Monday, 15 September 2014

15/9/14 - At The Airport

I'm writing this from LA International airport. There's just a couple of hours now before I board my flight, so after finishing this I will read my book, get my duty-frees, and prepare to board. The duty-free shops have declined since I was last here in October 2011, so there really isn't much to buy except Jack Daniels and wine. Time was when every major airport had book and CD shops, but not now. That's the impact of the web for you.

This morning I had a leisurely breakfast, packed, and then went shopping in the locality of the hotel. I bought some trainers and jeans at reasonable prices. I then went for a swim in the hotel pool before checking out of my room and driving off. I set out very early for the airport because if I'd left it later I'd have got caught in LA rush-hour traffic. That meant that I was through Security by half-four, giving me lots of time to kill until boarding at just after 9. Still, that's better than being caught in a jam and risking being late.

Until now I've occupied myself with reading, having a beer, and then a pizza. Only a couple of hours to go now before boarding.

The final CD I heard in the car was Martin Newell's "Number Thirteen". It has been great catching up with his stuff on this trip.

A year ago I wrote from San Francisco airport that that would be my last USA trip. This time, having completed some unfinished business in Washington and LA, I mean it. I think I've got the US thoroughly out of my system now, and am really looking forward to being back in England.   

Sunday, 14 September 2014

14/9/14 - LA

Drove down to San Diego after breakfast and a 'phone call. The drive was very easy - straight down on I-5 - and the scenery was hilly in parts and quite flat in the  middle of the journey. For a good while I was driving alongside the Pacific Ocean, which was awesome. When I arrived in San Diego I parked on 4th Avenue / F Street and walked round the shopping area.

Initially I found loads of cafes but few shops. However I eventually found a shopping mall which had a Macys and other high-quality shops. I found a good bookshop and bought a couple of novels, and also ascertained that there were no CD shops in San Diego. Appalling ! So I made my way back to the car park and drove down to the coastline. There was a large aircraft carrier there which has now been refurbished as an entertainment complex. I managed to get a few pictures while the car was stuck in traffic but there wasn't a ready opportunity to stop and get out.

On the way back I went East along Freeway 8 trying to find a CD shop which the girl in the bookshop had directed me to. However I was unable to find it, so I carried on north to LA. I stopped at a Rest Area to take some pictures and then again at Anaheim to fill up. Then it was back to the hotel for a quick swim in the open-air pool.

Loads of music of course - Johnny Winter and the New York Dolls  on the way down, and two more Martin Newell CDs on the drive back. I enjoyed the Newell the most and the Dolls the least. I seem to be very much in a "song" mood as opposed to outright rock'n'roll.

I am glad to have seen San Diego and it is an attractive city right on the Pacific coastline. It is also a very important centre for the US Navy. So concludes the last full day of my trip.      

Saturday, 13 September 2014

13/9/14 - LA

Long driving day today so that I could fit in all the places I wanted to see around LA. I started by making the 50-minute trip to Hawthorne to see the monument commemorating the house where the Beach Boys grew up. It's a brick structure with a sculpture of the five of them holding a surf board on the top. It's a generally low-class (by LA standards) suburb near Inglewood and the airport. I hope that one day a more appropriate tribute is constructed to Brian Wilson's genius. But I'm glad I've seen it nevertheless.

From there I drove to the corner of Doheny Drive and Santa Monica Boulevard and parked in Beverley Hills so I could get out and see The Troubadour, which was the club where The Byrds first formed and a key venue for the late sixties / early seventies singer-songwriter scene. The place itself was nothing notable but it had to be visited.

After a stroll round the locality (and a fruitless search for a toilet, often an issue in LA) I drove north along Doheny Drive and then up into the hills before coming down again into Sunset Boulevard. I then went up Laurel Canyon Boulevard, found Lookout Mountain Avenue, and located no. 8217. This was Joni Mitchell's house in the late sixties which she shared with Graham Nash, an arrangement celebrated in the latter's song "Our House" on the C,S,N, & Y Deja Vu album (this song is much derided by critics but appeals strongly to the soppy romantic in me.). I annoyed a few drivers by stopping on the narrow road to take some pictures.

