Thursday, 28 October 2010

Hot, hot, hot in Havasu

At getting-up time the other morning J. and I had a conversation about the most god-forsaken places we'd ever been to.

With sincerest apologies to the myriad of US friends who come here every day to drink deep at this well of Englishness, our thoughts simultaneously and without any prompting crossed the Atlantic and ended up in south-west Arizona.

J. said she found the mostly empty trailer parks between the ill-named town of Hope and Salome truly depressing. I agreed they were pretty desperate, but thought a desolation called Lake Havasu City, a bit further north, took the prize. Lake Havasu City is built (as you might have guessed) on the shore of Lake Havasu, an artificial lake made by damming the Colorado river. It seems to be a place dedicated to power boats and architectural curios.

Here, crossing an arm of Lake Havasu, is the old London Bridge. Not the one with houses built on it and traitors' heads fresh from the executioner's block displayed on poles, but the much later one opened in 1831. I remember walking across this bridge a few years before it was sold in the late 60s.

A US oilman called McCulloch bought it, block by numbered block, transported it to Arizona and re-built it on the site of Lake Havasu City. There's apparently no truth in the rumour that McCulloch thought he was buying the much grander Tower Bridge. It was built first, as the photo above shows, before the watercourse beneath it was excavated and allowed to fill. Before the town was built, it seems.

We fetched up one September evening a few years ago at Lake Havasu City, on our way from the Grand Canyon (named, incidentally, after the River Grand, now called Colorado river: Grand Rapids further upstream is an echo of the old name) to Palm Springs, east of Los Angeles. It was stiflingly hot, about 45ยบ.

The Howard Johnson motel, fully automated (breakfast, often my favourite meal, came out of coin-operated slot machines) was some way out of town. I proposed walking into town for something to eat, passing the endless power boat yards, but J., ever as prudent as practical, turned this zany idea down flat on account of the temperature.

So we drove down, parked, marvelled at the not very convincing attempts to evoke Old London Town with multicoloured plastic half-timbered eateries advertising traditional London fare like tacos and fajitas, and then walked over London Bridge. It was much narrower than I remembered it, and in the heat the tar stuck to my shoes. In the restaurant the other side of the bridge I asked for a cold bread roll with my swordfish steak, instead of the piping hot one I was given. The waitress looked at me as though I was some kind of cloacal gift from from a passing bird and said no, it wasn't possible.

'This roll must have been cold before you heated it,' I argued.
'Nope,' she said. 'We just do them hot.'
'You couldn't possibly find me a cold one?'
'I just told you, we only do them hot.'
'Not even if I paid extra for a cold one?'
'Jeez, we only got them hot. You Australian or something?'
'No, I'm not Australian. I'd like a cold roll so that when I butter it the butter doesn't melt. Is that too much to ask?'

Clearly it was. I gave up. If Spadoman had been there he would have sorted it out for me. He wouldn't have stood for it. Or Charlene, of course. She knows what's what. Maybe it was revenge for leaving deposits of tar on their stairs.

Next morning we were searched as we crossed from Arizona into California. They were looking for illegal imports of fruit and vegetables. Huh. Fat chance of finding forbidden fruit in Lake Havasu City. Or cold rolls. Or anything.


Dave said...

The most god-forsaken place? Hmmm. Have you been to Skegness in the winter?

Or in the summer, come to that.

Christopher said...

No, Dave. There are limits.

Charlene said...

McCulloch's mistake in purchasing a lesser bridge proves that you don't have to be smart to be rich and also, the study of history will help you make good decisions later in life!

I agree with you about southwest Arizona in the US being the most godforsaken place on earth!

I once got lost in the dessert between Tucson and Sierra Vista Arizona. I was there to visit my mother, who it turned out was dying. I flew from Louisville to AZ with only a carry on bag and a book. Got up the next morning early and began driving. This is a 50 mile trip. Do not ask me to explain how I got lost, but I did.

I spent hours driving through the dessert on small unlined roads past houses and trailers which looked abandoned. If someone tells you that trashy people only live in the hills of Kentucky, they are wrong. I saw cars on blocks, appliances in the front yard and sofas on the front porch. I never saw people. They were probably inside their homes with the air conditioning going full blast. I imagined they only came out to sit on the sofa after dark and drink beer.

Much later, I finally got to Sierra Vista and the "personal care home" my sister had stuck my mother in, and spent time with her, though I don't believe she knew who I was. She died less than ten days later.

