Archive for July, 2008
Amtrak, the American train company, doesn’t run a train from Eureka to San Francisco. But they do run a bus, which is what I did done gone and got. There’s no station, though, so I was waiting at a bus stop behind a Denny’s restaurant like I was waiting for some crack. Pleasant journey, though. The bus wasn’t too busy; double seat to myself all the way. As has happened before, I had another “fuck, I’m here” moment on a bus. California. So many movies, TV shows, songs mythologising the place. And even though I’d already been in California for a few days, it really hit me when I saw signs for San Francisco. And what better way to finally feel the warmth of the Californian sun (after a few overcast days in Eureka), than – three hours into the journey – to be stopping in a Burger King car park for a rest stop. I can’t help but find it amusing to think that the bus driver might be checking out all the restaurants along the road to see what he wants to eat, and forcing us to eat a Whopper too if we happen to be hungry.
Back on the road, and after five hours, we pulled up, the driver got on the mic, and told us that the bus was losing water, so we’d have to stop in Cloverdale to wait for a replacement bus. Woo hoo. But, y’know, it was a good natured stop. No one got angry, and I had a nice chat with a chap who was on his way back to the Bay Area after spending two weeks in Eureka. He moved there with his girlfriend of three years, and after two weeks in Eureka, they’d split up. He had that glassy look in his eyes that betrayed his relentless upbeat chatter. Poor guy.
An hour passed, we smoked a couple of cigs, had a coffee, and we were back in the traffic jam that took us the rest of the way to Martinez, where I jumped on a train and within half an hour, I was in the back of my pals Wade and Vicky’s car going over the Bay Bridge into San Francisco as a massive cloud rather dramatically went in the opposite direction.
Sushi, beer, and a couple of games of pool on a table in a bar called Wild Side West that, legend has it, Janis Joplin once got fucked on. Whether that’s true or not, it felt like it might be true, which is good enough for me.
My friend Mark Svartz is pretty much the funniest person I know. He has a thing which has made me chuckle many times over a beer, so it’s good to see it has made it online. I hope you’ll like his wonderfully silly Charactertudes, too. If you enjoy that, you might also enjoy another project he has instigated, The Good Book. Plug over.
Sometimes, things rattle around in my head for so long that I wonder if I might have blogged about them before; or whether it’s something I’ve just scribbled down in a notebook and forgotten about; or if it’s something that I’ve just chatted about with a friend; or if it’s something that, somehow had managed to exist un-written-down or un-talked-about and un-blogged-about. So, if I’ve written about this before: sorry, but I just can’t be arsed to scroll through the archives to check.
Now, with that waffle-y introduction, you’d be forgiven for thinking that what I’m typing is going to be in some way interesting or profound. You’d be wrong. And who knows, I might even forget I’ve written this blog post and write about it again in the future. Joy.
It’s simply this: I wonder if there’s some psychological reason why I – and I assume others – like having the lid on a to-go paper cup of coffee. Here’s a picture by way of an example.
And what a perfect example it is, because I think that maybe the small opening in coffee cup lids may well remind us of being a baby, and drinking from those sippy cups, and thus stirring up some sort of warm fuzzy feeling inside. Or is it that we simply have a desire to, whenever possible, put a lid or top on top of a drink container? I mean, for most of my life I’ve got along fine with the concept of a cup or a mug. I’ve managed to spill a very small percentage of the open-topped liquid containers that have ever been gripped by my hands; yet, gimme a bottle of mineral water, and I will always put the top back on, even if I know I’m gonna take another sip fairly shortly. Is it just something to do with my hands that I do this? And I think it’s not just me. Lots of people do it.
Anyway, you better get used to this sort of blog post, cos once my trip is over – in less than three very very very short weeks – this kind of crap is what you’ll be reading regularly, I imagine. Once I’m through moaning about having the post-holiday blues, of course, which may well take up another month. Blah blah blah.. woe is me! My 29-week holiday is over! Boo hoo! Etc. Oh, and by the way: that Dutch Bros. coffee was shite. And on a scale of one to a million, how lame is the design of the cup!? Tulips and a windmill? You lazy motherfuckers…
I left Oregon on Sunday. Walt and Jenny had driven up to the Fair in their RV, and I was getting a ride with them down to their home in Eureka, California. Rather naughtily, I spent most of the journey in the R part of their V. I found myself ducking down any time I saw a motorbike that looked like it might be being ridden by Erik Estrada or Larry Wilcox
A highly pleasant journey it was too. I had a nap in the bed, lounged around on the sofa bit, watched the fog rolling in from the Pacific Ocean, and marvelled at the size of the redwood trees.