I then drove through the rest of the canyon, observing the hyper-plush houses and the spectacular views. It's hard to imagine a bunch of hippy musicians living there now as they did in the late sixties. I stopped on Mulholland Drive at the top of the canyon, mainly to take some pictures but also to find a secluded spot to address the now-pressing bladder imperative. Once relieved of this I drove along Laurel Canyon Boulevard to the north and eventually to Ventura Boulevard. After a stop for petrol I turned left into Topanga Canyon Boulevard and drove through the canyon.

Topanga Canyon has its own music history with the likes of Neil Young, Canned Heat, and Spirit having lived there. The views were again spectacular but there were not enough parking places to enable me to get pictures. I stopped at the Topanga Gallery and looked round the gift shops, but it was all a bit "new-agey" for me. From there I drove south down the Pacific Coast Highway, then east on I-10 and then south on the I-5 back to Anaheim.

Loads of music playing of course - the 3rd Grateful Dead CD, new albums by Robyn Hitchcock and Ty Segall, and two Martin Newell CDs. I enjoyed them all, with maybe the pick of the bunch being the Ty Segall. The songs had a few interesting twists and turns in them and some of the guitar work grabbed my attention.

All in all a very successful day. I can now agree with Randy Newman that "I Love LA".           

Friday, 12 September 2014

12/9/14 - LA

Was woken up at 7:45 by a 'phone call from the Virgin rep, so had less than six rather fitful hours' sleep. I had a moan about Alamo, but then she did give me some useful information about how best to get to Hollywood which I used later in the day. So I was actually glad of the call.

I unpacked, had breakfast (expensive but very good), made a 'phone call, and sorted myself out for the day. I drove to Atlantic Station in East LA, where there's free parking and a Metro Line into Downtown LA. I caught the train at about 13:00, changed at Union Station, and reached the stop at Hollywood and Vine at 14:00. From there it was straight to Amoeba Records, where I bought a few really great CDs including new ones from Robyn Hitchcock and Ty Segall, a Johnny Winter live recording, the New York Dolls second album, and a couple of Martin Newell remastered compilations which I was delighted to find since I only have that material on poor-quality cassette copies. I only got the Newell CDs because they were playing them in the shop. Had a brief chat with the guy on the Info counter about Martin Newell, Ty Segall, and other little-known but brilliant artists. It's always nice to come across other people who share my sometimes obscure tastes. 

I got back to the car park at about 16:00, but then it took me 90 mins due to the traffic on I-5 to drive to the hotel. Never mind - I was enjoying the Grateful Dead CD I bought yesterday. It's a magical performance from 1972 which is when the group were at the full height of their improvisatory powers, plus the songs from that period are their strongest. So that kept me happy all the way to Anaheim. I'm now totally shattered and will be having an early night after a few iced beers and a light supper.               

11/9/14 - Washington to LA

Long day today so I packed up and checked out at leisure. I caught the bus to 12th Street, where I'd spotted a Barnes and Noble the day before. I bought a Grateful Dead live triple CD, a biography of Franklin Rooslevelt, and two magazines. After lunch I made my way back to Georgetown and caught the Super Shuttle to Dulles International at 16:30. The end of three really great days in Washington, which expunged the memories of losing my wallet on my previous visit.

At the airport I had supper and a beer and attempted to write an email. However I had problems accessing the Wi-Fi in the airport, and then Microsoft decided to disable my email account, something that happens from time to time if they decide that there's some suspicious activity - like me trying to use it ! - on there. (Postscript - as of Friday 12th the problem seems to have sorted itself out).

