I’m missing San Francisco already and we’re still at the airport. It’s early. Oscar is appropriately named – he really is the grouch right now. And we’ve been told we’re sitting in three separate seats. Part of me wouldn’t wish him on anyone else and feels like it’s the only right thing to do to ask for seats to be swapped. But a bigger part of me is keen to let him sit next to a stranger, see what happens…
Of course my better half thinks that’s a nuts-idea. And so I’m sent to sort a ticket-swap. When we get on the plane, all together in a row, he’s found some sort of decent behaviour. And the flight is a fun one – Alaska Air, good form.
We’re off to Seattle, but we’re not really. We’re staying in Bellevue. Katy’s got work for a couple of days and we figured it might be easier to all stay together and play together. This means, actually, that it’s me and Osc on our own for a couple of days.
We head off for a stroll – only to find pretty quickly we’re in the middle of nowhere. No shops, no bus, nothing. We’ve got no options. No food. No idea where we are. And the kid is melting down – I mean melting down.
But it’s a strange first-world complaint. We have a decent room in a decent enough place. Oscar is calling it The Hotel. And is very excited. He thinks it’s his first hotel experience – which in a way it is, he can’t remember our first American trip, nor any hotels and motels he’s stayed in around New Zealand.
So we get some snacks – we try Hot Pockets (there’s not a lot of options). And we make use of the hotel pool.
And that’s pretty much all to say from this part of the trip. There’s not a lot to report. Well, we go to Red Robin for burgers when Katy is finished work that first day. And we get “Boozy Shakes” which are quite possibly the best thing ever. Mine has Guinness and whiskey and all sorts of shit in it. And I pretty much pass out in the hotel room straight after. In that blissed long-day-for-a-parent kind of way. The boozy shake takes all that pain away.
Day Two of Hotel Life is much better. We know what we’re in for – and so we get to work. Writing Oscar’s “Books” that feature stories with the cartoon characters he’s bumped into through reading and DVDs. And we take more swims, go for wanders, we’ve started maths lessons based around counting how many people are in the pools and adding or subtracting as they get out or switch pools.
I think I’ve finally got my head around basic sums. So it hasn’t been a wasted trip.
I finally get to see a tiny bit of Seattle. And I fall in love. This is Wellington on a bigger scale. It is little bits of Auckland too. It has a New Zealand/ish climate. It has a funk to it though. Its own groove. I left (at least some of) my heart in San Francisco, but that’s largely because the song prompts you. No idea why Seattle makes this immediate impression. I think I’m dumb. Or maybe just happy…
The reason for my Seattle trip is a last minute fluke-score of one of the last tickets to Sting and Peter Gabriel. I am there to see Peter Gabriel. I don’t hate Sting. I’ve just seen him twice. If it was a Sting solo show I wouldn’t have worried about seeing it. But I really wanted to see Gabriel.
The show is incredible – as I’ve (hopefully) said here. I had tears in my ears during Solsbury Hill. I felt a surge of music powering up through and over me when the show opened with The Rhythm of the Heat. It was great being in American audience watching days after following some of the surreal/silly/guys-this-is-actually-for-real footage of the Republican Convention as Sting sings about losing his faith in politicians and comparing them to gameshow hosts. It’s even more interesting being in a Seattle audience when Eddie Vedder bounds to the stage, unannounced to join Sting for Driven To Tears and then popping back a few songs later for Gabriel’s Red Rain. Hometown Hero. Local Boy Made Good. The crowd erupts.
It’s a funny crowd, or funny to be in this crowd. Well behaved and patient. Into it. No jerks. Well, not many. There was nearly a wee punch-up down the row from me because some dick wouldn’t sit down and some other dick was a bit forceful in trying to make him sit down and I could see both sides of it and then I turned away anyway to just enjoy the amazing spectacle, the incredible show. But mostly people sit and applaud and they sing when they want to and know the words and they don’t when they don’t want to or don’t know the words. They don’t get up every five minutes for a beer or a piss. And there’s no pushing and shoving and tutting and it just feels more relaxed, also this audience gives a shit. They’re full into it. It’s great to feel part of an audience. No eyes on me either. I’m not there to review the show. I will. I have. Because I’m struck down by a disease. I can’t stop. But no one knows me here. That’s a real bonus.
