I am not allowed to travel on the Tour Bus. It is company policy. The bus is well stocked with alcoholic comestibles. There are games. And late night people – that I like – to talk to. And the thrum of an engine to be heard above. It is obvious I would over-indulge in these activities and would bark myself into voicelessness.
It is established. I am banished and consequently so is Tim, our tour manager, whose responsibility, amongst other things, is to deposit me – intact – at the appropriate venue in a timely fashion. He is thorough. The band and crew have a long, 2 driver, 16 hour bus drive ahead. They had the option to fly, but preferred to hunker down in their rolling den. I hope they emerge smiling. I am not going to look too microscopically. I feel every shift in the air and even those I only imagine. The hope was that we would be at our hotel destination in Portland, Tim and I, by 6pm. I was going to wash my stage shirts in the sink then luxuriate in stillness and an early bed. Unfortunately, probably more so for the bird, the plane we expected hit the fore mentioned, and now our flight is delayed by more than 2 hours. All the shit going on in the world and a long sit down at an airport is worthy of comment? Shut the fuck up you graceless moron. Tosser. It’s a diary. I know. So that’s what happened. Yeah. Well.
We gained a couple of hours getting into Portland. That was an unexpected bonus. Research, Mo! After only a 15 min drive we were at our hotel. My room is lovely. It says standard on the room list and if it is, well done you! The manager has been very thoughtful and a humidifier has been put in my room. I am exceptionally glad of this as the trouble I have been experiencing turns out, is a cold. My throat burns. I sent my ‘just in case’ medication back when I was luggage culling. That’ll teach me. I kept aside one dose. Not entirely foolhardy. Dumped bags and found an Italian around the corner. Another meatball take out. TV. Dosed up. Slept well.
This morning I go in search of a Pharmacy. My hotel guide lists all eventualities but this. I am glad I kept a coat. It’s cold.
Google Maps is on the vino again and sends me anywhere it fancies and nowhere near a chemist. I ask a couple of people but they all seem nervous of standing too close and point in vague directions. None of them fruitful. There are lots of demountable food concessions here. Selling every foreign cuisine. Bright photo boards showing their dishes. They outline car parks and front the roadsides. There are also lots of trees.
People gather in huddles on the corners and some tents have been erected on the curbs. One man shouts into his neighbour’s tent. What the fuck are we up for then?! A woman replies unseen from her shelter, unflustered – I’m not. There are lots of homeless people here. The world over.
I find a studious looking lad and at last I am given a good call. I find a chemist. No LemSip but something that threatens to fuck up my liver. Medicine is scary business in this country. I buy it nonetheless. Over the road is a bar that does breakfast. I get eggs and ham and a yard of coffee. The man on the next table, an out of towner, is chatty. This is unfortunate. I’m on a no-talking regime.
‘No’ – I demonstrate a Welsh accent.
‘I’m Welsh’, he says.
He sounds American.
‘You on holiday?’
‘No.’ I tell him. ‘Working.’
‘Are you an American?’
‘No. (I’m still British) I have a visa.’
‘It’s terrible over there’, he says.
‘I think you get an exaggerated version.’ I reply.
‘All those yashmacs.’ He mimes a veil. ‘It must be terrible that you’ve had your culture taken away and their laws replace yours.’
‘They haven’t.’ I say. ‘You have far more trouble with guns and your own people shooting your own.’ I feel irritated.
‘It’s the Wild West.’ He says.
I look at both our expanding girths and think there’s nothing wild going on in here.
I turn back to my breakfast and the small dent I have made in it.
‘They have big breakfasts in Britain, don’t they?’
He finishes his steak and gets the check.
I’m lost. I’m glad I brought the hotel map. Still I walk in the wrong direction, but now it seems, into the nice part of town. I think, with a local, I would see some very different sights. I always turn the wrong way. It is a geographical fact in my life. I get in a cab.