Category Archives: Travel

Bus Trip To Camden

Here’s a short video what I done when we were in London in February. Features:

  • a little commentary
  • very shaky camerawork
  • a kaleidoscopically scratched bus window
  • the song Grapefruit by Warm Digits, now available as a remix by a certain Justin Robertson – er, hello!

Europe Endless

Arrived in London yesterday, to find it refreshingly not as bastard freezing as Berlin, although pretty cold anyway. After getting my pay-as-you-go vouchers from Smiths (how the old habits return!) I got on the Picadilly into the city.
It has to be said, for the glamour of international travel, when you land at Heathrow you’re basically arriving in Hounslow.
Riding through the outskirts, I listened to my current “jam” (ugh) The Advisory Circle, which goes quite nicely with snow-strewn signal boxes and trees. Upon arrival at Leicester Square, I set up shop in Pret A Manger and got connected to wifi. A few texts and messages, and I’d arranged to meet with Friend James from popular beat combo blog Both Bars On, mentioned hear many times before. We met at the Chandos, which is as charming as ever, and we had one of our usual fractally-branching conversations, as logged here before. Then it was down to Clapham to our esteemed hosts for part of this trip, Francois and Claire. I’m writing this their kitchen before heading out into the London day for a wander. Claire is a filmmaker, so she and Cassie have lots to talk about, and Francois makes very good music under the name Franz Kirmann.
Francois and I went out for a very nice French dinner at a local place, the Abbeville Kitchen, where we talked at length about, well, pretty much everything (not literally duh), including music, synths, noise, web stuff and so on. This part of Clapham is a lot like where I used to live in Tooting, but with bigger, nicer houses, better restaurants, and bilingual schools. Duly noted.
From Berlin to a London pub to French food to very comfortable bed, it’s good to be back.

All The Way Down The East Coast

This was after the third shower that day

This was after the third shower that day

Well, actually just New York City, but I couldn’t resist getting in a quote from a KLF track. Cassie and I just got back from a short trip to NYC, and I’ll be writing up the trip in a day or so. Lots of work to catch up on first. But Cassie already put her photos up, so take a gander*. It was a great time, if rather uncomfortable thanks to the July NYC swamp weather.

* UPDATE: The photos still need to be tagged and titled properly, so please hold your horses.

My TSA Opt-out Story

[Found this on my phone – I’d started writing it using the very good WordPress Android app, then failed to follow through – what are the chances?]

I’m in Legends of San Francisco, the sports bar near our departure gate at SFO. We’re flying to Las Vegas for Xmas – Cassie’s folks are there, and her brother and his family will be there as well so we’re all heading down there.

I’d forgotten about the new body scanning machines. They look a bit like the machine Sam Malone uses in Quantum Leap, crossed with a smaller version of the giant machine in Contact, but without the dry ice and catastrophic failure. I’ve read a lot about these things, and the horror stories about pregnant ladies, children, people in wheelchairs and so on. So here’s my less-than-dramatic experience.

After I put my stuff in the trays, I stood for a second, and then the TSA person waved me toward the scanner. I said I preferred to opt out. There was a flicker of annoyance on the TSA guy’s face, perhaps a very slight eye-roll, and I was asked to stand aside. I had to wait a second because it was busy (although not as busy as we’d expected) they had to bring someone over.

The guy asked me why I wanted to opt out. I said it was because of the issues surrounding storage of the images, and (stupidly) because of the dangers of the radiation. He said that there was no danger from the radiation, and that the images were stored in a computer “just behind that wall there”. Why the location of the stored images of my family jewels matters, I don’t know. I didn’t say anything to that, but it’s well know that despite the TSA claiming that the machines cannot store images, despite the unpleasant (and obvious) fact that they TOTALLY CAN.

I am annoyed with myself for mentioning the radiation. I guess I was a little nervous, so I wanted to say what other people seem to be saying, but I know pretty well the “radiation” is a lower dose than you would get just be being at 30,000 feet anyway.

The second TSA guy took me aside, I stood on the mat with my feet in the foot marks, and he did the enhanced patdown. It wasn’t so bad, it was mostly like the regular one: all around the arms, legs, waist, back and front. When it came to the groinal areas, he went as far as the upper thigh and no further. There was no cupping. It wasn’t like the bit from Andrew Dice Clay about an examination at the doctors, “Then he starts jugglin’ my cojones like he’s looking fer ripe tomaters! I said ‘back off man this ain’t no fuckin’ social call!'”.

That was that. Cassie opted out as well, and she says it was the same for her with her TSA lady. All pretty friendly, and utterly pointless. But just to reiterate: There was no cupping.

Two-Wheel Stallions

Friend Brian, aka Zom-B, founder of the Vespastics Scooter Club and the Black Pudding Motorcycle Club, host of the Moto Zombi parties in North Hollywood, bass player with The Crazees, makeup artist, and so much more besides is off to Sturgis*.

