American Tour Diary: Blog 6 – Oklahoma City to Dallas, Texas
Monday 14th March 2011
Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
After all the dizzying excitement of the Meramec Caves, it is fortunate that we have a long journey ahead of us to regain a little composure back down on planet Earth. We speed along towards Oklahoma through bleak expanses of Missouri's vast open landscape, until gradually the sky begins to turn black and swollen like a nasty bruise. We have now entered Tornado Alley. This, I have been told is the name given to the strip of adjoining states from Kansas through to Texas, infamous for its frequency of Tornados. Tour manager Keef begins to get excited.
“Have you seen Twister?!! That would be so cool wouldn’t it?”
I cast my mind back to a hazy memory of Bill Paxton doing his best serious face amongst some flying tractors and many people dying.
“No, actually Keef I don’t think that would be too cool.”
Again I am starting to see a different side to him. In London Keef liked to watch the odd DVD and enjoy a drop of Rosé, now though, loose on the Great American Plains and he is sparring with the law and chasing hurricanes. Apparently there is an iPhone Ap that you can download that tells you where all the twisters are. Keef is now downloading it to his phone. I stare out of the window, the rain drops are now bouncing off the windshield like boiled eggs and the sky looks severely pissed off. The Gods are angry. I hope it’s nothing to do with us. The night starts to flash and jagged thunder blazes across the sky illuminating the horizon. It is now so windy that the van is blowing all over the road and we keep veering dangerously close to oncoming traffic. It is a scary experience.
“It’s not working…” Keef bellows over the noise of the rain.
“Can’t get any Wi-Fi…”
“Aw… gutted... that’s a pity.” I shout back. And give a little smirk to myself.
Many torrential drops of rain and several lightning bolts later and we eventually find ourselves smack bang in the middle of Oklahoma City. I have heard a lot about Oklahoma and how it is the historical home of the west and that the Cowboy Museum is a must see, but no-one had forewarned me about the other delights that the city has to offer. Both the National Vacuum Cleaner Museum and the American Pigeon Museum are based here, and to me at this moment in time they both represent a much more satisfying tourist experience than “hey let’s go find a twister.”
We arrive at the hotel and it is a bit of a step up from the tired travel lodges we have been getting used to. A twenty floor Renaissance Marriot with around a billion rooms.
Every hotel is starting to look the same to me now. Normally when you go on holiday you leave your hotel room and make a little mental note of the room number and how to retrace your steps when you return. In the last three weeks I have had to do this about twenty times, and if you factor in the nightly alcohol consumption, then the chances of me actually ever finding my hotel room again are getting slimmer with every passing moon. I have already gone back to the wrong room more times than I care to remember – mixing up door numbers and corridors from previous hotels and such, and so I have now adopted a genius system. I stick an apple sticker on my door. Today I don’t have any fruit on me so I opt instead for an “I got lucky in Kentucky” one and hope that the maid sees the funny side.
We only have about an hour before we have to leave for tonights show – a private event at a fan’s house in the Oklahoma suburbs. Rob thus decides that now is the perfect time to go and use the gym and jacuzzi, and it absolutely has to be now. We have a little exchange of words and he assures me that he will be back in our room by 7pm. Predictably 7pm comes and no Rob. 7.10pm and still no sign. His phone sits comfortably next to me on the bed (“Why would I need to take my phone to the gym?”). It is now 7.25pm, and although the idea of going to look for him seems rather futile given the size of the building, Keef and I agree it is our only real option. We enter the lobby and don’t have to look too far. There tucked in amongst the impressive indoor foliage, casually thumbing through the pages of the Oklahoma Gazette whilst sipping a skinny latte, sits our man.
“What the eff are you doing?” Keef and I enquire, voices moderately raised.
A middle-aged business woman nearby peeks over the top of her Forbes magazine.
“Well I tried to find the room, but then I couldn’t find it. So I came back down to the front desk and asked them if they could tell me the room number that went with my key card... They said they couldn’t do that for security purposes, cos for all they know I had just found the card on the floor. So they asked me what name my room was booked under. I told them I didn’t know because someone else had booked the room for us, and so they asked me if I had anyones phone number and I said no cos I’d left my phone in the room. They asked me what my number is, but I didn't know that either because it's my new American phone. They said they were sorry but if I didn’t know the room number, the name the room was booked under, the number of anyone staying in the room or even my own phone number, then there wasn’t really anything they could do…."
"So.. I thought I’d have coffee.”
I stare at him in disbelief. My genius sticker theory is useless if you can’t even remember what floor you are staying on.
“Was the gym any good?” Keef enquires.
“Yeah they have these tiny TV’s built into the cross trainers so you can watch TV and stuff whilst you’re doing your exercises, proper wicked!”
“Nice!” Keef grins excitedly.
I stare at them both in disbelief. There are no words.
According to Richard our GPS system, if we are to arrive on time we have exactly seventeen minutes to make a thirty-five minute journey. Keef, undeterred by his previous brush with highway patrol, now has seemingly daily battles with Richard over the routes and journey times to our destinations (“2 hours 45 minutes?! To Boston? I bet I can do that in an hour and a half…”).
