The long drive back to the coast is slower because of gigs.
2am, Deming, New Mexico, a dying town, although they have the largest statue of a roadrunner in the United States. Or was that Fort Stockton? We ask the Super 8 receptionist where’s good to eat. She laughs. “There’s only one place open, where I had dinner last night… Denny’s.”
In the diner, two comically rotund local cops eat massive late dinners, like Simpsons characters. Denny’s has a rock band sponsored night-time menu with such gems as – deep breath – Plain White Ts Vanilla Shake. Cock-ends, where the fuck do you put the apostrophe in that mess? Deming used to be on the border with Mexico, the second place where the great railroads met in 1881. A thriving bordertown hub til someone bought a huge tract of land just south, moved the border 20 miles and rendered Deming essentially pointless. Cue the long, slow decay.
Throughout the trip, I can’t get my head around these internal USA police ‘border’ crossing points that aren’t actually on a border. Everyone’s blasé about it but it’s surely a key myth-fucker about that word ‘freedom’, when your movement even within your country is restricted. Really, they’re after illegals from Mexico and we always get waved on uninspected because we’re white men driving a nice hybrid. I can’t imagine what it must be like driving around the south-west right now if you’re Hispanic, in a dusty pick-up – you probably get stopped and searched every time you want to go anywhere west of El Paso or north of San Diego.
In Phoenix they have a scorpion problem. Shake out your boots in the morning, we’re told in all seriousness. Fuck that, we’re driving to the next town tonight. God, how I miss the Isle Of Man.
I play an in-store at little indie shop Stinkweeds, on the patio out back. It’s beautiful, fewer than 20 people but they’re all really nice and buy CDs and the two women who run the shop are great. Later I’m down one end of a busy, long, goth sports bar up the road – where they turn the TV sound down but not off. Nasty start and (for the first time ever in the USA) they DO NOT like my politics, but I win in the end by belting out ‘Beer’ and ‘Eminem’. Stomp off to decent cheers, ashamed for playing to the dumbasses. Turns out the headliner is a Christian metaller-gone-country.
In Tucson, Sarge’s publisher friend Dan takes us for very good Mexican brunch, totally different to Cali- or Tex-Mex (but they STILL won’t put molé on my veggie quesedillas! Bastardos!). The waitress hugs us all goodbye in an Ama-like spiritual way. Then out to show us some real desert. My parents would adore this: extraordinary flora&fauna as well as the intense cowboy vibe. Keeping an eye out for rattlers, for real.
Tucson’s Dry River co-op has a young, quietly anarchic crowd and a really fun, appropriate bill. One guy does melancholy beats’n’acoustic emo pop, Get Cape-ish, but when his laptop crashes and he reboots, he has a big pic of Katy Perry on the desktop, for which he takes severe ribbing. On the chalkboard listing the month’s events, I’m between community self-defence and the mens’ group.
Cassie, lovely singer/pianist from Seashell Radio (lush, Tucson-based, though I gigged with them in SF) turns up offering accommodation, which is super-generous but Sarge already scored a decent hotel on the cheap. We almost got kicked out though, after he smoked a joint out by the pool this morning and the maintenance crew smelled it . He always saves himself/us from these crazy scrapes with friendly good cheer.
Out of Tucson we visit the boneyard: an aeroplane graveyard on immense scale. Can’t describe it but hundreds, maybe thousands of dead planes being gradually decommissioned or just rotting. And that evening we actually make it back to L.A. ahead of schedule, there by 7pm-ish, which gives us a whole evening to recover.
Not telling you about L.A. – same things I always do. Back at Muddy Waters in Santa Barbara, remember Bill is a great guy to talk with, a proper music fan. And there’s sunset on an empty Santa Barbara beach.
Quality time with Sarge and Jane. Interesting debate about fiscal libertarianism, as separate from conservatism, inspired by S&J’s reaction to me calling FT a right-wing bastard. Needs more time though. I interview Radio 1’s punk specialist Mike Davies for my doc about Frank. He ain’t complainin’ but they’ve reduced his Maida Vale session time from 1 slot a week to 1 slot a month, which seems totally fucking mental to me, giving the quality of upcoming stuff he has access to. Sunburn.
Also one sweet night out getting gently trashed with Countessian and somehow make it back from Echo Park to Eagle Rock via Downtown on the early morning public transport, while barely able to walk or speak.
Sarge and me try the best coffee I’ve had in the USA at Funnel Mill, where a heroic barista, using what looks like meth-lab gear – all bunsen burners and glass funnels – sniffs and even throws out one of our coffees, starting from scratch because he didn’t like it.
The plane ride home should be spent asleep but involves a 10 hour conversation with Bojana, the 17-year-old highschool volleyball ace sat next to me. She’s on her way to Belgrade to visit Serbian family but no hint of an accent, on a sports scholarship to UCLA. She’s very bright and we talk religion and morals. She’s also very tall, I doubt we’d’ve been able to have a comfortable conversation, had we met standing up! I’m exaggerating but not much.
And, well, so it goes. Arriving finally in Brighton that afternoon, it’s warmer and sunnier than when I left L.A. though that won’t last.