Toss

I’m not a planner. 

I do have plans, but they’re typically extrinsic. I know where I need to be tomorrow (though very rarely the day after that), I know whether there are things that need my attention at some point in the future (but only if not fixing them will cause a problem: if the plate is still spinning that’s fine). 

At work I have grown-up colleagues who do all the logistics stuff. At home I have Mrs T who has taken, in recent years, to sending me calendar invites to even the most basic thing. If I reciprocate it will be because I’ve bought tickets to an event I hope she might like to accompany me to, or because Cato has a gig. 

Weirdly, I do the bookings for the band most of the time (just because it’s often me that’s asked whether we can fulfil a date) and the fixtures for my cricket club (a role I took on in 2002. It struck me as odd that every other fixture secretary was close to or well-past retirement but now I know that it’s a job that you never get to quit until you die). But both of these roles are “extra-curricular” and anyway, passive. 

So, this holiday had worked fine whilst we were heading towards the fixed point of Mrs T’s middle-weekend: Alcatraz Friday, Monterey Aquarium Sunday. I’d managed to get us to both in plenty of time, though as I mentioned previously, we probably could have done another day on the Oregon coast to do it justice. Now though, today, we ran out of plan. 

We have to be at LAX on Friday, sometime (by which I mean, a very specific time- Norwegian are unlikely to hold the flight for us, but that Mrs T will know what that time is and I don’t really need to, so I currently don’t). But between arriving at (the frankly astonishing) Aquarium (and if you go yourself, I recommend the fish.) (*boom, tish*) and heading out for dinner tonight, I realised I needed a plan. 

First part of the plan was sorted for me when Mrs T said that she could do another day in Monterey, so we booked another night at the hotel and made a (tentative) plan to cycle the peninsula to Carmel tomorrow. I’ll let you know how that pans out. 

For the rest of the week, there were three options (btw, I’m the king of options: they’re different from plans):

  • Drive to San Diego and walk to Tijuana, as we had in 2000. Lots of driving, Tijuana is a tacky shithole at the crossing and there’s every chance that US Border policy might change in the hour we’re gone leaving us stranded with only 6-for-$10 margueritas and off-prescription drugs for solace
  • Drive to Yosemite and spend a night near there. I’ve a feeling I’ve “done” Yosemite but I wasn’t paying attention at the time. I’ll ask Finbar when I return. Either way lots of driving. The *real* reason I was interested though was that the route would take us through the staging-post of Merced (Welsh for something like ‘girls’ I think; might be ‘clowns’) which has a suburb called Loughborough. Just so that I could ask locals how they were pronouncing it. 
  • Dolly down Hwy 1, and tit about on beaches, scenic views and increasingly gentrified coastal towns before slipping into LA in time to fly home.

You may think that in this telling, I’ve already made my mind up, but far from it. I’ve certainly indulged in a little post-hoc rationalisation. For most of the day, the 900-mile detour to get a photo of a sign was way out in front. 

Here’s what happened. At lunch, Claire was torn between two menu choices: mussels and snapper. I suggested she toss a coin: she did, mussels won. When she came to order, the restaurant was out of mussels. She was briefly disappointed and then happy with the alternative. It was the perfect combination of free choice and destiny and one of the things that we share is a fairly optimistic fatalism about things in general: seafood preferences, politics, cat husbandry. But it reminded me of a study that I read about somewhere where folks were asked to toss a coin to decide on (moderately) significant life choices on the proviso that they would be bound by the outcome. The trick being that actually the study was looking not at compliance, but at the subject’s reaction to the outcome. So in fact, if a subject was delighted with the outcome, great; if they were sad or disappointed or even mortified, it suggested that actually it wasn’t the choice they wanted to make and so they were advised to ignore the coin flip and, I guess, flop, with impunity. 

Again, I may not have been paying attention to that, either, but it struck me that I could use the same process to help me settle on a plan. 

Now remember, this is about plans, not decisions. I have no problem making decisions: I do it plenty and increasingly and sometimes I’m wrong but always I’m happy I made the decision. This is about plans. And specifically a plan that affects how we end what has been a great trip so far. 

I had ruled out San Diego. My own caveats were enough to make it more trouble than it was worth. Also, since we hadn’t started by setting foot across the US/Canada border, it wasn’t as if we could claim to have done the whole West coast from soup to nuts. 

