A Journey in the USA and Canada in 1981. Last Part
20th October 2019 Well I didn’t get to Mexico. I ran out of money and time. I have to be back in Manchester to pick up my dole and see the housing man. I wanted to buy a blanket. It would be nice to go back with Meg. Writing is all I can do on this coach. It’s too shaky to read – this book is going to get very boring. Thinking about the best bits. We went round a corner, me and the road surveyor in his big fat red car. Mist on the sea and the sea slapping on the sand and big rocks, black and doomy out of the restless sea. The mist over it all. Nevada desert. Glistening fields of junked cars. Just rock and sand, a few shrubs near the road. Bare rocky hills. We’re following a thinning river so there is a little green on each side. I’d like to sleep there. A factory in the desert. Yesterday walking through a San Francisco back street I met an old woman sorting through a bundle of old clothes. She held up an orange and red checked shirt and said, ‘You want it if it fits?’ I said, ‘If it fits, thank-you.’ It fitted. It got cold later on and I wore it over my sweat shirt. I don‘t look smart. These old army trousers haven‘t been washed since I left England. They’ve been worked in, walked in, slept in, and soaked through with sweat and dew. I’ve wiped my hands on them after every meal. The blue Luftwaffe shirt gets worn most because it offers the most cover against the sun. I got my plimsolls in a jumble sale for 20p. They are about to fall apart. One more week please. My rucksack’s got my sleeping bag and tent, a towel and almost nothing else but two flattened cans for souvenirs, coke and Budweiser. I’ve been trying to draw the Nevada Mountains. The paper is from the San Francisco Mus of Mod Art, Admission two dollars, Free 6-10thursdays. And a poem written on a Christian leaflet with on on it written ‘Join us in a Celebration of Life.’ Small towns in the desert, the heat smacks at you. Now the sun’s off. The desert becomes gold but the mountains stay blue and grey. Cattle eat the tough scanty grass.
Rags of conversation from the other side of my hotel door drift among my usual thoughts. A girl shouting ‘cockroaches’ and later ‘I‘m still a baby’ over over the sound of her baby crying. Your hat’s too big for your shoes. It’s getting dark. The mountains are now hills.
Saturday, Half way. I couldn‘t sleep sitting up. My heads got nowhere to go. So I put my yellow mat under the double seat and scrunched up, knee to chin, the underneath of the seat above on my ear, bloke if front’s shoes in front of my nose, dirty floor metal smell. I slept on and off but I slept. Nevada is past with its huge desert and then sudden neon casino eruptions, hundreds of people and hundreds of slot machines and me drinking a coffee. Utah in the dark, a Mormon temple. Today Wyoming and Nebraska. We passed the Colorado Rockies. I wish we’d gone through them.
Sunday. Chicago. Underground. Dirty old buildings and clean new skyscrapers. I’m the only person now with two seats. I pull the occasional funny winky odd face to keep it that way. The driver has as usual rapped about the penalties for drinking or smoking dope on the bus. Only about ten hours now. I nearly crashed the bus a couple of times turning right until I realised I wasn‘t driving. Ohio flat farmland and square white houses. A tree on its own. A row of bushy trees of different heights. An irregular bush.
A crop of inextinguishable regrets.
My green trousers have torn badly across the back. My pink arse is winking with every step. In northern California a truck driver from Oklahoma gave me his cap. He never wore it. It’s oily and dirty. I wear it all the time, keeping the sun out of my eyes and off my nose. We could not understand a word the other one said. What his voice did to his words was wonderful but so strong their shape went. And he must have thought the same. As he drove we lent towards each other to hear each other better. I still know absolutely nothing about him or him about me. He was completely bewildered that we couldn‘t understand each other. I think he gave me his hat so something was passed successfully between us. Anne told me Meg had found a boy on her travels. Some e s u student. I want the life in her, a bravery J admits she hasn‘t got. I hope I‘m ready for things not to go the way I want them to. Reading Berryman all across Canada and all across the states. Who is Bones? Good dog. After looking at Still’s big empty canvasses I decided I’d better stick to people. I remember l going to sleep in my arms
free from her knickers
I remember Meg‘s red and yellow striped tshirt I put my hand under it felt those small pale tits Hello J I‘m back again
Back in New York. Claude smiling, Michael not interested in me but kept asking me about Tony. I bluffed Saturday I didn‘t sleep last night. I spent it with Claude snorting coke in J and J Recording Studios. Before that I stayed at Allen’s house. I worked for those three days painting with JB and Jed, two delightful chaps, described to me as post-college happy-go-lucky bums. They were full of jokes and fun. They bought me so much drink and food and grass. I ate the grass. I didn‘t think that would work but they were sure it would and because it still wasn‘t working gave me more and had to go and buy more. It works if with hash but not grass I kept saying. To buy it we went to a house pushed the unlocked door open and up some stairs to another door, put ten dollars under the door and got two sachets back. On the third day of painting a house while the owner was away they left me on my own from early on. I kept painting the same bit of wall and standing back and thinking it didn‘t please me for most of a day. Then on the third day the chap whose house it was turned up and stood behind me chatting for half an hour and told me in a very nice way that I wasn‘t a great painter, which I cheerfully agreed with. He said I should stop and paid me and said he’d enjoyed my company and while I was returning to Al’s rang JB and sacked us because I cant paint walls. I don‘t think they‘d noticed how poor my painting was. At least I have money to buy drinks back. They didn‘t care much. Allen who’d got them the job did. Allen Eileen and me saw the go Go’s a band from LA. They were nice to look at and listen too. Eileen makes sense. Allen’s in new York now because he said a beautiful rich young painting girl had overdosed on heroin. He showed me photos of her softly lit and posing. Her name was Kathy. And I phoned Meg. I mentioned I was going to Manchester and Liverpool when I got back. She said sounding indignant and worried, ‘You are going to be spending some time here aren‘t you?’ She’s picking me up at the airport with Tim. Well, we’ll see.
