A couple of beautiful cowboys in gingham and Stetson's brush past my table and tilt their hats to me on their way out. Way out. Shame they’re leaving. The rear view of their tight denim jeans stretched taught over their sweet firm Arizonan arses makes me want to jump on their backs and ride them round the bar, whooping and hollering with one of their Stetsons waving above my head. Yeee-haw! Rodeo Romantic.
The stirring reminds me that I bought some Viagra this morning from a Petrol station in Cottonwood. Not that I need it of course, dear Reader, but because I couldn’t believe it was there, just hanging next to the fir-tree car fresheners and chewing gum. Nothing’s ever simple though, and as I put the blister pack of blue pills face down on the counter, the women raised them above her head and shouted out to the gorgeous supervisor making coffee at the other end of the station.
“ Yo Gloria... How much are the hard-on pills, hon?”
Tight arse little moment that was. Stand on me!
By way of a brief explanation of today’s events... My hangover impaired all human connections and I simply got in the car and zoned out listening to those two blinding Digitonal tracks on “Will’s America Mix”. The hair-pinned mountain roads were taken with glazed eyes and a low warm foggy hum in my brain. I’m only here now to write this due to the universe “loving my arse” and not through good driving skills.
I came to Sedona, the town where all the world’s energy vortexes are supposed to cross. Full of queyntes. No vibe. Tourist hell. I drove on straight through, flipping the bird to all the millionaire plastic hippies. I slammed on the brakes forty miles later and found myself in Jerome. Lunch and inspection. Carried on to Prescott, at which point I had to pull over and get a room because I was starting to feel like I was playing a computer game instead of real driving. “Watch those barriers, they’ll only slow you down!”
Back in the bar, I’ve just this second taken a photo of the band on the stage. Blinding white flash envelopes the lead singer. The bloke in the kilt doesn’t look very happy. RAAAAPPE!
I’ve got to be out of Prescott quite early tomorrow as there’s a big July 4th parade passing through right in front of the hotel and all the roads are blocked off in anticipation. (Either that or the townsfolk have put together a lynching posse for me! This weekend is the busiest and most expensive of the year for hotels in the US. I haven’t made any reservations. Great! Man reckons that Grand Canyon / Williams could be tricky. I have to risk it though. I can’t be a hundred miles from the GC and not check it.
All around me in the town on the walk home, families are celebrating the beating of the English and are coming together from all over the States to be together. It almost makes me feel a bit lonely... almost!
Now THIS is what I’m talking about! Welcome to the “Cattleman’s Steak House”. It’s taken me a 15 minute walk through the pissing rain to reach it but I could smell that beef-a-cookin’ way before I saw the smoke puffing out of the chimney stack on the wooden shack slightly set back from the main road and partially obscured by dark rainy pine trees. I’m waiting to be served at the smallest table in Prescott.
It’s a Friday night though and really busy. I just KNOW this is going to be one of the best meals of the trip. This place is raw cowboy. Posters above my table inform me this week is Rodeo week in Prescott. Coupled with 4th July – I think I’m incredibly lucky to have got a room and a table tonight. I’d love to check this Rodeo and maybe even take part, but the pull of the Grand Canyon is just too strong in me.
I woke up to the sound of the parade MC speaking over the tannoy in the street below. All of America seems obsessed with “Safety”. Being safe. Keeping Safe. Feeling Safe. I think behind the confidence and relaxed demeanour most Americans ooze, is a permanent state of unease, of mild maintained anxiety.
Maintained by the media, by government and by Diner waitresses across the US! Just like a duck seems calm and graceful above water, so are Americans, but below the water, furious little flippers splash away like a washing machine drum.
“Keep safe in the parade folks. Thanks to all the volunteers who have made this parade so safe. Thanks to the Prescott Fire department who are ensuring our safety today. Thanks Guys. Now. Give me a Yeee-haaaw! Folks I can’t hear you...” I was removed from the microphone.
Thus kicked off the July 4th Parade. I packed up my bags and realising I was trapped by the barriers resigned myself to sitting on the stoop with all the other hotel guests. To a man they were all American and from the surrounding area. The MC asked if there was anyone from out of town here to celebrate Independence Day.