But the pointless but funny diversion inland vs the lazy coast road that loads of people had done was the coin-toss moment. Flip the coin, then decide how you feel about it. 

I needed a coin. Claire’s been custodian of the cash whilst I’ve marvelled at my Monzo card (oh my, how good is the Monzo card? You must get one). Consequently, I had no coin. 

I found a coin under the bed of our hotel room. (I found other stuff too but you don’t need to know what and the cleaner probably needs to be in a programme somewhere.)

  • Heads, the lazy beach run to LA
  • Tails (for Wales!), Loughborough, CA, we’re coming for you. 

Tell you how that went later. 
In the meantime, here’s a fish I thought looked like Mark King the singer and bassist with Level 42. (You have to imagine that he’s playing a bass, obviously)

Relationship goals

Reviewing my photographs from a wonderful day in San Francisco (ran 5k, went to Alcatraz, walked 30,000 steps for the first time ever, had a very American comedy club night), Mrs Trigg picked this one and said


…that’s going to be a Cato poster, isn’t it. 

I have reached “predictable” and, d’you know: I rather like it. 

Leisure is no place for democracy

Decisions, decisions. 

It’s not that I’m not a fan of the couples holiday, it’s more that I’d rather grab the proposer by the nipples and ask them what they’ve been paying attention to for the whole of their adult life. 

I’ve done this particular trip before. With Finbar. It worked because, mostly, he had ideas that I hadn’t been bothered to have, and so the few places that we had to make decisions were ones where we had exactly the same amount of skin in the game. 

I stopped going to Glastonbury because my perfect festival companion would, through no fault of his own, no longer be able to share in this kind of exchange:

Me: shall be go and see the Master Musicians of Jujuka?

Him: I’d rather offer my eyes to wasps. I’m off to see Jimmy Cliff

No end of folks had said to me, when they heard that we were doing a non-specific trip down the west coast of the US, that they would love to do just that, and moreover, they’d love to join us. I have no qualms whatsoever in telling those people that i would rather pay for them to go on a holiday not with us than entertain the idea that they could ever share a road trip with me.  

Rather than explain my reasoning, I give you today as the perfect case in point. We got up at 7. 

Shall we run? Consensus: no

Shall we head straight for SF or mess about?: let’s drive the Avenue of the Giants (it’s a road of big trees)

Shall we stop and look at this other big tree?: yeah let’s (until, ‘no, they’re just another tree just like the ones we’ve seen‘). (But here’s Mrs T hugging a tree she particularly liked)


Shall we head to SF or Dick about on the coast road?: up to you (yeah, it’s kind of the reason I’ve signed up to this trip). 

Shall we carry on Route 1 or cut inland and head to SF?: yeah, the coast has been amazing but let’s just get to the hotel and grab a beer, even if we miss some dancing whales as a result (phew that’s a relief because I’m not sure I could handle another three hours of lock-to-lock driving to keep us out of the sea). 

Blimey, $24 is a lot for two halves; shall we just stay put?: nope I’ve found a sleazy bar in Mission that does proper beer at proper prices but it does involve a walk through what may, on the surface, look like a ghetto; let’s go. 

Shall we just run in the morning?: yeah, let’s do that

See. It would be impossible to do that as a three, let alone a four. I’m not saying you couldn’t do it to a functional level; just that you aren’t going to get three happy people. It’s too much compromise.

There are, I’d suggest, spectacular exceptions. My big brother had done some hardcore research before we met briefly in NYC last year. When a man says: “I’ve been wanting to eat at this Vietnamese pho brunch place for ages”, it’s not a whim. Go with it, or get out of Dodge. (Breakfast whisky resulted: here’s where I levelled up at life!)

Democracy is very much overrated in social settings of more than two. 

  • As a band, I now sit out of set list creation: we’ll never make all five of us happy so better to have one decision-maker (Sparky) and four vetoes, just in case he does something actually barbarous. 
  • Our work Christmas party is now done on the nod of our most Christmassy employee, rather than poll the pool of heterogeneity that passes for our crew.

So, my suggestion: never do a trip that’s unplanned with anyone other than someone who you love enough to trust not to be a dictator.