A Journey in the USA and Canada in 1981 Part Seven
19th October 2019 Wednesday From Willet I got a short lift to Ukiah. I waited hours. A van pulled up with two chaps in it in their mid-twenties. The driver was slim and friendly and his companion sat next to me was bigger and didn‘t talk much, just agreed with the driver with noises. They said where they were going was on the way to San Francisco but they had to pick something up on the way. I didn‘t worry about that because I like been driven around and looking about. After a little while they told me about where they lived which was somewhere pretty remote with lots of other people. It was a place where everybody liked everyone and shared and it was run by some amazing people and the food was great and I’d probably like it if I ever went. They were driving pretty fast and we didn‘t catch any cars up. The road seemed like it was going somewhere remote. It was bumpy and there weren‘t many buildings. I asked a few more questions without seeming worried and only interested. After a while I worked out they were Moonies. I asked them to stop so I could have a piss but the driver said they didn‘t have time and we weren‘t that far away. But only about ten minutes earlier he’d said we had a little way to go yet. When they slowed down for a corner to, probably fifteen, maybe twenty miles per hour, I pushed hard against the leg of the chap next to me while opening the door and jumped out making sure I landed chest first on my rucksack. I hardly hurt myself at all, a bit bruised and scratched. I got straight up and ran. I was worried they might have weapons. I don‘t know if they even got out of the van. I just ran steadily across the ground in the dark in the direction their lights weren‘t pointing for about a minute all the time worried I was going to run into something or a ditch. I turned round and the van was gone, unless they’d switched their lights and engine off. I wasn‘t scared, I was really irritated. I was more scared last night when the telephone operator seemed obstinately curious about my fake credit card phone number. I got back on the road and walked for ages until I reached the main road. I was tired. It was hard to see anywhere to sleep. There is the road and then there‘s always a ditch and then its a fence or someone‘s house. There were trees right up against a fence and I went over it and walked between the trees by feel. They were closish to each other and their trunks were slim. After a while I thought I might as well set up between the trees. If I didn‘t take anything out of my rucksack until I needed it I would be able to put the tent up. I wish I had a torch. I’m useless with watches and torches. I went to sleep straight away but woke up early because I was thirsty and covered in sweat and the tent had settled on me and was damp with dew and the sun was bright through it. I lay there wishing my bottle of water wasn‘t in the Moonie’s van. I opened the flap and looked out. I saw rows and rows of trees in every direction, all planted the same distance apart. It was an orchard and the fruit was pears and the pears were just ripe. I ate about 3 and it was like sweet water. I was too tired to hitch and I bought a greyhound ticket to San Francisco for ten bucks. San Francisco woke me up.
I’ve got a hotel on Broadway/Columbus, ten bucks a night. The entrance smells of piss. Every conceivable hole has been used as an ashtray.
A Few Hours Later. Jesus, this is a sad hotel. Someone down the hall keeps crying and saying ‘I don‘t know how to survive. I never been a mother before.’ I just phoned Meg. I don‘t know what to think. I‘m 22 and still making so many mistakes. At least I know I make mistakes. She hasn‘t changed, she still says ‘Bad news’. I walked down to look at the sea. I must have looked a bit miserable because a man approached me and said, ‘Go home to your Momma. She‘s the only true friend you will ever have.’ I walked about until late. Then had a coffee in an empty cafe and fell in love with the waitress. She wasn‘t beautiful. I thought she was beautiful. Beautiful is annoying. I bought a magazine, food, drink, paper to draw on. I didn‘t want to think. Last night seems almost funny now. I suppose the shorter the time between unhappy event and shrugging your shoulders the happier you are. I don’t know – as usual. It was hard to sleep last night. The music from the nightclub next door was loud. A couple down the corridor rowed. He got mad and said she was playing with words. She started to cry and said, ‘I love you.’ He said, ‘Baby come inside, you better slow down, you better slow right down.’ She stayed crying. She’d already got to the crying stage when I came up the stairs tonight. And the other woman‘s baby stared crying. And a woman I hadn‘t heard before cried and cried out ‘Don‘t hit me.’
I was woken up by scuffling. I fumbled the light plug in. What I thought was either a big mouse or a small rat shot across the floor. Then a rat came out and walked around the room like it didn‘t care if I was there or not. I told it to fuck off and it did in a not too bothered way. I tried to work out how it got in but couldn‘t. The scuffling around the floor continued most of the night. The most annoying thing was the dripping sink. Then I put a towel in it.