And the couple of days I’ve spent here in Eureka have been very agreeable. It’s been nice to hang out with Walt and Jenny again, and nice to see the pretty buildings in their town. And the pretty buildings in the neighbouring town, Arcata. And the harboury thingy that opens into the Pacific Ocean. Here’s some photographs of all of the above in lieu of more words, cos it’s damn early in the morning, my brain isn’t working properly, and I’m sat in a cafe wasting a couple of hours before I get on a bus to San Francisco.
I didn’t have time yesterday to sort out photos of the Oregon Country Fair. Looking at them again this morning when I was re-sizing them all made me a bit wistful about what a wonderful time I had in Oregon in general, and the Fair specifically. I’m not sure the pictures will do it justice because, for some reason, I didn’t get my camera out much, and when I did, I seem to have taken a bunch of average photographs. Oh well, here they are anyway; at least you’ll get some sort of idea. I know that I’m gonna sound like the hippy that I’ve spent my adult life mockingly sniggering at, but the energy there was pretty fantastic. Now, where did I put my mushrooms…
Let’s begin with some man hippies…
…and some lady hippies
Our little campsite in the woods
Liberty Coffee, for those of us who need a jolt of caffeine in the morning
People in hats
Some sort of parade
A man dressed as a red dog
A stone age Ray Mears making fire
Kick ass t-shirt
Another setting sun
Another setting sun with a man who’d been painted blue in the foreground
Hairy-backed guy climbing through a couple of close-together tree
A dusty path through the woods
The main stage
Saying goodbye to the Fair from the back of Walt and Jenny’s RV…
Well, that was a lot of fun. Despite the reservations I had about being in such a hippy place for the last few days, the Oregon Country Fair was splendid. I really enjoyed myself. It’s on the edge of a small town called Veneta, just outside Eugene. I arrived with Barbara and Kraig on Wednesday afternoon, and we had a walk around while we waited to find out where we should pitch the tent. The way the Fair seems to work is, those that volunteer to work there get to camp near the Fair site. Those people can bring a “significant other.” Generously, Kraig had me down as his significant other, meaning I could camp with them and have access to all the after hours stuff. You see, the fair is open to the paying public from around 10am ’til 7pm. After that, when all the acts on the eighteen stages have finished, there’s a “sweep” where a huge line of security folks go around all the paths of the Fair checking wristbands and passes so that the only people left “inside” are the volunteer workers, their significant others, performers, and vendors. I must admit, I feel a little bit sorry for those folks who get swept out, cos the after hours stuff was most enjoyable. But, not a worry for me, cos I had a laminated pass dangling around my neck. La la la!
Anyway, my point about waiting to pitch the tent is that those people who’ve been coming and volunteering for many years get to keep their camping spot again and again. Kraig and Barbara had a different spot this year, so we waited for the guy who’s spot we were gonna be sharing. He and his family arrived, and we set about putting up the tent in amongst the trees, out of the baking-hot sunshine. The downside of being out of the sunshine is that we were being eaten alive by mosquitos. After a few days there, my back is a real mess; those little fuckers biting me through my shirt every damn day.
Hot and sweaty and covered in bites after setting up the tent, I went for a shower. I’d been told by Kraig and Barbara that there were showers at the Fair. Showers that are open. As in, not shower stalls. As in, lots of naked people all showering next to each other. As in, good grief! I’m English and we don’t do that sort of thing (unless there’s a P.E. teacher watching). But, at that point, they were the only showers around, and they were free, and it was dark and, well, you’ve gotta try these things, huh? So we all walk in there, take our flip flops off, and gosh! there’s lots of people in the nude. Some taking a sauna, some showering, some brushing their teeth in front of some mirrors. Because it was free on Wednesday night (you had to pay during the rest of the Fair) it was busy. Maybe a hundred people there. I stood near a little pigeon hole-type thing and took off my baseball cap. Then my trousers. Then my shirt. Then my underpants. And, well, with all the other naked people around, it felt quite normal to also be naked. I queued in line, talking to a hairy hippy lady for a while, then got under a showerhead and washed my balls and arse in front of a load of strangers. Yes, Craig, you are now a hippy.
