I’ve heard from the barkeep that there’s some great live Arizonan guitar going on in town tonight. I can’t sit here, sweet though it is, writing about the past. There’s a future out there waiting for me to jump in and splash about.
Here I am folks, in the future. Phew-wee! I certainly wouldn’t want to get messy in this bar. I feel really under-dressed and over-weight in here! “Edwards” Bar is all sleek black chrome, candles and wooden cocktail menus.
The girl behind the bar looks like she’s been spat out by the Matrix and is staring at me like I’m the foulest smell she’s ever allowed up her pristine nostrils.
Those beautiful tapered nostrils are used to smelling orchids and crisp $100 bills. I seem to be the equivalent of a rotting pork chop covered in bleach to her, as she pours me a Marguerita.
The background music is dub and despite a little light-weight Marley every now and again, the dub be heavy. The clientele is well-dressed “Aspen” studenté.
This place, this town is so sophisticated to me after the desert that I’m feeling like a redneck, as if Mad Max had stumbled out of the desert and into $1000 plate Republican fundraiser.
In fact, and without labouring the point, driving up to Flagstaff this afternoon, for the first time I saw the sign for Los Angeles. Right turn for Flagstaff; straight on for LA.
They’ve got a German beer here at this bar called Hefferweizen. I’ve just heard the barkeep mispronounce it. Right! I think I’ll order it next and pronounce it correct, show these people I’m no desert hick! Man been to Germany! I need to shake the sand out of my pants first though!
Bar #2. They’re playing JJ Cale’s Troubadour on the CD! It’s never sounded so fresh.
I can’t remember exactly where Cale comes from, but in his music he’s always going on about Baton Rouge and Santa Cruz – another thing to find out about when I get back.
This place has got another Microbrewery beer treat called Fat Tire. To try and ingratiate myself with the Barkeep, I put on my “affable confused English Mam” and ordered a Flat Tyre... if the wind had been blowing harder, the tumbleweed would’ve blown across my trainers!
There’s a shifty looking Vietnam Vet type at the bar, two stools down from me. As I write this, he’s eye-balling me deep into my left cheek. He resembles “Stringfellow Hawk” from AirWolf, but smaller and more vicious. He’s getting kind of twitchy. I’m sure he knows I’m writing about him..!
I stopped for lunch at a small Mexican Cantina café in Holbrook and had probably the 2nd best meal of the I’ve had in the US, (after that Bagel in Brooklyn on the first morning).
It was called a shredded boiled beef burro and was like a showcase of meat in a green chilli and cheese sauce. It tasted as good as a last supper. If the Texan’s had caught me and put me on Death Row, for possessing the ability to write my own name in under three minutes, then this beef burro would be my last meal, flown in from New Mex.
The sign above the bar reads “20% Gratuity on Tabs left overnight!” Definitely a student town! (strange, though, that they use the English spelling of “night”.) I’ll ask the sexy cowgirl barkeep about this. Got to try to access some human interaction here!
Bar #3. Local hip students. All the men look like ski-bums. All the girls look like Tank Girl. I have a Vodka Red Bull but feel old and crumpled here.
Bar #4. Back on the balcony at the Weatherford hotel bar. The Lonely Planet says it’s the best bar in Flagstaff – and I’d have to agree. I’ve also just discovered during my barhop that there’s a place down the road from here called Sedona. It’s the New Age capital of the world.
Apparently, the four “Vortices” of energy in the world (lay lines) all cross at Sedona. As I am by my nature a seeker – I feel I owe it to myself to check it out. Breath in deeply of the vibe and see what my own energy can latch on to. Sedona is supposed to be quite pricey and rich – it could be that Santa Fe vibe of middle-age emaciated western woman with grey hair and black dresses moodying around with dream catchers sticking out their arses, trying to “commune in pleasantude”.
Got to risk it and check it out though, just in case it’s the real deal. Further on down the road from Sedona is Jerome, a really small romantic vineleaf town. I think I’ll check them both and then swing up north to the Grand Canyon before the epic desert crossing to LA.
I’m looking across from the balcony in the dusk and through the soft neon lights that wrap around the balustrade to the street sign across the way. “Leroux Street”. I muse to myself how, until now, it was all just words on the page of the Lonely Planet that I’d study longingly at my shitty office desk at ISCis.
NOW I AM HERE! These places DO exist!
The new plan then, (for those of you that have bothered to read this far) is to phone up the car-rental company and tell them I’m going to drop the car in LA (but check before I rent another local one, that it would be cheaper to do that). This means that I’m alright to see Sedona, Jerome, GC, LA, Big Sur, Santa Cruz, Monterey, AND still have 4 ½ days in Frisco.
