This is ELLL AAAA maaan! – Los Angeles!

So my last stop in America was supposed to be LA. I was spending the most amount of time here because I wanted to just sit back and relax here. And as you will read and laugh about each and every interaction you will realise, I should have never done LA.

So the first night I landed in LA and took the cab for Hollywood and Vine; yup, that’s where I had got myself a gorgeous loft and could not be happier living ON the Hollywood Boulevard. As I entered the city I had already seen cops arrest some African American but the cab was moving too fast for me to capture the moment as a tourist. This was the first time I was seeing an arrest with the guy’s head put on the trunk of the car and the cops handcuffing him. To be honest, it was more scary than exciting, but we quickly moved past it and I entered the heavenly zones of the Sunset Boulevard and Hollywood Boulevard. And the roads lit up with lights and colour and all the familiar names of to-dos and to-sees. From the bus tours to the big flashy theatres, a million souvenir shops, the comedy club pubs everything was there. And I was living right here… You can’t imagine my excitement! As in my head I thought.. no more busses and trains, I’ll just walk everywhere.. I’m living on the Hollywood Boulevard in LA!!! This was where all the action was!!

My landlord was a no show for the first night, which was very uncomfortable cause he had left his entire house open… like all doors and drawers open and I was there.. a person he just did not know. Did he not consider I could have been a wierdo, oh wait… what if he was?? What if there were cameras all over?? I checked every mirror, every corner before I changed I promise, place looked clean and yet I did all the changing girls hostel style… well which means the girls always have something on and we struggle our way through clothes and exchange them rather than change… ask the women…. we all can do it 🙂 I’d rather always be safe than sorry I say 🙂

Hard Rock Cafe - Los Angeles

Hard Rock Cafe – Los Angeles

It was about dinner time so I thought I’ll take a stroll along the Boulevard and pick up pamphlets to plan my next day and grab a meal and souvenir at the Hard Rock Cafe. So; dressed up pretty and walked along picking up brochures and making mental plans. Most friends often ask me, don’t I get bored alone… And the truth is.. well cause you are responsible for your own fun you are mostly really really busy planning it and then living it… its only at restaurants that you could imagine being awkward but if you are a single woman travelling; people are generally really nice to you, like the gorgeous waitress who served me at the Hard Rock. She was a professional dancer struggling in LA and played my body guard against all the men who were trying to ask about me. When a man walked up to me to hold a conversation, she was there in moments to rescue me and tell the man I was not to be disturbed very assertively. She was fierce!

The reality of LA did not hit me till I was walking back home. It was barely about 10:30 pm and it was a 20 minute walk, when suddenly an old man started calling out to me, he was a homeless man and kept calling me by some name and walking hurriedly towards me, I started walking faster and so did he… before I knew it I was so scared I started running and entered the first restaurant I could see. My friend had long ago told me, if someone starts to follow you always head for a hotel or restaurant.. Good advice! I entered the restaurant with a dash as the hostess walked towards me awkwardly saying her repetitive line “Table For….” and I think I held her panting and saying.. “A man.. A man is following me… I didn’t know where to go.. Can I wait here for a bit?” Both she and the manager waited with me as they handed me water to help me calm down and watched the crazy man disappear. I had no idea what had just happened? Was I just ‘harassed’ by a homeless guy in ‘America’ on the ‘Hollywood Boulevard’ of LA???? And just then before I could even compose myself and walk without trembling I was passing a club of sorts and few more ‘over friendlies’ started ‘complimenting’ me and hooting and.. and.. as they got closer.. I screamed back at them “Please leave me alone or I’ll start crying” … and ran away… Wait… What… What did F%*@ did I just say??? “I’ll start crying?????????????” That was my threat????? What the hell was wrong with me??? Who says that???

The Strip Club From My Balcony - Los Angeles

The Strip Club From My Balcony!

As I dragged my tired feet home; I was almost banging the door of the apartment building and begging the lady at the reception to let me in.. and the moment she let me in I broke down and cried like a baby holding her… I had not had such experiences ever…. even as I had walked around prepared in India; but was so unprepared for this to happen to me in America.. Where was I?? As I sobbed and told my story to the lady she totally knew what I was talking about… and said “Ya… Ummmm.. These homeless people have killed LA, we call them ‘bums’ and they are all over.. honey you need to keep some pepper spray with you at all times and next time just don’t even think… spray anyone who even gets close.”

