Last year I did a little trip around the West Coast of the US, and overall, I had a bloody good time. America is holding hostage some of the most beautiful and massive national parks that I have ever had the pleasure of setting foot inside, and I deeply regret that I did not have more time at some of these pristine locations. That said, there are some great American icons, such as Las Vegas, which, as the British might say, were not quite my cup of tea. So let’s talk about Los Angeles.
Much like Las Vegas, my parents had told me I probably wouldn’t think too much of the city of angels. Still, my mind had been captivated by multiple television shows such as “Wilfred” and “Californication” as well as countless movies, songs, and even Danielewski’s “House of Leaves” and so I had to find out what all the fuss was about. Also, I was due to start a road trip from L.A and I had to fly there, so it made sense to take a look around while I was in the area. I booked myself into a hostel in Venice Beach and got on a plane from Christchurch with stars in my eyes.
From this point forward, I’m going to start using a pretty absurd metaphor to describe my tumble into madness. Given that I don’t think I’ve ever really been on a proper date, this could get interesting.
L.A had sent me some photos and I was captivated by her beauty and her grungy personality. I knew she had been with many respectable people before me, and had left them feeling satisfied and even inspired to create beautiful art, and so I had high expectations. I had brushed my teeth, dressed up nicely, and slyly slipped an expectant condom into my wallet, but as the plane descended into a layer of heavy smog that the sun could barely penetrate, I realised that she wasn’t the same girl that her photos had suggested. My heart sank, but it was too late to abandon the mission.
I had been tricked, and now I was trapped for the rest of my stay. Nonetheless, I decided it was better to make the best of a bad situation, and anyway, maybe I could still get lucky. She might have appeared ugly and dirty on the surface, but maybe her beauty came from her imperfections, or from something deep below the surface. Just as I accepted this, I spotted the Hollywood sign from my plane window, and this lifted my mood a little.
The Maitre D almost wouldn’t allow me access to the stage of this unimaginable rendezvouz, but after some heckling and bruised egos, I was allowed access. I took a prearranged and prepaid taxi to my hostel, only to be told that I was supposed to give the driver more money, which just didn’t compute with my tired and jetlagged mind, and a lack of American dollars in my posession meant that my luggage and guitar was thrown on the pavement as the driver sped off to the next location. I arrived late to my date, beaten down emotionally and physically, and I wearily carried on.
Hope is a dangerous thing, dear readers. We think it is such a positive thing, yet it drips with potential to shatter our knees, but as I looked out the window I wanted to believe, that maybe, just maybe, she wouldn’t destroy me. I was in Venice Beach, after all, the setting of so many beautiful pieces of narrative that had stolen a small piece of my heart, and so, while downtrodden, I decided to take a walk to get to know her better. I actually started to write another piece about this moment, which I scratched later on, but the opening described it pretty well;
The sun didn’t set; it disappeared prematurely behind an impenetrable layer of pollution, its dying screams only witnessed as muffled hues attempting to paint the sky in an anticlimactic display of mediocrity. The pungent stench of medical marijuana stung my then well adjusted nostrils. Why the media romanticised this metropolis was beyond me as I felt my feet go cold beyond comfortable in the sand, and I subsequently stood up and turned back to the parade of unflattering flesh and drugs that is Venice Beach. It was a street I had seen a hundred times in the media, but to attempt to breathe in behind the clouds of weed mercilessly deflated my mood.
My god, the marijuana. If anybody has ever been to Rotorua on a smelly day, they will know that they can’t get the smell of sulphur out of their clothes for the next week. My date’s choice of perfume was not preferable to my nostrils, and it was everywhere (by which I mean EVERYWHERE) and I knew I would be waking up with her aromas on my pillow for days to come. I’m not against marijuana, in fact I’m quite partial to the occasional puff when the mood is right, but sheer decadent indulgence to the point of mass zombification was too much for me to overlook. Within the space of maybe 10 minutes I would be offered medical marijuana at least 5 times by people claiming to be doctors walking around in green scrubs. I realised that my initial reaction on the plane was perhaps more accurate than I had dared to imagine.
Heartbroken, I abandoned my date, not physically, but I hid myself behind layers of overpriced and mediocre tasting alcohol. As I sat alone in an unmodest bar, I dreamed that perhaps I would meet some like minded travellers with whom I could lament the loss of my positivity to, but alas, I drank alone. After maybe two or three beers, I decided that I was both too poor to carry on and that it was a pointless idea and that I had to face the reality of the situation. I was tired. I was done. I headed back to the hostel, passing a crime scene where somebody had been stabbed over a bag of weed, and as they washed the blood off the sidewalk, somebody told me it was entirely normal. I slept with one eye on the broken hostel window, scared that my date had further plans to deracinate my sanity and to rip the foundations out from under my feet.
On my second day, things did improve. I decided to go to Griffith Park, which, for those of you who aren’t familiar with it, is where the Hollywood Sign and the famous observatory are located. After over an hour of travelling on questionable public transport and a half hour walk as the driver decided not to drive all the way to the end of the route, I had finally escaped the clouds of marijuana, and as I hiked upwards I felt the pollution thin out and the sun begin to shine on my pale skin. I actually took the wrong route and probably trespassed a little, but so did a crazy bunch of texans who were hiking in their underpants as it was a little hot for them. I asked them “why are you hiking in your underpants?” to which they responded, “well without them, people will see our penises”. We had some really deep and interesting conversations as pork swords and melons jiggled all over the place. Although it took a few minutes to pick out the ghost of Downtown L.A from the smog, the view from the top was fascinating and at this point, I realised that even the most flawed of places have reasons to fall in love with them. This was all ruined by a second attempt at a night out with some people from the hostel which ended in more overpriced beer and depressing mediocrity. Maybe L.A was a daytime kinda girl…
On day three, I met somebody who would change my life. Before landing in L.A, I never would have dreamt that I would end the same year in Ecuador. Sometimes we have to endure the shit to find the right opportunities that lead to greater things.
L.A is not a place I will be returning to any time soon, however, as an experience, I feel it was important to have. I have left the promiscous mistress to be devastated and ravaged by many more to go in search of something a little more to my taste. It is a place that has to be seen to be believed, because we are made to believe it is something that it is not, and just why just so many people stay in this monstrous metroplis is beyond me, but there must be something for them. In the mean time, you will find me in the mountains.
– Tom @ indieroad.