Monday, September 10, 2012

Slow Turning

The notion to cross from southern California to Phoenix turned out to be brilliant.  The afternoon before we left, I relaxed and caught a few catnaps.  Late in the day, I started on-loading iced coffee and fruit juices and my gum caddy was loaded.  By the time I hit Interstate 10 eastbound, I had already hit my stride.  I knew I was going to miss some pretty scenery in the night but having the vast scope of the road clear as far as I could see and every other motorist identified for miles by red brake lights or headlights no more vexing than major stars was worth it.  

By the time the eastern sky began to glow with coming day, we were already on the hunt for a landing zone for the Land Whale.  The first one we tried, Apache Road RV, proved a winner.  We got there before opening but as we pulled in to circle the grounds to gauge our chances, Harry, the owner, stepped up (he was doing his pre-opening chores to his spit and polish RV court) and when we told him we needed to land for a night,  he pointed us to an open spot conveniently located near bathrooms and the laundry.  “Come sign in when we open” was all he said, directing us to the hook-ups. My kind of guy—friendly, problem-solving and trusting.  We have met more than one Harry on this trip.

Paul and Jocelyn and Eivind took off to look at some permaculture sites that had been pre-arranged by a local contact.  I believed after my all night driving adventure that I would sack out to recover.  As it was, I felt alert, energized and ready for something.  When the left, I volunteered to do laundry.  Now, as a single man, I have done my own laundry for decades—it’s no big deal.  I usually take something along to amuse me when I do it, though, sort of doing my part for the multi-tasking movement. 

In this case, I brought my Kindle that was carefully packed with all my other electronic gear, cords, dangles and doo-wops in my computer case.  I don’t know why I brought it along—it wasn’t like I wasn’t going to be amused by a million other things, but there it was.  Now, I am pretty sure the Kindle is the tool of the Devil, like sex, but something about doing laundry made me dig it out of its storage space.  I should say that I hate reading on the thing.  I am a diehard, dead tree kind of reader.  I love the feel, look and every other sensation of real books.  But as part of a lifelong commitment to broadening myself, I downloaded an audio version of James Joyce’s  Ulysses .  I have always been a little embarrassed that I knew nothing of this amazing book until I was in my early 50’s.  I had tried before but it was so dense and beautiful, I couldn’t begin to get anywhere with it.  Now, I have gotten so far as to understand the story and what goes on that I am starting to tease the meat from the bones.  The audio version of the book was meant to give me a sense of the brilliance of Joyce’s poetic  gifts. 

 For the laundry, I chose to listen to the chapter called “The Cyclops” which, I confess, cracks me up like nothing else.   Joyce puts me in that bar with those Dublin denizens and I am with them the whole way. Each character has something to say that is worthy of comment and guffaw.  A rinse and spin cycle  later I found myself sorting dry from hang.  Thanks, James Joyce, for making me laugh out loud at your words.

When I got back to the Land Whale, things were unusually quiet.  Not because my companions were gone, it was just quiet.  I know they left the air conditioning on (Paul spent a miserable previous night transiting from California to Phoenix until he was able to get the air conditioning on and running full steam [?].  I fiddled with the switches, I unplugged and replugged, I got out the manuals (which are among the WORST documentation for a product I have ever encountered) and checked what I could of the electrical system and could find no reason why blessed cool air was not bathing the inside of the Land Whale.  I texted Paul with the news.  Shortly I got a text advising I do something I had already done. Time to let that one go…

From an earlier post about our stay with Art Ludwig, you may recall our discovering that John Hiatt was playing very near where we had the Land Whale serviced a couple of days before.  I was THIS CLOSE to seeing John Hiatt in concert.  I think John Hiatt is probably my favorite singer/songwriter after Bob Dylan.  Once when I spun out real bad on a patch of reality on the Highway of Romance, John Hiatt’s music brought me back.  I ended up buying every album he recorded and got myself a guitar so I could learn to play and sing his music.  That only proved I sucked as a musician and singer so I gave it up.  But I didn’t give up my love for his music.
Now, when we crossed paths with John’s tour in California, I happened to meet his tour manager and told him of my love of John’s music and my disappointment at not seeing him in California.  But, I assured him, I was going to catch up with the tour in Phoenix and I would be there.  Once the laundry was done, I performed my bodily ablutions and headed for the light-rail to go Downtown. [Did I mention that we parked the land whale at the only RV park serviced by the Phoenix area light rail system?  I wish I could say that was by design, but I have to hand that one off to LUCK.  Now, I know what you are saying: “Luck is not a strategy.”  While that may be true, I still think of myself as one of the luckiest people I know, so there you go.].

