Not because of ill health. Not because of fear. Nor even because of some hilarious yet potentially messy prank involving a laxative. No, like I said in US and UK – Epilogue – Part Two, it was because of too much coffee and Mexican food that I found myself in Little Tokyo, downtown Los Angeles, desperately needing to take a shit. That’s right. Now, before you close this page and go back to scrolling Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or perhaps pornography, please know that there’s a reason I’ve bothered writing about this. It’s because it took me a good couple of hours to finally find a toilet. Probably a personal best (or worst). The gastronomical gurgling began at some point after I walked south of the Hollywood Freeway from visiting Union Station. But I paid it not enough heed, initially, until that is I found myself at a multi-storey, decidedly Japanese – on account of all the stores being so-themed – shopping centre. To any attentive CCTV camera watching security staff it must have looked comical; as I quickly walked, and avoided running so as to avoid any more embarrassment, laps up and down and around the centre several times before realising the horror of the truth: it had no bathrooms. But the torture didn’t end there. I can even recall visiting a few likely places such as restaurants and cafes on Little Tokyo’s fringe in my desperate search for relief. It was a close one. But eventually, finally, I burst into a Starbucks and took care of the business – only before buying a coffee, out of guilt at what I’d done to its facilities. Easily the worst such experience I’ve ever had, but all’s well that ends well and I’d put myself in a comfortable position in which to return south to Venice Boulevard and head back to my beach base. I shifted my underwear once more for good measure, and set off.
West downtown was my route south, as I had walked north up its east. Passed the Walt Disney Concert Hall – a ridiculous maelstrom of twisted, curving metal. Stopped at a bar just outside of the Financial District for a pint of Guinness. And before I knew it, and after an equally long wait as earlier that day, I found myself again the lone white among blacks and Hispanics riding the bus south-west along Venice Boulevard. It wasn’t as if I felt threatened by my brief Los Angeles experience of public transport. Rather, I felt like a ghost. Which is kind of ironic, considering my skin colour compared to theirs. It’s as if I wasn’t there. Even when I briefly looked one of my interracial fellow passengers in the eyes, the gesture was never returned. So I spent most of the journey reading, and being momentarily entertained by a young Latino man attempting to pickup a girl sitting on the same bench as me. Here was a group of people so different to me, going about their lives as indifferently to me as someone in Moscow or Madrid might have been. There’s been a certain alienating atmosphere in every bus ride I’ve taken in my short life, but never had I felt so humbled by my own at once rarity and insignificance. A not altogether unpleasant experience, I left the bus strangely relaxed and at peace. Can’t honestly say what I would have done that night. Perhaps wandered the Venice Ocean Front Walk for a six-pack of Budweiser as the sun set into the Pacific horizon. Possibly sat at the Del Monte Speakeasy bar and sipped Scotch and Coke while listening to some cool jazz. Or maybe manned the hostel’s smoking balcony overlooking Windward Avenue, with a beer, a Marlboro and my book at the time – Oliver Twist. Whatever happened, I know I would have slept reluctantly, because the next morning would be my second-last in Venice Beach. And it would also be New Year’s Eve.