As I entered the empty new house I was so shaken up that I slept with every door double locked and fighting memories of movies wandering my head.. with the cop car sirens and loud noise coming from the street below, I slept with earphones in my ears that night hoping the next day came with a promise to be bright.

As the alarm rang at 7 30, I stepped into the living area and fixed myself a coffee with some good music on my ipod and as I stepped out in the balcony through a window to feel the sun on my face I was rudely SHOCKED!! My apartment was opposite a strip club which had a huge board outside it with ‘fully naked girls here’ written in every possible language.. yup.. even Hindi. Amused and embarrassed took a sip of my coffee to realise the milk had gone bad and being in the balcony I had no place to even spit quickly… I was beginning to pray for a better day now.

Santa Monica- Los Angeles

Santa Monica- And the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co at the back!

Positive me got dressed… picked up a coffee from the Starbucks en-route and made my way to take the bus tours. Met some smiling faces, took pictures, made some old couple friends and the day was gloriously beautiful and as we drove around in the open top bus… I waited.. I waited… I waited to be awestruck… to look at some place.. any place and be like.. “WOW”. It… it didn’t happen. Saw and stopped at many places.. made a long stop at the Santa Monica Pier too.. but I gotta be honest.. I wasn’t dazzled at all. So here is what I think.. unless you are seriously “Star Struck” or something LA is not the place for you.. I mean the pier had Bubba named shrimp shops all over ;being influenced by Forrest Gump.. and oh so did the broad walk in San Francisco, I mean it was a movie for god’s sake… we haven’t named places where Bollywood movies were shot with the names of characters.. Imagine going to a hill station with all shops and restaurants named Raj or something. I do love the movie.. I loved Forrest Gump and know it by the dialogue but really the only thing people said about Santa Monica to me was.. This is where Forrest ran till and stopped running… ummmm LAME is what I thought.. just me! Yes it was pretty and everything but I really had seen better beaches and crowds.

Anyway…. went on to the most popular Venice Beach from there.. Now this was interesting with basketball courts right next to the beach and a flea market all along the coast with street performers and open restaurants… I walked along the beach for a bit.. posed as a life-guard and walked back to a restaurant.. had a good meal.. picked up some cool shades for like $7 and used a loo with no lights and totally UVed.

There were 2 highlights of my trip to LA, the movie show at the El Capitan where they performed a magic show before they played Maleficent and the only other highlight was Deepali Khanna. She is my elder brother’s friend and even though we had never met she was most helpful and warm with every single suggestion she made. Told me exactly what to do and where to go and every piece of advice was perfect including taking the tour buses.

Venice Beach - Los Angeles

Venice Beach and the $7 sunglasses!

Unlike most of USA; LA is not the most well connected city in terms of local transport and the only way to really enjoy it is to have a car of your own really. It’s very spread out with little or no connectivity. Had dinner at my landlord’s restaurant Wood and Vine, a beautiful, quaint restaurant with lovely service and great cocktails. Uday, my landlord was born and brought up in LA and was a complete gentlemen and ran the restaurant with all his heart.

All LA had to offer in terms of sightseeing was where who lived and died.. the celebrities.. and that was so totally not quenching my thirst. So the next day I decided to visit the ‘hot-spots’ of LA; desperately hoping to be impressed. So I went to the Melrose Avenue, to check out shops where a pair of sunglasses was for $800 and ate at ‘The Ivy Restaurant’. Now to be honest I was hoping that the food and drinks here were going to be out of this world, cause this was a celebrity hang out… but nope.. infact the salad was almost limp and I could barely finish it. The most incredible thing about it.. was the look and feel of the place, I felt I was in Spain with all the flowers and plants around me, the closely laid tables, it was pretty intimate yet private. Now being a solo traveller; I’ve always requested random strangers to take pictures for me, but the waiters here were more busy standing and waiting and looking around but could not take a minute to take a picture of me. They simply asked me to wait and then forgot. Oh! Another example of their hospitality..?? There was a beautiful bunch of flowers on the table and I requested if I could take just one flower and I was refused.. curtly.. very curtly.

