April 01, 2010 GMT
Biloxi Blues

8.3.10 Santa Fe, New Mexico

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"Fat Tire" is, I hope you'll agree, a fabulous name for a foamy amber whistle-wetter. I suppose it's called that because it makes you a) fat and b) tired. Well done, anyway, to Santa Fe's Cowgirl Bar for selling it. Well done, also, to Santa Fe's Wal-Mart for selling Wranglers for 9 GBP. My existing jeans, were, frankly, out of control. The USA doesn't do laundry; you have to go to a stupid thing called a Laundromat and wash your clothes yourself. It's like East Germany in 1974. It's amazing how long you can make four pairs of undercrackers last under these crypto-Marxist conditions, but all good things must come to an end; today I admitted defeat and bought socks, 'crackers and jeans, and I feel reborn.

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What a long, strange trip it's been. I haven't written a word in this book for a month, almost entirely because every time I go to a bar in the USA (which is the only time I can write anything that isn't "got up, took a crap, rode 200 miles, saw something amazing, oiled my chain with RustAway 2000 - brilliant lube!") someone ruins my concentration by being all "Where you from? Watcha doin'? Argentina? Wow!" It's excellent.

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I enter this fine land at Brownsville, Texas: an utterly awful and comprehensively depressing shitfarm. Entry into the US, customs-wise, is easy here and I'd recommend it as a crossing-point. Just don't hang about. (Brownsville customs guy on reading my numberplate; "GB - what's that, Sweden?" Let's be nice and say he thought it stood for Gothenburg).

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Approaching New Orleans, I decide to check hotel prices in advance. I'm amazed to find out that I'm going to arrive bang in the middle of Mardi Gras - great! - and that the hotels are opening the bidding at $200. That's just not feasible, even for a night, so I carry on eastwards to Mississippi and the grave of Bill Hicks.

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Thanks to the superbly monomaniacal Weather Channel, I'm missing snow and ice by just miles, and I arrive at Magnolia Cemetery, Leakesville, Mississippi in cold blue sunshine. A lovely old dear in the flower shop next door phones Bill's aunt to check where the grave is. It's simple, subtle and sad.
Bill Hicks was 32.

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I bugger off back west to New Orleans for some lager therapy, now Mardi Gras is over.

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Holy Jesus and all the merry saints of Hell! N'Awlins redefines mental. Walk down Bourbon St at 9am on a wet Monday morning in February and you'll pass more than one bar full of shouting-drunk degenerates watching a razor-tight bar band and sucking down Shrimp Po'Boys for "breakfast". And this is after Mardi Gras, after the month-long party that followed the N.O. Saints winning the SuperBowl (an American washing-up contest). There's something disconcerting about the concept of the 24-hour bar, the bar that never closes. You go there, drink beer, shuffle home, sleep - and then walk past it the next day feeling like you've missed out on something by going home. Which you have.

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"What hurricane?" seems to be the motto 'round these parts. N.O. slides easily into my Top Five Cities In The Americas list. (Buenos Aires, Cuzco, La Paz, N.O., Cuenca. And NYC. Top Six. And Antigua. *punches self in eye*)

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Bars with Black Sabbath on the jukebox are far thinner on the ground, globally speaking, than they ought to be. Subdivide that category into bars that are open FOR EVER as opposed to those that close and you're left with just one, as far as I can tell. Obviously I can't remember what it's called, but it's in N.O. somewhere. Maybe these people can help.

Down these parts, every other building is a Baptist church. I have no idea which particular flavour of nutbaghood characterises Baptist dogma, but I can tell you that the actual buildings are ugly like baboon scrot.

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FFS! It's "makes ONE weak..." oh never mind...

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Biloxi's a surprise. I don't know why it should be - I've only heard of it because of Biloxi Blues, but in real life it's several miles of white sand and pretty wooden colonial houses. So nice that I roar away from the cig-break bus-stop forgetting that my backpack is balanced on a pannier.
"I say! How comfortable I feel!" I think, before, some two miles later, realising why. ARSE-HEAD. I execute a gloriously illegal and hair-thinningly dangerous u-turn, and try to remember which of the 40 intervening bus-stops I left it in. 1.95 miles later I spot my bag. Fanx, The Universe...

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Posted by Simon Fitzpatrick at April 01, 2010 01:55 AM GMT

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