February 6-7th 2010
"In The Night", Basia Bulat
This is not an exit.
- Bret Easton Ellis, post-modern Los Angeles expert
I think it's important before I begin to log my travels in Australia that I make some mention of my (very) brief stay in sunny Los Angeles, California.
I flew out of Toronto Saturday evening aboard American Airlines. The flight was more comfortable than I expected due to the fact that the cabin was only half full of passengers. I had a row of three seats all to myself! There were about a dozen or so teenage girls with Australian accents traveling together back to, I can only assume, Australia. It was a typical trip with the exception of our flight attendant who I like to call Middle-Eastern Cary Grant, or perhaps Indian George Clooney. He and the woman flight attendant made a joke about cougars to me. Yikes.
It was after dark when I arrived in L.A. so I really couldn't see much but it was immediately jarring to go from a frigid climate to a temperate one. It was 55 degrees (Fahrenheit, of course) when I got outside to get the hotel shuttle! The hotel was a Hilton near the airport. Comfy and spacious. I wolfed down a sandwich from the bistro in the lobby and crashed soon after. I asked for a late checkout the next day so I would have time to explore a tiny bit before going to the airport.
The next day I ventured outside for a while to see what all the fuss was about. It was sunny and 65 around noon when I went to get lunch. The sun was hot enough for me to just wear a t-shirt. There were palm trees on the boulevard and at the sidewalks, almost as though visitors expected them to be there so city employees one day just said "Hell with it. Let's plant them everywhere." West Century Blvd. is a really busy 6 or 8 lane street. I feel as though the city suffers from massive urban sprawl, without the kind of centralized downtown that places like Manhattan or even Toronto have. Everyone drives American or luxury European cars, and I must have heard ten drivers curse at each other on the way to lunch!
I suppose I should have expected it but every person I met in a service position or menial job (at the gas station, the bell and desk and maid staff at the hotel, the Subway) was either black or latino, and the customer class was white. It was a little disheartening but since I didn't have the time to sort out social class boundaries determined by racial demographics built on attitudes handed down through generations of Americans I figured I'd just stick with lunch. The concierge said there were restaurants walking distance down the street. In a 10 minute walk I passed a Carl's Jr., a Mini-mart, a Denny's, Subway and McDonalds before settling on Subway. It was just like ours but their idea of "sub sauce" was something orange and South-western in style so it made my sandwich taste all smoky. Not sure how I feel about that.
Now, I know celebrity sightings are not uncommon in a town like this, perhaps because there are just so many recognizable faces living and working in a single town that it's hard not to just run into one. Perhaps I was lucky. In any case, when I was walking out of Subway I almost ran into Richard Karn. He gave me a head nod. I felt pretty validated by that.
Despite a late checkout I was still at the airport FAR too early which meant a lot of waiting around. The international terminal at LAX is called the Tom Bradley International Terminal or something to that effect and it's nice but pretty sparse. There were a few shops and a couple restaurants out front but beyond the security checkpoint it was just a series of hallways and seating areas. I was also bombarded inside the terminal by people trying to collect money for their causes (or scams). A black guy called me "brother" and asked if I'd ever heard of Compton, then asked for money for victims of domestic violence. Some other woman was collecting for something like the Red Cross only less legitimate. I think I saw some Movementarians as well but they were talking to someone else.
All in all it seems like a nice place but think the constant sunshine and carefree attitude has a kind of softening effect on the brain that makes everyone sort of "whatever this" and "whatever that" all the time. I like being Canadian in a setting like this. I have the ability to enjoy it without being part of it!
Next stop: Melbourne!