Every day is a winding road

Trip Start Oct 05, 2005
Trip End Apr 06, 2006

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Flag of United States  , Arizona
Tuesday, March 7, 2006

I'm getting a bit fed up with being singled out at airports as the "suspect terrorist". The drill usually goes as follows: a billion people of all nationalities in a queue, official-looking person checking documents, everything hunky-dory, until, DA DA DAAAAA... me. It must be the blonde hair, blue eyes and picture of the Queen on my passport that always gives me away as a member of Al-Qaeda. I know the checks are supposed to be random, but in my experience they're really not. I've been hauled out of the queue for a bag search six out of a total of seven times. I'm no Carol Vorderman but that sounds like near certainty to me.

That day the chosen victims were me and a black girl/boy with a shaved head and blood-shot eyes, wearing army combats and doc martens. I couldn't help but think that dressing as GI Jane probably hadn't done her any favours. We flashed each other the "here we go again" look. Everything seemed fine - laundry liquid, worry dolls, bran muffin - until my CD walkman - bought in Hong Kong, circa 1995 - set off a bomb alert. Suddenly, the words "contains explosives" started flashing about the place in red letters, and two supervisors appeared from nowhere to cart off the offending item.

I was flying down to Phoenix to stay with my friend Mary, whom I'd met in Uruguay in December. Arizona was the antidote to a lot of things. The weather hovered in the high seventies, the people were friendly and unusually sane, the boys were cute, and Mary was good company and an even better host. After a 48-hour marathon shift at the hospital delivering babies, leaving me somewhat under house arrest in her apartment, she came home, necked a beer and a cigarette and announced a road trip.

We drove north through the desert to Sedona, a town surrounded by huge red rocks that are said to have special powers. People (hippies) go to Sedona to channel its "energy vortexes". I wasn't really sure what that meant, but imagined it to be like in the Matrix, where the air sort of melts and you can transcend the space/time continuum. But all I saw was a high street full of hocus pocus shops (there was even a Metaphysical Department Store) and an obligatory Starbucks. Still, the scenery was pretty impressive.

Mary took me down to the creek where her and her mates would come swimming instead of going to school in the summer. It was beautiful, a world away from the main tourist drag. It was also a world away from the places where I used to bunk school. Dog Shit Alley didn't quite have the same romance to it. We met her friends Nile and Vicky and drove to Flagstaff for the evening. Flag had a completely different vibe - very outdoorsy and collegiate. It reminded me a bit of Chile. We went to a restaurant and ate fondue by an open fire, then watched a live band in the basement of a hotel.

The next day, after only four hours' sleep and a refuel of waffles, we set off south to Tucson. The drive was long and hot, and I tried to sleep, but I didn't want to neglect my duties as DJ, which I took very seriously. I have developed an addiction to other people's iPods, rendering me something of a co-dependent on bus journeys. Mary has an amazing collection of music, much of it acquired during her stint as a doctor in Peru, so it would have been rude to pass up such an opportunity to get my fix. I really should buy an iPod, especially after the Sony Bomb incident.

We arrived at Tucson late in the day, and went straight for a walk in the national park. I was absolutely knackered but the scenery more than made up for the effort. We even saw a roadrunner, but he wasn't very fast, and he didn't go beep-beep. It occurred to both of us that, although we came from completely different places - me from rural Wiltshire, she from the Wild West - we were very similar people. That always amazes me about traveling, that you can have more in common with a person living thousands of miles away than with someone living next door to you. Or even in the same house, for that matter.

After a quick tour of town, which seemed very Latin American - one-storey, coloured buildings, colonial churches, Mexicans - we went to a barbecue. Tucson is like Flagstaff, in the sense that there are lots of students and there is a distinct lefty vibe. The barbecue was at a friend of Mary's called Autumn, but who everyone calls Pachamama due to her nurturing tendencies. It was a fantastic night, and one that I didn't want to end, but finally did when Mary found me in some guy's house playing the bongos, with Peter on guitar and Eric on the church organ, and dragged me off to begin the long drive back up to Phoenix.

One more word on electrical items:

RIP my digital camera, lost in Tempe on 1st March 2006.

May its soul be joined by those of all the other valuables taken suddenly from me on this trip. GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN.
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