And, yeah, if you’ve read this and remember all the holidays that you’ve enjoyed with more than just you and your significant other: I’m saying that there are folks who consider you a bully and that they’re quietly planning their next break whilst you’re busy. 

Incidentally, we saw amazing scenery, paddled in a ridiculously picturesque bay that we had to ourselves, drove another 300 miles of stunning twisty roads (some next to sheer drops) and had the first of three evenings in SF that promise to be delightful. Alcatraz tomorrow, in the hands of a tour guide who can be as autocratic as he or she wishes. 

Night. 

Route One (oh, one)

You may know that I’m not a fan of driving. As much as possible in real life I avoid driving:

– to get steps

– to save the planet and

– to minimise the chances of dying in a car crash

(and not at all in that order). 

Imagine my surprise then that today I drove for 400 miles and it was, give or take, entirely pleasant. 

An early start got us over the Tillamook State Forest in the first of what would be a pattern of very misty and very wet mountain climbs (soundtracked by SFA). 

Rockaway Beach was as good a place as any to start our journey down Hwy 101. We ate in a trad diner, where we were the only ones without hearing aids or oxygen, walked on the beach so Claire could pick a pebble to transport south, and were California-bound by 0930. Here is a moody stump that I liked. 

The West coast is just wonderful. It’s a series of inlets, rocks, beaches and generally wild landscapes that afford opportunity after opportunity to stop the car and gawp. We did. In between we covered hundreds of miles south, hugging the coast and eschewing the Interstate. It was wonderful. 

But my lack of planning proved a bit of a problem. Realising that the one fixed thing we have is Alcatraz tickets for Friday, is misjudged the run south. Consequently, the last two hours was done in darkness, so we more or less missed the biggest of the redwoods. There will be more tomorrow but it felt a shame to do any of this after dusk. Depeche Mode provided the tunes for this leg and their grandeur (and grandiosity) were pretty well-suited. 

Eureka, CA therefore becomes a purely functional stopover and we should arrive in Frisco by lunchtime tomorrow. We did say hi to massive Paul Bunyan and his massive blue bull, because I think I first saw him in a copy of Look and Learn and it seemed rude not to. 


As art goes, they are both, breathtakingly abysmal. Like they opened the design competition to the under 5s. If this was your child’s best effort, you’d be packing the RV whilst he was at his gran’s. But seeing as how this coast is way too cool for the giant fibre-glass statues of whatever produce they claim they’re the home of outside every town, PB was the only option on this trip. 

Other stuff: needless to say we didn’t run. The Monzo card is working brilliantly. Everything else is peachy. Tomorrow I’ve got to navigate into the heart of the City. Against the backdrop of hurricanes and earthquakes, it’s nothing, obviously. 
Next year we’re thinking of going to Nambia. 

Abe never came

Well, that was a day of exploring Portland’s somewhat deliberately weird side. Started with a second run (5k downhill and then along the riverside park). Here’s another map, in case you were wondering. I didn’t even try to keep up with CHT and next time I shall revert to wearing headphones so I’ve got something to keep me going. 
It has rained more or less every half hour or so, so taking a walking tour might’ve seemed foolish. The two hours we spent with Eric, exploring the weird and hidden bits of Portland just flew by, and finished in enough sunshine to dry us out. We’re pretty good at taking the audio tour or the walking guide in unfamiliar cities and, let’s be honest, it can be hit and miss (we once picked exactly the wrong guide in York and had to suffer an hour of a man struggling with his addictions as he explained history to us and some Japanese folk). Here’s Eric, an actor, explaining how Lincoln never actually came to Portland. 


The story of the Oregon Trail and the first western settlers was told with a heavy nod to “not the first people here”. The extraordinary feats of endurance of the people who travelled nine months by foot across the continent to start a new life in the 1800s were diminished by the fact that at every stop, we were in the presence of men and women who had slept in the parks that we were exploring. For the second day, our overpowering sense of Portland was one of a city with its downtrodden very very visible. Mental health problems often contribute to make someone homeless, and a life on the street (and the experiences that involves) can clearly destroy the sanest mind. But somehow Portland’s subculture motto is cruelly apt for a town that we will leave equally loving for its character and panache, and relieved to be away from such a sad reminder of what happens when life doesn’t work out. 


