Mar 10, 2010

Little Fluffy Clouds

Saturday 6th March - Day 27

It's just too big... can't fit it all in.

That's a phrase I've heard a hundred times if I've heard it once... but now I'm saying it myself. And not just about America. I'm talking about California. We've just spent 9 of the last 10 nights in this messed up bankrupt state and we haven't even scratched the surface. We could have spent 56 days in this state, though I wouldn't really want to. I'm pretty sure we could have spent 56 days in L.A. alone... and perversely I'd have liked that. There would still be songs to visit. But we're here to see America and today we headed south and east towards Arizona... taking in a couple of song landmarks on the way.

For starters we headed down the San Bernadino Freeway... just like this.
If you didn't like that... then face it, you don't like rock 'n' roll. I accept that some of you harbor prejudices against the likes of Frank Zappa (even though there are no 'likes of Frank Zappa') but listen again and this time fast forward to 3:25 and I defy you (and you know who you are) to dismiss Johnny Guitar Watson. Damn! That last two minutes of boogie with Johnny Guitar singing like he was a preacher possessed by a spirit of one kind or another... that's a combination that goes back to the source of rock 'n' roll. That track, when it came on the car stereo, demanded I turn it up and drive like a reckless absconding fool down Interstate 10 into an increasingly dull concrete hinterland that stretches... what, 50 miles? east of Los Angeles. It made me pity all those fools who live so close (and yet so far) from a great, great city. It made me think of Scousers.

Beyond San Ber'dino nature starts to take over. And it's very different from Northern California. It's a hot, semi desert like nature. However it's not really desolate because you have to pass through the San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm. There are over 3000 turbines. Massive turbines on both sides of the road. It's a surreal and thought-provoking landscape just outside of Palm Springs. Beyond that we passed a place called 29 Palms. Which, as well as being California's answer to Seven Oaks, is the name of a song (with dreadful verses but a catchy chorus) by Robert Plant. In the early 90s, Grunge was so influential that they released that Zeppelin Box Set which sold so well. And on the back of that exposure Robert Plant had a new hit record and even sang it on TOTP. Strange days. (The video btw is an outstanding period piece. I bet that woman is regretting not wearing a bra now. Gravity always wins.) At about that time Plant also recorded a song called Big Log. I think it's about a place in America. I hope it's a about a place. (Though I know I've had bowel movements that would inspire me to write a song if I had any musical ability.)

Shortly after 29 Palms we headed due south on Highway 86 until we joined up with Interstate 8 which pretty much draws a line under South California. It passes two places right on the border with Mexico called Mexicali and Calexico. Do you see what they did there? Clever huh? Its something that happens elsewhere in the states too, like Texarkana. Can you guess where that is? Calexico is also of note to us as it's the name of that great band from Tucson Arizona. (I fully intend to start a list of bands named after American places. There are a ton of them. What have we got? Bradford?)

The last section of I-8 was truly astounding. You see that big, sand-colored area on the screen grab of the map below?

Well, that's exactly what it is. Sand. Big, honest to goodness, Lawrence of Arabia sand dunes. Spectacular. The most desert-like desert I've ever seen. (As long as I ignored the sand buggies and the quad bikes racing over it.) Oh and that white line on the picture - that represents the border with Mexico. Well that's there too. Only it's not white. It's a a bloody ugly border fence. It looks like this. And guess what? I don't like it. Though based on what they say on the radio I think most of those right wing talk shows hosts love it. (They seem to blame California's bankrupcy on illegal immigration.) Never liked the idea of walls to keep people out. Always associated them with... I'm trying not to use the F word here... erm... with "controlling regimes". Who started it anyway? The Romans? At least Hadrian built a cool-looking wall. And to compound my liberal (kneejerk?) reactions... a little further down the road there was a road block where we all had to slow down and say hi to officers from the US Border Patrol. It reminded me of my family holidays in Northern Ireland in the 70s and 80s. In case your wondering... that's not a good thing. I guess America feels it has enough Mexican restaurants now. And that may well be true. But a wall? Wow. I had no idea.

Luckily, by the time we crossed the state border into Arizona, I-8 was too far from the international border and my lily-livered sensitivities could forget the wall and concentrate on verifying that Rickie Lee Jones wasn't kidding when she talked about the skies in her childhood home. In case you're wondering what I'm talking about.... it's Rickie Lee Jones who got sampled here.

Rickie Lee told the truth. Arizona skies are amazing.


P.S. Alan Parsons spoke the truth too. Watford skies... not so amazing.

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