los angeles, or 100 ways with palm trees

May 10, 2013

Impressions:

LA was big, busy and impenetrable. CARS EVERYWHERE. PALM TREES EVERYWHERE. The notorious public transport system was just as unwieldy as legend has it. I persevered and saw a couple of great things: a Stanley Kubrick exhibition at LACMA, the palatial Getty Centre, eccentric Venice Beach, tacky Santa Monica Pier.

IMG_4585

I ate well too and of course in huge quantities despite the fact that I learnt quickly to always order small. I had a ´Godmother with the lot´ mega sandwich at the Bay Side Deli in Santa Monica (messy fabulousness). I ate Gumbo Yaya, cornbread and collard greens at the Farmer´s Market. I had an amazing vegan chocolate milkshake made with nut milk, carob, dates, avocado, agave and hazelnut. I endured the free hostel breakfast of horror because LA is EXPENSIVE and the day prior to my arrival I made two mistakes that tallied $1500.

Godmother with the lot

I enjoyed countering the big city gloss of the tourist attractions I visited by reading James Ellroy’s gritty The Black Dahlia. Overall I enjoyed the book’s Chandler-inspired wise cracks and the insight into a seedy, corrupt and dangerous LA that doesn’t really make its presence felt to a somewhat cautious tourist like me.

Real life authentic American date:

On the final day I agreed to go on a date with the travel agent who worked next to my hostel and who I´d been going to for public transport advice. I wasn´t mad keen on the idea – there were no fireworks, no great soul or mind connection – but out of inherent Australian politeness, a desire to have a conversation with someone other than myself and lamely reasoning something along the lines ´I´m travelling, it´ll be an authentic American experience with a local, why not?´ I said yes. I can´t actually remember this guy´s name. It may have been Austin. I´m going to leave him nameless though because I can´t be bothered dignifying him with a proper noun.

I have in fact never been on a date. All my boyfriends have somehow just happened. My impression is that Australian men live in such terror of being rejected that their approach is to insinuate themselves into their beloved´s lives to such a point that if they do ever try anything they´re pretty darn sure they´ve got it in the bag (or ´les doigts dans le nez´, right Flo?), and if they are turned down there´s almost enough space to laugh it off as a miscommunication. Australian men, I lamented, why can´t they take on more of a casual, American approach to dating?

Disclaimer: Sorry beautiful Australian men of my life. This is just a generalisation and of course it´s not the man´s impetus to initiate anything anyway. Go with me for the sake of storytelling though, would you?

This is why not:

Rookie error – I didn´t ask his age. It was the first question he asked me as we walked to our destination. He didn´t hide his surprise when I told him that I´m 27. I was less surprised that he was 23. His assertion: ´I´ll be 24 next week´, just made him seem even younger. UGH. 23. Who can be bothered.

Scanning my outfit, he redirected me from the destination he´d originally planned ´where all the celebrities hang out´. His glance read thinly veiled disappointment I hadn´t dressed up for the occasion. Come on dude – I put on mascara. He should feel lucky that I even did that as I was due to get on an overnight plane flight in a few hours.

He took me to quite a great Santa Monica rooftop bar. We sat outside and enjoyed the sunset, pounded by a cold wind. I was freezing. He saw me shivering and told me I should ´relax´, as if I were nervous from his carnal proximity and not the gale blowing in our faces. GIVE ME A BREAK.

Making small talk:

He studied IT at college but boasted that he did some English courses and that even though he didn´t enjoy them, he did very well. He did mention that he was a fan of the short story though. Great, I thought, some common ground at least. I mentioned Raymond Carver as a favourite. He didn´t recognise the name. Phony.

We tried again – Ernest Hemingway he said was his go-to and he hated F. Scott Fitzgerald. How predictable for this man who was fast revealing himself to be naive, chauvinistic and YOUNG. I mentioned the scene in A Moveable Feast where Fitzgerald in a drunken fit of insecurity shows Hemingway his cock, asking for reassurance regarding its size. That anecdote dropped like a lead balloon.

He mentioned that The Sun Also Rises is his favourite Hemingway. This reminded me of my theory that Hemingway was actually gay and that a lot of his machismo was compensation and veiling. He countered this argument with the fact that the Hemingway character in the book boasts that he ´knows that he could fuck the female character if he wanted to, but doesn´t want to because she´s a whore´. I asked him why he thought this proved that Hemingway wasn´t gay. Silence. Another lead balloon.

Lady´s man:

I think he could tell that he was losing me. I think he was also realising that I wasn´t his type (read: not playing dumb), but for men like him it´s more about the ego trip than a connection. So he pulled out the big guns.

Apparently he´d travelled around the States for several months up until recently. In San Francisco he´d met two Australian travelers and had been invited to backpack with them. Why? ´Women are just always attracted to me, they´d always come up to us in bars if I was there. These Australian guys, they called me “the hunter”´. I commented that I´d never heard that term used in such a way. ´You know, a lady´s man, a champion´. SPARE ME.

He went through his repertoire. Apparently black women are drawn to him (he is a very white, preppy-looking Middle American). ´They always come over to me and they´re like “hey sugar” and I don´t dress like a homey or anything, but they can see the hoodlum in my eyes´. Apparently Swedish women are ´popsicles´ – ´cold and with a stick up their arse´. The technique is to loosen them up with plenty of booze. URGH.

I suggested that he was very ´multicultural´. LEAD BALLOONS EVERYWHERE.

Icing on the cake:

Glancing at my watch I realized that I had 10 minutes to get to my airport shuttle bus. I legged it. I left him waiting outside while I went into the hostel to grab my backpack. The shuttle bus came and left. This guy didn´t even attempt to make it wait two minutes for me. I took it pretty well but of course his response was defensive ´what, are you mad?´.

I´d left myself plenty of time so public transport did the trick. I spent the bus ride feeling dirty and thinking of all the comebacks I could have dished out, but that I just couldn´t be bothered with.

I take it back:

Give me the passive, painstaking and indirect Australian method any old day.

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