Back on the Road

Robin Ince's Horizons Tour Diary

I woke up and found out Paula Rego had died.

Paula Rego’s Studio. Pic by Dinkydarcey

I was fortunate to see her last retrospective in both its British venues, the Milton Keynes Art Gallery and Edinburgh’s Museum of Modern Art. 

She was a true visionary and her son’s documentary about her is inspirational, not merely about her work, but also about the people around her, as well as her rather late entry into becoming an artist to truly be reckoned with. I would happily sit and stare at one of her canvases while Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber played in the background for hours on end. 

Arriving at the airport, I noticed the queue to check in for business was longer than the one for economy (yes, we fly business when we do the Horizons tour and I drink tonic water and eat almonds even on a short haul). I check in at economy, still befuddled by why people have chosen the business queue. I am in an ebullient mood and chat to the very friendly check in person who warns me that she can feel that her breakfast coffee is wearing off.  She has particularly excellent tattoos on her forearms, floral works of art. I am never sure on the rules of tattoo complimenting, so I err on the side of caution. 

I rarely purchase at the airport bookstores, but once through security I was straight in there to get hold of Sarah Polley’s Run Towards The Danger. 

Boarding the plane. The steward particularly enjoyed my Vonnegut T shirt with his Sports Illustrated career written across it – “The horse jumped over the fucking fence”. 

I gave her a bit of the background story, but in no more than a being so sentence, trying to get the balance between not being rude but not tipping into the egotistical, “You must find me fascinating” territory. I was sad to discover she didn’t know who Kurt Vonnegut was.  

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The man sat next to me on the plane does not say thank you when he gets his almonds and I make a note in may head about him.

From the very outset, I am not disappointed by Polley’s book. I am always drawn to her work. She has starred in films by two of my favourite directors, Atom Egoyan and Hal Hartley, so the trust starts there. Her own directing work since Away From Her has been deeply human and profoundly moving. This book is too. I knew nothing of her scoliosis or the surgery that she had to correct her spine and this held extra fascination as she has to have a troubling spinal operation in Hartley’s No Such Thing. It is a very underrated movie, about a monster that has lived forever and just wan to to die. I happened to mention it to Brian a few nights before when we were discussing the necessity of finite existence if there is to be meaning (yup, that is the sort of thing we talk about on tour…and show tunes).

My driver from Vancouver to Seattle was a South American superglue manufacturer who relocated to Canada. I have that awkwardness of two humans in close proximity not engaging in conversation, so I shut my eyes for a bit and mime sleep. Nearing the border, we have just enough conversation to confirm we are both fine without conversation. Pine trees, mountains and Denny’s roll by.

Passing a casino, I start playing Angelo Badlamenti in my head and hear Jack Nance say, “don’t drink the coffee! There’s a fish in the percolator!”

Twin Peaks still gives birth to new spirits and manitous in the pacific north west.

Looking East, I see the Moon in the sky. Today, it looks as flimsy as a smoke ring.

Looking at the daisies growing at the side of the freeway, I try to remember if it is true that Johnny Cash was once arrested for picking flowers on a highway verge. It’s a few short steps from uprooting a daisy to shooting a men in Reno….

We drive past many motels and, as I look at them in the sunlight, there is always a pucker of delight. Then, my critical brain pops in and reminds me that the romance of the roadside motel is similar to the romance of the sleeper train, the reality is frequently uncomfortable, a little disconcerting, and sometimes haunted by thoughts inspired by the strange gurgling and mirthless laughing from next door,  that you might be a corpse by morning.

Entering Seattle, there’s a wooden house with Betty Page and Divine (as Babs) luridly painted on the side of it. That is the way to decorate a freeway.

I end the day by swallowing a fly, Brian is unable to find a spider for me.

Perhaps I’ll die.

Listen to the Horizons tour podcast, Taking the Universe Around the World HERE

Robin Ince is a multi-award winning comedian, writer and broadcaster.  As well as spending decades as one the UK’s most respected stand-ups, Robin is perhaps best known for co-hosting The Infinite Monkey Cage radio show with Brian Cox.  For his work on projects like Cosmic Shambles he was made an Honorary Doctor of Science by Royal Holloway, University of London. His latest book, The Importance of Being Interested is out now.

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