Craig and Ross in the USA, 2012

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August 23rd 2012
Published: August 23rd 2012
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Craig and Ross in the USA 2012.

Episode 1 (22.8.12)

“This ain’t no disco. It ain’t no country club, either. This is LA….”

So sang Sheryl Crow.

We arrived in Los Angeles five days ago, the beginning of a trip to the Western parts of the USA. We have spent the past five days in LA. As expected for Southern California at this time of year, each day has been hot and sunny with not a cloud in sight.

(Actually hotter than expected – about 32 degrees each day). LA is rather maligned for its traffic and pollution and superficial celebrity culture, but it offers much, much more and is an invigorating place to visit. It is a vast, dymanic and diverse metropolis, a patchwork of some 80 individualistic cities all knitted together by criss-crossing freeways. LA has everything you could want – perfect weather, great food, bars, art and culture, beaches, nightlife, theme parks and healthy green spaces such as Griffith park. It is said that there are two parallel universes operating here, the superficial, wealthy celebrity culture and the real, multi-ethnic exciting LA.

We stayed in West Hollywood, ground zero for the well-heeled gay urban crowd. (WeHo is very expensive, so we cut costs by using the ebab website, where you stay in a room in someone’s house. Our host turned out to be a queer Indie film producer from Peru, and was a nice guy). We were staying a short walk from Hollywood Boulevard – where the streets have all the stars names and from where you can see the Hollywood sign. The human traffic along Hollywood Boulevard comprises the most bizarre menagerie of misfits and assorted humans that we have ever seen. The whole place buzzes with activity day and night, from beautiful people, to homeless folks, to people dressed as movie stars, to punks, to metal heads, to people dressed as god knows what.

One day, we hired bikes and traveled languidly along Santa Monica beach, down to Venice beach, stopping at a rooftop bar for cold beers and a sweeping coastal view. Later, we got a cab up to the lookout along Mulholland Drive for fine views of the city shimmering in the late afternoon glow (marred only by the anal sphincter that served as the cab driver). As most tourists do in LA, we took ourselves on the Universal Studios tour, which was great fun. Highlights included the tram tour, which takes you on a tram thingy past movie sets and props, etc. This included a fantastic part where the whole tram that we were travelling in was part of a 360 degree 3-D tussle between King Kong and T- Rex dinosaurs. Other highlights included the 3-D Terminator experience and the Water World show, the latter with fire and pyrotechnics and at one point a real life plane emerging from behind the stage and crashing into the water and bursting into flames in front of us. Ah, Hollywood.

On famed Sunset Strip, we strolled past places such as Johnny Depp’s Viper Room (where River Phoenix checked out) and we also managed to have a drink at the plush Chateau Marmont (where John Belushi checked in and the checked out). One night, we tried to get into the Skybar, but were refused entry, as we did not appear to meet the glamour threshold. I pointed out that I had a Nature paper on chicken gonadal sex differentiation, but this was met with shrugged shoulders. Along Santa Monica Boulevard, where the zebra crossings are rainbow-coloured, we sampled the various gay pubs and night spots. At the Abbey - a large pub with go go dancers, I recognized a guy at the bar, and he confirmed that he had starred in several gay-themed movies that we had seen.

Most of the food we have had has been typical over-sized, over-caloried American fare, although we did enjoy Mel’s Diner, a groovy 50’s style place just off Hollywood Boulevard (where I took a liking to sweet potato fries). Beer has generally been average, so we have taken up Margaritas instead (very pleasant after a day of waking around in 30 degree heat).

We did not have a car in LA, but caught buses, taxis and the piecemeal metro rail system. When travelling downtown on the buses, the trip was very bumpy. We learnt that the local council does not have enough money to maintain the roads, as almost all the budget is consumed by law enforcement. The buses carried all sorts of people – LA is incredibly multi-ethnic - and the passengers invariably included the obligatory oddball. One guy turned to a stranger with a beard and said to him:

“ Have you ever considered shaving all your hair from your head, but leaving a thing strip from ear to ear, and doing the same for your face, leaving a complete ring of hair that frames your entire face?” Not surprisingly, the guy replied “No.”

As the bus stopped at one intersection, a guy darted into the middle of the crossing and started break dancing – some sort of advert for something – and then as the lights changed, he seamlessly moon danced backwards onto the sidewalk.

There was always something amusing happening on the bus. Just now, coming home from a Mexican restaurant, we boarded the local bus with a mixed bag of humanity. One old woman got on board, wrapped in a coat, and said to the buxom female bus driver:

“Driver, it is too darn cold in here.”

The driver said:

“Oh, I know that honey, that’s why I’m wearing a f***** sweater.”

“But you need to turn up the temperature in here.”

“You need to sit down and shut up, because I want to finish this shift and go home.”

After five days, we picked up a hire car and quit La-La-Land, gritting our teeth and navigating the freeway 40 miles south down to Anaheim, where Disneyland is located.

More to follow

Bye and love to all,

Craig and Ross


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