I think he sees Richard as somebody telling him what to do, like a teacher or something, and he doesn’t like it so he goes all out to prove him wrong. I point out that it’s not like he is an actual person or anything, or even an android with a basic human understanding of right and wrong – it is a GPS system. Keef doesn’t seem to care however, and sees this latest time estimation as some kind of beat-the-clock challenge. Miraculously we make it to the house only seven minutes late and unscathed, although Keef is a tad disappointed that Richard “beat” him. No fifty-thousand dollar cash prize, but still not a bad effort.
Private events are always a lot of fun. It’s a buzz to play really intimate shows in people’s living rooms and definitely helps that the audience usually know the words. I discover a new favorite drink in honey whiskey, and get bestowed with more great gifts and tales of local customs. We have a great night, maybe too much of a great night. Finally Keef ushers us towards the van, beginning a damage limitation mission sensing the impending hangovers of tomorrow. We had planned to do some touristy stuff in the morning. Nevermind. The Vaccum Cleaner Museum will just have to wait.
Tuesday 15th March 2011
Location: Oklahoma City to Dallas, Texas
Wake up hungover and decide my soul finally needs some purification. Decide to try the hotel gym. Well mostly the jacuzzi, but I am curious about the mini TVs that Rob was going on about.
It seems he was very correct. We climb onto parallel cross training machines and begin to exert ourselves. It’s all a little pointless, until that is, The Real Housewives of Orange County simultaneously pops up onto both of our screens. Now we are talking. Suddenly exercise makes a lot more sense. Fifteen minutes later and we are both dripping with sweat and completely unaware of the world around us, engrossed and transfixed by the evils of American television, bodies on autopilot.
“I can’t believe she could do that with both of her cousins!!”
Rob gasps, using what little breath he has left in his lungs.
“And I can’t wait to go to California..” I reply.
Up first though is Texas. I have always wanted to go to Texas. I’m not quite sure why, but I think it probably has something to do with watching TV as a kid and the old romantic notion of Cowboys and Indians. I’d always pictured it as being a land full of wandering lone cowboys whistling the theme tune to the Spaghetti Westerns whilst camping out under the stars, with only their trusty horse - who was also their best friend - for a companion. In my head they were always really cool, living off the land and drinking water from a cactus and stuff. I think I quite fancied this lifestyle. It’s probably why I wanted to be a musician and why I enjoy touring so much.
It feels like a bit of an event as we drive past the “Welcome to Texas” sign and we hang out of the window of the tour van and take some quick snaps to document the occasion.
The conversation then turns to Keef’s newly grown beard.
“I think I’m going to keep it.” He says stroking his chin.
“Now that we’re in Texas, with the cowboys and all that, it seems appropriate somehow.”
“Clint Keefwood!” Rob cackles from the back seat.
Keef eyes himself in the rear view mirror, caressing his bristles.
“Too right.” He says to nobody imparticular, and then turns his attention back to the road, perfecting his 100 yard stare.
Tonight’s show is at Poor David’s Pub in Dallas. It’s a really cool venue on the edge of town with the Dallas skyline looming impressively behind it. Support comes from the highly entertaining Glitter Rose who we’ve heard is billed as the female equivalent to Elvis, and so we arrive early to catch her set. She is great and doesn’t disappoint. Like Elvis she too makes full use of her hips.
“This next ones for anyone who likes their ladies with a little meat on them” she says. “It’s called ‘Double Wide on the Back Side’…”
“Awesome.” says Rob. And anticipating more giration, gets his video camera out.
After Glitter’s set I step outside for some fresh air and bump into a group of young girls passing the venue. They ask me who’s playing tonight. I look up at the huge billboard above the venue. It says my name in massive letters.
They seem amused and clearly think that I am lying.
“You’re English?” one of them quizzes.
“Ha ha your voice sounds funny. It’s awesome. Can you say ‘bitch’?”
I pause for a moment and then slowly comply.
“Oh my God that is so awesome!” they giggle histerically.
“Say it again! Say it again!”
I say it again but this time I throw in a little Hugh Grant. They giggle even more.
“That is so hot.” One of them says.
“I love British accents. Can you say f*** for us? Please? Please? If you do we’ll buy tickets to your show..”
Hmmm I think to myself. Talking to girls was never this easy at school. I bid them a ‘cheerio’ and make my way back inside the venue. Ten minutes later and I see them all again. This time sitting in the front row.
Dallas is a great crowd and it’s a really enjoyable gig. Afterwards I meet David the owner and already he wants to book in another show for my next tour. This is good news as I really wanted to spend a bit longer in Dallas, but tomorrow morning at 7am we have to be in Houston for a FOX news TV appearance, thus meaning we have to leave straight after the show for an overnight drive to make it there on time.
I step out into the parking lot. Clint Keefwood is sat on the bonnet of the van fiddling with the GPS. He looks irate.
“This thing says it’s gonna take us nearly all night to get to Houston, but I’m not having that. I bet you I can do it in under four hours. You never saw Clint Eastwood with a GPS did you?”
“You’re not Clint Eastwood, Keef. Now get in the van.”
Keef hops off the bonnet. I throw my guitar into the back of the van. The parking lot is now deadly silent. In the distance I swear I can hear someone whistling the melody to "For A Few Dollars More". But I can't be sure.