On this trip I’ve come to love that brief moment just after I’ve checked in and been given the room keys in a hotel that looks swell. It’s a great second, when the key goes in the lock and I turn the handle, wondering what the room will look like. I’ve not been disappointed yet! Los Padres Motel in San Luis Obispo is no exception. It’s the first place I’ve stayed in that hasn’t had a TV. GOOD! The room is very California – plush real Redwood doors and furniture. The pillows and sheets are so white and brilliant they could’ve been blessed by a priest. Los Padres motel is like a hacienda – all the rooms wrap around a courtyard with a gushing fountain at its centre and an old Mexican guy in a sombrero tending the shrubs.
The place appears to be run by an old Asian guy with the skin complaint that turns it as white as his sheets. On the reception desk are pictures of his guru and Hindu gods. For some reason I trust Hindus implicitly. I know this is as foolish as hypothesising that all blacks love fried chicken, but once I saw this guy and his gurus I knew he’d be straight down the line and his rooms would be fragrant for this old vagrant. So far so good. Only $68 to boot! This being so, why are all the other hotels I’ve booked up the coast 150$ a night?
I’ve noticed myself becoming more American over these past three weeks, in terms of my impatience and expectation of good service. I’ll need to keep that in check once I’m back in England!
It’s a perfect sunny day and I have it on good authority that downtown has fresh cracked crab and incredible locally produced wine for me. I’ve not had any fruits of the sea this trip! Too much beef in my bank accounts. My colon cries for mercy with an anguished Moooo! I’m off to explore this town that I can’t pronounce.
It’s such an empowering feeling to drive like this, to make things happen like this, to call the shots on where to go and when to do it. Looking at the map in the Lonely Planet back in my London flat before the trip, all the places I’ve been to were just names on a page. In a philosophical moment I would even question whether they existed at all. But now I know. I look at the map in front of me now and say “Big Sur. Mmmm, that sounds good, I’ll go there tomorrow. And sure enough. Bam! I’m sampling Big Sur! Outstanding! I wish all my days could be lived like this – perhaps they will be from now on?!
This is the very heart of California’s wine producing dynasties. I walk the leafy streets of San Luis Obispo in the tanned yellow evening sun. Even though I’ve only travelled 100 miles or so from LA today, already the sidewalks have Oak trees and a European vibe. I love Californians! Them ‘Fornians that I’ve greeted so far have been so relaxed and effortlessly cheerful that the sun actually seems to get warmer when they smile. I don’t care what people back in England say about American fake sincerity. With only a handful of exceptions I’ve found all my interactions to be genuinely sincere. I envy ‘Fornians’ their peacefulness. New Yorker’s are certainly powerfully confident and able to kick in any door to metaphorically get to where they need to go ; but Californians would rather wait for the guy with the key to open the door and then effortlessly walk through!
I’m sitting on the veranda of my room looking out at the evening action below, feeling like a tired emperor. Beyond the white adobe houses are more green trees and, rising above them, silhouetted mountains. The sun is dusky and at eye level. Any minute now it’ll burst on the tip of the mountain like a balloon and the orangey juice will run through the valley, ushering in what we in Hollywood call “The Magic Hour”! In anticipation of this (and because I realised within five minutes of walking down the street that I can’t be f**ked with the whole rigmarole of bars and restaurants tonight), I found a superb small winery that lets you taste and buy. If anyone reading this has seen the film “Sideways” you’ll know what I’m talking about (and those of you that haven’t, stop reading this and immediately rent it – if you don’t like it I’ll personally refund you the cost of the rental). It’s brilliant.
I walked in and a charming George Lucas-esque man greeted me. I found myself talking to him as if I actually knew a f**k of what I was talking about! I asked for a red – nothing too heavy like Zifandel can be, something light like Chianti or along the lines of a Rioja. It must also be as locally produced as possible.
“I want to be able to SEE the vineyard from my hotel window, dig George?”