Brian and his friend Ethan left LA yesterday, and they plan to reach North Dakota by the weekend.

Check it out.

* yup, you can be both a scooter rider and a biker.

Trip II The UK (2010 Mix)

This is an updated draft itinerary for Cassie’s and my trip to the UK in 2010.

  • Fly Sunday 27th June – DONE
  • Arrive Monday 28th June – DONE
  • Stay with James & Siobhan at first – DONE, LOVELY
  • Stay in London couple of days – DONE
  • Train to Bedford on Thursday 1st July / picked up by brother – DONE
  • Stay in Bedford Thursday night – DONE
  • Friday 2nd July – do Bedford things, show Cassie my home town, school etc – DONE
  • Friday afternoon – Travel to Reading to see sister – DONE
  • Stay in Reading Friday night – DONE
  • Saturday 3rd July – Matthew travel to London, Cassie travel to Bristol – DONE
  • Stay in a hotel Monday 5th – Thursday 8th
  • Fly back to San Francisco on Thursday July 8th

At some point I need to sort out Tooting flat.

Foods From Distant Lands And Also The UK

I came home today to find a parcel from the UK with some happily familiar handwriting on it. It turned out to be a food parcel from my good pal Fleshisgrass, whom I miss terribliy and look forward to seeing in the next couploe of months.

The Teva shoe box contained some pretty exotic stuff, and I will need to consult the sender to ask what I can do with it. My first question will be, “Can an omelet be improved with the addition of Asafoetida Powder?” I see her game – a sneaky way to get me to get in touch.

In addition to said powder, the box contains:

  • Charmagaz
  • Chili/Lemon Cassava Chips
  • Kala Nimak
  • Kalonji
  • Salted Tamarind
  • Anardina (Pomegranate) Seeds
  • Sesame Almonds
  • Brown Rice Vermicelli
  • Black Till Seeds

Not stuff I’m used to, by any means, despite having lived in South West London for ten years. The chips and anardina seeds will just be snacks at work. But I’m going to make an effort to put them all to good use. Anyone have any recipes?

Flesh, thank you. I miss you pal, and I’ll see you soon.

A-Movin’ And A-Truckin’

Cassie and I moved in together, at the same time moving north to San Francisco. Double whammy! Luckily, my company paid for the move, so we were able to sit back and relax as paid men boxed all our crap personal effects and loaded it onto trucks.

They were amazingly quick, because they weren’t distracted by everything they picked up, like books or scraps of paper, they just packed everything in their path. They were like locusts, it was incredible. We had to shift all of the stuff they weren’t to take out of the way. That was easier for me, because I was living alone in San Diego, and I had a spare room. I just put my suitcase and the stuff I was taking by car in there and told them to ignore it. It was harder for Cassie, because she had a roommate, and lots of his stuff was mixed up with hers, especially in the kitchen.

But because they were so quick, they also ended up packing some stuff that was a little unnecessary. They would open a drawer, take a sheet of their wrapping paper, grab a handful of the drawer contents, and wrap it up, almost without looking at it. This meant that when we were unpacking, we would open a bundle of paper to find that they had wrapped a couple of paper clips, a half-burned tea light and some lint. If we had packed, it would have taken ages, but we would have purged at the same time. As it was, while unpacking at the other end we filled the trashcan twice over, and the recycling bin, and two or three boxes for the thrift store.

It was kind of embarrassing to have them running up and down stairs in San Diego on a very hot day, while I literally just sat on the sofa. There was nowhere else to sit, the sofa wasn’t being moved, and it was out of the way. I walked to 7-11 and got them cold drinks, but other than that I was just hanging around, keeping out of their way and answering questions from time to time.

Once they had left me alone in my little place in San Diego, Rimah, the best landlord I’ve ever had, came over and we did the paperwork and final sorting out. Then it was time to hit the road, first to LA, where Cassie had just said goodbye to all her stuff as the movers whisked it away.

Her place looked weird, completely empty. I don’t think her roommate had much of an idea how much of the furniture was hers. A blank slate, so he can make his mark. We spent a day or so making final preparations, meeting friends, feeling too hot thanks to the local brushfires, and getting psyched up. Then we hit the road, Cassie in her Jeep and me in my Audi, stopping first at Home for a final breakfast. We didn’t plan to drive caravan the whole way, but that’s the way it ended up. We got a mighty convoy, ain’t she a beautiful sight, only with Bluetooth instead of CB Radio. We only got split up in the morass to pay your toll and get over the Bay Bridge into San Francisco itself. Once we arrived, we had a bit of a rest before inflating our temporary air beds and getting comfortable before the delivery of our stuff.

