USA Archives

Postcards From The Edge

A picture tells a thousand words, right? Well, let’s hope so. Because I’ve run out of words! I’ve been talking so much these last few weeks that I am literally losing the ability to expel new words from inside of me.

So what I’ve decided to do is dazzle you all with the photos we’ve been taking – ones that have missed the cut so far, and not made it onto Facebook or the blog. Partially this is because I don’t post photos as often as I should, and partially it’s because I take pictures of really weird sh*t that amuses me, and somehow it doesn’t seem nearly as funny five days later when I find the photos…

It’s a context thing. That’s my excuse.

So in celebration of that, I will attempt to give you a brief context for each picture. You may even gain some insight into the inner workings of my mind… in which case, BEWARE! It’s not a particularly wholesome environment in there…

Paperwork

I’d like to begin with a salute to the sheer amount of paperwork I brought with me on this trip. Having struggled to get into the US a few times before (see ‘Don’t Need The Whole Dog!’, for example) I needed to make SURE they couldn’t refuse us. So I bribed the boss at work in Perth for a letter saying we’d be coming back, I printed out bank statements, offers of accommodation from 200+ people, our schedule, our flights, our train tickets, the receipt for the car we were buying… even a screen grab of my Spider book at the top of the charts, in case they had any doubts about what I was up to here.
And you know what? The bastards didn’t look at a single page of the stuff. So I’m including this picture to illustrate the anguish I felt when I had to abandon all this in a nameless motel room, on the grounds that it was making my rucksack over a kilo heavier. DAMN IT!!! (The many hours all this took to create is part of the reason why the rest of this trip is so badly organised…)

Shower slimed

And this is what I mean by taking photos of weird sh*t. This is actually the results of a slight accident I had whilst taking one of my first showers in the USA. I slipped (I’m known to do that) – and I liberally decorated the walls in shampoo in the process. This amused me, of course, because I have the mind of a twelve-year-old boy. (It’s in a box in the car). What amused me even more is that I refused to clean it off, and left it for the cleaners to find the next day. I like to think I was giving them a laugh, too. Or spreading the love, as I call it 😉

What Road?

Next we have a road sign we passed on the way to Las Vegas. I know it’s the middle of the desert, but come on! Someone was taking the piss when he named this road. I can just see him putting it forward to his very bored superiors, and them cracking up over the thought of people trying to pronounce it…

Large Mantis

Next up is this rather large preying mantis sculpture, which we discovered on the far end of Fremont Street in Vegas. It’s over 40 feet long, articulated, and it blows fire from its antennae. Well, of course it does! This is, after all, Las Vegas. But the weirdest thing was being told by the giant mantis, in a Star Trek-style computer voice, to “Take lots of selfies, and upload them to Instagram,”. Whilst blasting massive gouts of fire from its deely boppers to reinforce the point. If you’ve never been commanded to take selfies by a 40-foot tall fire-breathing mantis, then clearly you’ve never been to Vegas…

Down Sign

Next we have a rather self-explanatory shot from my Amusing Signage folder. Does it surprise anyone that I have an amusing signage folder? Really? Anyway, this one had me in stitches – quite possibly because I was very drunk at the time – but I’d LOVE to know who decided that the direction ‘down’ was so confusing to customers that it needed pictorial explanation. Roo had to physically restrain me to prevent me adding, “No shit??” in biro. My poor stupid head is already abuzz with potential Facebook memes for this one… anyone else want to have a crack?

Bowl of Baby Heads

Here we have a photo I call ‘Bowl of Baby Heads’ – for reasons far too complicated to explain. Suffice to say, I found this selection of decapitated dolls’ heads for sale in possibly the best Antiques Store I’ve ever been in, in Astoria, Oregon. In terms of Halloween decorations, this is right up there with those severed limbs you can get for hanging out of your car boot – but personally, I’d just like to have this sitting around on the coffee table, as a conversation piece. Or stopper. Imagine showing in guests… I’ve never wanted a house-warming party so much in my life! Or a house, come to think of it.

Alas Poor Yorik

“Alas, poor Yorik!” What can I say? The frustrated actor in me just couldn’t help it.

Not Dairy

Next we have something far more scary than a bowl of baby heads! It’s the ‘milk’ they provided at a hotel buffet, for putting into my coffee. I damn near did it, too, before realising that it was ‘Not a Dairy product.’ But… WHAT THE BLOODY HELL IS IT, THEN? A closer inspection reveals it to be a concoction of soybean oil, corn syrup, three kinds of acids, four kinds of salt, and ‘Artificial Colors’ for good measure. So, much healthier than that awful cow’s milk crap people have been drinking for decades! Honestly, why do we even need dairy in our diet, when we can so easily replace it with man-made chemicals? Perhaps all those non-dairy folks have got the right idea after all. I mean, compared to the shocking and well-known side effects of drinking milk, what possible harm can come of replacing it with this?