(When I visit my Sister in Spain, I love the idea that I’m drinking gorgeous wine for pennies that would cost $$$ more in London). He recommended me a “Niner Wine Estates, 2003 Bangiouese, Bootjack Ranch, Paso Robles”. (I’m reading off the label now). She treats me right...
Paso Robles is three miles north east of here and represents the very centre of California wine producing country. If I didn’t have to drive to Monterey tomorrow, or if I had a co-pilot like in “Sideways” then I’d wind my way through all the free tastings. This time next week I’ll be boarding the flight back home and all this will just be photos in a camera and sterile words on a page, but in this moment I AM HERE! I can taste the Tannins in the wine on the back of my tonsils, hear the fan whiz above my head, smell the bourganvilla on the dusky breeze and feel the golden orb of the dying sun’s parting kiss. Insert photo here!
I opened up the large Amish replica wooden wardrobe that faces my bed, out of curiosity and revealed a TV after all. A big sleek screen dream. On top of the box is a flier for Dominos Pizza offering delivery to my hotel room. TO MY VERY ROOM! Old habits die hard and the urge to stay in, order a pizza and get wasted on grease and grapes grabs me. Rude not to. Like a good capitalist I pick up the phone and dial 9 for an outside line. The guy at Dominos sounds like Clint Eastwood. I order some sort of festival of meat, feeling a very real twinge in my colon at the sound of “meat”. It’s letting me know that it’s doing all it can to clear the current backlog. Well sorry mate but nice to Meat you. This sunset is going to be atmospheric and my room is perfectly positioned to catch every last drop. I’m signing off to enjoy the moment uninterrupted. Sorry.
Las Vegas just goes to show how truly empty, depressing and pointless decadence is in the end. Alright, granted, in this moment I’m still spending money on the hotel, the wine, the car that brought me here. But it’s all pretty humble. None of them are particularly expensive (About 160$ all together), yet this moment is giving me an immeasurable sense of peace and pleasure. All Vegas gave me for its two days at 700$ a night, was dehydration, a headache and mild depression! There’s a true lesson for me to learn in there somewhere if I’m able to see it and use it!
I’m really excited about this week that’s coming up, more than any other part of the trip. Seeing the Henry Miller Museum in Big Sur tomorrow has been a dream of mine since I first got in to serious literature. Then getting to stay in an original Beat hotel in San Fran where Kesey and the Merry Pranksters hung out. On top of all this, the drive along the coast road is supposed to be one of the most breathtaking drives in the world.
Hold up! Time for pizza. I’ve just spied the Domino Hummer pull into the courtyard. Tim Westwood style! In London you get delivery via a whiney 50cc moped driven by a whiney Arabic guy. Here I have a 4x4 Hummer! Oh, I can see why now. It takes two people to carry the enormous disk of meat up here. A foreman has been drafted in to oversee the winching of the pizza up to my second floor. Upon delivery, I order a crane and operator to remove me from the room tomorrow morning. Unless I’m gripped by the booze later, I imagine this is probably goodnight, dear reader.
Hasselhoff, Piers Morgan, Barbie woman. Three judges on a terrible American sub-X Factor program I’m watching. What the f**k is Piers Morgan doing judging this sh*t? He is an ABSOLUTE C*NT. I’m listening to him talking up how close he used to be to Princess Diana. Urghh, shudder. He was the editor of Daily Mirror when she died and it could be argued was indirectly responsible (or at least a contributing factor) for her death. I hope this road trip travelogue gets published. Sue me you C*NT!
The old adage is that people drink to forget. It occurs to me in this moment, that I drink to remember. To remember who I am, what is important to me (drinking!) and the feelings and moments from past times that have made me who I am. Happy, powerful, peaceful, poignant. The older I get the more I enjoy sitting by myself with a bottle of wine, a typewriter, music, take-out, and writing about the past, present and future.
Who says the past is gone and set in stone?
