Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

On The Road – Bell X1′s tour diary, part 3: going up the west coast

The continuing tales of Bell X1 in America, as told by Paul Noonan. This week, retracing the footsteps of The Dude in LA, eating The Best Breakfast Ever in San Francisco and encountering the sex industry in Portland. I’m told …

Fri, Mar 28, 2008, 23:32


The continuing tales of Bell X1 in America, as told by Paul Noonan. This week, retracing the footsteps of The Dude in LA, eating The Best Breakfast Ever in San Francisco and encountering the sex industry in Portland.

I’m told LA has a soul. That beneath the plastic, Long-Mile-Road-in-the-sun exterior there is a human pulse. It certainly seems to grab people, as a lot of folks seem to stay well beyond their intended, but after a couple of days I don’t get it. Maybe it takes longer, and to get out to the hills for an auld sweaty hike. Both times we’ve been here, we’ve stayed on Sunset Boulevard, with its parade of McDonalds and IHOPs and Hustler Emporiums and Taco Bells. 

LA is however where The Dude roamed – drove around, bowled, had the occasional acid flashback, so it does have that going for it. I got myself a Ralph’s card, drank some hell-of-a-caucasians, and enjoyed a tasty In and Out burger. The dude abides.

We went to san Diego on a day off to see Steve Earle play in a venue called Belly Up. I know that all these places we’ve visited are on the liberal, blue side of the fence, but I think it’s great how politically engaged people generally are, and Steve Earle, known for his political outspokenness, created a great feeing of solidarity and optimism in the room at the prospect of real change in America. People don’t shy away from this sort of thing here, as they would in Ireland. It’s of course part of the grand theatre of politics, but it’s not empty mawkish rhetoric – it’s rousing and pure.

The Onion have a gas lead story at the moment – “Black man asks Nation for Change”, about Obama spotted begging all over the country, and when the Mexican waiter saw me reading it in IHOP, he started talking about the relative merits of the candidates. Brilliant.

The gig in the Troubador in LA was great, really tied the room together.

We drove overnight to San Francisco, and had The Best Breakfast Ever at Dottie’s True Blue Cafe. It’s not an award I give lightly. You queue for half an hour for a table, at all times of the day it seems, but it is truly manifique. 

I’d never been to San Francisco before, so we went up to Fisherman’s Wharf and gazed across at the Golden Gate Bridge. Some of us hired bicycles and took boat trips. Proper tourists. Like the Yanks coming to Ireland in the 1980s, the Europeans are now swanning around the States, with lots of silly green notes that all look the same. Though maybe not so loud of voice or trouser.

Some of us get badly sunburnt and are in need of ointment and salve. Stupid Paddys.

San Francisco has a very visible contingent of homeless people and madsers. At first it’s intimidating, but I had several conversations with wild eyed folks who seem content with their lot. It gives parts of the city a kind of unhinged vibe. Dottie’s is in the middle of this.

We’re now in Portland, where everybody looks like they’re in a graphic novel, or in the bandWeezer. The restaurant last night had an open kitchen, and all the guys in there were lanky dudes with starched shirts, horn-rimmed glasses and side partings. It looked like some kind of job swap.

Strip clubs are a big part of Portland culture, and in pursuit of a better understanding of this, we went to Mary’s Club last night. As the marquee claims, it’s ‘Portland’s Oldest Topless’. My friend from here assures me that Portland sex workers (at least the in-public ones) are well organized and legally protected, and “if you call her a political victim, she will spray chain lubricant in your eyes”. I still can’t get my head around the fact that you’re having a nice drink and a chat, and THAT is going on on the stage. Bail o dhia orainn.

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