Next day The hotel and room deserve describing. It’s is in between two strip joints, a small door between the flashing lights and hustling doormen. It smells. A lot of people live here, most paying 35 dollars a week. I think the rats would depress me after a while even though I like animals. It’s the rat shit. No, the cockroaches. The door is reinforced with haphazardly nailed-on planks. Somebody has scrawled Hideout on one. It’s obviously been broken into a few times. The rooms a squashed L shape. The bed’s Victorian and comfortable enough. The remains of a red and white lino in a fleur di lis pattern cling to the floorboards. The wall has bits missing and is dotted with dead flies. My window is cracked. I was going to be put in a room with a big hole in the window. Ironically the replacement for the glass was a cardboard imitation credit card sign that in other hotels would be facing the street in a downstairs window next to the lobby. I said, ‘May I have one with glass in the window please?’ A woman is hysterical, shouting, ‘Shut up. Everybody shut up. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Shut up. Shut up.’ The night club next door is playing Roxanne. It’s like having a radio in the room. The other strip club plays Pull up to the Bumper once an hour.
Back to the room, ‘I’m sorry. Shut up. I’m sorry. Shut up.’ There is a small table. On it is a towel and two bottles with flowers and the sheets were clean. I cleaned the sink and washed.
On the coach between Sacramento and Reno. Three whole days. Meg said this trip was bad news. 77 hours. I’ve done 4. The rats didn‘t parade last night but two black chaps decided to have a noisy knife fight. They called each other Motherfuckers in loud emotional voices. It went slowly past my door and down the stairs. A girl tried to stop them. It didn‘t work but added shrieks to the knife-wavers curses. Nobody seemed to realise that the white boy in room 36 had to be up at six. When I went down the stairs I had to pass someone cleaning them while watched by one of the shy Pakistani owners. It’s the only cleaning I’ve seen since I’ve been here, so perhaps one of the Motherfuckers was eventually victorious.
Yesterday I walked all over San Francisco. Alcatraz looked very peaceful. The SF institute didn‘t fancy me as a student but sold me a tasty buttered bagel. I ate lunch in a park and walked around the black area on my way to another park. A man winked at me with one eye and then the other. Someone’s fruit rolled down the pavement and I gave it back to her. I climbed an uninhabited hill with a fence around it and looked at San Francisco. I asked directions back to Van Ness from a woman outside a pleasant suburban house. She said I should take the bus or I‘d have to walk through some rough neighbourhoods. All the lounging groups hardly noticed me. I heard some good music. The Museum of Modern Art was a wonder. Paintings I‘d loved in books now no longer designs, the surfaces extravagantly textured, the colours so intense. And they‘re big. There was also an exhibition of black and white stats of boring scenes. But mine are better, much more boring.
I’m sitting outside a white wooden church in Vermont. Inside a small bunch are rehearsing a marriage ceremony and the grass is so green.
I said goodbye to everyone again. Left about 8. It was difficult to get a lift because someone old in a short summer dress with a humpback, I think a woman but it could easily have been a man, was skipping up and down the short interstate entrance. Eventually she skipped away. I got a lift from a fat old guy who wanted to know about the royal wedding. I didn‘t know. He drove a Buick and was the best salesman in the company. He bought me a couple of doughnuts. My liking of him was tempered when he told me about a few second world-war incidents: ‘yeah I‘ve shot people, plenty of people. I said yeah shoot him in the balls. I hate Germans, not just Nazis but all the Germans and the French. We liberated a Polish camp and we threw the German guards to the Poles. The Poles killed them. I didn‘t care. Fuck em.’ He told me some jokes. He took me into Massachusetts.
Two short lifts – a boy who didn‘t talk much and a girl who didn‘t talk much. I was glad. Bought half a milk and two apples.
A jeep with two surfboard yacht things stopped driven by a slightly plump bloke in a stripy tee shirt. He was on his way to a friend’s wedding. It’s his friend who’s practising getting married now. We got to B at four. He bought me a beer. I bought him one. He bought me one. He said, ‘Shit – stay the night, come sailing tomorrow,’ and bought me a huge sandwich-loaf. I ate it in instalments. He says that we are going to get very pissed tonight.
His friend in the bar agreed and told me a joke. ‘What‘s a woman?’’ he asked and then immediately replied, ‘a life support system for a cunt.’ At first I thought he was talking about his friend in the white church who was getting married and suggesting he wasn‘t actually very nice and perhaps was relying too much on his bride’s money. But he was generalising. That was the first joke.
I‘m sitting somewhere else now. Mosquitoes relaxing on my ankles. I’ve only got one pair of socks. I lost them with my favourite shorts. Lake with the sun going down on it. A lad about 19 hitting some kid who doesn‘t want to fight. He‘s walking back now shouting that that motherfucker ruined his tan. He asked me about the royal wedding. I asked for a swig of his beer and he gave me half.
The ferry is coming in. This is obviously where the locals come at night in their old cars with music loud and a sixpack and dogs. There’s a factory, goods trucks, a sunset, and a squashed ant if I close this book. I‘ve got a bad stomach.