Thursday was still a setting-up day, but most of the food and drink stalls were open as the majority of the volunteers were already at the fair. And what good food there was. Every variety you could wish for: some wonderful egg-y/potato-y breakfast stuff, white garlic pizza, stir-fry noodles, and the best cheesecake I’ve ever tasted in my life. Like the following two days, things went by in a bit of a blur. I walked around the Fair site a lot, saw plenty of strangely-dressed people, be they on stilts or their own feet. We met up with Walt and Jenny, the other couple I met in Belize, which was nice. I wandered around on my own, flitting between thinking it was all cool and lovely, and all a bunch of old hippy crap. Most of the arts and crafts on sale was the latter, but, y’know, that’s just not the sort of thing I like. On the whole though, the festival felt like a special place. It was nice. Especially the location, with paths window through woodland, and small stages dotted around the place. I walked the paths many times during my time there, but there was always something new to see. I even saw Sam Elliott wandering around. I’m pretty sure it was him, anyway, but, y’know, it was a hippy festival, so there could quite easily have been a Sam Elliott or Jerry Garcia look-alike contest and the rest of the Fair would’ve been deserted…
I’m trying my best to make this coherent, but it’s tough to sort it out in my head, especially as I’m up against the clock of battery life of my laptop in this library. So, I’ll just skip the giggly fun I had with glow sticks on Friday night, and get straight to the Saturday midnight show. This was what everyone I’d spoken to had said was the best part of the Fair. So, at 10pm, I sat down on the grass in front of the main stage and watched as a big band played “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic” and were followed by many different acts, all performing for five or ten minutes. It was a wonderful night. Highlights, for me, were Artis the Spoonman, and Truckstop Honeymoon, and some guy with a big red balloon that I forget the name of (update: it was Godfrey Daniels. Thanks, Barbara). Also there was some Vegas-y magician called Jeff McBride and several old hippies singing old hippy songs.
I’m sure once I’ve pressed PUBLISH on the Blogger page, I’m gonna remember a lot of stuff, but for now, I gotta go. Battery close to dead. I’m down in Eureka, California being put up by Walt and Jenny. Nice little town with lots of pretty buildings and a ton of big redwood trees around. Tomorrow I’m heading down to San Francisco on a bus, leaving the nice countryside of the Pacific Northwest behind in favour of the big city. Right. Ta-ra for now.
I had a wonderful weekend at the Oregon Country Fair. More about that in another post, but for now, here’s a podcast where you’ll hear very little of my voice. In the car on the way to the Fair, I asked Kraig and Barbara what the deal was with hippie folks loving Jerry Garcia so much.
They kept talking, I kept (surreptitiously) recording their words, and now we have a podcast: Flip_Flop_Flying_podcast_2008_07_14.mp3.
Hope you enjoy it.
A quick one before I head off to Hippyfest or, as it is properly-named, the Oregon Country Fair. I may not come out alive. Or even worse, I may not come out un-garnished with hemp bangles woven into the shape of dolphins carouselling around my wrists; a driftwood yin yang key-fob; or one bit of plaited hair with a bead on the end dangling over my forehead.
It’s been a – there’s that word again – nice few days. Yesterday, I had a good old mooch around Portland. Checked out the Portland Art Museum, which was enjoyable. Especially the Contemporary NW Artists exhibit. And the Chinese Classic Garden thingy was nice too. Mainly, though, I walked around, people-watched, drank coffee, and enjoyed being in what seems like a fine little city.
I managed to sleep for a large chunk of Monday because I got quite drunk on Sunday night with some young folk: Rhonda, Matt, and Aubrey. Rhonda works at the same library that Barbara works at, and, after we were briefly introduced at the Fourth of July fireworks display, invited me along with her chums to go out in Portland to a club called Dante’s. Yeh, alright then. Thank you.
