I CAN HEAR THEM CALLING, WAY FROM OREGON
Dock cranes loom up over the San Franciscan fog like herd of Freight-osaurus Rex, We’re leaving San Fran and heading up the coast to Portland. It’s Valentine’s Day and I’m travelling with two Irish guys for 10+ hours in a van. (In fairness, they have to travel with me too, so it evens itself out!) Luckily as Kevin points out, we can go for a few days in this van without seeing each other, such is its size.
San Fran was an amazing experience. The Hotel Utah has to be seen to be believed. Not sure how to describe it to you… the world’s smallest auditorium?! The show was nice, and despite EPIC levels of reverb, which made me sound like a rock God while singing, and just like God while speaking. Hear my roar. Kev & I strongarmed our friend Kelly to bring us to a place of heavenly breakfasts. Despite the ridiculous pressure – on a Sunday morning where the brunch-army were out in force – she came through for us, and we breakfasted in the Haight area in style – all higgledy-piggledy houses plonked onto hills like a special edition of Monopoly. I wish we’d had more time to savour the place – but such is the nature of our tour…
We’re in the silly-distance part of the tour, whereupon we switch drivers every 2 or 300 miles, and watch the countryside fly by. It’s not the way I’d like to see America. It’s not the way I’d like to see any country. In Robert Fisk’s book “The Great War for Civilisation” (probably the best, and longest, book on the Middle East you’ll ever come across), he described the Russian retreat from Afghanistan from the back of a taxi, haring down the pot-holed highway, taking turns with Conor O’Clery to peer between the drawn curtains to snap photos, or peer at the tanks and jeeps at full throttle… Sometimes it reminds me of that. We’re a retreating army of three… and we often retreat or invade under cover of darkness, which leaves us in the peculiar position of waking up in yet another motel, not having the foggiest idea what kind of landscape we passed through to get here.
We overnighted in Eugene, OR before driving on to Portland. Eugene is the track capital of the States, having been home to a staggering array of track & field athletes, not least Steve Prefontaine, a young runner who simultaneously held titles at something like 10 different distances, before being tragically killed in a car crash at the age of just 25.
The drive to Eugene was tough. I had expected to make better time but the highway was foggy and wound around, dipped and rose, unpredictably. Sat-Nav or GPS is invaluable for driving in the fog. It takes some of the guesswork out of driving at night. The road markings over here are not, as we say, the Mae West.
I’ve said before that this is a tour of firsts. First time on the West Coast, first time to play in a cinema (Long Beach) before The Big Lebowski, first time to play in a yoga studio (San Diego)… it’s been fun. Portland
is the first time I’ve ever played in a funeral parlour. The Woods is an ex-funeral parlour. There’s a bizarre array of odd furniture, paintings, organs, rugs, …. a mish-mash of everything in a weird 70s technicolour.
Kevin : Are the olives nice?
Tadhg : Yes, very nice.
Kevin : I think I’ll try one.
[Takes an olive, and eats it.]
Kevin : Mmm…. they’re very nice. Fleshy. Lots of eating in it.
Tadhg : Yes, I suppose there is.
We’re in this place for just a few hours and we’re already talking like a scene straight out of a Wes Anderson movie. Rushmore, Bottle Rocket, The Royal Tenenbaums or something. It’s bizarre but wonderful – just like the films. It makes one long to catch a delicious bass…