If the flat sells before I leave then maybe I’ll stay a few years longer. But, this would mean missing Ed’s wedding – which would be a real shame, but in the long run, if he were experiencing the things I am on this trip, I know he’d forgive me!
“You caaaan’t always git wat yu warnt!”
Christ Arnold. Christy you sexy man, with your Indiana thirty-one years and your three young kids that you wanted to stick in the trunk of my car so you could drive to ‘Frisco with me! All I remember of you right now is the taste of your orange-zest saliva on my tongue and the email/phone you scrawled on the napkin thrust into my sweating hand.
My redneck king! You, happy in yourself dude! You could teach the boys I’ve hanged with in London a thing or two! All those blind dates I’ve endured with men who really just wanted someone to listen to them or at worst, heal them! You go boy. You read ‘em the news! And here’s a glass raised to you too John. “The dude abides”.
Old (probably gay) geezer who’s invited me to dinner tomorrow night in Jerome with his mates to discuss how I can do the marketing for his weaving business.
GOD BLESS BOTH OF Y’ALL.
Man I’m fucking pissed. I’ve got a clear view of Maloney’s Irish bar from this balcony. It certainly looks like where the action be originating from. I must’ve got there too early before. I’ve been to 4 bars since then and had some killer conversations and loving from Christ. I’ve also drunk more nuclear Red Bull and Brandy (yuk indeed!) than is natural. Come on, dear reader, I need your love in this moment. I need to feel you believing in me. In my ability to go out once more and raise hell! To put down this book, stow it back in my amazing room, resist the urge to stick on my i-pod and reminisce, and return to the fight like a Whiskey’d William Wallace.
Thank you. I did. Two more bars. Two more hours. I now feel SO shattered... from the ride, from the effort, from the booze, from me...
“It’s a bruising shattering ride, but I cannot deny myself this luxury!” (Julian Cope)
I still feel like a lightweight though, coz it’s only 2 and around my ears are the sounds of live music, the laughter and chatter of drunk girls, the clink of empty tills ringing up beers I should be buying! So why am I now lying on this small iron-frame bed?
COZ I’M PISSED OUT MY HEAD
COZ I’VE DRIVEN 1,000+ MILES IN 96 HOURS
I think I’ll text Christ tomorrow for the sheer f**koffnessofitall.
God, I’m starving. But I’m kind of punishing myself for eating so much crap this last week – three square fatty meals a day, most of them involving eggs or eggy bi-products, and with the amount of bloat-juice beer I drunk, I can’t NOW go out and get another sausage/steak/chips/egg/etc combo!
[I wonder what I’ll be doing when I hear the news that Paul Simon has died?]
Laters. I’m f**ked. Arrgh. But the men downstairs whooping and yee-haawing at the live music in the lounge sound SO sexy and available. Naw. I’m too f**ked to even bash one out here. Good night. (Although by this point I reckon I’m only talking to myself?)
I’m in Flagstaff, Arizona. I want to say that again to myself. I’m in Flagstaff Arizona.
The Santa Fe express train rolls past my hotel window 7am with a hoot-hoot, all 120 carriages of it, heading towards the Pacific coast, the same as me. The next time I read this entry I’ll probably be in a lot less interesting moment than this one.
But right now, as the fingers touch the keyboard and shadows cast in the moonlight.
I’m here. It’s real. I’m holding onto the moment with the strength of a man on a cliff edge. Note to self, next time bring a voice recorder
BUENOS NOCHES HUEVOS RANCHEROS
The day after. The night was spent pissing into plastic cups, as the toilet was too far off down lab-rat maze corridors to risk running naked in my crazed and dazed yeti state. I could imagine being cornered and shot with a tranquillizer dart, the hotel staff thinking there was a loose ape on the premises. It was a very noisy night of trains rumbling past my window, the Santa Fe express hurtling to the pacific and back again.
Great morning though. A clear blue sky. I buy a breakfast bagel and eat it by the side of the rail tracks, kicking up clumps of soil from the gravel and feeling like a hobo. The girl in the Bagel shop confirms that I’ve crossed into the final timezone. To my great confusion and hangover it’s now 9am not 10! I spent the whole of my time in Flagstaff an hour (and three pints) ahead of everyone else!
It’s not often you find yourself in a Bagel shop asking what timezone you’re in.