The night was called Sinferno, and, well, it was a lot of fun. When we arrived there was a dude fire-eating. Yawn. Later in the night, there was a lass fire-eating with no top on. Hurray! In between those two were plenty of barely-dressed go-go dancers; a barely-dressed hula-hooping lady; a skin-tight body-suited acrobat woman; and a woman wearing red socks, a Boston Red Sox cap, a Boston Red Sox jacket, with a Boston Red Sox shirt underneath, and a Boston Red Sox vest under that. Thankfully, she took them all off. Apart from the socks.
The night turned into morning, and one of the fellas had managed to get drunk and escorted out by a bouncer, so we left with him and found our way to a place that made food and coffee. On the way, though, we passed Mary’s Club, Portland’s oldest strip club.
Well, out of the kindness of my heart, I felt it was my duty as your loyal blogging traveller to go in and check it out for you. It was fairly basic inside, as far as my half-cut memory remembers. A couple of rows of seats around some round tables, and a small stage next to the bar, which, was surprisingly cheap. Two beers was just seven dollars. On the stage, a blonde lady danced around in a fishnet shirt. Then she took it off. Then she took her underpants off. Soon enough, another lady did the same sort of thing. She had larger boobs and could make them move individually, which was kind of impressive. She was dancing to AC/DC, too, which only made the experience better.
It was a fun night. Oh, and this bathroom scribble – in some bar that I forget the name of – made me giggle quite a lot.
If Hippyfest has wifi, then maybe I’ll blog from there; otherwise, I expect there’ll be an update early next week.
What I’ve seen of Oregon so far is very nice. Lots of trees. That kind of shit. On my last night in Seattle, Heather, Andrew and I went to see “Wall-E” which is fantastic. Really lovely film. Stunning animation. The next morning, Thursday, I got to see some of Seattle’s famous rain on my way to the train station.
And it was a lovely three-ish hour journey to Portland. Well, it was for the most part, as long as ignored the smelly, nose-pickin’, phlegm-hockin’ guy next to me. For the most part, though, it was nice, because he kept on dozing off.
Kraig was at the station to meet me, and he brought me here, to Estacada, about 30 miles outside of Portland, where he and Barbara live in a house with a beautiful big garden and four splendid dogs. They’ve shown me a good time since I’ve been here. We drank booze, ate hot dogs, played pool, went to a Fourth of July parade, went up to Timberline Lodge (the place used for some of the exterior shots of “The Shining”), saw lots of fireworks, visited several waterfalls and had some fairly average Mexican food.
Here’s some photos of the parade.
And here’s one of a neighbouring town’s fire truck (for further funnily-named places fun, keep on scrollin’, cowboy).
This is Timberline Lodge, plus something to remind you of its cinematic claim to fame, and the view back down from the lodge.
A couple of the waterfalls in the area, and a nice view along the Columbia River.
Earlier this afternoon, Kraig and I went into Portland to watch their Triple-A baseball team, the giggle-inducingly-named Portland Beavers play the Tacoma Rainiers. A fun game it was too; Portland down 3-0 in the bottom of the ninth with a 3-run homer and some comically poor defensive work giving them Beavers a 4-3 victory.
And, finally, it doesn’t get better than this, chuckle fans…
As you may have noticed, I kinda hit a bump when it comes to doing more podcasts. I couldn’t really be bothered to do them for a while; then I recorded a bunch of stuff in New York, but didn’t get around to editing it. Not really wanting it to go to waste, I’ve cobbled together the semi-decent bits and made what is now the seventh podcast. I do plan to get a new one done this week. Or the week after. Soon, anyway. For now, though, here’s Flip Flop Flying podcast No.7.
Happy Independence Day, ya damn insurgents.
It’s nice when people think your book is good, and seemingly, someone at The Independent (a British newspaper, foreign people) thinks “Atlas, Schmatlas” is good. Better than “The Times Atlas of the World,” in fact. If you could see me now, you’d see a tired person with bed hair moonwalking across the kitchen. Link.
I should point out, though, that depending on how fruity your child’s vocabulary is, there might be words in the book that aren’t appropriate. There are several fucks and a couple of cunts. But they tend to mainly be reserved for people like Margaret Thatcher and Pol Pot, so, y’know, fair’s fair.
Those of you who work for R.J. Reynolds will be glad to know that I did smoke a cigarette last night.
