NOTE: this is the long

NOTE: this is the long post I’ve been carrying about on the laptop…

Well, the last day of my trip. After a stroll around the State Capitol building with the guys here (pictures will be posted in due course) and sending them on their way back to Santa Barbara, I went for a stroll down to Esoteric Records (hmm, not *that* esoteric. Clearly standards on this vary internationally. Maybe we need an international code on esoterocity [is that a word?] that could award points on a scale of one to ten. This store would have rated three, by my reckoning, which is better than the record store in the main Downtown Mall that would only have got a one) and then walked around the green and leafy Capitol Park, before going back to the hotel to check out at the last available minute and get a cab to the airport.

Bit suspicious of the cab driver. He was a quiet, older Indian man, driving a battered eighties Volvo. He took my credit card details on an old style hand-written slip. But then we do that back home, so maybe I shouldn’t be so sensitive, and he did have an apparently pukka Sacramento licence badge and car plate. The concierge at the Hyatt seemed to recognise him too. Unless they have a scam running. Hmm. I think I’ll check my business credit card online when I get back to the office. And does every city have a company called Crown Taxis?

Anyhow, I’ve checked in at Sacramento International, and have no problems on my seat, or my seat through from LA to Heathrow, although the plane is full again and there is no chance of an upgrade. But a seat is a seat, and at least it means that I should get back in time to go to Charlie’s party tomorrow night. Goodness knows what state I’ll be in.
Either way, I should be able to wear my groovy new clothes. Clothes are generally cheaper here, as you probably know, so I took the opportunity to make my bank balance US$150 lighter by means of two Claiborne t-shirts (how come you never see Claiborne menswear in England? Liz Claiborne ladies stuff is everywhere), one white and one black, and a white linen long-sleeve shirt and a pair of white trousers from Banana Republic. Trust me on the trousers, ok? The girls thought they were "way cool" when I showed them, although, admittedly, they verge slightly on the Beckham style. Anyway, I’ll wear them to Charlie’s bash and see what the verdict is. One thing is for sure – they’ll show the dirt.

Sacramento International – well, it’s a runway stuck about 12 miles from downtown Sacramento (hence US$35 taxi ride – should have taken the Shuttle that is only $15). In every respect, it makes real the charicature of the typical American domestic airport – flat, unexciting landscape beyond the runway; low, unexciting fifties and sixties buildings that have been refurbished in grey and anonymous nineties style; hoardes of primarily WASP Americans, of all shapes and sizes, drifting around the departure lounge with vacant expressions, or, alternatively, trying desperately to look cool. There are fewer of the California beach dudes and babes here, as it is clear that Sacramento simply ain’t cool, dude. Listening to Amon Tobin whilst taking in this scene makes for a strange outlook.
The airport is busy today (my flight is full, and so is just about every other one going out of here – such are the perils of travelling on a Friday afternoon), so there is a constant stream of announcements calling passengers and offering security warnings ("Keep your bags with you at all times&quot). I’m glad that I’m not flying back via Chicago, which was an option, as all flights that way have been cancelled due to poor weather at O’Hare. The passengers have just been told that they can wait in the terminal, or fly via Washington DC – either way, any hotel costs and onward travel costs would be at their own expense. I guess that as I do more travel around Europe and the rest of the world, there will be occasions when I get bumped, or delayed for some other reason, and end up asleep on an airport lounge floor. I may invest in an mp3 player, as my laptop battery is only good for about four hours, and there are usually no recharging facilities (although the phones at San Francisco have powerpoints by them), and, believe me, you need something to distract you from the human zoo all around.

I made another of those bullet point lists in my notebook the other day – let’s have a look at it:

  • smoking
  • taut redheads
  • fake rock climbing
  • Forever 21 looks more like Forever Pre-Pubescent
  • taffy
  • Macys, Banana Republic (I must have made this list in the mall – this week has become a bit of a blur)
  • Old Town, seems fake
  • shapes in the mall (there’s at least one photo to go with that one)
  • brewpubs
  • overly helpful staff – can I help you?