When I got back home I told Lenny all about it. He laughed so hard he doubled over.

Nick said...

I'm trying to imagine a Scot with a French accent. And what to they stuff haggis with, frogs' legs?

Christopher said...

Charlene: Hi. Afraid I had to get out the map to find Sierra Vista, but now I've found it I quite see how easy it would be to lose yourself there.

Nobody has ever told me that trashy people live in Kentucky. For my imagined notion of Kentuckians you are the very model and ideal.

Nick: Thanks for dropping in. While you're here (coffee? beer? glass of wine?) you might like to lighten yourself of those misconceptions: a) I'm not Scottish, tho' I lived there for many years, b) I don't speak English with a French accent, quite the reverse, and c) I've seen haggis consumed in our village when some Scots held a Burns Night and none of the French present called urgently for frog's legs instead. They may just have been being polite, of course.

Z said...

I did a fruit delivery in a quite disturbing street in Bungay. Worse, i couldn't find the house and had to stop people to ask. I don't think I'm quite cut out for hellholes.

The story about the roll made me think of A Town Like Alice. And then I had to work out why. Steak and eggs for breakfast without the steak proved equally impossible to order.

moreidlethoughts said...

I can quite understand why she might have thought you an Australian.

Sarah said...

The most God forsaken place I have been to is Los Ammericanos in Tenerife......(just passing thro to catch the ferry to La Gomera you understand) The high rise hotels and shell suited morons spilling out onto the streets, Irish pubs and burger bars.....eeeew

Obviously the hot rolls were the variety that come partialy cooked vaccume packed ones, and unless you wanted to eat uncooked have to have them hot!! Tsk

Sarah said...

ooops sorry ...spelling...can't be arsed to change it! I blame the earlyness of the hr....and I ahve to go to work!! byeeeeeee

Dave said...

Los Ammericanos sounds like Essex, Sarah.

Christopher said...

Hellholes, Z? Certainly not. Green pastures and Elysian Fields.

MIT: I see what you mean, tho' I can't ever remember meeting an Australian who wasn't courteous, considerate and intelligent. As Dave might say, 'We are not at home to Sir Les Patterson'.

Sah: Spot on. 1 minute in the microwave, like they do in Teneriffe.

Dave: Very likely, like Los Twithiel in Cornwall. (Excuse me for interrupting)

Rog said...

I expect the bridge was rather spoiled by having numbers on all the bricks. If you'd desaturated the colour photo it could have been sold to a painting-by-numbers manufacturer.

Christopher said...

Absolutely, Rog. I knew there was something missing from all those brick wall pictures Dave and Snowflake Z keep sending us. Numbers on every brick. Bring your own paintbrush. Not too late, is it? We could have it done as a surprise for Z. when she gets back from Malta.

It takes a man of your breadth of vision to see these things.

mig said...

One of the things I love about your blog, oh most erudite one, is opportunity to investigate words that I think I understand but am not completely confident about. So I wikipeded cloaca. What an astonishing amount more information is there than anyone could possibly need on the subject.
(I say nothing of words about which I know nothing. But there have been a few. It's all thoroughly educational)

Christopher said...

Well Mig I'm really glad you enjoy it here, and I'm always more than pleased when you put in an appearance, but I wish you'd had a more rewarding word than 'cloacal' to look up. I'm afraid any semblance of erudition is so threadbare as to be see-through.

Spadoman said...

Your first mistake was not to consult me in the first place. I've been to Havasu, the placed sucks, (American vernacular). I don't have many places in the entire state of Arizona that I have ever liked, well, there is a good coffee shop in Mesa and the Organ Stop is worth a trip from anywhere on earth.
New Mexico, directly to the East of Arizona, is by far better in many ways, starting with the heat. Havasu's weather is only nice when you are visitibng there in the middle of Winter, January and February, when it's cold enough to freeze the proverbial witch's mammarys.(another American colloquialism).

Peace my friend, you are a gem amongst stones.

Christopher said...

If I'd known you in 2001 when we made this epic journey - a mere skip and a hop to you - you would have been the very first person to be consulted. (I gave Desert Center, Ca. some consideration, but decided on balance it had a lot more going for it than L. Havasu City.)

Peace, dear friend, and proud to be associated with the man who put 'I can' into American. One day we may actually meet.