Thursday, 19 June 2008


First thing the next morning after a modest breakfast of scrambled eggs, hash browns, sausages and 4 gallons of coffee (how do you make them stop filling the cup?) and a quick look at the morning paper it was away in a cab to Union Station to collect the car. I was over an hour early for the pick up but the guy at the rental car counter didn't seem to mind. He just looked at the drop off point "JFK!" and dismissed me as a madman. Although I suspect it would be quicker driving than taking the train. I once, with the help of the internet, worked out how a friend of mine who was terrified of flying could visit Reno in Nevada during a two week holiday. After the ocean crossing and the many interconnecting train journeys we came to the conclusion he would be at the tables in the casino playing "Texas Holdem" (I know it sounds rude but who's going to argue with a 9 foot Texan?) for approximately 45 minutes before he had to begin his homeward journey.

I was shown the car in the underground car park. Asked the way to the freeway south. "Make a left, then a left at the lights then another left and you are on the I 5 to San Diego.”

Requisite number of lefts later and I was indeed on the I 5 heading south. This is a totally comedy road. At one point if you added in the 2 multiple occupancy lanes I was heading south on a highway with 8 lanes of traffic on either side. Still I had the radio so to a soundtrack of Todd Rundgren, Slim Harpo, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Kelly Pickler I was on my way. Oh and there were those ads of course :

"Do you suffer from Spinal Stenosis?". "Abby Wilkins is 85 and was unable to walk or talk very well until she had her carotid artery cleared...."

For me the fun of the trip is to get off the Interstates as much as possible and see some of the country so I turned on to the "Historic 101" and soon found myself at San Juan Capistrano - site of a famous Mission. I parked up and immediately two elderly gentlemen accosted me and one very gently said "You unloadin' there son?" I had parked in the wrong place so immediately lapsed into Derek Nimmo meets John Le Mesurier. "Oh I say, awfully sorry, etc" The two elderly gentlemen were police officers who wore a rather fetching ensemble of sneakers, white socks, tan shorts and a yellow tennis shirt with "Police" written on it.

Not sure what branch of the cops they were from but they oozed "Authoritah". They didn't seem to be armed either which is strange as every other policeman, security guard and traffic warden I have seen so far has been laden down with nightsticks and firearms. They probably knew that at the slightest hint of trouble they could launch into a lengthy story about what they did in the war and the felon would be weeping and begging for mercy within a couple of sentences.

Down along the Pacific Coast highway I drove through Oceanside and Carlsbad, the surfing beach rather spoiled by a huge power station and water desalination plant on the other side of the road. My destination was San Diego. It had been humid and overcast for much of the drive but by the time I got to Mission Bay the sun was out. Short hop into downtown San Diego which is a big Naval town and port as witnessed by the imposing grey hulk of the U.S.S. Midway and a vast liner. Had I come at a different time of the year, whale watching would have been on the agenda. I read a placard about it. Can't remember exactly but I think around about this time of the year they head off to Japan to be eaten.

Last year I only booked three hotels. The mandatory one for the first night of reminiscence in San Francisco so wanted to stay in the place I visited in 1985. As luck would have it I actually booked into the new one across the street. The original one being closed for refurbishment - doh!. Then there was the final night in New York. No need to book anywhere else as there are plenty of vacancies at budget motels near the centre of the city....(Cue parping trombones). "Sorry we are full, there is a convention in town". I can see why it is a good place to hold a convention. Sunshine, sea and a huge amount of sex. Not far from the Naval academy there are numerous lap dancing clubs and "Hostess bars". One even boasting of a special appearance by a noted Porn star.

I headed back out of town past the "hotel circle" where the other motels were like wagons all grouped together and miles from anything other than the freeway. I headed on over to Ocean City near Point Loma. A thriving resort town of surfers and hippies and bikers. The beach actually had a sign saying "No Swimming" as it was for surfers only. Got a room with a balcony and a fine view of the sea, palm trees and a big car park. There seemed to be a lot of pets about the hotel and lots of handily placed rolls of plastic bags labelled "poopy pouches". Assured by the desk clerk that it was a "good walking town" I headed off through street after street of ramshackle chalets and rusting cars to the main drag. Lots of bars and restaurants and people disporting themselves in an unseemly manner, which seemed like a good idea to me.

Went into a bar with the loudest roaring and sat down and ordered a big cold beer. The reason for the noise was the finals of the NBA : the LA Lakers v the Boston Celtics. Now I am not much of a basketball fan but it would appear the wrong team were winning. The shrieks of anguish got louder the further behind the Lakers went as the man sitting next to me insisted he had been "on the wagon for three months, not touched a drop, not been to a bar." He was doing a bang-up job of dropping off it now though. By the time the end came he had timed it to perfection - he was making absolutely no sense at all and his head was getting lower and lower until it seemed he was only an inch or two above the bar. On my second beer the barman shook my hand warmly and introduced himself as Pete, which was a nice touch.

Headed off for another noisy bar where I heard music. There I watched more TV. At one point a huge hairy man came tottering over to the bar and asked the woman serving, "Excuse me Ma'am, do you mind if I put a really noisy piece of Metal on the jukebox?” Back to the hotel through dark and deserted streets as the Metallica cranked up, and into bed.

In the morning, up bright and early and down for breakfast - still a lot of pets about. Including pictures of them in the lobby. As I paid up I realised I had spent the night at "Ocean Villa Inn..San Diego's Pet-Friendly Hotel on Dog Beach".


Frances said...

Alex, you're blogging faster than I can comment !

I wanna be a US cop - they have a prettier uniform than me. What wouldn't I give for a canary tennis shirt and tan shorts this summer !
Mind you, I'm not so sure my customers would appreciate it.

Frances said...

By the way isn't that the day you promised to come back to me ?
What is this spot I see before me ? Oh, it's inky !!