We went to the book Mecca that is Powells City of Books and I caught Claire in possibly the happiest moment of her day, combining jeopardy with buying books. 


Tomorrow morning, we start the coast road run. My plan is to aim due west from Portland. Google Maps helps here and I’ve picked as our destination Rockaway Beach. I’ve picked it entirely because the Ramones had a song called that. Of course, Wikipedia tells me that they were singing about the one in New Jersey. It doesn’t matter. A bit of bloody whimsy is called for sometimes, and this feels like one of those times. Here’s them. I’d love to think that they chose the font themselves. 

She’s gonna blow

Today was breakfast in Seattle, a visit to Mt St Helens Interpretive Centre and a mooch around Portland. 

Seattle: we ran along the Port front park (meaning, Claire ran and I bobbed along in her wake). I’ve found that running is a nice way to see new places from a different perspective and I think we picked a good city to start that off in here. This is the map, just in case you’re interested 

In 2000, I did the route we have planned more or less. I have almost no memory of the detail of that trip. But I know we went to Mt St Helens Interpretive Centre. We were both genuinely astonished at the accounts of how the mountain puffed, then bulged, then blew in 1980. At least as astonishing as the photos and accounts were the contemporaneous front pages of the local papers. The big stories that weren’t MSH were the problems Carter had running a campaign whilst other crises overwhelmed him (the failed Iran hostage rescue was months away), Tito’s funeral (immortalised in “All Out Superpower Confrontation” by NTNOCN (you can see that here ) and the, frankly astonishing, reports of Washington State’s plans to desegregate their schools. In 1980.
1980.

1980.
Christ. 

Anyway: we pressed on to Portland, a city I remembered very fondly because, the first night Finbar and I were there in 2000, a bartender offered to take us around the city on his day off the next day. And that he did: with his girlfriend he drove us all over and we ended in an amazing bar with some bands playing. I’d like to think they were future members of the Decemberists, but probably not. It was an incredibly kind thing to do and the kind of thing that makes you love a city. 

Portland is lovely. You might’ve been here. It’s full of stuff and not well-explored by people we know. It’s culturally young and a bit hipster. We have a full day tomorrow to explore and I think it won’t be enough. But, and here’s the turn, the homelessness problem in this city is unbelievably visible. 
Not that it’s necessarily worse than in other cities. But it’s just so visible. Here’s an article I found.

Clearly it’s a complex problem. And also, the places that truly-lost people are drawn to are likely to be the metropolitan centres that offer both the infrastructure to help and the presence of enough liberal people to help. 

But, jeez, it’s astonishing to see, in such density, in a city that seems to be going about its business. 

It’s like a leafy London. 

Postscript: we walked the CBD for a couple of hours and it rained. The centre of Portland seemed oddly quiet for a weekday in a major city. Maybe there’s something unusual about this place that we aren’t seeing. If you’re in town, do check out Pizza Schmizza.  They had lovely food, a good beer menu, all the weird sports, and lovely staff to boot. 

La la la la la A-me-ri-ca

Finally arrived in Seattle. Been here once before. It rained then. It wasn’t raining when we landed. It started as we disembarked the plane. 
I have voluntarily not researched things to do here because the story is mostly further south. The Space Needle is shut for renovation (and looks like the 60s relic that it is). The Seahawks were playing as we arrived, in San Francisco, so the bars were busy but the town was quiet. 

Google told me that the Museum of Pop (just opened as the Hendrix Experience when I was here in 2000) had a Jim Henson exhibition on. Mrs T was oinking, knee deep in ordure. 
The exhibition was lovely though: adults my age were stupidly giggly at the sight of The Count, and the option to press your hand into walls-full of Muppet “fur”. 


Mrs T also got to do the Star Trek exhibition (I had to crawl along one of those tunnels, like Scotty). I got to see the Bowie/Mick Rock photos. 
Seattle is fine. I fancy we’ve given it our best shot.

What other people think

My “last chance to grow my hair out” project was hitting that tricky point where I can’t do a thing with it, and I had started to lose heart and contemplate getting it cut, thus ending my youth. I’ll concede that, at 48 and a half, this may seem a bit flipping late. 