About an hour from the end the woman next to me, in a voice that might have had Rosie Perez trying to slit her wrists with the freshly cut glass, asked how long I thought the show might go on. She had a train or something to catch. (I didn’t quite catch her reason actually, just attached what I figured was probably her concern).
I told her at least half an hour to go or so. And she said “Wot you say?” And I said “Thurty munnits”. And she said “Jew haff a veery phuuney voyse!” And we both laughed. She said she was gonna have to miss the rest of it but was sure to tell me she’d loved what she heard.
Americans feel the need to spell a lot more out than is necessary. Things are clarified. Confirmed. Rubber stamped. All by word of mouth. Jokes get explained back to the person who was making them. I’m generalising. But then, who doesn’t. Don’t answer that – I didn’t leave a question mark anyway. So you can’t.
Some of the Americans in the Sting/Gabriel audience were wrapped to hear Gabriel covering a Sting song. “Nice job!” the woman two doors down yelled out. As if Gabriel mighta needed that wee pat on the back of encouragement.
When Gabriel told his story about Jo Cox – his new song Love Can Heal written for and dedicated to her – many in the audience were thrilled to hear that she had got into politics. They were following the story, looking for the right place to applaud or yelp about something.
“After thinking about getting into politics she eventually did – and was elected and made an MP”, Pete explained.
Cue: “Good for hur!” “Niiiiice!” “Yew go gurl!” and my favourite, “Wimmen CAN do eeenything!”
Boy were they all about to get a wee shock.
BOOM. Sir Peter of Foxhead hits them with the brutal punchline, explaining that just recently a crazy racist from this crazy world now seemingly filling up with extremists murdered her in the street.
“Oh GOD!” came the balcony screams. “Oh No! Oh—–MY God!”
Great taxi driver after the show. A guy from Ethiopia, making his way in American– five years in, hoping for residency, aiming to do some traveling about. He likes Seattle but not the weather. Huge conversation about Trump, about international travel, about whatever we could. Well, I’d just seen a great show and had two days in with a tiny strutting overlord. It was nice to talk to someone else. Anyone else.
I’m sure some other good stuff happened. But that gig was the one thing I’ll take with me from Seattle. And I’ll leave a little promise that I’d like to return. Cool place. Sometimes you just get that vibe, a hunch or something. It feels right. That place felt incredibly right. And I only saw the recipe for the icing and didn’t even get a glimpse of the cake.
We packed in a hurry the next day for a flight to Las Vegas. Oscar cried about leaving the hotel.
Vegas baby…Vegas. Mental place. Fucking mental. Forever filling up with people there temporarily – aiming for some other version of themselves, hoping for stories they’re allowed to forget or at least leave there. I’m not that sort of Vegas visitor, couldn’t give a shit about gambling, won’t be going near a single slot machine except to walk past to go anywhere else.
But first to get this kid out of the fucking hotel. He loves it. He loves it so much. He likes the bed. And the guy at the front desk. And the pool. And he loves downstairs. And that other floor. And the signs on the door. And the TV that swings around. And the little bottles. And the tiny fridge. And…And…
“You wait until you see the Las Vegas hotel” we both tried to explain. But he was mad with tears. It stopped when my computer started talking from my bag. In the rush to shut down a YouTube was still loading. We heard voices from the laptop case as we ran for the car. And there was laughter once again, and finally, making the steps a little lighter.
To read Tour Diary # 1 – The Streets of San Francisco click here
To read Tour Diary # 2 – A Great Day To Turn 40, No Poo at The Zoo…click here
To read Tour Diary # 3 – Past The Mission – I Don’t Believe I Went Too Far…click here