical question.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Over the Hills and Seriously Far Away.


That word will hardly leave my mind as we drive up, up, up and up this fucking mountain. The birds are wearing oxygen tanks. (Little ones, obviously.). A narrow road that climbs through this landscape like the trail of a drunken sidewinder.  San Bernadino State Park is beautiful. As far as I can tell.  The road is never straight for more than a few yards and on either side it drops, practically straight fucking down to the more reasonable sea-level freeway. At points it feels as if all that's keeping us on the damned road is the change in my left pocket..

SB is taking me to her cabin on the mountain. She shares it with another woman who,  rather splendidly, is almost never there. The roommate spends most of her time with her new beau. He shares a first name and a birthday with SB. More on those two, later.

Put yourself in my shoes for a moment (they're big, there's plenty of room...).  I live on a small, flat island. A three minute walk from my front door means that I am looking at the Atlantic ocean. Now, I'm nearing the 6,000' elevation mark. What the actual fuck?  Looking back down towards the freeway that brought us here, I am somewhat reminded of a giant guitar neck illuminated by the red and white strings of the cars' front and rear lights.

We pull into a small town and drive to a liquor store called the Four Brothers. I walk inside, grab 12 bottles of Modello, a very fine Mexican beer and two packs of Winston cigarettes. The man behind the counter is about to put the twelve bottles into a plastic bag. "No, thanks. I'm not going very far. " "You have to, it's state law. " "Oh, I see. Um...could I have that in a plastic bag, please?". "Sure thing. "  "Gee, thanks. "

More narrow roads, more blind corners and more up....the sun is sinking and I can see a small amount of fog on the road. SB corrects me. Those are clouds. We're that fucking high up.

We take a series of arterial roads to the cabin. It's pretty dark and the evening has turned cool. Beer on porch, luggage by my bed, joint rolled, I light a cigarette and take it all in...the air tastes different up here. Away from the carbon monoxide and diesel smoke that blanket the greater Los Angeles area, I can taste trees and local flora. It's a sweet, brown flavour.

We break out the acoustic guitars and proceed to play. SB favours some Elvis Costello and Gillian Welch covers. I run through a series of songs that stitch together like someone frantically tuning a radio, looking for a song. Beatles, Jon Brion, Echo & the Bunnymen, Psychedelic Furs, Billie Holiday and many others that have no connective through line. It's been a long time since I just sat and played music with or near anyone else and apparently these songs are well nigh desperate to get out of my head, lest I forget them.

The cabin interior has a warm cedar glow. There is a fireplace but I am informed that it is in poor condition and would not be suited to the kind of fire that it seems to demand on a night like this. I drink more beer, smoke more pot, play more songs (some of which I don't think I've played in many, many years) and begin to understand why such a remote location appeals to some. It's the quiet. The kind of quiet that makes the universe seem intimate and yet aloof. The stars overhead hang in milky, wide clusters. It occurs to me that I'm seeing a chunk of the galaxy that I've never seen before.

We are joined later by SB's friend BP. An amiable dude whose parents live just across the way. He drinks Coors beer, which out of politeness I decide not to mock. (It tastes like poison-lite and the company's politics are shameful). He seems impressed by some of my clumsy jazz chords and requests that I write some down for him to learn. He tells me of a recording project featuring Angeleno bands covering songs from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. He is wondering how to approach the song his group is covering, the opening number, 'Science Fiction'. I offer the opinion that if other bands are taking wild liberties with their covers, the most radical way to approach his song would be a straight up cover. No fancy time changes, analog synths or lo-fi production. Stand above the rest by not trying so damn hard to be different. The concept seems to elude him and I don't press it any further.

The evening winds down, I finish my beer and prepare for bed. Tomorrow we are heading out to the high desert. This has been planned for several months and incorporates both SB's birthday party and my chance to commune with the ghost (conceptually, at least) of one of my musical idols.

Two days and I've barely stood still.

Fucking awesome. 

Next: Surprise sandwiches, more late night songs and a gold plated door.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

In 'n' Out: Animal Style.

My first morning in L.A. begins at a surprisingly civilized hour.  DP and I are deputed to construct breakfast. Eggs, salsa and tortillas. Then I discover some sliced chicken in the fridge. DP runs the skillet and we just toss things in. Like you do. Sitting down in the living room, we are about to tuck in, when the presence of said poultry is revealed. SB turns Goth-white and lets a mouthful of food fall to her plate with a fairly comical sound. DP runs to the bathroom to make himself vomit. I swallow my first mouthful and conclude, "Needs more spice." Apparently the chicken slices are a couple of weeks old and, while no foul aroma or texture were detected while said slices were diced and thrown into the pan, it is decided that breakfast elsewhere is the way to go. (DP tells this story several more times during the morning, to apparently anyone who will stay still for more than 30 seconds. Fine. I get it. I ruined your fucking breakfast. Mea-fucking-culpa, okay? Now, shut the fuck up about it...)

We head to a local eatery with the somewhat banal name of 'Home Sweet Home'...or something. I order Soyrizo and scrambled eggs, SB: Huevos Rancheros and DP: Damned Good French Toast (I swear, that's what it's called on the menu...). A pot of Earl Grey makes my breakfast complete. (Seriously, DP...shut up about the breakfast from earlier....). After the meal, we return to the car park, where DP and I take pictures of a giant billboard advertising breast augmentation. ($2,999. Buy one, get one free, presumably.)

The afternoon is spent with  friends of SB. I buy 6 Dos Equis and we sit on a small, but very cozy patio, with their dogs Camper and Paco.  6 beer, a bottle of wine, several bourbons and a few hoots later we return to SB's place.  DP plans to spend his last evening in town at a hotel in Venice Beach. After watching an LAPD helicopter fly in circles for about half an hour, quite near to us, he departs.

SB and I load our bags and her insanely cute wee Italian greyhound, Cooper, into the car and we head off into the night. Our destination: Crestline in San Bernadino.

The drive is fairly inconsequential, until SB gets a craving...nay, an almost feverish desire. She has, I believe the best word is, a "hunger". We pull off the freeway into the community of San Dimas, home of Bill & Ted. This is, as far as I can tell, a community consisting of strip malls and car parks with occasional housing. One such car park beckons to us and we pull in. She wants it and she wants it now. The hell with getting out, we're doing this in the car, in front of Cooper and anyone else who cares to watch. We're eating at In 'n' Out Burger. The legendary fast food chain that, frankly, puts all other fast food chains to shame. The menu looks like any other burger chain menu. Then SB informs me of the " off menu procedure". Y'see, there are a number of  variations to the standard burger and fries on offer, and you have to know what they are. For instance, "Animal style" means that the burgers are slapped with mustard before they are put on the grill and pickles and diced onions  are added. She also gets "sauce" added to the fires, which turns out to be a faintly ochre tinged variation on 1,000 Island dressing. Topping off the order with an Arnold Palmer (iced tea and lemonade), we park and inhale the food. It's amazing. The produce is fresh and crispy (locally sourced, I am assured) and the burgers are....the only term I can come up with is.....FUCKING MAJESTIC.

We return to the freeway and continue towards San Bernadino...