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Josh Shear: Awake in L.A.

Shear travels across the US, one coffee at a time @ Terrain. That moment when you’re screaming downhill into the valley, two hours out of Las Vegas into the setting sun with some too-clean ska music breaking through the speakers and into the air through the just-cracked windows. Everything orange is funny and the signs for Alien Fresh Jerky are the most normal thing on the road into Baker, but the store’s closed as you drive through and there’s no place for dinner on the strip so you just keep driving, wondering why someone called this Zzyzzx Road and why there’s a whole exit for it. (We know now, of course, but we’re driving pre-Wikipedia here.)

And then suddenly it’s Barstow and the evening burger has the consistency of rotten avocado (with a fresh avocado slice on top, because this is California) and the morning coffee’s bad in the hotel room, worse in the hotel restaurant and even worse at the 24-hour Chinese food-doughnut shop drive-in even at 7 a.m. when it should be fresh and delicious and not stale tinted milk-water so you hope this is it. The bottom, the end, and everything is up from here and then you remember you’re in Barstow.

This is where those two great stories intersect. The Joads have finally reached the promised land in The Grapes of Wrath: no more dead bodies on the truck and I hear there are jobs out West so let’s just drive. And it’s out of Barstow that our protagonists start flying their great red shark in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

So we’re in the land of Great Depression dreams and the jumping point for high-speed high-octane trippety-trips to the desert and we just want to get out of the land of mushy meat and useless coffee and into the palm trees and silicone of North Hollywood.

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