When one person got up the guts to say he was from Tuscon the crowd starting muttering. F**k that. Tuscon is the same state! Especially considering the anti-English meaning behind the parade, I decide to resist the urge to let them know I’m here.
The parade is big, well executed and colourful. Float after decorated float whirls past, whilst impossibly beautiful jailbait girls throw out sweets to the kids lining the path of the parade and shaking their bubblegum arses. All American life is represented here. All aspects of American life honoured. I think that because they are only two hundred or so years old as a country Americans need to have parades like this to affirm their identity and to feel they have a unified history. A back story. As a human I am well aware of the importance of the soft cushion a “history” gives to me – and what else is a country in essence except a collective human?
It’s also really enviable the way Americans respect and honour everyone in their community (or at least seem to on the surface). Floats full of Vietnam Veterans go past to deep emotional applause from certain sections of the crowd. Another for Gulf, another for Korea. Soon it will be for Iraq and then Iran and then for the blasted dead Earth itself. It was explained to me a couple of nights ago about the general feeling of the Iraq war on the American people. I think they get a rough ride in UK. I haven’t found Americans to be thick or basic at all.
They seem, and of course I’m only dealing in the broadest generalisations here, well aware of how they’re perceived on the world stage and although of course they are insular they say that whilst we don’t think we should be in Iraq, as long as our troops are there we’ll support them. The troops not the Government. I agree.
Jeeps with Senators hoping to be re-elected get a more muted response from the crowd, seemingly savvy to the photo-opportunistic nature of the moment.
One particularly Charlton Heston looking senator has a film crew with him and despite a little indifference from the crowd, he still waves with the fury of a man in the World Trade Centre trying to attract a rescue worker. I start to feel like John Malkovich in “In the Line of Fire” or Lee Harvey Oswald, as I raise my camera up to my right eye, scroll past the G-men running alongside the Jeep and fix the Senator in my crosshairs!
Another float saying “Support our Troops” zips past, whilst behind it a selection of cowboys whoop with lassoes spinning above their heads. Women in traditional dress sit on haystacks as barefoot hillbillies pluck at cello’s and violins. I want to break into a chorus of “Come on Eileen”. The fire department goes past, with the sons of the fireman sitting on the back of the trucks, waving with such pride at their daddies job. I ponder if my son would ever feel such pride for me, that is, if I were to have one.
Grand Canyon. Ponder of Wonder.
America is a land of massive contradictions. I know, I know. What a f**king cliché, but it is so true. Forget what I said about America’s preoccupation with safety earlier. I am now sitting at the Grand Canyon and it is anything but safe.
YES PEOPLE ! I AM SITTING ON THE MUTHAF**KIN’ EDGE OF THE GC!
It’s like looking out at the deepest oceanic abyss with all the water drained out! It looks like Mars. The sheer scale. The sheer f**king SIZE of it! As Christ said to me in Flagstaff! It’s so vast I can only just get the sense that it’s a canyon at all and doesn’t just go on for ever and ever. I can’t fit it all in my line of vision. My brain has never seen anything like it and doesn’t quite know how to feed what the eye’s picking up into my cortex.
It’s crazy how each view I see on this journey just keeps getting bigger and better. I thought the view from the Empire State was mad enough, but then I saw the Petrified Forest which blew it away. But then I saw the Cocino National Forest yesterday, which took my breath away and added an irreplaceable extra little spark to my soul. BUT NOW THIS! The last time I felt this scared and exposed, yet still fascinated and energized was right at the very top of the Gaudi cathedral in Barcelona.
Based on my experience of America so far, I can’t believe there are no safety barriers here or a big f**king Perspex screen round the edge! I can walk right up to the crumbling chalk edge with a thousand feet drop sheer down. Check it out:
It was still $25 to get in, so at least the US has continued to meet my expectations on that score!
I’ve taken a photo of where I’m sitting because it looks so f**king crazy and sometimes words, no matter how expressive, just aren’t enough...
I’m on a small white rocky outcrop jutting out from the main canyon wall. If I stretch my legs out horizontally as far as they’ll go, left to right, then the tips of my trainers can touch the edges of the promontory. I AM TOTALLY EXPOSED! There’s only rock behind me and nothing either side. One big gust of canyon wind and I’m gone, flying like a fat eagle thousands upon thousands of unmissable feet onto the red rock below.
