Californian Culturalization

Around The World Trip: USA (part 1)

Americans – don’t ya just love ’em? After the bad weather and less than tourist-friendly attitude in the Cook Islands (someone told me that a between islands flight they were on was delayed because the pilot was having his lunch!), I’m now in the home of mass consumerism, starting with Los Angeles, which translates as ‘The Smog’ if my Spanish is up to scratch.

While I’m venting my spleen… what is the point of those stupid US visa entry forms?! My own favourite questions were:

‘Are you seeking entry to engage in criminal or immoral activities?’ Well, hopefully in Las Vegas; and

‘Have you ever or are you now involved in terrorist activities or genocide?’ So if you state ‘No’ and they find out that you are a war criminal, are they then going to say: ‘Not only have you killed all those people, but you sir ARE A LIAR!’ Pointless.

So now I’m back in another country where anything quite good is “awesome”, anything awesome is “really awesome”. And if it’s bad then it “sucks”. Their vocabulary really sucks if you ask me. I forgot how many homeless people there are here as well. It seems that people with mental illnesses are dumped on the street, rather than treated. I saw many examples of people reciting poetry aloud (no, Miles from the Cook Islands wasn’t there) or talking to imaginary companions. Plus, no wheel is considered too big for a car/SUV/pick-up, and the military-developed house-on-wheels Hummer is the vehicle of choice for those gifted with much moolah but no taste. Probably due to it’s durability under gunfire in war zones (or Compton).

Another thing is the amount of murders reported on the ‘news’ each night. So many! Yet the locals only seem to view such tragedies with a modicum of discomfort, similar to when they take a big shit, before they’re off to the mall to shop and eat Big Macs. “Well, that’s life” they think as they fail to notice a homeless man trying to clean their car windscreen, knocking him down on the way. His fault – he should have brought his stepladder and they would have seen him…

Having said all this, I do love this country as well! LA is much more fun than last time I was there, mainly as I have seen more of the city and the weather is better. I went down to Venice Beach from where I was staying in Santa Monica and saw Jim Morrison’s house (he wasn’t in). Apparently this guy is famous for running a successful business called Doors that supplied firelighters, presumably for the many summer beach barbeques. Then it was off to see the posh areas where the stars live, but I couldn’t get close to the Hollywood sign as it’s a restricted area now. Lucky I did that last time!

Whilst in Hollywood, near to the Chinese Theatre, I was given tickets for a TV show – result! This was just after I’d walked past the line of Star Wars fans who are camping there until the premiere of the new movie… IN TWO WEEKS! They had already been there for three weeks. This despite the fact that the new film will actually be premiered at a different venue – whoops! It seems they think that they can force a change of plan if they sit it out. Perfect ‘drive-by’ practice for the homies if you ask me. No-one would mind…

In the evening, after a $72 dollar taxi ride (I thought I’d already done the tour of LA), I arrived back in Hollywood (where earlier I’d seen two superheroes, apparently on their way to work, pictured left) to attend the ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live!’ (pre-recorded) show. After waiting for ages and talking to people in the queue (every time I ask someone a question, someone else answers) we were eventually allowed inside. The star guest was Ice Cube, former rapper, pretend actor, one time drinks cooler and star of the new XXX film. The other guest was a 92 year old fitness fanatic who showed us his regime. If it wasn’t for Mr Cube catching him at one point we all could have witnessed an unfortunate passing on TV. In between guests was a segment from the house comedian called Cousin Joe who upset unsuspecting members of the public. Very good!

Next it was off to San Diego and after “de-training” I caught a taxi to a hostel with a low entrance ceiling (ouch!) and straight into a pub crawl on the first evening. It was busy due to a baseball game having just finished and there were plenty of locals to talk to. The bar man thought he was being funny when I asked for a pint of Bud and he said “Mud?!” If looks could kill he would have been done for as I glared back. Oh, and you want a tip as well?! How about this… work hard and be nice to your mother. One meathead tried to make fun of the Aussie girls by saying they were all descended from convicts and had no history. Yeah, ditto for your country as well idiot! “Oh, well you didn’t send as many criminals here”. Well maybe so, but it wasn’t boat loads of bank managers was it?