Then walked to the Urth Cafe, also another hotspot, but again the bobba/bubble tea in Australia was way better than what they offered. As I then walked towards the city centre for some shopping the strangest thing happened, an old woman, well dressed walked dead on towards me and said, “Your life is about to change, a big change is coming your way” I must admit I was startled but I knew better by now and I decided to play along and said “Really? How so?” and she said “You will find what you are looking for”

“Be specific, please”, and there it was… she says “Keep $20 in my palm and I’ll tell you all about it… I simply walked away laughing… and went up to Blooming Dales only to run into her again in the make-up section where she tried all the expensive make up as my sales boy hid me from her… It was hilarious! Bums!!?? LA was full of crazies!!

My last night in LA, I was meeting an old friend… and this turned out to be an absolute night to remember! He had been living there for decades and was in love with LA… no no.. not like you and me love a city or our country he was obsessed with it! And had made it his responsibility to make everyone know it and love it too; so when he asked me how I loved LA.. I being the ‘compulsive truther’ said “It’s alright! I dig history and culture and LA doesn’t have much of that… It may be great for party people but I’m not big on that” Oh… My… God!! The rest of the evening he kept telling me how awesome it was here and kept making gestures to ‘high-five’ him every time he said… ‘This is ELLL AAA man’ like really every few minutes he would say something and expect me to do it too… ‘This is ELLL AAA man’…. I said I was harassed by bums.. and he said see.. “The weather here is so awesome even the homeless love it here… ‘This is ELLL AAA man’ (high five)” . zakłady bukmacherskie fame mma He raved about how well he was doing and seeing a British girl, and when I asked him her name.. It was an Indian name and with the confused look on my face he figured he had to explain..and said ya she is ‘Gujju’ but born in UK you know…. I swear if you in my head that evening you would do one of two things… hold your head in your hands or just be gaping rudely… After raving for 15 minutes on how well he was doing he almost stupidly looked at me and said “Hope you are getting the next round..” I had had enough by then and blurted out… “Honey, if I can travel the world and live in fancy hotels and apartments, I sure can buy you a drink, in-fact why don’t you sit pretty, I’ll take the tab” and he went on to explain, “You know this is how we work in US man.. everyone splits… It’s not like India..” It was my turn now… I had heard so much of his pseudo non-sense that talking about India like he knew it when he had no clue.. was the last straw! I don’t get it.. Why do all these people who had recently (ya even 10-15 years is recent) moved to US become such wannabes and desperate to blend in with the locals that they would follow everything without using any rationale… So desperate to become a ‘New Yorker’ or from LA!!?? Yes, here in India also, when I meet the friends I regularly hang out with.. we all split the bill but when we meet someone who is meeting us after decades in our town its almost nice and hospitable to take the tab.. Even my British friends do that! Infact when they met me after only 6 months they even got gifts for me (Thanks Victoria!) Anyone who can travel abroad for a vacation can sure buy stuff for themselves, it’s not like I needed him to buy it but the audacity to demand it and assume I’m from some backward village who doesn’t understand how the cool world of equality works was simply pushing it..

He did take me to a few cool places, and split after he got the message that this wasn’t fun at the Chateau Marmont. Met a funny bouncer there and I was so full of negativity by the time he left that when the bouncer looked at me and asked.. bad night… I just rattled away about his stupid ‘high-fiving’ and he said the funniest thing.. said.. “Oh! Oh ya, I do that too all the time.. especially after sex.. you know like this was good.. and we like high-five” I laughed out loud… and said.. “That’s a mental picture I won’t forget man” and I haven’t…!

Next day I was leaving for home, and I’d had a million awesome moments in my time in US and even though LA wasn’t even close to the human interactions I had in all other parts, it was alive… and people who lived there could not dream of leaving it..

Hollywood!

Hollywood!

Travel teaches you a lot about yourselves, and there is more to learn from bad experiences than the good ones.. I always say.. good times may make you re-inforce what you like but the bad experiences teach you what you don’t like and are not ok with. I wasn’t OK with someone… talking down about my country and assuming they were superior beings because of a geographic difference. I wasn’t ok with a city like LA.

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