A Pizza Slice and Buds for the Road.

We were warned. When Amtrak goes wrong, boy. Surat Thani was a bit scary, stranded in the deadbeat corner of nowhere in an entirely foreign,  unfamiliar place. Emeryville train station (San Francisco’s feeder stop) – for all the foreign it’s all too familiar and simply irksome. Early start, backpack hike from hotel up and down SF’s giddily infamous hills onto a bus transfer to a stop not on our ticket (apparently Emeryville is as good as Oakland – heart stopping *we’re going to miss our train, wrong bus* panic over) and all the while Coast Starlight has had a ‘train/trespasser collision’ = 5+ hour delay in a station with no wifi. Horror. As we were due back in LA at 9pm this most likely means a nerve wracking wait in Downtown LA before the Metro starts again at 4 am. We’ll see about that one.

The same Downtown was a pit stop before we went up to San Francisco. Considered a ‘dodgy’ area, seedy, don’t be walking around after dark kinda place. Undoubtedly true, yet the novelty for a States virgin allows a distinctly rose coloured tint to creep. That homeless guy muttering to himself looks like Bubs, harmless. Samuel L Jackson over there, working out some situation. Fire escapes for the RENT-esque to croon over and all sorts of intersections ready for a chase. It’s a film set, a novel, such is the familiarity with America as described and imagined. 6 days in and it’s becoming more real, like it could be really be touched and traversed and taken in on the immediate. It’s wonderful.

The advantage of train travel: a sense of scale. Crawling along California’s spine with coast on one side and straw coloured all American scenery on the other. Slopes and bumps that fall somewhere between rugged and rolling depending on their proximity to a town. A taste of our next train to Grand Canyon, of Mice and Men and O Brother Where Art Thou. Big Sur there, Silicon here, Fraiser’s apartment somewhere far up there. Sheldon likes trains, there’s a Modern Family – Arrested Development up ahead.

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Making friends with Cathy, one of many friendly locals to have already made our acquaintance, was also uplifting given a Brit’s usual disdain for any conversation on public transport. I mention her here simply for future recollection.

Actually, Nic’s turning into Bob. Having been rewarded with a chat about philosophy and Melvyn Bragg on the bus into LA, he’s turned quite the socialite. I bide my time and break in when required (navigating the testosterone fuelled banter of ridiculously brash young men during England’s first World Cup match – unwittingly we chose a bar in SF’s Italian Quarter – one such example).

North Beach and City Lights. Height Ashbury. Berkeley. Golden Gate. Each met expectations so perfectly there is almost no need to record much at all. Intelli-Hipsters,  Marijuana Grunge, coffee swilling Cals and well paid joggers respectively. A heady mix.

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San Francisco is a stream of interesting upon fascinating on quirky. Swish 20’s apartment blocks fading into back street mural art and the still beating pulse of that swinging decade many moons ago. From on high, white houses twinkle in the sun with a near Spanish glow and the art deco features on even the most run down of quarters are so striking it’s hard to keep calm, impossible to not walk into the many comically vintage cable cars given all the delights above streetview (Google car passed us by, felt exposed). Tips and taxes not included remain infuriating but I’m sure it’ll click at some point.

                                             

Cliffhanger Averted: Arrived in LA at 2 am. Taxi to Hollywood. Lying in Marilyn Monroe’s old boarding bed.

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Damned in Paradise: Ode to the Snapper.

An In Our Time on Descartes, or Cogito Ergo Sum, can only lead to an afternoon of alarming consciousness, an awakening rendered the more intense for body’s isolation in the Pacific on an island with only 48 acres to its name. Acute awareness at the least. Not clawing or of the void, not Existential, for a ‘point’ can be spied on the horizon, yet it remains undistinguished and far.

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The distraction of a mighty ocean, a sky so vast it falls low until clouds seem to dip into the water and rises high, then higher and higher, still higher, stretching into every crevice of the eye’s beholding. No structure, man made or no, can block any blue or bird or trail. Sublimity in the immense. Suffice to say that the stars of a Fiji night are so plentiful the sky can be nearer silver than black.

Rested week on hammock. Volcanic sand and ancient coral just metres from our Bure, private shack. So far from suburban Manly, so very far from the intoxicating restlessness of Asian city. Guitars as we alighted and only cooled calm thereafter. As the sun sets, one can follow its motion, see it moving downwards with far quicker pace than such an uninitiated could expect, clouds set to default pink with orange hue. A perfect circle of burning light, enormous, drifting into slumber.

Strikingly blue fish, rainbow fish, see through fish, tiny yellow dotty fish. Hardened rocks painted in soft pastel shades; a wet watercolour meets the goggled snorkeller with every turn of the head. It is all a sensory delight washed down with beer and Johnny W. 