Anyway. Because this blog has mostly been me moaning about or laughing at the general stupidity of this world, here’s a bit of relief from all that, in the form of one of Roo’s photos. Because they say you should always end on something cute. Well, assuming something cute will still let you, if you’re so close to the end…

Anyway! Enough of such nonsense. Here’s a racoon. Enjoy! And don’t forget to leave your comments in the box that’s named after ’em  😛

Love from Tony.

Racoon

Leaving Las Vegas

Right, where were we?

Next stop was on our grand USA adventure was Death Valley Junction. We checked into the only motel anywhere near there, finding it delightfully knackered and ‘quaint’. The ladies who ran the place were very friendly, but as we were leaving the next day they were reporting a guest to the police. An older man, staying in one room with a young girl – when the cleaners went in, they found her long hair had all been cut off and left in the sink… Definitely something strange going on there!

Death Valley Motel 1

We spent that evening exploring some awesomely creepy abandoned buildings over the road. This was an activity Roo called ‘testing the low-light capabilities of my new phone’ and I called ‘breaking into shit’. We’ve since agreed to call it ‘Urban Exploring’ – and to do lots more of it 😉 

Death Valley Buildings

In Death Valley we had a slight mishap. Roo wanted to get a closer look at Twenty Mule Canyon, so veered off the road onto what she thought was a lay-by. In fact it turned out to be a one-way 4×4 track, which we ended up following for 20 minutes, along a crazily twisting, narrow rocky track. Eventually we came to a steep slope down, covered in sand and gravel, bristling with hairpin bends between rough outcrops of rock…

“Uh… No friggin’ WAY!” we said in unison, and Roo managed to turn the car around and head back – praying the whole while that nothing would come the other way. As we made it back to the road, we noticed a VERY SMALL warning sign, suggesting this might not have been the best track to follow…

Warning Sign

By the time we arrived at Badwater Basin, the lowest (and hottest) spot in the continental US, the sun had already set. Which was probably for the best, as it was still 118 degrees F (48 degrees C) – at 8pm!

We walked out onto the salt flats, and I had to find out whether or not it really WAS salt.

Licking Salt

It was!

And it was rough, too – I even cut my tongue 🙁

Still – one hell of a beautiful, desolate place. Roo couldn’t help herself!

Badwater Basin Sunset

See? Told ya so 😉

Our next reader visit was Dave in Simi Valley, just north of Hollywood. Dave and his daughter (and her boyfriend) took us on an epic hike into the hills, looking for a hidden cave full of graffiti artwork, where sometimes there are giant ropes nets to hang out in.

Simi Cave

The ropes were gone, but due to a slight wardrobe malfunction, I did enough hanging out for all of us… particularly for Dave, who was walking directly behind me. He now sees my flabby white bum-cheek every time he closes his eyes…

Split Shorts

By the sight of mine ass, thou shalt remember me…

Sorry Dave!

The next exciting event in our lives was the arrival of our car – which we still haven’t decided on a name for! All suggestions gratefully accepted 😉

The car, a bright red Nissan Versa, cost us a staggering $10,000!!!

And no, before you ask – I don’t have ten thousand dollars. Not even close. So I bought this car entirely on a credit card, and am very much hoping that when we sell it, I’ll be able to pay the card off. Otherwise it’ll be beans on toast for dinner when we get back to Perth. For at least a decade…

Beepi Car

As we travel around the US, I’m planning on doing talks about my books, about writing, about self-publishing, and about traveling in general, to writer’s groups, university classes, in pubs… anywhere they don’t shut me up quick enough!

My first try was at Anacapa Brewing Company in Ventura, organised by Lily, one of my first readers. It was a rip-roaring success, with a sell-out crowd of almost ten people…

It was the perfect opportunity for me to practise my patter without the stress of a large audience. I promised to talk until people started throwing fish – luckily, they weren’t serving fish that night, so I managed to get through my entire act.

First talk

My notes guided me through, and were written several minutes before the talk on a piece of cardboard that Roo tore off a box. People sometimes ask how it’s possible to be so unbelievably crap at organising things, and now I can cheerfully point to Roo and say, “Well, that’s HER job…”

Speech notes

Yes – that’s the box from a Star Wars windscreen cover my speech is written on…

We had a pleasant stay in Ventura, running on the beach with Lily’s dogs. Evidently there’d been some kind of party there the night before – ever feel like you’ve just missed out on something truly weird?