Tuesday I‘m on a train engine with a litre of orange juice and a packet of ham. I‘m with a hippy who doesn‘t like being called a hippy. He is a vegetarian so I will eat all the ham. His name is James. Last night we slept near a railway siding and in the morning we decided it would be novel, exciting, romantic and practical to sneak onto one of the goods trains. James had met two guys in a bar who said it wasn‘t very difficult. Most goods trains are pulled by three engines but there is only a driver in the first. We are now on the third. We nearly decided it wouldn‘t work. We walked around most of the morning worrying about the frequently patrolling police cars that checked the yard. It was hot. There were ants. I was used to travelling fast and I didn‘t like being delayed. James isn‘t going anywhere and he’s doing it slowly. I’m in some sort of race, money against distance. We went through the fence and asked a worker if any of the the trains were going to Calvary. He said, ‘No Vancouver.’ We missed it. We ran but it was moving very fast. Another guy wasn‘t very helpful but he warned us against the yard cop. ‘He’s rough. He’s a tough one.’ Another guy gave us directions and said, don‘t tell anyone I told you. They were very helpful and gave James cigarettes. It was no skin off their noses and I don’t suppose they were overwhelmingly fond of the cop. We got on one. We think it’s going to Vancouver. If it is we will cross the Rockies. I haven‘t the right clothing for the Yukon.
I left Bill and Ferd in B. They got me a job as a bouncer on the door of a busy bar called the last chance. I stood with the other bouncers looking at women and getting drunk. We got back to his friend’s house at about 4. It was on a lake which I swam in in the morning. I was thumbing by the side of the road at 1pm. I rang Timmy. He was well and reminded me I owed him money. Alan was not in. There were not many cars on the road in northern Vermont. I got a few short lifts. I didn‘t want to sleep the night before I’d made a few more miles, at least Canada. A student took me to Montreal. It was mostly dull farmland and scattered houses, and shops and garages along the way. I was on the wrong side of Montreal. I got a fast ride on a motorbike from a Portuguese immigrant. He took me home, put Quadrophenia on the turntable and gave me corn on the cob and pumpkin soup. His Mother came home, a short plump lively lady who was shortly to go to a party for extra terrestrials. Tony obviously loved her and thought she was mad. Tony said I could stay the night but much as I liked him I really wanted to get on. I showered and his mother who was very concerned about the dangers of my journey, made me sandwiches and gave me fruit. All neatly done up in cellophane. And a cucumber. He biked me out to the start of the Trans Canada.
A nice Frenchman with a greedy smile told me all about how he wanted to make money and was working hard to. The young engineer who picked me up after him was just as enthusiastic about making money. After Ottawa and a car packed full of parents and kids who could barely squeeze me in, and another with an old British guy who was a chef and very pally in his new jeep but really I think was sad, I got a lift from a Polish immigrant, an oldish long-faced chap who politely and extravagantly lectured me on the value of tradition, the beauty of antiques on Portobello road, the increasing sadness of the world, and the way all Canadians were obsessed with making money. Sometimes he got astonishingly excited about it all but he still managed to retain his skew-whiff Polish dignity. He insisted on dropping me off at a church hostel at I think Deep River. I didn‘t want to sleep there. I walked alongside the TC looking for somewhere to sleep away from the road and people. Keeping walking I ate a couple of sandwiches. It was past midnight and I didn‘t expect a lift but I thumbed at about half the cars as I walked. Rick stopped in a big grey Chevrolet. He said, ‘where are you headed?’ I replied, ‘As far as you are headed along this road.’ I would have been happy to be delivered a few miles and beyond the scary suburban houses to where I might find a field. I travelled over1600 miles with him. At first I didn‘t think I could stand him. He trumpeted about all his cars and women and the fights he’s won. I was supposed to say uh huh and keep him awake. He was short and stocky and fucked a lot of chicks. Uh Huh. If all his stories are true he really is his sort of somebody. He really wanted to be somebody. I’m not sure if he thought he was or not yet. He certainly told me he was. After a while I got used to him. We hardly slept for two days. He didn‘t like my driving. He got irritated if I got sleepy. He told me he liked me and said I was a cool jet. He gave me food and bought me coffee. From Connecticut to Saskatchewan I looked at trees. He picked James up towards the end of the journey, probably to keep me and him awake. We saw a bear cub.
The Prairies were pleasantly boring. It rained a lot last night. My tent wasn‘t as waterproof as I’d hoped. This engine room is spacious and comfortable. James is good to travel with and when he’s not on his soapbox good to talk to. He’s lived in Toronto all his 31 years. Last month he started hitching West. Something about losing my lady and angry at people who put cents before people. He does occasional jobs and gets the deposit money back on bottles thrown from cars onto the highway verge. We could be on this train for two days. I’m going to be very hungry once I’ve eaten this ham. I’ve spent only 75cents since I‘ve been in Canada. So far I’ve survived on other people’s food.
We’ve sat around the fire all night. The smoke keeps the mosquito away. A load of people drinking beer and swopping hitch-hiking tips. But back to Tuesday. We trundled across the prairies. They were easy to look at, using up all the yellow paint in my eye. At Edmonton the train stopped, started and reversed a shortish distance, then went forward again, back and forward,endlessly. Somebody came in and said,’What the fuck!’ and threw us off. He was Okay. Everybody who worked on the railway was okay. We didn‘t mind, particularly when he told us it was going to the Yukon and we would‘ve frozen to death. We got out of the rail yard and walked and walked – its a big town. We went up a wrong road. It was half two in the morning. We got iced water and a wash in a hotel, walked again, searching for somewhere that sold coffee. James asked a guy in his middle twenties for a cigarette who said he remembered when he was travelling around how valuable a dollar was and he gave him a dollar and then a ten dollar note. The sun was coming up and we still didn‘t feel like sleep. We were sat nearish to the road but weren‘t hitching. A mashed up Chevy truck pulled up. The driver was a tall guy in a cowboy hat and boots. A little drunk. Lazy eyes and walk and drawl. He spoke a lot of slow drunk sense that I immediately forgot. He said goodbye quickly and pulled away. We got a lift inside the hour. I still haven‘t waited anywhere for more than an hour in Canada. One wait in the States was three hot hours. Our first lift was a truck. James talked too much and said what he’d said before. He took us to Hinton. We were getting nearer but still couldn‘t see the Rockies yet.
