Out Now!

Friday, 26 March 2010

Western Ghosts

Bremerton Pier

I was being pursued by a rabid lentil, or was I pursuing it? Pacman had just arrived in the USA and I was playing it in on a cold, bleak day in Bremerton. I can’t remember much about Bremerton, other than it having a very fine bookshop and a Record store called Penny Lane.

My head was still ringing from the night before when Kathy and Rick had taken me to the Riverside Country and Western club. The band’s lead singer was Ira Allan dressed in black, aided by a fleshy, laid back blonde dressed in white, There were three other women, though I can’t remember now whether they were in the band or not. But one was dressed as Roy Rogers, and did strange things to my libido.

That night I slipped into another world as western ghosts drifted by. In New York I had been taken to a line dancing club and, to be frank, had not enjoyed it all that much. It had been so earnest and weighty, rows of people in checked shirts clumping in unison on a loud sounding floor. This, however, was something different.

Through a haze of smoke, old western archetypes glided like phantoms as though they had always been there and always would. There was grace and élan, the men, lean and haughty, the women just downright raunchy.

I dreamt of Roy Rogers that night and the following morning took the ferry to Bremerton where I met the hyperactive lentil.

Christmas with my long lost cousin was approaching its end. There was a sense of magic fading, a need to cram in anything I might have missed. Seattle at night. Done. Space Needle. Done. That evening we went to an Irish Restaurant where Scottish Pipers piped in the New Year.

The next day, after a breakfast of bacon and pancakes I flew home ie New York, with one clear intention. That summer, I would travel and camp across America the hard way. Flying was convenient, but so was TV.

Saying goodbye to Washington State (Entrance to Ocean City State Park)

Friday, 19 March 2010

Like slugs do.

“I’d like to swim in the Pacific,” I said.

“It’s freezing,” she said.

“I want to swim in the Pacific,” I said. “Claim it for the Crown.”

“Can you do that?” Kathy sounded worried. Clearly the electric teas had addled my brain.

“Balboa did.”


“Vasco Nunez de Balboa. In 1513 he walked knee deep in the Pacific Ocean, a sword in one hand, a standard of the Virgin Mary in the other, and claimed possession of the new sea and all adjoining territories in the name of the Spanish Sovereigns.”

“This is 1981.”

She had me. Still, the following day we went to the coast and in a discreet but potent ceremony, I claimed the entire ocean for Liverpool FC Football Club. As things stand now, they need all the help they can get.

After that we went to Lake Quinault in the Olympic National Park. It’s interesting that the Washington Tourist Authority has a site extolling the virtues of Lake Quinault. I quote:

“Just beyond the shores of brilliant Lake Quinault are the temperate Quinault and Hoh rain forests, known for their record sized trees and slugs.”

They sure know how to sell a place. Come to Lake Quinault and see big slugs. We saw a lot of lichen and great clumps of moss, but no slugs. They were playing hard to get. Like slugs do.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Finding the right tree

Lord Nelson in his Christmas hunting shirt thrashing the young colonial at Battleships

Boxing Day was good. A lazy day, a day to recover and whup young Garret at ‘Battleships’. Meanwhile the car was snow-chained and provisions packed for the following day. Later we explored Seattle and ended up at Harry’s Bar: the plushest Hamburger joint I’d ever seen, and where I discovered the joys of Electric Ice Tea.

I had four of them, followed by neat bourbon then a few bottles of beer to wash it all down.

Electric Ice Tea is far nicer than the more insipid, ordinary iced tea, easy to make and delightful to drink:
Half oz each of Bourbon, vodka, gin, triple sec, rum, topped up with 4 oz of coke, ice and two lemon wedges.

That evening we went to Kathy’s parents, Stan and Betty, where I practised sobriety.

The next day was cold but plans had been made. We travelled east to the Rockies and I discovered the value of ‘snow chains’ a thing unknown in Britain. Unfortunately the car heater malfunctioned and several hours later, having crossed the Wenatchee Mountains, we arrived at Cashmere blue, cold and frozen to our seats. But hell, it was worth it. The sheer brute immensity of the country just over whelms you. I wanted to walk into it and get lost – but luckily my boring rational half won on this occasion and so I just searched for a tree and made steam.

In search of the right tree.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

A Davy Crocket Hat at last!

I spent the Christmas season in a different world: a frontier world, intensely hospitable, easy going, and one of clear and definite views. On Christmas Eve I was given a present of rattlesnake skin and we went to Ivars Fish restaurant overlooking Seattle Bay. Then, just make sure I had eaten enough they took me to ‘Ye Old Curiosity Shop where I was confronted by someone who hadn’t eaten so well. We had dinner at Rick’s parents – Chuck and Edith – who like everyone I met – were warm and generous and very fine cooks. That night we wrapped up presents.

Ivars Fish-bar

Ye Old Curiosity Shop: interior

One of its inhabitants: a mummy.

The present ceremony was beautiful and the presents I was given lasted (as my wife will testify) many, many years. Kathy’s mum gave me a ‘Hunters’ shirt which I wore for almost two decades (in between washes) And Kathy gave me my ultimate dream. Some people dream of Harley Davidsons, others of joining the Mile High Club. All I ever wanted was a Davy Crocket hat.

Rick had originally gone hunting raccoon but as the time grew nearer to my visit, they were forced to buy a dead raccoon, and from its skin Kathy manufactured the ultimate Davy Crocket hat. It’s now staring balefully at me from across the room. Sometimes I wear it l – when I’m alone and no one’s there to laugh or object. I remember that period in Liverpool when Davy Crocket ruled supreme and not a cat was safe from catapult or the well thrown stone – though no one to my knowledge ever succeeded in making a Tabby skin hat.

After Christmas dinner the ‘men’ played cards in the cellar and told stories of ‘Bigfoot’, and I won 31 cents. Upstairs the women talked, washed up and ate.

I still remember Rick’s story of his ‘encounter’ with Bigfoot, and to this day am happy to believe it’s true rather than the tall tale told to a lime-sucking greenhorn. Greenhorn. Still haven’t figured out where that particular word comes from. Google would tell me but some things are better to wonder at.

The nub of the story was that Rick was hunting in the Cascades when the forest grew silent. As he walked on he became aware of a stench so foul he wanted to throw up. Then came a cry neither animal nor human, a sound he had never heard before. He sensed a presence but saw nothing, and slowly retraced his steps.

A great story after a few beers.

I went to bed thinking of Bigfoot and Davy Crocket and wondering who would come out on top.