The next day was a bit of a write off unsurprisingly. I tried to do something useful and went to buy a battery charger, banging my head on the way out (again). After a homeless man asked for change I realised that I had forgotten my wallet and headed back, grabbing it, going out again (banging head again) and arriving at the shops when I realised the charger would be useless as they use a different voltage. Doh! Back to bed then! When I arose again I phoned Amtrak (rail service) to check on my travel arrangements. Unfortunately the system is voice activated and has a problem with accents…

“Hi, my name is Julie (no it’s not you’re a machine) and I’m your automated agent. Which station are you travelling to?”

“San Francisco.”

“Did you say Cincinatti?”

“NO!”

“I was unable to hear that – did you say yes or no?”

“NOOO!”

“I’m sorry, my mistake, which station?”

I tried a different one: “Los Angeles.”

“Did you say Vancouver?”

Oh forget it…

The next day I went to my first baseball game, San Diego Padres vs. LA Dodgers. It finished 6-1 as I’m sure you’re all aware. In the queue for a hotdog after deciding against ordering ‘draft’ beer as I assumed it would give me wind (oh, they mean draught beer), a girl decided to talk to me. When I told her I was on a round-the-world trip she looked confused. “For business?” No, I’m not a secret agent. “For fun?!” Well sometimes I wonder. “This is your first baseball game? I’m glad you’ve experienced the culturization of baseball… oh wait is that a word?” You could have just said culture of baseball. “Oh right. Are you excited?” No, but I am hungry. My queue seems to be moving very slowly. “Queue, is that what you call it? Awesome, I’m gonna use that word.” I swear you could make good money teaching English as a foreign language here…

A particular highlight in the evening’s entertainment was the selection of supporters’ pets in Padres outfits shown on the big screen. That and the dance-off between two loser blokes who did the Twist in between innings, again captured on the big screen. Bizarrely, at the start of the 7th, it’s traditional for everyone to stand up and sing an incredibly cheesy song called ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game‘ whilst hugging their friends and swaying from side to side. And I thought we were there to see baseball…

The rest of my time in SD was spent visiting the Old Town, Mission Beach and Pacific Beach (the same beach as Mission really, just a mile away!). Unfortunately the weather was not good enough for catching rays, but that will come later in the trip. Friday night saw the strange sight of a load of Krishna followers turning up in the town centre, singing for a bit and dancing backwards and forwards before disappearing. As I took a photo one of them gave me a leaflet entitled ‘The Reservoir of Pleasure’. Fancy a swim ladies? Oh right, maybe not then

After spending too much time in San Diego, I caught the train back to LA. Before training (no wait, is that a word?) I heard some guy shouting and running towards the carriage. He caught up with me when I was about to climb the stairs (they have two decks you know!). “Hey man keep the faith” he said, before wandering off. Er, sure thing…

I spent just one night back in LA and took the opportunity to see another baseball game, this time at the famous Dodgers’ Stadium which offered great night views of downtown LA. They lost again, to the Arizona Diamondbacks 2-4, but at least I’ve been there and got the t-shirt. At the start of the match they made a presentation to some competition winners. As they entered the arena the line seemed endless, resulting in 110 ‘winners’, all of which had their name read out!! Somebody slap me. Plus they certainly have a lot of sponsors. At every opportunity we had ads, in between being told what to chant by the big screen. I really think they need to ditch the big comedy gloves in this sport. The fielders never drop the ball – it makes it too easy to catch. If the Yanks had thought up football, sorry ‘soccer’, the goalkeepers would undoubtedly be wearing gloves the size of satellite dishes, and probably a helmet as well. Ridiculous… Off to San Francisco next!

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