I think the past can be just as fluid as the future.
The only thing immovable is the present.
You can never change the fact that you’re in the moment – even if I remove myself from the situation I’m in, it will only be to find myself in another situation. I can never escape reality and being. If you’re lucky enough, why would you want to anyway?
This recent love of being alone and remembering writing that I’ve developed, gives me an insight into how old folk must be. When I was 18 it was certainly incomprehensible to me how my grandparents could be so content sitting and just being for days at a time – in some cases without any human interaction – and not go end of the road insane. The more memories you have, the more easy it becomes to just BE and not feel the need to experience with the fierce energy of a teenager, I guess. Reading this back now, I guess what I’m saying is pretty obvious. But for some reason I feel it keenly now as a revelation.
With the safety and abstraction of the moment I start to muse. In terms of my London life, because I’m here now, I feel like I’ve stepped off the Waltzer and am watching the past London me spin round and round objectively.
So... What has been behind my anxiety attacks in the last year? Touch wood I haven’t had one in a while and not on this trip – with the exception of a close call in Oklahoma when I first rented the car, but that could be easily explained away and was probably quite a natural reaction to an intense situation!
No, obviously my brain is trying to tell me something about the way I’m living my life. I would really, really love to know whether these anxiety attacks are a direct result of all the caffeine or whether I would have had the same problem irrespectively? I also find it interesting that the palm reader in Lachmanjula, India, said to me that I would have some “mental health issues” around 28 to 30. Perhaps a self-fulfilling prophecy?
For those of you who are lucky enough to never have experienced a panic attack it goes something like this: Imagine being trapped in a small room on a submarine that’s sinking and filling up with water, even though the cold sea-water is still only up to your chest, the air is running out in this small trapped chamber. Because you are deep under the sea, even if you were to get out of this room, there’s still nowhere to escape to. Imagine that sense of panic, like a killer centipede crawling up the inside of your thigh and you are paralysed. A sudden sense of “unreality” hits you, animalistic, that you are totally not in control of your present or situation or mind. Every sense becomes intolerably sharp like the come-up on acid, like the “whitey” fear on dope – only I know I’m not on drugs when it happens, which makes it a much more frightening prospect as there’s no reason for it.
It feels like the brakes failing in a lift and a dark rush to the first floor, stomach in mouth. What makes the sensation worse is that it is totally uncalled for in the eyes of everyone watching you. A panic attack comes out of the blue, like your subconscious has caught something out of the corner of it’s eye that you are totally unaware of and is climbing the wall with the primeval “Fight or Flight” response.
A surge of massive adrenalin is being shot into your heart in anticipation for you to either escape or punch the problem to the death – but it’s an inappropriate response. Why is this ancient evolutionary response necessary just because your mate has knocked at the door asking if you want a drink!? By definition, it is unnecessary and uncalled for, which makes it all the more frightening. Therefore it’s not a disease but simply a bad way of thinking which leads to an unhealthy mindset.
Wow! I’m pretty f**ked, sitting here reading the book of Revelations from the Gideon’s bible I found in the hotel drawer. It’s the most avant-garde thing I’ve read. In the same vein as Burroughs. Needle vein.
WHY DOESN’T SOMEONE MAKE IT INTO A SHORT FILM?
With CGI as advanced as it is Revelations would be awesome to watch and would help visualise just how ridiculous it is for Bush and the Creationists to try to say the Bible is verbatim truth, word for word.
I CAN’T BELEVE NO-ONE’S DONE THIS YET!
Something I find interesting is that Jesus never calls himself the “Son of God” in any of the gospels, preferring to use the nom de plume “Son of Man”, and you best believe Jesus knew the Old Testament scriptures intimately. Yet flicking through the Bible now, (believing nothing is found by chance), I come across Psalms 146, verse 3 which says – “Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a Son of Man in whom there is no help...” Perhaps Jesus had a sense of humour. Sense of tumour!