It’s a little underwhelming to look upon, then away from with remorse, a blank notepad at the best of times. And it’s especially so, for me, while trying to bring to an end the story of my two-and-a-half-month trip through the US and UK. If only I had upon arriving home bothered jotting down its final few days. But it doesn’t matter. The even vaguely important stuff will come to me. This word machine was set in unstoppable until conclusion motion the moment I scribbled in red ink the heading “United States of America 12/10/12” above those first blue lines – whose lack of any further scribbles is, for all intents and purposes, irrelevant. The show, as it were, must go on. So here, we, go. I might as well have arrived on another planet when I exited LAX International Airport. Half a day earlier I’d with sadness looked my last at least for now upon a British sky consistently obscured by cloud. And presently I gazed into the heavens above California to see only an equally consistent light blue barrier between my eyes and the endless universe. It was still cold, but not nearly as such as it was in the UK. And the sun. The sun! The SUN! That blissfully warming heavenly being. How I’d missed it. Despite its occasional peek between clouds on the eastern side of the Atlantic, I doubt I’d seen it for at least most of any day since New York, just under a month ago. Roughly 70 days since arriving at LAX on October 12, I’d found myself there again – albeit wearing jeans instead of shorts, and a jacket instead of just a t-shirt. And I still had to catch a cab into Venice Beach, because bus routes in Los Angeles are almost as incomprehensible as they are on the Gold Coast, Queensland.
I know for sure I enjoyed two full days in LA before heading home across the Pacific Ocean on New Year’s Day, so it must have been Saturday, December 29, 2012 – the same day I’d left London. I’m no good at figuring out time differences. The cab driver was listening to some pretty cool music. (Don’t ask me it or its musician’s name, because I can’t remember and the phone I noted it down in has since been thrown on the scrapheap.) It was pretty refreshing to come across a cabbie who actually listens to music, instead of driving around in silence beyond obligatory inane chatter about the other fares he’d had. Before long I was, once again, amid a deepening winter I’d thankfully escaped from more northern endurance of, standing outside the Venice Beach Hostel. Aside from the temperature, the only other difference was the bum population. It had exploded. There seemed to be three times as many homeless people as there had been during October. I guess they, like me, had migrated south seeking more salubrious surroundings. Whatever the reason, and just wait a second for me to climb on to my pedestal: America, get your shit together. Your widespread homelessness is not just a sign of laziness and poor life-choices; it is a sad indictment on a society that has lost its way, not to mention its empathy for those less fortunate (an indictment I lament to be forced to increasingly level at my own country, especially since pivotal political and cultural events on September 7 last year (the election of a national government with utter contempt for the equality which until then had partially, if arguably, defined Australia)). Ok. I’ll take a deep breath . . . exhale, get down from my pedestal, then continue telling you about my second stint in La La Land.