Thursday, June 23, 2011

It doesn’t matter where you come from, it matters where you go

Los Angeles is a late starter. The fog and smog that come in the morning mean every day starts with a bit of winter before the sun burns through the clouds around mid day. My postcard view in the morning was blanketed in grey, but by the middle of the day when Perla arrived the sun was typically Californian.

Los Angeles is so spread out that it is hard to remember that you're in the city when you wake up next to a quiet park by the sea. The aforementioned smog means the hills and skyscrapers are invisible unless you're right next to them. Still, Perla and I toured around San Pedro in her overheating car, driving around the harbour and the art deco streets before heading to Santa Monica.

I'd briefly been to Santa Monica before and all I remember is homeless people. This time however the place had turned the charm on. The streets were lively, my burrito was spicy and standing in the afternoon sun looking out onto the ocean was beautiful.

The morning cloud didn't leave at all the next day as I walked from Santa Monica's pier to Venice. I took the path that runs parallel to the beach, but temptations to swim were dashed when the wind also picked up. It looked like I was suffering one of those rare bad days in Los Angeles.

Venice is a clusterfuck of fake tits, steroid fans, stoners and tourists. You spend most of your time avoiding skateboarders on the footpath and people trying to drag you into shops. However, it's also my new favourite part of the city. There was so much going on my eyes never knew where to focus, but when I did want a break from the craziness of the boardwalk, the beach was right there waiting.

Muscle beach is as hilarious and vain as you imagine - with old men doing their best to show off to the masses. The basketball courts are like watching ants on a large scale, with lots of bodies making scattered movements. However, it was the skatepark that impressed me the most. Seemingly unemployed 30-year-olds spend hours dropping into the bowls while school kids do ground tricks in the area behind them.

Like the other Venice, there's canals running through the city just a few streets from the beach and tourists - only no one seems to go there. Unlike the Italian ones they don't smell, and while they're not as pretty, they still had a zero to the value of the houses that surround them. For the most part I was the only person walking up and down the canal, and it sure beat having people try to sell crappy art to me.

I walked up and down the Venice pier, where hippies were smoking pot and Mexican fisherman look like characters from a poor man's Hemingway novel. Next to the pier some surfers braved the cold, only to continuously fall off their board.

I took another walk back to Santa Monica and across the pier, noting the end point for the famous Route 66. I've only traveled on a bit of it, but it did feel somewhat symbolic that Los Angeles is the end of the line, and my last stop in the U.S. I walked through the theme park, then watched the waves batter the pier as rollercoasters whipped around overhead. The whole day had been an amazing mix of fantastic bits of nature and strange Americana and frankly, that's what I love about this place.

Though I was knackered from the walk, I still tagged along to a pub crawl running from the hostel. It was a last minute decision, and I was still barefoot as people were getting ready to go, but I didn't see the point in staying in and watching a terrible film.

I met Brett and Rosi, and with a group of 20 or so others we walked to some tiny bar for pints of Shocktop from the most distracting waitress I'd ever seen. Some Canadian jackass with skunk-like hair and an upturned crooked visor joined our group much to our embarrassment. He would ask a question, answer it immediately for you and in doing so took any chance I had to rip on him for his 'Simple Plan' shirt.

For some reason the pub crawl - complete with a bunch of British folk - took everyone to one of the numerous English pubs in the area. I guess if you're going away to the other side of the world you want to hang out with people from back home at pubs like back home. It sure makes spending all that money on an airfare seem worth it.

The final stop of the night started out as jazz bar, but very quickly turned into a hip-hop club. By this stage I was getting free drinks from Rosi and the Canadian jackass was falling asleep at the table. The hosts of the tour were doing their best to invite everyone back to their house for an after party, but when the ugly lights came on at 2AM a night time stroll to Santa Monica pier was a much nicer way to end the night. When I did make it back to the hostel at a mystery hour the Canadian was locked out of his room (How could this happen to him?) and I was struggling to find a way to open my locker without waking people up. In the end he remained locked out, and I stumbled my way into bed and woke up nice and hung over.

Now I've given up the sea for the hills, and I'm spending the next few nights in Hollywood. It's as strange as I remember and that's a great thing. The best record store in the world is round the corner and I've already had a burrito and Denny's fix. I've only got 5 nights left here, and it's a privilege to spend a few of them in a few steps from Hollywood Boulevard. This being Hollywood, here's hoping for some extravagant ending to what has been a magnificent year.

A Death In The Family - Vodka & Balconies
These guys are one of the best angry man bands in Australia. The last time I saw them was a week before I left, and on the drive home afterwards I spun my car across three lanes of traffic and ended up on a footpath facing the wrong way. It could have easily ended my trip to America before it began, but I was very fortunate. They're still one of the loudest bands I've ever seen, and here's hoping they play a few shows when I get back. As an added bonus you should check out their beardy guitar player Jamie Hay's Thieves EP. It's three songs are some of the best to come out of beardy Australians for a long time.

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