More American Dreams
Bob, you’ll know exactly where we got the picture above: and what was going on.
We’d cancelled all our duo gigs in San Diego for a month –were working maybe three different bars, five/six nights a week – to take up a gig in Phoenix, which Brian Baynes had double-booked himself on and we actually bailed him out.
The drive was so beautiful – desert, then hills and pines, cooler air, then real desert. Going through Yuma there are signs showing a male figure in stripy clothing and the words ‘DO NOT PICK UP HITCHIKERS’. The sun was so hot my right arm got burned just having it out the window for a while.
Phoenix would not be my favourite city – it was a little dull, but we may think that now because of how our stay there fared out. It was the oddest four weeks.
We were playing in McCaffrey’s Bar in the The San Marcos Hotel, and as employees of the hotel we couldn’t drink – even a beer. This was a blow. Then the bar owner – McCaffrey – told us he couldn’t pay us the agreed fee and had reduced it.
Now, Bob, you’re not a man to suffer this kind of treatment gladly, but we had no choice but to stay – all our other gigs were gone.
To add insult to injury, instead of billeting us in a motel, he chose some friends of his on which to land us. They were nice people but one was a little strange to say the least, and the atmosphere in the house was quite tense. We had only one night off a week and tried to spend it alone, but the lady of the house wanted to hang out with us and go to bars, and we just weren’t interested.
So we spent most of that month reluctantly sober, getting ripped off by McCaffrey, trying to evade unwanted attentions, and beginning to wilt at all the Irish-ness we were forced to endure. Neither of us particularly like Irish traditional stuff or ballads, though there are obviously tunes and songs we’d like. But when we did the ‘Wild Rover’ four times in onegig, I nearly had a nervous breakdown.
One night in the bar – the staff of which were lovely people, smart and kind – this caricaturist came in, and began plying his trade and trying to sell his pictures.
He of course did us, as you can see, and we thought it was fun but didn’t want to buy it. I think we were both sick of McCaffrey’s Bloody Bar and just wanted to get home to San Diego.
As we were leaving, carrying all our gear, one of the younger guys from the bar gave us the caricature. They’d bought it for us. It was so kind of them, and now we have it thanks to their thoughtfulness.
You can see that it is definitely a caricature but it’s very well done – however I have far too much bosom showing and I don’t think that’s quite accurate.
We did make friends in Phoenix with a lovely guy that everyone seemed to know: Ralph. He asked to take us on a drive to the Mogollon Rim, where the late western-writer Zane Grey had had a cabin. Ralph looked like a nicer version of John Wayne: he was about 70 – 72 or something and very handsome, immaculately turned-out – American men like sharp creases in their shirts – and very good fun. A big bloke, he wore shirts, jeans and boots, and he had all his hair too which was quite abundant.
Unfortunately for Ralph, he was also a narcoleptic which meant he could fall asleep suddenly at any time. He told us this as we were climbing into his Dodge truck, and asked that if it happened while he’s driving, would Bob take the wheel?
Prior to our leaving, the lady of house tried to insinuate herself into the trip – she went everywhere with everyone, apparently, and was quite miffed not to have been included – she knew Ralph, and we were staying with her… I don’t know how you did it, Bob, but you got us out of there without saying anything she could hold against you: your talent in that area is sometimes of biblical proportions.
I’ve known you to discuss something for hours and then, once you’ve convinced your opposition that they’re wrong, you do an about-face and try to persuade them they were right in the first place.
Anyway, our trip. It was an absolutely amazing day, from beginning to end. In the few photos I have of us we’re smiling. We’ve no pics of Ralph which I regret, and I’m sure he’s passed on by now, but he gave us the best fun we’d had in ages.
We started off early-ish, about ten, and met Ralph at some roadside garage full of dusty space where we parked our piece-of-shit Mustang (I hated that car, it never worked) and climbed into Ralph’s more spacious and reliable Dodge. He began to drive and we chatted – I was in my favourite place in a car: leaning forward between the two front seats so I can hear what’s going on.
The landscape changed slowly, the earth becoming rosier, the light changing, and Ralph just cruised along until we decided we were hungry and wanted some lunch.
The restaurant was gorgeous (don’t even know what town we were in, it was all so casual and relaxed) but it was built of wood and glass with a stream flowing underneath it, the building propped on wooden stilts or something. There was a lot of greenery outside, pines and conifers, and the air was very clean.
We dined and continued on the road to Sedona. By this time the view was glowing with dark red earth and yellow sun, and so very beautiful, cacti sprouting here and there. Sedona is a lovely place, all calm and pretty.
We walked around some art galleries and then we found a bar. Ralph said ‘time for cocktails’. After settling in, Ralph tried to engage the guy beside him at the bar in a little small-talk. This bloke was dressed all in black with a black hat, and I could barely stop staring at him. People really dress like that! I thought, and I was thrilled.
But yer man was not feeling talkative and Ralph finally gave up.
We got to the Mogollon Rim sometime later that afternoon, and the red rock gave way to browner earth and more pines, and then snow. I held snow in my hand 40 minutes from the desert.
We walked around and then decided we wanted a drink, and Ralph said he’d get himself some beers for while he was driving. I kid you not. But you know, on the day, it was perfect. Ralph stopped at a liquor store and said he was getting Michelob because Budweiser and the others were ‘weaker than kitten piss’.
At one stage in the day we found ourselves in a kind of trailer-bar: it was a big trailer, permanently fixed, and we just listened to the conversation around us. Some people were talking about a coyote they’d seen, though they pronounced it ‘ky-ote’. We stayed there a while, and later one guy took you and I out to see his red-tailed hawk, which was in a customised container in his pick-up.
When he opened the doors, she shook herself and glared at us. We were entranced. How beautiful. I think she sensed our complete and utter admiration because her expression softened a little and she began to preen.
The Roadrunner Bar was our next stop. It had a neon version of the cartoon roadrunner whose legs moved back and forth. You couldn’t not stop there, huh?
The bar were running a competition with beer as the prize, and Ralph won it. So another 6-pack of Michelob for going home.
Not once did he fall asleep.
Every time I hear the song ‘Perfect Day’ (which I don’t really like much, to be honest), I think of that day. We were perfectly happy. For the whole day.