We got a lift into the Rockies in the open back of a Chevy truck, the mountains getting bigger, looking stark. Sharp pines and cold looking lakes. So high up. I was awestruck. The wind stinging my hair into my face. I felt big with a big smile. I shouted into the wind.
In Jasper everyone seemed to be smiling. I smiled at the massive beautiful girls shunted around in an open-backed lorry and jumping off to paint yellow lines by the side of the road. James took his bottles to the depot and I took my one. He got 75 cents and I got 15. They didn‘t take tins.
We went further west looking for the free camp. All we knew was that there was a camp and it was free. A woman walking told us it was a bad place and they stole your kit and a woman was sexually assaulted there. I’m going to sleep now.
We turned off the main rod down a dirt road that followed the railway. A mile or two down we met a big Jamaican chap, a crazy Scotsman, and a small skinny Indian-looking chap ( I wonder what adjective I’d have got from me.) They had gone to buy beer. The Indian chap skipped beside me for a mile telling me how wonderful the camp was. It is wonderful – I’m even getting used to the mosquitoes. We walked off the dirt road into the woods to a big grassy patch with occasional tents, some of them homemade. In the middle of the patch is a big fire and an inefficient pump,. James fell on the ground and slept. The river comes off the mountain. I walked along it, took my clothes off and got cold balls and the dust out of my hair Nobody has much money and always says hello. I slept for the first time in over two days. Someone’s looking at the fire. Someone’s carving wood. Another’s talking about when he was in prison. Another’s scraping a spoon around the bottom of a catering tin of fruit punch.
Now one guy is drumming six saucepans with two knives. Two are playing spoons. One’s clapping and one’s getting a surprisingly good bass drum from hammering a rock and the ground and now another is dragging saucepans across the ground.
I went up a mountain with James and two French girls. Then went off on my own, in a roundabout agog way back into Jasper.
Had a lovely time with a lovely girl called terry who is tall and slow and contentedly casually awkward. That kept any loneliness nicely away.
I watched and listened to the beavers plop into the pool and slept.
Written on Whistlers Mountain
rock rock rock a bare tree rock rock rock a bare tree a far lake snow rock a yellow flower
I went to the top of the mountain and looked at an enormous part of the world all around below me. I had an ecstatic shit watched by a big brown bird.
I pitched my tent halfway between the woods and the stream. It got slowly dark. Just me and the woods and the river, me occasionally talking to me in my head. Looking at the sky, the woods, the river and round again. In the morning as I was taking down my tent I saw a dark bear on the other side of the stream. I think it saw me. I wanted it to come over and talk to me almost as much as I wanted it to go away.
Monday Portland Oregon
I hitched to Vancouver. The part I ended up in was was houses, fenced fields of wheat and bumps. There was nowhere to put a tent without getting run over or climbing a fence. I knocked at a door. An old woman answered. I asked if she knew anywhere where I could pitch my tent. She said I could sleep on her verandah. She made me coffee and pushed the plate of biscuits across the table to me. She had a broad lively Swiss accent. The house was a Swiss chalet. All the decoration was Swiss – walking sticks and clocks, and horse-brasses, and views of Swiss Mountains on the wall. She told me she had lived in Canada since 53. Her husband had built the house but died in a tractor accident before its completion. She talked about everything, made me more coffee and showed me pictures of her sons. She lived on her own and her skinny old body rattled with beans. I slept on the verandah with the crunch of eating cows. She gave me a Swiss breakfast of coffee, bread, raspberry jam and cheese. I was sad to leave her. She was sad to see me go. Old and brave and cheerful, a bit sad, had a dog. I walked down the road, sung. Sometimes a big smile just comes. Two lifts to the border, no problems. The first time I had to wait over an hour – three and a half! And so many cars, all driving really slowly. And it was well over 90 degrees. I burnt. I considered a bus. A salesman in a Chevvy took me halfway through Washington. At the first stop he bought himself and me a coffee and a hot cinnamon roll and told the waitress she was a real doll. At the next stops he bought milkshakes. He had vanilla, I had chocolate. And he bought sunscreen. I only see Seattle from Highway 5. He dropped me off near Tacoma and gave me the sunscreen. I like him a lot. He wants to retire and become a fisherman. The sun was livid and I had to walk about four miles. Shirt soaked. A few short rides and then at about ten thirty a van stopped. It was only the first time a couple has given me a lift. Nearly all my lifts have been single men, usually working. Hitch hiking you only tend to meet friendly generous people – obviously they are the only people that stop. The boy whose name was Michael drove me home. He didn‘t even mention the Royal Wedding. I slept outside on a mattress. In the morning his mother cooked me breakfast while I felt-tipped a new Union Jack. Michael (an English student, mountaineer and hiker, brown skin and serious glasses, college tee shirt, cycles nearly everywhere) said goodbye. His father who was going to work, suit and briefcase took me into Portland. Now I‘m waiting for town o‘clock when it will be 7 in England. I phoned Alan last night. He’s wonderful.