In San Francisco it was the same embarrassing situation. I stood there with a clipboard, while the movers dealt with the stairs, boxes, and sweat. When they left, Cassie and I were stuck with the task of trying to make all this stuff fit in our apartment. We’re still trying now,  but slowly and surely we’re getting there.

After unpacking, we had a dozen boxes filled with flattened other boxes and wrapping paper. A call to the movers and they came and collected that as well, for reuse or recycling.

And here we are! It’s been couple of weeks, and we’re pretty settled, but there are some boxes around the place which whisper to us and make us feel guilty when we watching whatever’s On Demand on the cable. Soon, my boxy friends. Soon.

Catalina Birthday Express, April 2009

Cocktails on Catalina - click for the full setMy quest to visit every place associated with a Will Ferrell film continues. I live in San Diego (discovered by the Germans, who called it San Diago, apparently), and for Cassie’s birthday we went to Catalina, home of course to the f*ckin’ Catalina Wine Mixer.

I’d never heard of the place until seeing that movie, and I didn’t realise it was an island off the Californian coast. I assumed it was a nice exclusive place on the coast somewhere. It turns out to be a beautiful place, with just a couple of small towns, and the same seaside atmosphere as Mevagissey and Brixham (or Ventnor), but with Pacific cruise liners dropping by.

We took the catamaran Catalina Express ferry from Long Beach, which is a bit like San Diego, in that it has boats and bars. It took about a hour to get there, first cruising slowly past the Long Island docks where my shipped stuff arrived, then across the channel to Avalon, the main settlement on the island.

Cassie’s parents’ friends had offered us the use of their holiday home there, which was beyond generous. It’s a beautiful place up on the hill, complete with balconies, lovely kitchen and living space, and an electric golf cart to get around. There is a law which only allows a certain number of regular cars on the island, which means there is a waiting list to have one. So most people have a petrol or electric golf cart, which suffices for getting around the town, to the grocery store and so on. It was very welcome, because it’s quite a hilly place – as you’d expect from a rock rising out of the ocean. There were many different styles of cart – regular Yamaha and Club Car models, as well some amusing custom jobs. In addition to the golf carts were many scooters and mopeds, and I noticed there were no regular sedan/saloon cars, only pickup trucks and SUVs. I guess every vehicle has to really earn it’s keep, so no single-purpose stuff here.

The first afternoon on the island we just had a quick look round the house, then set off down the hill in the cart to find food. There are a few places along the main drag on the seafront, and it was lovely to relax on the dock with a drink and take in the bay. Because it was the off-season, things were pretty quiet, and it wasn’t the hottest weather either. It was beautiful though, no question. Click on the photo above for some photos on Flickr.

The second day we rode inland to the Wrigley Memorial Gardens, a horticultural attraction dedicated to William Wrigley Jr, the chewing gum magnate who was so instrumental in the development of the island. The memorial at it’s center, built by his widow, was a striking monolithic thing, with even more great views of the valley leading down to the bay. The garden was full of native and exotic plants, with the cacti catching my eye as usual. Catching my ear were a few woodpeckers, which you could see hopping up and down the palm trunks.

We also went for a tour of the Casino, which has a fascinating history of big band dances, and no gambling whatsoever, due to it being a casino by the original Italian, meaning “place of entertainment”. It had rich decor, innovative internal structure for the time (excuse the enthused engineer), and a huge dancehall above a grand old movie theatre, both still in use. It’s a real icon of the island, and a real landmark of the bay.

Later that evening we took a night-time semi-submersible boat ride out into Lover’s Cove, where the kelp forests cover the rocks. We sat in the belly of the boat, looking through the underwater windows, while the flood lights illuminated the nocturnal community. Spiny lobsters by the dozen, bright orange Garibaldi here and there, and even a couple of lumpy-looking horn sharks. On the way back they switched the floodlights off and you could see the tiny flashes of light as the boat disturbed the bioluminescent plankton. Apparently the hotels on the seafront use seawater to flush the toilets, and if you turn the bathroom light off you can see the flashing lights in the bowl. I’m sure cocktails could have the same effect.

Talking of which, Cassie had her birthday while we were over there, so we celebrated with goldfish bowls full of booze, followed by driving around in a golf cart while giggling.

Nautical Coincidence

I was helping Cassie clear out some stuff, including loads of old papers, and we found the paperwork for when she had her belongings shipped from London to Las Vegas via New York. I don’t know how much unlikely this is, or whether it is a perfectly reasonable coincidence, but her stuff was shipped London-New York in June 2005 on the exact same ship that carried mine London-Los Angeles in June 2008.

If it was the same route I would be less intrigued; they probably just go back and forth constantly. But in 2005 it just went across the Atlantic, whereas in 2008 it crossed the Pond and then nipped through the Panama Canal. What are the chances? Just an intriguing coincidence, or (anecdotal) evidence of a higher power with his/her/its hand at the controls?