The five-hour flight was fine, and I divided my time between dozing and reading The Middle Ground. The only disturbing factor was someone behind me coughing, sneezing, and snuffling the entire way. I don't seem to have caught anything yet so fingers crossed. However that was nothing compared to the hassles I had with Alamo - firstly their shuttle was late, leaving us standing around outside the terminal for 40 mins. Then, having arrived at the car rental point, there was a long queue and only two Agents serving. So I didn't pick up my car until well after midnight  (3 AM to my body clock).

Having got the car I had a bit of a tussle getting the Satnav set up, but set off just after half-twelve and reached my hotel in Anaheim ok. I got to bed at about 2 AM.   

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

10/9/14 - Washington

Took me a while this morning to sort out my lift to the airport tomorrow. So I didn't leave the hotel until after 10:00. I walked to the "hop on/off" pick-up point in Georgetown and then caught the bus into the middle of town. I got off at the Smithsonian Museum of American History and then walked round there for an hour. The examples of the development of American transport were fascinating, but I was most affected by the section on the War for Independence. Going round this section I got a very clear sense of the development of that conflict and how it was resolved.

I then had lunch outside and walked to the Jefferson memorial. The sun had come out and it was a lovely afternoon, the best patch of weather so far. The Jefferson memorial has four quotes on the walls inside it, all of which are stirring. I have so much respect for that man.

I then walked on a bit and sat and read for a while by the lake. The view here was amazing - right back towards Washington Mall. I then visited the memorials of Roosevelt (FDR), Martin Luther King, and Lincoln. I have visited these before (in 2012) but was stirred anew by the inspiring quotes displayed. The long wall upon which the various sayings of MLK are displayed is awe-inspiring. An incredibly great man who stood up for love in the widest sense as the only way to overcome darkness and conflict. 

Following that I had a long bus journey back to Georgetown via the evening traffic, stopping for hal-an-hour at Union Station. Musically I started the day with Ty Segall's "Sleeper" and then played the Byrds' classic "Ÿounger Than Yesterday" on the return back. I particularly enjoyed the great David Crosby songs on the latter.


Tuesday, 9 September 2014

9/9/14 - Washington

Woke at 3:30 and got off again c. 4. Got up at 6:45, sorted some stuff out for the day, and went to breakfast c. 7:30. The food was delicious - eggs "sunny side up" and crispy bacon - and set me up well for the day. I bought a 48-hour "drop on/off" bus ticket in the hotel shop and set off on the 20-minute walk to the bus stop. I changed in the centre for another route which took me across the Potomac to the Arlington Cemetry.

Once there I walked through the cemetry to John Kennedy's grave with the eternal flame on top. I found it very peaceful and moving there; JFK's assassination affected not only the US nation but millions of people throughout the world, for whom he symbolised the positive hopes of the 1960s. I also found some of the sayings of Robert Kennedy which were by his grave to be very affecting. I then went to see the tomb of the Unknown Soldier and read Margaret Drabble's "The Middle Ground" for a while.

I then took the bus to the Pentagon and then Pentagon City. Amazingly they had a huge shopping Mall here including a Fashion Mall which proved very interesting. I had lunch and then took the bus back to the Washington Mall, where I walked along to the Capitol building. More reading here, then back again. Dropped my MP3 player on the steps surrounding the Capitol, which could have been very annoying - luckily there was no damage done. While walking I listened to "Hooker'n'Heat" - it felt appropriate to hear this great blues album in this most quintessentially American of settings. Blues is the most honest of music forms and John Lee Hooker and Al Wilson were two of its finest practitioners.

From there I got the bus back, and very much appreciated the Dupont Circle with all its attractive-looking shops. Also the architecture as we came through the domestic area between there and Georgetown was fascinating, with a great variety of styles including one house which was only nine feet wide. From there it was a quick stop at the Supermarket and back to the room.

The weather has been cloudy, muggy, and dry today and I took full advantage. Tomorrow is due to bring some rain, so I have many more indoor activities lined up.