Tuesday 11th? And I thought New York was hot. 110 is very hot when your thumb is out and your pack’s on your back and the sun’s bouncing off the tarmac and some funny bastard waves as he passes you by. Lifts have been bad today. My fourth day since the Rockies. Mike, A farmer put me up for the night. We listened to the radio and watched the TV with the sound down. I slept in a real bed. Short lifts today. I’m only a hundred miles short of San Francisco. I got a lift from a DJ today, someone I really didn‘t have to try to get on with. Sometimes I’d sooner be sleeping than talking. He had a nice old car and played sixties pop and modern jazz, blues and rock and roll. We zipped down the yellow road between the dark green trees. Tom, about 29. He told me I was a rebel and I said sort of. We were going to go to a movie in Willets where he dropped me off but there was no matinee. We would have watched anything. He said if he had enough money he’d stay high on coke for the rest of his life.
One lift on an empty road in an empty place the chap said he’d never picked up anyone before but he thought I might die in the heat and people had. He was quite cross about it.
3rd October 2019 Sunday August 26 New Haven Connecticut
Allen told me New Haven is the most racially diverse city in America. it’s got Yale and slums. The black boys beat up the college boys. He said, ‘I wish our white youth was as cool as yours.’ I‘m sitting on the porch of a house.
Well I was. I was interrupted by orange juice, ground coffee, an omelette stuffed with too much too describe and a big bowl of fresh fruit and sweet and sour cream.
Last night Allen picked me up in his big ripped-seat car, disco coming out of the dashboard. A chap named Joe with a good face was with him. He’d just returned from Mexico where while he was swimming everything he owned was stolen including his trousers. Allan‘s house is wood, creamy yellow outside, with big white rooms. Eileen, Josie’s sister, lives here and Steve who plays drums. We drove to Hartfield to see a band.
Monday August 27
I‘m sitting in the periodical department of Yale library, sleepy. I enjoyed playing bass. I wasn‘t very good on drums. I‘ve been listening to a lot of disco since Tea Times pre gig tape and now Allan’s car radio. Allan, Steve and me had a beer last night in an almost empty bar called The Anchor. Steve is gentle and interested, so concerned I have a good time I went into New Haven this morning, bought a couple of tee shirts at a thrift shop, books at the Salvation Army. Allan‘s picking me up at five. It’s possible he can get me a job. He has the money to make a film. The waitress told me she takes an aspirin at eight every evening because she knows she‘s going to get an headache. Steve taught me a Ramones riff on an old acoustic. Allan played a metal box and Eileen and Steve hit lots of things. It’s not been any sort of hard or lonely yet. I think I‘ll pin the Union Jack to my rucksack back and start hitching on Wednesday.
Allan couldn‘t get me a job but I made ten dollars doing a psychology survey about love run by a very sweet girl. I should pick up four more for a 40 minute survey about colour and hearing. It’ll help pay for the beers from yesterday. I‘m still spending too much. Perhaps I wont when I‘m hitching. I had an hour in Yale University Library looking at MAs and then two hours wasn‘t enough in the Yale Gallery so I’m back again now in front of two radiant and melancholy Rothkos and an exuberant but empty De Kooning. Allan phoned up someone called Lenny. We bought half a gram 50 dollars of coke. It tasted cut with sugar Allan said. We went to see Raiders of the lost Ark. Allan asked me if I wanted to smuggle heroin into Britain. I admire him. he’s done a lot. Left home at 14 sold drugs to get through college, let science fill his lungs with salt water for a very necessary 45 dollars. And for what he wants to do and his attitude to people and money.
I am close to finding a new way to take photographs.
A painting by Cesaire Dandin of a dark and palely glowing woman taking poison and a pale Northern Madonna by Joos Van Cleve, hands devoutly together, finger flat against finger, small clean nails soap powder and thick perfume and sweat I’ve heard people say that Monets are unemotional and objective but that doesn‘t mean you can’t react emotionally.
Now I’m waiting for Allan to pick me up in the car. I‘m in an all steel room in a basement, even the floor is steel. They paid me 4 dollars. Walking from there to here two tramps asked me for money. I said no but I wrote the name of the place and address where they could earn 4 dollars on the arm of one of them with this pen.
It should take me 6 days to go to California. I might turn to Mexico before then. Red ants.
Thursday A balls up I left at 8.Ten miles out I realised I‘d left my glasses in Al‘s car. I lay on the grass and finished ‘Of Human Bondage’ and got a hundred pages into ‘Bound for Glory`.
Joe’s dog is beautiful. Half Alsation, half husky, a soft hazel eye and a cold white eye – see description of paintings I only spent 3 dollars today. I earned fifty this week. Stocking up before Canada. I only had 40 when I arrived at Kennedy Airport and nearly didn‘t get in.
Today Steve called and we sweated the stage out of the World Trade Centre. I stuck the posters up. Steve used words and smiles. The bands were called Three Teens Kill Four, Dog Eat Dog and Certain Generals. I was getting very red. A girl bought me some sun protection cream and I fell in love. The concert was judged a success, reasonable crowd and a reassuring number of complaints from local businesses said Steve. The hot dogs were shit. I ate three.
