Posted by: Brad | 17 September 2008

All of Us in the Gutter?

If you can just ignore the homeless people near your feet, LA is a pretty-lookin place

If you can just ignore the homeless people near your feet, LA is a pretty-lookin' place

I’ve been struggling to come to terms with Los Angeles. It is, whichever way you look at it, a deceptive city. Beauty is everywhere – the palm trees, swaying majestically as they overlook Hollywood – but so is the poverty; I may have been flippant when I spoke about the man urinating on himself in the last post, but the reality is something completely different. Just depressing. He did. And I didn’t know what to do. Broad daylight and my eyes downcast as I walked past. I still glimpsed his eyes as I did; they didn’t lack dignity, they just looked… sad. What could I do? Am I a bad person?

Like any big city, LA has a homeless problem. But it’s the sheer gap between the wealth and the poverty at which the mind really boggles.

Humvee Limosuines parade the streets as beggars huddle together for warmth.

Maybe there’s a kind of rose-tinted view that Angelinos – well, that’s what they call themselves – delude themselves with. Four days there and I heard the “[Insert now successful actor’s name here] was homeless in LA for years before they hit it big, sleeping in their car, can you believe it” story more times than I could count. That is romantic. Jim Carrey is hardly cursing his days as a miser when he’s now a multimillionaire.

But that’s not the real homeless.

The real homeless are pissing on themselves. Or selling crack to kids who will grow up to sell crack to kids. Or begging for change just to buy some wine. Call me crazy, but there’s a difference between living on the streets because you can’t afford to eat, and living on the streets because you’re gonna be a superstar in a few years’ time.

I hate these contradictions. I don’t know if I can quite say I hate LA, but at least I’ve figured out why I don’t love it.

For what it’s worth I took this photograph about a minute before I saw the guy piss on himself, sitting in the dying day on Hollywood Boulevard, hordes of people crossing his path. It didn’t seem to fit.

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Posted by: Brad | 7 September 2008

The Rolls-Royce of Planes

No, really. See?

useful for flight (Qantas, take note, perhaps)

Engines: useful for flight (Qantas, take note, perhaps)

Well, hello.

So I’ve got this blog thing going on. Yeah, I left a month ago. I’m slow. Sue me. What is there to say about eighteen hours of transit? Melbourne’s airport is, to be honest, relatively painless. And the plane trip? Sure, exciting for the first twenty minutes or so (c.f. window photo of engines, taken whilst leaning over a large and sweaty man who appeared nervous; I took no more), but it kind of loses its charm around the five hour mark.

“Actually sir, we gave your vegetarian meal to another passenger, because we couldn’t find you,” is rarely a good start.

Certainly, it could have been worse. For some reason I had gotten it into my head that the travel time from Melbourne to Los Angeles was like twenty-four hours or so, but in fact it seems to have simply been a wily trick of the international date line. Luckily my sleeping patterns – let’s just call them “unconventional” – seem to have shielded me from the full face-shattering force of jetlag, but nevertheless, leaving Australia at eleven am on Wednesday, and arriving at Los Angeles at ten am on Wednesday is an odd experience, just one followed more by some occasional well-what-the-hell-day-is-it-anyway tantrums and less by, well, whatever it is that jetlag is actually supposed to do to you anyway.

But the flight was underwhelming. Four or five hours to Auckland was made less than terrible by some friendly Qantas staff (yes, friendly; just apparently bad at that, er, flying thing, these days – that and providing meals to people who request them) and their willingness to accommodate my enormous and sadly undetachable legs with an emergency exit seat (leg room: win).

Sadly this meant I spent the Melbourne-Auckland journey without the chance to numb myself into complete submission with shoddy television and film – my television screen was out of order – but instead I used my time to gaze wistfully out of the window and ponder with amazement the fact that New Zealand, like Australia, also has Harvey Norman stores. (They are much smaller from the plane though, and presumably harder to shop at.*)

LAX, the gargantuan airport of Los Angeles where you must catch buses if you wish to travel between the terminals, is as horrible as they say. (At first I’d thought myself simply overwhelmed; yet another short-fused traveller ignoring signs or coming unprepared. Actually, JFK at New York City was a breeze compared to LAX, and, like I said, Tullamarine is practically heaven.)

If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume that you know me. And if you know me, you’ll know that I’m not exactly the king of organisation.

So I got to LAX and I got off the plane and I collected my baggage and I looked at the address of my hostel and I went outside and I looked at the buses going this way and that way and then that way and this way and then, I think, back again, and I thought, “Hmm. I might have done well to prepare myself.”

But I hadn’t. First stop: the currency exchange. Prepared? Yeeeeeeeeeah. I pulled out a twenty dollar Australian note and gave the attendant my best hang-dog expression.

“You can help me, right? Right? I’m lost. I’m Australian. I’m lost and Australian.”

She could help.

So full of new-found energy and with a wallet full of money (well, fifteen American dollars, at least), I ventured back outside. What the hell was I worrying about? I jumped on the first bus I saw and the driver, friendly as all hell and more than happy to regale us with his love of the Democratic Party, as the obnoxious left-wing talk radio blared – yeah, the lefties on radio in the States seem to be the loudest ones (Limbaugh excepted) – tailed it the fuck outta there.

And then I was in Hollywood; sun, palm trees, homeless people urinating on themselves, and a goddamn bed. I slept like a baby, the hell with the time of day.

* All mid-flight shopping cravings were taken care of anyway, by the handy catalogue, which contained a variety of completely useless goods that one could purchase and then pick up on their arrival. As if my bags weren’t already kilograms over weight or something.

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