In fact, I’m moving back now away from the edge because my head is starting to spin and the muscles in my legs are tightening as if ready to pounce. For some reason I don’t trust myself not to throw myself off. That’s where my fear comes from.
That’s the source I’m tapping into now. The primal root and cause of my fear – the extraordinary sensational fear of not being in control of my actions: That deep within me there is a darker, stronger, primeval force which could break free from its prison and come to the surface and black me out, so that when I come to, I’m covered in blood and everyone’s dead! Ha! Am I insane?! Does anyone reading this know what I’m talking about or should I actually jump for the benefit of Mr. Kite?A fat Camp America kid comes up to where I’m sitting, moaning for a Hershey bar and a slap. The moment has passed. Everyone I’m passing on the Canyon trail has their faces turned to the incredible view, mouths hanging open, silent in speechless wonder. It’s a strange eerie un-American silence!
This view has inspired me to go from the sublime to the ridiculous – I’m going to make the long drive right now to Vegas. Yeah, that’s right you Muthas! Saturday night in Las Vegas! But first, more of this view. I must try to stop always thinking about the next thing, especially when the present thing is a once-in-a-lifetime amazement! I shouldn’t be in such a hurry!
Next time I read this I won’t be looking up from the page at this killer view that’s for sure* (yep!*) I’ve noticed in myself a strange flattening or negation of emotion when faced with a truly spectacular sight. I don’t mean like standing at the top of St Paul’s Cathedral kind of view, but a view like Grand C. It was the same when I was trekking in the Himalayas. I can always tell when a view is +10/10 because the music I’m listening to will sound tinny and superfluous.
For example, on the last tube home after a Friday night the opening soundtrack to “Blade Runner” can lift me out of the carriage and send me flying over industrial Tokyo dreams. But here at the Grand Canyon it just sounds irritating – like a small fly buzzing in my eardrum. The view is too big for music. It demands to be seen alone, unedited, it’s too epic. My subconscious is perhaps trying to keep me “flat” because otherwise it would be too much and I’d freak? The “Reducing Valve” in operation?
Ye Gods! To think I’m going from this view to the view of Sunset Strip, Las Vegas in one day! The ultimate effort of God, followed by the ultimate effort of man, I won’t have many days in my life like this one, I’m sure!
WHAT A LUCKY QUEYNTE I AM!!!
Tempt fate and she will always rise to the challenge like a moody porpoise after Tuna. I spoke too soon!
It’s now 18:49 and I’m sitting in a car park outside of a small town in the middle of the desert called Kingman. EVERYTHING in Las Vegas is booked up, “Coz of the holiday, hon”. This is the busiest night of the year! D’Oh! The only place available was Caesar’s Palace at $700 a night. F**K THAT! I’ve just spent the last twenty minutes shovelling quarters into the phone box on the forecourt of this petrol station in the gathering dark trying to make myself heard over the roar of the desert trucks filling up with diesel.
If I could be sure of winning big at the Roulette table then I might be tempted to splash out on Caesar’s Palace!
Well dear Reader, I have a problem. I’m pulled over in a lay-by in Kingman. Kingman is a shit hole. Worse than this, Kingman is full. The whole c*nting town is full. Even the rattiest roachy motel is full. I’m f**ked. No room at the inn. So what do I do?
A) Sleep in the car
B) Drive to Vegas and pay 700$ for a room at Caesar’s
C) Drive to Vegas and stay up drinking all night so I don’t need a room?
I’ve test driven option A by hanging out in an empty car park, but the police in this town look mean, like the drill Sergeant from Full Metal Jacket. A police car, not sure if it is the same one, has already buzzed me twice patrolling the edges of the car park. There’s no way I could get away with it for a whole night. This isn’t England, this is a tough desert town. So, God have mercy on my soul, I’m going for option C. Into the boot to fish out a good shirt – the only clean one I have left and then fill up the car and fill up me with Red Bull.
20:30: F**k me, I’m actually a bit scared.
Right. I’ve changed into the shirt at the road side. Sprayed on some perfume to take away the stink of the road and I’m now ready to drive the 100 or so miles through empty, uninhabited, bleak desert, Death Valley country. Wish me luck...
THESE ARE THE MOMENTS THAT MAKE A FOOLISH WOMAN