                                        

One figure to emerge from this trip, into my line of sight for the first time so explicitly is the freelance photographer, the roving snapper of life and all that wished to remain ephemeral. More precisely, the photographer we imagine. In Vietnam he was the photojournalist, in plural, chiselled leathery jaws lining the walls of today’s galleries. The crazed and daring, he would capture the war, wander the jungle, drink and smoke and stare and fear and see. See too much, too quickly. Immortalised by Apocalypse Now. On the plane he reappears, no less distant, in the Secret Life of Walter Mitty.  A man of mystery whose eccentric heroism not only offers the world a glimpse of the otherwise unseen but is mystery enough for Stiller to track and idolise and envy. Roberto Bolano’s novel, Savage Detectives. A figure emerges from the interior of Liberia, savaged African nation, lucky to be sweating and breathing for reasons aplenty. Tragic, disillusioned, genius (perhaps), tortured (certainly). Risking all for photos sold to armchair parties of the West. To Reuters and CNN.

All of them dashing, young, brilliant. Some academic, testing mettle. Others all mettle, seeking a truth. All of them scarred and beaten by the vocation. Romantically damned.

                                        

A winding blog for a thoughtful week off the grid. The Blue Mountains’ treacherously steep stairway (read: shaky ladder clinging to the side of a cliff) into the valley,  bushwalking and waterfall hugging crowned our stay in Oz only a fortnight ago and yet such memories already begin floating from the front of mind. Instills the importance of recording one’s trip in all the ways possible. Room now for the next leg to forefront, touch down in LA with Twain and Kerouac in hand, off to find where their inspirations lay.

Damned in Paradise: Ode to the Snapper.

An In Our Time on Descartes, or Cogito Ergo Sum, can only lead to an afternoon of alarming consciousness, an awakening rendered the more intense for body’s isolation in the Pacific on an island with only 48 acres to its name. Acute awareness at the least. Not clawing or of the void, not Existential, for a ‘point’ can be spied on the horizon, yet it remains undistinguished and far.

image

The distraction of a mighty ocean, a sky so vast it falls low until clouds seem to dip into the water and rises high, then higher and higher, still higher, stretching into every crevice of the eye’s beholding. No structure, man made or no, can block any blue or bird or trail. Sublimity in the immense. Suffice to say that the stars of a Fiji night are so plentiful the sky can be nearer silver than black.

Rested week on hammock. Volcanic sand and ancient coral just metres from our Bure, private shack. So far from suburban Manly, so very far from the intoxicating restlessness of Asian city. Guitars as we alighted and only cooled calm thereafter. As the sun sets, one can follow its motion, see it moving downwards with far quicker pace than such an uninitiated could expect, clouds set to default pink with orange hue. A perfect circle of burning light, enormous, drifting into slumber.

Strikingly blue fish, rainbow fish, see through fish, tiny yellow dotty fish. Hardened rocks painted in soft pastel shades; a wet watercolour meets the goggled snorkeller with every turn of the head. It is all a sensory delight washed down with beer and Johnny W. 

                                        

One figure to emerge from this trip, into my line of sight for the first time so explicitly is the freelance photographer, the roving snapper of life and all that wished to remain ephemeral. More precisely, the photographer we imagine. In Vietnam he was the photojournalist, in plural, chiselled leathery jaws lining the walls of today’s galleries. The crazed and daring, he would capture the war, wander the jungle, drink and smoke and stare and fear and see. See too much, too quickly. Immortalised by Apocalypse Now. On the plane he reappears, no less distant, in the Secret Life of Walter Mitty.  A man of mystery whose eccentric heroism not only offers the world a glimpse of the otherwise unseen but is mystery enough for Stiller to track and idolise and envy. Roberto Bolano’s novel, Savage Detectives. A figure emerges from the interior of Liberia, savaged African nation, lucky to be sweating and breathing for reasons aplenty. Tragic, disillusioned, genius (perhaps), tortured (certainly). Risking all for photos sold to armchair parties of the West. To Reuters and CNN.

All of them dashing, young, brilliant. Some academic, testing mettle. Others all mettle, seeking a truth. All of them scarred and beaten by the vocation. Romantically damned.

                                        

A winding blog for a thoughtful week off the grid. The Blue Mountains’ treacherously steep stairway (read: shaky ladder clinging to the side of a cliff) into the valley,  bushwalking and waterfall hugging crowned our stay in Oz only a fortnight ago and yet such memories already begin floating from the front of mind. Instills the importance of recording one’s trip in all the ways possible. Room now for the next leg to forefront, touch down in LA with Twain and Kerouac in hand, off to find where their inspirations lay.