So, today I went on the Sub Seattle Tour that I intended to go on last week. And jolly good it was too. Oh, before I get onto that, look at this nice garden that’s just down the street from Heather and Andrew’s place in West Seattle:
The tour was nice. There was only three other people on the bus, so it was easy to look out of both sides of the bus as things were pointed out. I learned about some religious guy who persuaded lots of women to get naked, and was later murdered on the street; about the Wah Mee massacre; that King County, now with Martin Luther King Jr. as its logo, was originally named after some old vice president; all about Frances Farmer, and some other woman who started Seattle’s first brothel. I got to see a nice view of the city from a hill; Lake Washington; the house where Kurt Cobain lived and died; Volunteer Park, with its “Black Sun” sculpture which, apparently, inspired the Soundgarden song. It was a lot of fun. Here’s some photos.
After the tour, I went up to Seattle Art Museum. Had a wee, washed my hands, went to buy a ticket, saw it was twenty fucking dollars (the same price as MoMA) and decided to give it a miss.
Now, I know these places have to charge you something, but, really, how on earth do they expect folks to stump up that much cash constantly. The Sub Seattle tour was $30, the aquarium was $15, the Underground Tour I did last week was $15, and a trip to the top of the Space Needle was $16. I’m someone who actively likes going to see art, and even I’m not gonna pay the same as it costs to get into MoMA to see a smaller, less prestigious museum. They may have good stuff in there, but I’ll never know, cos $20 is way too much. Anyway, I’m off out now to eat some caviar.
It’s a lovely journey along the western end of I-90; from Wenatchee to Seattle. Lisa, my friend in Wenatchee, wanted to go and see baseball in Seattle, so no need for public transport. Yay. And more laughs along the way. Double yay. Taking a couple of minor detours, I got to see Rosyln, the town where Northern Exposure was filmed; and North Bend and Snoqualmie where Twin Peaks was filmed. Here’s some pics of Roslyn.
We went into Twede’s Cafe, the cafe in Twin Peaks that had the cherry pie and the damn fine coffee. Inside, it looks nothing like it did in the show. There’s lots of Tweety Pie plush toys all over the place for a start. And, well, the waitresses certainly aren’t like Shelly Johnson. And the coffee… it’s damn average to be honest. Lisa had the cherry pie, I had apple pie. Lisa was fine, I had a massive stomach ache afterwards.
Which lasted all the way to Seattle and to Safeco Field, the Seattle Mariners’ stadium. It was some sort of cheapo promotion night, so tickets were just $10. Hurrah for Lisa, Heather, Andrew and I. Rightly $10 though, really; the game was between the American League West’s worst team (Seattle), and the American League East’s worst team, Toronto Blue Jays. It wasn’t a great game. The Blue Jays’ ace pitcher, Roy Halladay threw a shutout as the Blue Jays won 2-0. Only the second game on my trip where the home team has lost, but, with the amount of Blue Jays fans there, it didn’t really feel like an away win. That was kinda interesting, though, as I’ve not been to a game where so many away fans were present. Perhaps it’s something to do with Vancouver being so close; perhaps it was because there seems to be lots of Canadians in town anyway (something to do with it being a public holiday?).
Not much else to say about the game, really. The stadium seems pretty nice. The hot dog was one of the best I’ve had, actually. And, well, a little kid stared at my penis when I was urinating. I was stood next to the child-size urinal, and he came up and I could see him out of the corner of my eye staring at my lad. Took me right back, really, to the first time I remember seeing my father’s penis, and how big it looked compared to my pre-school tiddler.
This afternoon, before Lisa went back to Wenatchee, we had a fish day. We ate fish. We went to the aquarium. And then we drank coffee with a fishy girl on the logo. The restaurant called it Alaskan Cod tempura. It was fish and chips. The aquarium was pretty good. Lots of fish. Nice jellyfish. Cool octopus. Lovely sea otters. Thousands of bloody kids. Bah. The coffee was the same as ever, but this time made by a guy who looked like Rod Stewart. A fine fishy afternoon.
After Lisa and I had said our goodbyes, Heather, Andrew, and I ate some salad, went for a walk, skimmed stones into Puget Sound, and then ate some ice cream. Did you, Craig? How fucking interesting…
Boring blog entry, I know. I’m now wondering if I can be arsed to get out of bed, get dressed, and go and smoke outside. Hmmm, what to do..? Leave them with a cliffhanger, Craig. Leave them with a cliffhanger…