When I got on, I saw a jillion Arizona State University faithful getting set to head to Sun Devil stadium to watch their mighty elevens (twenty-two’s?  whatever is the NCAA limit for team members?) go head to head with some school from Illinois and crush them.  That was a good sign, I thought;  The more people at a home game, the fewer people trying to see John Hiatt.  When I got to the venue, I walked up to a very pleasant young woman and asked to buy a ticket to the concert.  She looked at me like I was a flat earther and said, “the concert is sold out.”  I was about to plead my case of being all the way from Montana, having chased the Hiatt tour for weeks, etc. but I realized none of that would work.  I went and bought a salty dog and pondered my predicament.

I KNEW I was going to see this concert, but I didn’t know how.  The only scalper the bouncer identified had split minutes before, having off-loaded two tickets.  I told him my sad story and asked him to look out for me.  Nothing happened.  Then, ten minutes before show time, the very pleasant young woman crooked her long, painted nailed finger at me and I walked up.  She said, “Do you have exact change for the price of a ticket?”  I said, “ Hell, yes!” or something to that effect and the next thing I knew, I was in the venue at the edge of the stage next to the pit containing John Hiatt’s guitar tuner.  Bingo!

Now, let me say something about the John Hiatt audience.  We are a sad, fricking lot.  We are an old, grey, balding, paunchy, saggy,  hair-colored, awkwardly dressed bunch of people.  I looked around the crowd to see if there were any people I considered attractive.  Not one.  Then it dawned on me that I was with my tribe and the realization that we were all one left me just a little unnerved. No one would be scoping ME out, either.

Then the opening act started.  Salvador,  a kind of Gipsy King knock-off took the stage with his percussionist and started wailing out these amazing Spanish love songs.  Bravo.  I dug him and his doing flamenco foot taps on the wooden box he stood on while he played.  Before long, he was done and John Hiatt and his band took the stage.

John Hiatt   [picture souce: stolen from somewhere]
Now, John Hiatt has crossed the muddy water of age 60.  Some performers become caricatures of themselves and re-tread the same old stuff all the time when they get there.   That is sad.  I have seen Hiatt perform a few time and I was worried that he would leave the good stuff in the dressing room. How delightfully wrong I was.  He played true and strong.  He sampled stuff from his entire catalog and he and his band nailed it like a roofing crew.   My face hurt from grinning.  Now, he failed to play two songs I would have loved to hear:  “Lipstick Sunset” and “Icy Blue Heart.”  He touched on all the Love-gone-wrong themes in other songs, but these two are ones I really like. Everything else in the show—including the fact that I was there watching it!—was so positive, it was hard to apply any marks off for not playing two songs I wanted to hear.  In short, the voice is still there, the musicianship is still there; having fun playing music for people is still there.  Go see John Hiatt.  The concert is worth it.

After the concert, I decided to buy John’s latest CD. And who should I see selling the merch?  The tour manager I met in Agoura.  He said, smiling, “Hey, you made it!”  I said, “I wouldn’t have missed this for anything—I was meant to be here.  Tell John “hi” from Geoff from Montana.”
The ride back on the Phoenix light rail [did I mention how cool I think light rail is?] was with other Hiatt fans and we processed the concert like fans do.  One by one, they got off at their stops until I was on the train all alone.  I started awake as I heard the tinny lady from the train say, “Apache and McClintock—next stop.” And I was home at the Land Whale.

The next day was a long day headed to Utah following a portion of legendary Route 66.
We stopped at the Grand Canyon a couple of places for maybe an hour and headed north and took in Bryce Canyon for an equally short period of time. 
The Grand Canyon

Bryce Canyon

Yes, my hiking gear was screaming at me from its storage space, insisting that we take a trip down the trail.  But, no, my sedentary existence at the helm of the Land Whale was demanded.  We proceeded on, arriving at our landing at around 10:00 p.m.  The long days of driving windy roads at night are back.  I never thought I'd say it, but for pure driving pleasure, that trip at night from Southern California was a joy in comparison.  At night on a windy road there is nothing to see except the next "Slow--Corner" sign and the headlights of the people who want to pass me.

[Sorry this is such a permaculture-free post but like the Land Whale, I am the captain of this blog and you will get what I write.  Fair enough?]


  1. Although permaculture is fascinating, I read this blog to find out what YOU are doing, Mr. Land Whale Captain. Thanks for sharing.

  2. OK, fair enough. I added some pictures and some more text about me.