Thursday, 19 June 2008


I’m going to have to think of some less cheesy song lyrics and titles or this journey is going to be an extremely long one. The travel equivalent of a ‘Hear and Now Tour’ or ‘Stars in their Eyes’: “Tonight Laydees and Gentlemen, please welcome Alex Lester as......that bloke from Curiosity Killed the Cat."

When I left you last I was leaving the airport in Los Angeles after two rather gruelling, and sweaty, hours just trying to, err….. exit the airport.

Last year when I got a Yellow cab I discovered I was being driven by a Russian with good English, but no real idea of where he was going. This was a bonus as his friend didn't have any English at all and still didn't know where he was going. I presume he’s still lost on the freeway with a couple of skeletons in the back. "Look on the bright side Petunia, the journey can't take longer than it did to get out of the airport".

This time a cheery Somali driver placed my case in the none too spacious boot. I’ve never ceased to be amazed by Yellow cabs - they are vast but there’s no room for the passengers and precious little for the luggage. What does all that car do exactly? He spoke good English and, like last year’s driver, he had no idea where he was going either. Not sure Sat-Nav has reached the US yet…. well certainly not among the cab-driving fraternity. He spent much of the journey on the phone scribbling down what I think were directions - unless he was moonlighting as a secretary and taking dictation.

Eventually we pulled up outside the hotel in Wilshire Boulevard which straddles the areas of Korean Town and the Financial District. Check-in was no trouble and the place was clean and comfortable although there was an odour that I wasn't able to identify. It did have the air of a hotel where you didn't actually stay and it was the sort of place that you were ‘found dead in". Maybe that had something to do with the whiff?

Time for a cold beer. I decided to walk along the Boulevard towards the main part of the financial district. Helpful street furniture told me I was taking the "Walk of Angels", past some rather fine Art Deco theatres, sundry landmark churches and Synagogues and the famous "Brown Derby" restaurant which you will have heard of if you’re a fan of the ‘Golden Age of Hollywood’. There was just one snag – it had closed and been demolished in 1980. On the other side of the road was the infamous Ambassador Hotel where Bobby Kennedy had the misfortune to be gunned down in 1968. The hotel didn't really recover from that PR disaster and it too has been demolished. If you walk far enough you end up in Macarthur Park. (Now that may have made a better blog title had I gone that extra mile)

Dived into a side street dive-bar only to be told they had no beer. So I tried a Korean restaurant and bar which was above a small shopping mall. They had cold beer and an interesting way with snacks. Not for them a small bowl of complimentary peanuts or maybe olives. I was treated to a small dish containing a brace of sizzling fried eggs and some odd looking vegetable that looked a bit ‘dill like’ but which didn't taste of anything in particular. How to eat this? Why with chopsticks of course! My shirt would have been unable to cope with a meal in a place like that.

It was then back to the hotel picking up a copy of the LA Times on the way. I love reading newspapers and always make a point of finding the local ones if I can. There are several fixations that the Americans currently enjoy. First and foremost petrol prices which are having a huge impact, even though they are laughably low compared to ours.

The TV schedules are full of ads for ‘compact’ and ‘economical’ cars which boast ‘Highway 31 MPG’. Religious types have got in on the act as well: "With the invention of the car, our young men would change the dating scene, picking up girls and taking them away from their parents and dropping them off later after who knows what" - Ed Black, Pastor Arena Christian Church. Lincoln, California.
A drought has forced Californians to think about their water usage. Seemingly the way forward is to only water your garden 6, instead of 7, days a week according to the articles I saw and the ads I’ve witnessed.

Lastly health and the body beautiful. A famous TV journalist - Tim Russert has just died of a coronary aged 58. So most media outlets have divided their coverage between fulsome tributes and what exactly he died of, how he died, his health prior to him dying and what we can do to stop ourselves dying in the same fashion. Just in case we were in any doubt one newspaper featured an artist’s impression of him expiring on the floor of his office.

On a lamppost there was a placard declaring: ‘Get your accent fixed’ and I passed a hoarding which boasted: ‘Limited period offer, breast augmentation $2999’. I’m not sure if that was for both or just one. Probably both as it didn't say ‘two for one offer’. A huge ad in one paper that I saw while sitting at the hotel bar later that evening, drinking another beer and trying to digest the eggs and the first burrito of the new season that I had purchased from a branch of ‘El Pollo Loco’, thundered: ‘haemorrhoid banding and non invasive treatment for anal fissures".

However by now it was bed time. I realised that I’d been awake for 27 hours now so it was probably a good thing to get some sleep. Plus having to drive in the morning it was wise not to drink too much. Although one final classified ad caught my eye: ‘Drunk driving. Top Gun DUI defense attorney Myles L. Berman’. His trademarked slogan read: ‘Friends don't let friends plead guilty’.

With that it was off to bed and I drifted into an exhausted sleep and woke, as usual, precisely four hours later!


Frances said...

Latest news from the US is that as gas now costs more than beer the most sensible course of action is "Drink - Don't Drive !"
I'm very glad to see that you are heeding this advice Alex - particularly in view of the taxi drivers you have met thus far.
Keep blogging - we're missing our morning insanity !

Caroline said...

"Check-in was no trouble and the place was clean and comfortable although there was an odour that I wasn't able to identify. It did have the air of a hotel where you didn't actually stay and it was the sort of place that you were ‘found dead in". Maybe that had something to do with the whiff?"

Are you sure the odor (correct spelling) wasn’t something you tracked in from the cab?? Frightening. Looks like you’ve found another bad hotel... without any help this time. I hope you have your coonskin cap securely fastened on - there’s a lot of sun out there.