Thursday 23 July New York another concert three bands Fabians, power pop and Mande Dahle. TeaTime were the best of them. The singer, a young assured chap gave me his phone number for when I returned to New York. It’s a good job – setting up, watch the bands while watching for trouble, drink, avoid the sun, girls, people, pull it down. We took Mande Dahle and their retinue back home to different places all over new york, Steve driving fast and eleven people trying not to fall out of the open back doors the Chevy.
Saturday 25th July 81 the best band were called Teatime Steve gave me 100 dollars. he said we’d established a cultural juxtaposition. Anne was waiting for me at 5 outside Tiffanys where she works. First she got me pissed and then fed me. She wouldn‘t let me pay. I was filthy in the army trousers I always wear and a shirt that stunk. I’d been lifting speakers and moving stages. She had been selling diamonds.
Claude and I walked a few streets. The weather has turned sunny and cool. I even pulled the cover over me that night. This morning I said goodbye to mike. I bought egg sandwiches and a KitKat (different wrapper
A journey in the USA and Canada in 1981 Part Three
31st September 2019 Claude got back from being an ice cream salesman at about eight. He pointed out a plain clothes policeman. He was fat in a red tee shirt and cut-off jeans holding a brown paper bag to his mouth pretending to drink from a bottle in it but he was talking into a radio. Claude heard him say, ‘He’s sitting near the statue.’ We went to see Steve who used to live here until Mike got fed up of him.
Claude really shouted at the doorman who got really pissed off. Steve said he’d give me fifty bucks to work with him. That’s good as I like it here and I haven‘t much money. Steve’s round and full of himself which makes him good fun. Italian. Constantly telling me about his ambitions, women, successes, uses words like juxtaposition, culture, relationships. He‘s setting up a three day lunchtime concert. I did the posters for him this morning. ‘Rock and Roll at the Water Memorial for Lunch, High Moon July 22 23 24 Battery park’. After seeing Steve Claude and me walked up to about W80 and through central park, leaves and tarmac glistening with rain
Today Steve cajoled and bluffed his way around south Manhattan. he drives well. I know – he told me. He also remarked, ‘In about three days New York Radio will really start to crush my tits.’ He bought me the biggest slice of pizza I‘d ever met for breakfast with lemon tea in a can. Claude said, ‘take advantage of him, take advantage of Steve. Hot dogs and coke for lunch. He had a 1 cal coke which he showed me had written on it something like ‘Tests on laboratory animals have proved that the contents of this drink can cause cancer’. He made a lot of phone calls and I sat in the van. He turned into a short queue outside the World Trade Centre. I asked, ‘Hey are we going in here?’ He said we were and I wondered what floor we would be going up to, hoping it would be a high up one and the view would be wonderful. It hadn‘t occurred to me it had a basement, which is where we went, all the way down about twenty floors! We couldn‘t get the equipment he wanted out and have to go back tomorrow. When driving around it’s interesting, but it’s hot and dull in the basement. It will be better when we set up the stage and the bands are playing. I just have to play bouncer then. I bought Claude Unknown Pleasures because he asked what it was like. I bought myself three Funkadelic records for 99cents each. I caught the tail end of a scrap between construction workers and a lot of blacks and Puerto Ricans who can’t get jobs. Both groups surrounded by a hundred coppers.
30th September 2019 I’d like it to stop raining. I’m stuck in Madison Avenue sheltering in the arcade of a closed theatre. Claude said I mustn‘t go to Harlem. We had a cheap pizza with Michael and I walked downtown. On 42nd street there were a few peep shows. I went into a booth and put my money in the slot. The light came on but there wasn‘t a girl. I waited then went to the change booth and complained to a fat man. He said he‘d send someone in and went around the back. Somebody turned up shortly. She was clothed and asked me for three dollars. I said I only had five. She said she had change. She twisted her blouse (it’s really pouring now, it can’t go on much longer) pulled her skirts and pants down, pulled along a low stool and stood on it. She was quite young and had an open American face. She said, ‘I’m going to do a real sexy dance now, you can pull your pants down.’ I said, ‘No thank you.’ She half-danced a bit and asked where I was from and we had a chat and she told me where to go for the best cheap meals. And she asked a lot about England, hardly dancing now. I liked the little creases and puckers she got when she moved her weight onto the other hip. And she was so good at nakedly normal. It started to feel wrong that I wasn‘t naked. She asked me what I was doing in America. I said, ‘just watching.’ She said, ‘just watching, huh.’ Then she said, ‘You can put your finger through here,’ showing the hole where I’d passed my money over. I put my finger through and it scraped against her belly a bit. Just touching. I said, ‘Is it okay if I take my trousers down?’ She said, ‘Sure go straight ahead.’ She gave me a tissue and reminded me where the good food place was and we said goodbye.
I wasn‘t not cheerful when I went but I felt really cheerful as I walked down 8th where I bought an ice cream. Rum and Raisin, a bit watery but only 40 cents. The temperature was supposed to be in the eighties but it felt hotter to me. My skin felt like a plastic bag. Claude will be selling lots of ice creams. It’s still pouring, I‘ve just eaten the biscuits I saved from the meal on the plane. Lots of people were sitting about on the street. I went as far as Washington Square. A man told me how nice his wife had been and lots of stories about her when she was alive. I walked back to look for the good food place the peep-show girl told me about. Black guys pass by heads down eyes up whispering ‘Grass cocaine acid’ like a prayer. A whore grabbed my hand. She was beautiful, really skinny, half black and half white with big eyes and dark-plum coloured lips. When I took my hand back she sneered at my smile. I went into a booth and put two coins in. A really tall girl took it and turned round shoving her arse against the screen and then turned round and played with her cunt looking at me. I came out of politeness as much as anything. This time I felt the opposite of cheerful. I thought how I’d much sooner be larking and laughing in Meg’s spongy bed. She had tits like Meg and now it’s difficult to remember how Meg‘s looked. I got back yawning, talked to Claude and lay down on the stars and stripes. It’s just different.
