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Poe's North American Tour '99

Episode 13: Dead Englishman's Gulch

Back in about 1981 when we bought an Acorn BBC Micro and I started to play with home computers, one of the most popular types of game was the flight sim. You were the pilot with most of the keys on the keyboard controlling what seemed like an eternity of different functions. There were real and imaginary airports to try and land your plane in, and some were pretty challenging. I can't think of many more challenging than San Diego, CA.

I'd arrived at the Dallas Fort Worth airport with a few seconds to spare, thanks to Becky's inside knowledge of how the place works, and I enjoyed the flight over stark landscapes to Californian sunshine. I must also have been the only person on the plane not to have a clue who the celebrity was a few seats back on the other side. Some pop star is all I know, though the name of his group was all over the tapes and CDs that most of the kids on the flight were carting his way for a quick signature. Sometimes it all makes me feel old. And hey - I don't care hehe. The youth of today can keep Wacko Jacko, I'm happy with Billie Holliday and Robert Johnson and Tchaikovsky. And Nuclear Assault as well... what's wrong with diversity anyway?

But I digress, as always. It had been pointed out that I should keep a sharp eye on the window as we descended into San Diego and it was good advice. San Diego has one runway, which is surrounded by plenty of high buildings - the pilot has to swerve round the things to angle in for landing. I can imagine the new guy in the office being told that no, that wasn't Superman - it really was a plane flying past the window...

My second surprise was to find Vertue (aka about seven hundred other handles - she was BlueLestat when I first met her) waiting at luggage retrieval for me. She is a wonderful person and a wonderful friend, but if it wasn't such a bad pun I'd say she'd be late for her own funeral. She was also the only player on the entire tour that I'd previously met and it was good to meet her on her home turf. I hadn't even met the other player soon to fly out to join us from England, even though he lived a mere four hundred miles away from me. In England that's the other end of the country...

But we had a few days before Treacle got here and we got plenty done. Teri needed to work some and I was glad to help - she's in the same business that I am (in fact the main reason we're such good friends is because our lives have been uncanny parallels for some time). We walked or drove around San Diego for a while too to see the diversity that is resident there.

Unfortunately we couldn't stop at the junction at the start/end of the airport runway and look up to see the planes coming down forty feet above our heads - now that would have been a stunning photo! We did get to eat at an incredible seafood restaurant surrounded by huge yachts, and watch sharks nipping in to gradually deplete underwater whirlwinds of fish at the domed OmniMax theatre in the Reuben H Fleet Science Center. I got to sample a restaurant that was merely a huge salad bar, which is my kind of place nowadays - and I really wouldn't have said that ten years ago. And we drove up to a huge cross on a hill that is perhaps the highest thing in San Diego, to gaze out at the surrounding countryside.

I also got to see the lesbian bar a block or two from Teri's house but she didn't take a picture of me in front of it. It's one of the strangest and yet longest lasting of Cosmo rumours that I'm a lesbian. Maybe it's my army boots and butch cropped haircut that do it - hang on, whose picture is this? I'm a bearded male - I would have thought that meant I'm not very qualified to be a lesbian? But no, I'm LadyRobin's lesbian lover and I'm signgirl and I lose track... When Tracy was over here last year, we saw a t-shirt in a shop in London that was unfortunately closed - but I really ought to buy the thing to wear back to Texas this summer. I wonder how long I could wander round in a shirt reading 'Nobody Knows I'm a Lesbian' before I see the wrong end of a shotgun.

The strangest time we had was our side trip out into the desert east of San Diego to meet up with Bagavadgita, whose name suggests Indian or Pakistani though Gitta is actually Dutch. The idea had been thrown around for a while and we had an open invitation and address and phone number and everything, but no set date to meet up. And of course, when we headed out on a whim, stopping every once in a while to ring up to warn her that were on our way, the line was always busy. She was online...

The scenery that we drove through on the way to Julian was stunning, and we soon found it to be not far off the middle of nowhere. It seemed a very friendly place though and I chatted away with the owner of the local garage (gas station) for a while - regarding my quest to try all the strange American foods, he recommended a yoohoo which is some sort of chocolate milkshake. It was good too, not that I ate much in California - it was good to lose some of the weight I'd put on elsewhere. He sorted out our directions too and we left civilisation on our way into the desert.

Once we left the highway, things looked very different. There were no 'roads' out here, there were 'trails', and they had all sorts of weird and wonderful names straight out of Louis l'Amour or Zane Grey. We navigated around Moonshine this and Gunslinger that and hoped we didn't find a Dead Englishman's Gulch. And I calmly strolled up to Gitta's house twenty minutes drive from the nearest bit of civilisation and knocked on the door. It had to happen to her one day hehe. I was thinking about the classic sf tale of the last man on earth living out his days in total isolation only to hear a knock on the door...

And she was happy to see us and we promptly headed out to eat and chat and yoohoos suddenly seemed pretty normal as I sampled the delights of buffalo burgers in a pleasant restaurant over the road from a shop selling a vast range of bizarre types of jerky. Kangaroo jerky anyone?

Of course nothing is ever quite that simple, and Teri and I were stopped in the middle of the desert by a local policeman wondering if we happened to be illegal Mexican immigrants. Like we'd pull up next to him in a car if we were... did he think we were going to ask directions to the nearest Taco Bell?

Anyway, it was a fun meal - the food was good and the company was great and that's almost all anyone can wish for. Mostly we talked about the UK site for a change - Teri plays there rather than the US and Gitta plays both. Somehow it should have felt strange but didn't. I'm English but play the US site and here I was with two Californians who preferred the UK...

Teri and I only had a few days before we were to pick up Treacle from the airport, but it was a good couple of days, however late Teri was for everything LOL. We were on time to meet Treacle though - maybe Teri's just OK with airports... By the way, for you Americans who have strange names for everything, your word for treacle is molasses - which is far less descriptive even if Alannah Myles may not have had as much success with 'the sun is setting like treacle in the sky...'.

We headed straight off to a quote traditional English pub unquote to see just how traditional English it actually was - and like the quote traditional Welsh fish 'n' chip shop unquote just north of Detroit, it was similar but not quite the same.

And like everyone else on the entire tour the staff at the traditional English pub didn't even realise I was English - my strange mix of southern English (first eleven years) and northern English (the rest) makes me sound ever more like an Aussie. Of course the Aussies think I sound like the Beatles, so it works both ways I guess.

There was only one night left in San Diego before heading north all the way up to San Francisco, again an almost horrifically long drive for an Englishman, but nothing for Teri who commutes it often enough. Treacle and I spent the morning chatting away by the hotel pool, sampling the delights of local doughnuts (donuts - maybe ours just have more ugh) while we waited for Teri who had got held up again. Then it was a drive round some dubious beach areas in LadyTi's old neighbourhood before setting off up the long highway past signs warning us about Mexicans crossing...

Previous Episode: 'Here, Kitty! Kitty!'.
Next Episode: Fog Didn't Come Up the Bay.

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