As before, I’ll gladly expand on any of these topics on request. And I haven’t forgotten those requests that arose from the last list.
And here’s a thing – do women over here get married younger? Ok, ok, maybe the single girl radar is switched on at the moment (god, a transatlantic relationship would be such a bad idea, so don’t worry, I’m not even thinking about it. But hey! I can look! [I think that may be sufficient expansion on the "eye candy" comment from the last list for whoever it was that asked. I guess the same person (Brian? Gordon?) will ask about "taut redheads", which actually has a good little anecdote behind it]). My point is that there seem to be an awful lot of girls who can not be more than 25 who are wearing rings. Any American bachelors reading this that want to put in some input here? Or is it just me, and the whole California lifestyle tends to make women appear younger than they actually are?

One of the other things I’ve been doing here this week is preparing for my next trip to the US. I will be over in the first week of October for David and Andi’s wedding in Charlotte, NC, and it looks like I’ll be able to tie it together with a visit to a couple of guys in the Raleigh area, both of whom may be potential customers, either directly or through my alliance partners here in the States. One is a plant breeder and enthisuast, an exciting source of new plant material, the other is a member of a large US-wide plant growing organisation that has an immensely strong brand at the top end of the garden plant market. What I will probably do is fly to the wedding in Charlotte, which extends over Friday and Saturday, then take a rest day on Sunday before hiring a car Monday morning to travel to Raleigh. There’ll probably be more short-hop connecting flights then too. I’ll have to set out to explore the travel options this week. I’ve also got to plan the forthcoming trips to Holland, France, Germany and Cheshire. You might think Cheshire doesn’t need too much planning, but it looks like I may have to fly directly from Manchester to Holland for one of those trips, so I need to coordinate that.
Dumb announcement of the day:

Your attention please: United Airlines passengers travelling on flight 6757 to San Francisco. This flight is overbooked, and we need to bump about five people. We are looking for volunteers for this. United give a free flight voucher to volunteers that entitles you to a free flight anywhere within the contiguous United States excluding Alaska and Hawaii.

Uh, honey, the contiguous States *already* excludes Alaska and Hawaii. Duh.

There was a woman in the check-in queue here who picked up on my accent (well, of course, I don’t have an accent. Everyone else here does, but not me.), and told me that her family were all Spurs supporters, and burst into a quick rendition of a couple of terrace songs. She hadn’t heard that Brighton had sold Bobby Zamora to them, but seemed excited when I told her that he was our best player. Was. Sigh.

Ok, I’m going to shut down the laptop now, and save some battery power for later use – let’s see… 2:41 hrs remaining. Not bad, should give me some listening time at LA (although my connection time is fairly tight there), or maybe on the transatlantic flight. If not, then on the train on the way home. And somewhere, I need to get some sleep, otherwise I’m going to be pulling another one of those 36 hour days. At least I’ll be able to totally relax at Charlie and Peet’s, always a good refuge from the world.
And I’ve noticed that I have the biggest laptop that anyone seems to be carrying around. I’ve noticed several people admiring the silvered case and the lovely big screen. I’ve not noticed anyone admiring the muscles and shoulder aches that go with it too.

Now at LA. Flight in on time, and it looks like the flight out will be on time. Airports are great places for feeling homocidal towards infants. I’m beginning to develop those tendencies now.

There are more English voices here, which is barely surprising. But it’s hard to tell because they work at a lower volume, whereas so many Americans work at max. Maybe it is the media here that encourage that, or perhaps it is just part of the way of life. Whatever. I just wish that occasionally they’d tone down a little, especially when in groups, but maybe if they did that I’d start to like this country. Nah. I’m too European. It’ll never happen.

Hmm. I must be getting tired and grouchy. Tired is good – means I should sleep on the plane. Unless I’m struggling with homocidal thoughts.

Anyhow, what other observations do I have. Well, one from my last trip here is that LA airport is vast. If you taxied as far as I just did at Gatwick, you’d be halfway to Chichester. I’ve just walked from gate 86 to gate 77 within the same terminal, and it took the better part of 15 minutes. At my brisk pace.

The flight down from Sacramento was full to the gunwhales (do you get gunwhales on Canadair Regional Jets?), and a little bumpy in places as we skirted around a storm cloud in the valley. The view was pretty good, although much of the valley is either just endless brown or endless squares of green crops, sliced through by I-5. The best bit is the view as you come over the hills before descending into Los Angeles, where you can clearly see the folds caused by plate tectonics.

Oh, and then there was the girl with the black thong who was sat next to me on the plane. She had an enormous rock too.

Right, boarding has just been called. Once more unto the breach.