I’m alone in the Cocino National Forest. Around me is a view to surpass yesterday’s. Huge Majestic Pine Trees soar into the distance around me, off into distant valley’s and mountain tops. From this elevated point I’m watching three eagles swoop on the valley thermals below me.
THIS IS AMERICA. THIS IS THE REAL AMERICA THAT THE NATIVE INDIANS ONCE HAD.
I’VE DONE IT! I’VE FOUND IT!
The road to where I’m sitting is closed due to extreme fire risk, before last night’s rain, fires have been raging round these valleys. The only way for me to get here was to walk it. That’s not allowed either. I’ve had to pull over on the highway and leg it through closed barriers. As I write this my car is probably being towed away. But it’s worth it!
A small lizard gecko has just run over my shoe. Perhaps it senses the fire danger too? I am totally and naughtily alone here with this stupendous view. I feel a sense of peace in this moment that I don’t think I’ve ever felt before. It’s like standing before God and remembering.
For the people of Arizona who are truly sophisticates there is Jerome, a cultured and “European” town perched on a hillside between a ghost town and disused ore mine. It is a sanctuary of cool mountain air and air conditioned art galleries. Loads of art galleries in fact. The town is tiny – maybe only fifty cottage-style buildings along narrow streets. The place has a vibe that reminds me of both the Cornish town of Fowey and the mountain town of Mijas in Spain.
I’ve got a coffee and water, waiting on a warm chicken salad, on the outside patio of a real relaxed café cathedral called “English Kitchen”. I can tell this place is educated by the way the waitresses leave me alone to eat and don’t hover with coffee pots asking me how each mouthful of food is working out for ya?! The iced glass of spring water with the zest of real lemon squeezed in cuts perfectly through the grease of my chip fat hangover.
City of Prescott. State of Arizona.
Another hour’s ambient drive and I’m installed in Prescott. Welcome to white conservative small town America with white picket fence and apple pie in breeding behind closed doors, no doubt!
The hotel I’ve just checked into has its own named soap! No wonder it’s $120 a night! Hold on, can’t write anymore now as my marble claw-foot standalone bath is about to overflow. Man, I’m treating myself right on this trip!
Great American bath! I feel shattered from the road and last night, so going to get a couple of hours shut-eye. It hit me in the bath that I’m on the fulcrum of the adventure, exactly on the halfway point. Everything I’ve experienced so far is only half the complete story! How f**king splendid! I’ve got enough money for the moment, a car and a continent and TIME. I can GO anywhere and DO anything right now.
IN THIS MOMENT I AM FREE.
Lying naked on the bed, the fan spinning above me like Saigon helicopter blades, a loud rumbling of thunder crackles through the outside air like giants are rolling huge red boulders down the distant mesa mountains. It’s strange to see no clouds in the sky whilst thunder booms round the plains.
Thunderbolts and lightening. Electric storm. The heavens open over Prescott. Rain as thick and constant as if the Earth had been flipped upside down and the sea was falling back down through the sky. Monsoon Bedroom. The thunder is so vicious and focused that the very glass in the window visibly vibrates. I feel very snug and safe inside this gingerbread house. The Hotel Vendome has the feel of “Grandmother’s House” from the Neil Jordan film “The Company of Wolves”.
That thunder really is loud. The four books on the bedside table are all religious in theme, as I turn my head and focus my eyes - “Conversations with God”, “Cardinal Sins”, etc. This is bible-belt US. The guy who owns this place is a god-fearing man for sure. But so am I. I’m a God... fearing woman!
Power cut. God punches out the electrics. Lights out. Strange noises of things falling down. I think, joking aside, this is a storm to be reckoned with.
BOOM. BOOM. Akalakalaka BOOM.
An excited American man runs down the hallway telling his wife there’s a flash flood sweeping past the hotel. If I weren’t lying here wrapped in my towel I’d go and check it out.
I think it must’ve past now. Over excited American guy runs back down the hall to listen to loud women discussing what her Miami plastic surgeon has planned for her hangdog face, next week after July 4th. She’s “having her eyelids done” – whatever the f**k that means.
Time to get some scran and meet the good people of Prescott...
In the last three minutes on the walk from the hotel into town, I’ve seen a woman walking a ferret on a lead. Eight old women in a circle all dressed in black, barefoot, keeping a silent feminist vigil against the oppression of women around the world, and a whole town setting up speaker systems, stalls and barricades in preparation for the July 4th Parade tomorrow. There’s such an atmosphere of expectation on the streets tonight and it’s not just coz I’m in town and up for a drink!