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Post by Gobo @ 06:41pm 21/05/02 | Comments

Cunningly denying myself sleep at what would have been the “right” time in Australia seems to have worked well. Jet lag hasnt been an issue at all.

I have managed to remember most important details of my first two days in LA. Here they are:

The people
Hmm. I’d say that thanks to Kylie, Russell Crowe, Heath Ledger and Mel Gibson etc that we may be getting old with LA people, but I think it’s more likely that LA people just don’t like anyone. People often talk about New Yorkers having attitude, but from what I’ve witnessed so far, this is one area that LA isn’t far behind in. Whether it’s rude bus drivers, dodgy taxi drivers (more later on this), or just sales people who think that an Australian accent is an invitation to talk to someone like a spastic, most of the people you tend to deal with in everyday encounters seem to have something bugging them. Except for the tourists from other states, they haven’t learned that to show some LA style you have to be a dipshit.

There is always a silver lining on every cloud however, and that has to go to the homeless people. They rock. Not only are they better dressed than what I'm used to in Sydney, they have rockin' senses of humour. Take the guy who accosted me yesterday. He rattles a cup at me saying "Hey it's the last day of homeless appreciation day today, care to celebrate it?". This is funny enough, but because he was mumbling, I initially thought he said "Hey it's the last day of homo appreciation day...", which is even funnier if it's your opening gambit in the begging money routine.

The place
I can see LA polarising opinion about how good it is. I have invented a theory called “the jam” principle. Because I’m Stateside I’ll call it the “Jelly” principle. It goes like this: when making a sandwich, some people like to pile on the jam like two-and-a-half centimeters thick in the middle, and have it trail off towards the edges. Other people like to scrape it out across a wide area. The first way means that you “work” your way in towards the real flavour, then POW, jam heaven. The second way is more consistent, but you kinda lack any real motivation to try anywhere else because you know its going to be the same all the way through. LA definitely styles itself after the latter. There’s little outcrops of high rises etc scattered all over the place, but theres no area where there's a really humongous collection of places. Well, not a collection of places you’d want to go. Sure, the more built up zones are nice, but you don’t think “city”, you think “a whole shitload of suburbs strung together with a few freeways”. This kind of explains why the LA media has a curious fascination with New York. They're constantly measuring themselves up against the Big Apple, but even tho I’ve never been to NY, it’s a safe bet to say these people are dreeeeeaming.

The prices
Remember Goodfellas, when Ray Liotta is breaking down Paulie’s protection rackets? He used a restaurant as an example, and then every time a problem occurred for the restauranteur, Liotta mimicked Paulie’s response as “Fuck you, pay me”.

Las Vegas is a fuck you, pay me city, and sooooo is Los Angeles, my friends. Whoever thought that having a sales/consumption tax (aka GST) but not forcing retailers to include the tax on the marked item needs to go directly to hell. And this is only the start of the issues. Take my hotel. This is meant to be a very upmarket hotel. You don’t expect upmarket hotels to try and rob you blind. Well, when in Los Angeles, do what Angelinos do, apparently. The advertising implies that high speed internet access is part of the service. And it is as long as you pay $US10 a day. Did I mention the fact that it’s not very high speed and is prone to dropping out constantly? Don’t worry, that tip is free (which means no extra sales tax). The time honoured traveller's trick of stashing your own drinks in the bar fridge has been stopped too. Instead of any storage space the entire cavity is filled with racks of drinks. You remove a drink from the rack, you’ve bought it. That’ll be $3US for a tin of softdrink, ta! I’m yet to examine how much air is, although I think I’ve got the budget option judging by the curious faint odour of the air conditioner.

Fuck you, pay me definitely is taught to taxi drivers. Not only will they not give you a receipt (I‘m considering packing heat to help encourage attitude adjustment), they are so tourism oriented that they like to take you on very long drives. Even if you have to be somewhere specific. Then they can turn around and tell you to disregard the meter fare and pay what you think is “fair”. I told one guy who drove me for an hour to get to Activision’s HQ (a 30min drive) that I thought paying no money was what I called “fair”. He didn’t agree. It’s the aussie accent. They assume we’re retarded boofheads. I had one guy ask me if I had heard of Beverley Hills. I felt like responding “Nope, let me tell you about my hometown of Kandahar, Afghanistan, infidel scum”. Unfortunately many Americans seem to assume that their own ignorance of foreign climes extends across everyone else.

The numeric system
Is gay.

I was being a good guy and training at the hotel gym (I wonder if I got charged for sweat emissions). Despite there being 19 stories to this hotel, at around 6pm yesterday evening I was the only person using the (well appointed) gym, which may also explain why so many fat people wander around this hotel. I turn on the treadmill to do a quick run and crank it to my accustomed 13k/hr setting. For some stupid reason it only goes to 10. Sighing at the laziness of Americans who can't even be bothered running at a decent pace, I suddenly and alarmingly notice that the machine is getting faster and faster. Then it hits me. MILES PER HOUR. Disaster was only a loose shoelace away, luckily I managed to drop the speed in time to avoid a major catastrophe.

The races
The racial mix is pretty interesting. There’s a very high proportion of latinos. In a city named “Los Angeles” this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone but me. There’s also a fair few afro-americans, but funnily enough, once you escape the tourist traps, very few white people. And it doesn’t take too much wandering off the beaten track to see some pretty ghetto stuff either, even in downtown LA it’s easy to find squalor and places where no whiteys are.

The same ease of finding dodgy shit syndrome applies to most of the iconic roads like Sunset Boulevarde. Wander a few blocks away and you’re in the middle of Boyz in the Hood territory Crenshaw. Go a bit further and you’re in black heartland Watts. It’s not that daunting actually. Admittedly I haven’t been there at night, but my recollections of Ice-T songs seem to be returning to me as I wander around the streets of LA.

Hollywood Boulevarde forms one of the streets my hotel complex is on the corner of. It’s pretty crap. Very reminiscent of a slightly less seedy Kings X or Valley, only with fatter, uglier people. And given the amount of sugar that infests EVERYTHING over here, it’s pretty easy to see how the fat part comes about.

The good
It’s not all that bad, however. I could see myself living here as long as it was in the beachside suburbs. Sorry, not suburbs, they call them “cities” here. So you would say you live in the “city” of St Kilda in Melbourne, or the “city” of Vaucluse in Sydney, or the “city” of Brisbane, er, in Brisbane. It’s a trip seeing so many sights and places that you have only seen in the movies. I’m going back to one in particular tomorrow to get a photo, and the thrill I get from seeing “San Dimas” on an actual map cannot be explained. Street names too, straight out of books and TV, Rodeo Drive, Santa Monica Boulevarde… Melrose Place, all good.

I have to check out the beachside suburbs in more detail. Word has it it's a lot better than where I have been going. Until then.