At my best, I’d love to have hair like Tim Buckley. If you’re not familiar with him, he was a folk/rock singer and songwriter who died in 1974. His songs have affected me more than anyone else’s, since I first heard him sing in my early 20s. He was amazingly beautiful. He was also, apparently, a bit of a tosser. I can’t sing like him. I can’t play guitar like him. I’m almost twice the age he got to. But I could have his hair. Here’s Tim. 


As a fallback, since I can’t quite get my Barnet to stand up like Tim’s, I’d settle for 70s ITV children’s show Magpie presenter, Mick Robinson’s look. Here’s Mick in his prime, if you’re not familiar with him:


Cool, huh? 

Anyway: I’m stuck in that halfway place between looking like my hair idols and looking unhoused. 

Tonight, in Loughborough, I’ve discovered that no-one else seems bothered what they look like. I’ve just been served by a perfectly pretty person, who for whatever reason had come as Peter Gabriel during his “Gabriel III” phase. By which I mean, unsatisfied with her own features, she’d done that thing that looks like a Sharpie accident and just drawn on features, like eyebrows and cheekbones. 

Clearly, you can look how you want and it doesn’t matter. Hallelujah. 
The hair stays, for now. 

Oh and in case you can’t quite place the reference, here’s the PG I’m talking about:

Cardio

Played cricket today. Although it was a short game (both sides being more or less equally rubbish) it was fun and the stiff breeze made for an interesting test of our skills. Which we mostly fumbled. 

We won, if you’re interested. But I thought I’d post my movement stats for the innings that we fielded. For American readers, that’s the same as your kind of innings, except with ten outs. Oh and the batters aren’t limited to three strikes.  

In fact: if you’re unfamiliar with the game, me and my American brother did this a couple of years ago How I brought cricket to the USA

Anyhow. Here are my stats. As you can see, it’s a fairly steady jog. The spikes will be mostly me trotting in from the boundary (outfield) to congratulate the bowlers and, because cricket is still gentlemanly, to applaud the batter on their way off the field. Occasionally this is ironic or sarcastic, but not often. 

But if you’re unfamiliar with my sport, you might wonder what the significant dip in heart rate is about a third of the way along. 

Well, because we didn’t use all our allowed overs (look that up), the opposition’s batters had to start their innings before tea. 

Tea. 

That’s right: we played for forty minutes, then took a break at the allotted time (you don’t mess with tea time) and took tea (being a mixture of finger food and actual cups of tea) and then went out for another ninety minutes to finish the job. 

You won’t find that in the Men’s Fitness guide to weight loss, I know. But it’s how all activities should occur. 

We used to have an empire, you know?

What I learned about justice

I finished 11 days of jury service the other day. It was sobering and grown-up and bleak and it felt worthwhile. I made some temporary friends with other jurors and was privileged to sit on two juries. I laughed a lot, considering. 

Having worked with HMCTS for nearly ten years, it was great to see their work for real. All of the court staff, from the contract security teams to the jury co-ordinators to the ushers and court clerks were super-professional and clearly mindful of how unfamiliar the whole process was to the 80 of us in their charge. 

The legal process, when done properly, appears a very stop-start business and it’s hard not to consider the cutbacks in the staffing of courts when one trial was halted so that the defence could go to collect a witness in person. It’s clear that shuffling resources (court rooms, judiciary, court staff and jurors) is a bit of an art. 

Both judges I saw were unbelievably cool. You know that thing where who the smartest person in the room is isn’t in doubt? That. Their balance between maintaining strict process and helping twelve idiots to understand what was going on was amazing in both cases. They both had very different styles but, man, you wouldn’t take either of them on at either fencing or chess.

We talk a lot about the burden of proof in criminal cases as part of my work. It’s interesting that “beyond reasonable doubt”, being plain English words, can be interpreted so widely by normal adults (including all five barristers I listened to, albeit in their cases to the benefit of their cases). 

In the jury room, I heard “I’m certain” down to “I think”. This must happen all the time. The widest gap in interpretation can be summed up in this sentence, quoted verbatim, when I was left on the wrong side of the fence, with still a ton of questions in my notes:
“The thing is matthew, you’re trying to be analytical, but I’m just going with my gut”. 

Justice was definitely done, but you can see how fragile a thing it is.