los angeles, or 100 ways with palm trees

May 10, 2013


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.


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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