Beach Chair

And there are these cool little tunnels under the highway. I REALLY wanted to come back an explore some of them with a head torch, but apparently the homeless people who live in them can be a bit rude to visitors…

Creepy Tunnel

And on that note, I’ll end yet another update! I’m struggling to find much time for blog writing, what with all the homeless people’s tunnels I’m invading (amongst other activities) – but I promise to get the next one up soon 😉

 

Catch you in a few days!

Tony

USA Trip Update no. 2!

Hiya folks!

It’s time for another USA Trip Update!

First up, I’ll admit I’m playing catch-up here. This trip has been so much more awesome, and so much more demanding, than I could have imagined. I’ve been hiding from Facebook lately, as even without posting anything I find myself drowning in over 200 notifications per day. I know what you’re saying! Somewhere there is a tiny violin playing just for me…

In all seriousness though, the mountain of emails and messages I put off daily is keeping me from my real job – which is putting off writing blog posts! So in an abrupt turnaround, I’ve taken a day off to do all of the above.

(Incidentally, Roo is also taking this day off. Only she gets to spend hers sunbathing by the pool!).

To make you all feel better, I will be drinking THIS intriguing concoction:

Cheap Booze

So don’t feel TOO sorry for me. And apologies in advance if this blog gets a bit weird by the end…

Anyway, to get you all up to speed with our adventures so far, here is a potted pictorial history of our USA trip to date:

Before we left, we had one absolutely vital task to complete – yes, you’ve guessed it! Like any seasoned traveller, I made damn sure my wife was completely rainbowed-up. This particular dye job took 5 hours to accomplish, and has received on average three to five compliments per day from random strangers. This is working wonders on Roo’s natural shyness…

Roo Hair Dye

Our first stop was in downtown LA. Actually our first stop was in the airport, where the cash machine refused to spit out the money it said it had given us… What IS IT with me and cash machines, anyway?

Downtown was a trip. Homeless dudes pushing shopping trolleys down the middle of the road, street bands drumming up a storm, homemade art markets on the sidewalk, and more people walking around at 11pm than I’d see in Perth on Saturday at lunchtime! We also got to visit an AMAZING book shop, called (ironically) the Last Bookstore. As the publishing industry falls to its knees, this could never have been more appropriate. But the shop itself was incredible, with sculptures made of books (like a tunnel, windows, and the counter itself) – and displays like the ‘Horror Vault’ and the shelves themselves, which were arranged into a labyrinth! 

Last Bookstore

Our first visits with readers Eliza and Sue saw us sneaking under the Santa Monica pier… (no-one obeys those warning signs, right?)

Under Santa Monica Pier

…and exploring the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Sadly we weren’t there when someone built a tiny wall around Donald Trump’s star, but we did find this conveniently empty one…

Tonys Star

I knew we’d be a bit stressed at the prospect of the tour stretching out in front of us, so I squeezed in a couple of days off over our 5th wedding anniversary. Naturally, we chose to spend them in VEGAS, baby, YEAH!

Our hotel/casino overlooked the famous Freemont Street Experience – well, actually our room overlooked an alley full of skip bins and what looked suspiciously like the Thunder Dome from Mad Max…

Alley View

The dome turned out to be a multi-million-dollar canopy which projects sound and light shows all night – I even had a go at zip-lining underneath it all, as a birthday pressie from Roo’s family (thanks guys!)

Fremont Canopy

This is what the canopy looks like! I sailed under it in the ‘Superman’ position, which was (according to Roo) “bastard impossible to catch a photo of!”

We spent three days in Vegas, and we didn’t gamble a dime. The inside of the casinos, though awash with lights and abuzz with a bewildering array of people and machines, still seemed kind of sad. Almost no-one in them looked happy – some wired with adrenaline and booze, some driven, some suspicious… I understand the mechanism of addiction by which gambling works, but I couldn’t figure out what made them all want to do it in the first place. It certainly wasn’t glamorous, despite the fact that all the croupiers were sexy chicks in their bras and panties… It probably says something about our budget that we ended up in the only hotel staffed entirely by strippers.

Casino Girls

We explored the famous Las Vegas Strip quite thoroughly. It hadn’t occurred to us just how far it was between the big casinos, and we ended up walking for five hours straight. We still only saw half of it, so had to come back the following night to check out the crazy castle and the fake Statue of Liberty…

Vegas Landmarks

And I’ll leave it there for now! My biggest fear (apart from going bald) is boring you nice folks with too much waffle. So next time I promise there’ll be thrills and spills… well, I’ve been drinking a lot of milkshakes, so there’s bound to be at least one of the two  🙂 

Until next time!

Tony