17th September 2019 I’m sitting, waiting on a plane to take me across the Atlantic to New York. ‘Such an exciting city’ said the violin lady with the broken metal case. Seven hours five minutes. The planes moving.
Take the people out of casual snapshots.
Sunday Museum of Modern Art I’ve been submerged in big Rothko’s, then floating about in Matisse’s nicely controlled carelessness. And staring at Bacon’s monkey.
I got a lift from the airport in a taxi with a woman I met to just south of Harlem. Then the bus to 51st and eventually found Mickey B’s. I rehearsed my three facts about his friend in London who I was pretending to be the friend of. His name is Tony. He‘s an actor. He knows my friend Alan. There was nobody in. I asked a guy sitting on the steps of the apartment where I could get a cheap beer. It wasn‘t that cheap. The flies were queuing up for a suicide place on the fly paper. I went back to the apartment. Claude was in, a lean brown black guy in a purple vest and specs, really pleasant but vague. Another guy came round – Allen bright interested and helpful. They smoked dope and we drank beer. I slept on the sofa in a tiny tidy living room with a cover that was the stars and stripes on me. I have met Mike. I just didn‘t know he was Mike.
The beer’s weak nothing. Claude says they put detergent in it. The cars and the buildings and the paintings are big. The young black girls are so skinny and elegant and black. It’s so hot. Lots of old blokes out in the streets playing cards on an oil drum. Roller skates. I talked to a black guy who’d smiled at me. He explained he was a panhandler. I didn‘t know what that was. He tried another name: solicitor. I thought that was a lawyer or a prostitute. I gave him one of Mum’s cheese sandwiches. The Guggenheim had a Gorky retrospective. I wish it had something else. Some of my line drawings were better than Picasso’s. But only better than his bad drawings. I enjoyed a chocolate ice cream. I’m going to have a different flavour every day.
I find somewhere – steps, a park, a wall, sit there and stare. I feel my neck at work always moving my head. I move my head more than my eyes. I like everyone so much it’s hard to tell if they like me. Eat everybody up one sandwich at a time. The heat lets people be different in a way the cold doesn‘t.
Here from today, a joke that didn‘t work and one that did. As I often am, I was drawn to a skip with a nice variety of stuff poking out of it. I pulled out a box the size of a small beer crate I thought I might like. It was wood but my main thought was I don‘t want to take that to Mexico and back. I was about to put it back in. A voice screamed, ‘Get out of my skip, get off my street, that’s mine.’ He didn‘t use the word skip but I don‘t remember the word he did use. He was a skinny oldish not very tall black guy, his face fierce. He came charging towards me and then stopped. I smiled in a friendly way. He hissed, ‘That’s my box. I‘m the king of this street.’
I noticed a few long white florescent lighting tubes on top of the rubbish. I‘ve never seen Star Wars but know they have fights with light sabres. I took two tubes and I offered him one and said perhaps we should have a sword fight for the box. ‘Like they do in Star Wars,’ I added because he didn‘t seem to have got my joke. He just got crosser, and spitting, shouted that he was the King of the street and he was going to kill me. Motherfucker.’ He probably hadn‘t seen Star Wars either. I kept smiling at him. I was really disappointed he’d not got my joke. He continued screaming at me that he was King of this street and that the tubes were his too. But I’d caught a vulnerable pleading strain in the screaming and I saw things from his point of view and thought I’d had all the fun out of this that I was going to get and put the box and the tubes back and said, ‘You’re the king.’
I was having another lean and look at everything. A woman said something like ‘You look like you‘re having a nice day.’ I said, ‘I’m just enjoying being abroad.’ At first she pulled a face I couldn‘t read and I thought that perhaps she didn‘t understand what abroad means and perhaps it wasn‘t an American word, but then she really smiled and said, ‘So do I.’ Then a guy came down the steps of the building behind me and said to me, ‘You wanna keep away from that fag.’
I couldn‘t understand the subway so I ran to see Buckwheat She told me Meg was brown.
Klee – a sweet painting including five girl’s names.
Claude said I must go to Harlem. We had a cheap pizza and I walked down-town. A guy just came up to me. I’m sitting with a litre of orange juice on the steps off 51st again. He asked me about my red hair and what the deal was. The old guys dress so well. The old black guys dress really well. America exists, it’s not just in a newspaper. A friendly fat woman in a nice dress with a tiny handbag just said to me is that your red hair? Five minutes later another black guy came up to me, scruffy, with laughter lines all over his face, smiled slowly and said, ‘they tell me red don‘t care and black don‘t give a damn.’ Sitting here waiting for Claude isn‘t boring. Some chap just showed me a disappearing trick with a red hankie. First time it worked and he took it out of my sock. After that it kept going wrong. He was Sicilian I think. White guys don‘t say hello. I’ve been here over an hour now. The lights fading. Cars lights are going on. I asked a woman for directions and terrified she ran away. She went rigid and pop eyed and then scuttled