I’ve just returned from a couple of weeks stateside. What follows is some photos, a clip and some observations from my time in LA, which bookended my New York trip. The words are some excerpts from my travel diary, which I kept faithfully for three days before landing in New York and letting everything go out the window.
I don’t like to be a person who complains about anything that happens while they’re in transit, because you’re on holiday and everything’s interesting, but standing in line for three hours at US Customs was pretty torturous. It didn’t help that I hadn’t yet gotten my bag, so I could carry on worrying that it was still in Auckland; and also that the print out I had received from the self service visa thing had a big X over it. I imagined I was going to be taken into one of those rooms and questioned. The lines went forever, snaking up and down a massive room. They never moved, but we were shepherded to different lines occasionally, until I was at the back of a sort of short line that wasn’t moving. It seemed everyone had taken the day off at customs, apart from about five people. Maybe it was because it was September 11 – but wouldn’t they have gotten more people on for that? Anyway, I got through eventually, found my bag, then Scottie, who had been waiting out there the whole time.
I was instantly swept into hilarious Scottie world, with his amazing BMW with heated seats and his cheeky banter to anyone that crosses his path. I asked him if people ever got annoyed at him here, because it doesn’t seem like people have a sense of humour. ‘Little Asian ladies in toll booths are fine,’ he said. ‘They love it.’
LA looks like a movie. It’s not just that all the movies come from here, it’s the light – it’s different to anywhere I’ve been. Is it because it’s a desert? Everything is sort of dusty and hazy looking, like it was shot on a film camera. I love it. We drove to Venice Beach and skated through the streets to the skatepark. My legs were feeling great and I was quite giddy in amazement to be rolling along these streets after so long of imagining it. Venice was amazing, like being at the royal show. People everywhere trying to get attention, everyone smiling. A guy on rollerskates with a huge boombox; a guy on a bike that looked like a big metal box. We skated for a while and I talked to locals. The skatepark has a really fun snake run, which I loved but the sun kept getting in my eyes. We drove around a bit more and Scottie showed me things. We are great friends and we slip straight back into normal hilarity straight away, especially if neither of us are very unhappy.
LA is endless snaking roads of footpaths you have to keep an eye on, because they’re deceptively smooth but then big cracks appear out of nowhere, and cars do too. By the end of today, I’d started looking the right way for traffic. But that took me the whole day.
I wanted to take photos of homeless people, because they were there and so sad and spectacular, but I felt bad about it, and left it at the most poetic first sighting. I learned my lesson when I spotted an old grey man riding towards me on a kids scooter, complete with lots of bags, and I pulled out my camera and took a photo of him from my hip, and hit a crack, and fell. I will never do something as cowardly again.
People like skateboards here, or they accept them at least. This is the birthplace of the skateboard, this thing I’ve dedicated my life to. I’m here. I spend the whole time in awe of everything: the banked asphalt on every block, the painted curbs, the old smooth blacktop carparks. I took at least six photos of fire hydrants.
I caught an Uber pool, which means they pick up other people. We talked about me, and New Zealand, and how I saw this place, and more about my life. I dominated the Uber pool, but they seemed to like it. I’m pretty excited, I suppose – I’m on. I went to the LACMA with Scottie’s membership card. I walked around and marvelled at a few things: the big comb, the Miros, the Oldenbergs. I was too impatient for the James Turrell to really work on me.
I was wrong – I got a bit of jet lag. Yesterday was sort of shitty. I faffed around for ages at home deciding what to wear (as Sam calls a ‘gear crisis’) then put down my board and rolled for approximately one second before hitting a tiny stone and getting pitched violently forward, grazing my palms and flinging my camera bag forward over my shoulder into the pavement. That was the first of three similar falls that occurred during the course of the day, which took me to a fancy French Mexican cafe, where I listened in on some people from a creative agency discussing how random today was, because it was cloudy and they were at a cafe not at the office. ‘This isn’t even like bacon,’ one of them said, ‘it’s thicker, like meat.’
Being by myself has had its advantages. For instance, I skated to Lockwood school in full knowledge that I wouldn’t be able to skate there, because it was a school day. I just stared in through the fence for a while and marvelled at the blistered, blessed asphalt. You can see why skateboarding was invented here – it’s just so perfect for it. I used to find people talking about ‘finding spots’ a bit annoying, because wherever I’ve lived, you figure out where you can actually skate pretty quickly. In fact, you can often describe those spots in terms of the Californian spot it most resembles. But here, everywhere is skateable.
The shame is, I can’t skate properly any more. I lost control of my body, then I lost my nerve. It’s really sad; my legs aren’t connected to my brain any more. I’m still obsessed with it, but I can’t do it. It’s been good to get around on, but I’m constantly terrified, with good reason. And carrying my camera etc. in a tote bag makes it much more awkward.
So there you go. The inner workings of my jet lagged brain. And here is a clip from my time in LA. It makes it painfully apparent that what I was really doing was: flying halfway around the world in order to have some laughs with my friends.