Los Angeles

Hollywood. Beverly Hills. Bel Air. Santa Monica. These place names are so familiar to me that it seems impossible I’ve never been to any of them before.

Arriving into LA, I was greeted by sunshine, warmth and loud Californians. Before I’d got my bearings outside the terminal building, I’d been overwhelmed by friendliness, then asked for a donation to charity and fended off an attempt to convert me to the path of Christ. After ten hours beside a ‘Messenger of Christ’ between Fiji and LA, and I wondered if the big guy was trying to tell me something.

That evening I headed over to West Hollywood for a Fiji reunion. Incredibly, four of us from Taveuni were in LA at the same time and we had a ‘Long Time No See’ Fiji reunion, which was just as much fun as all our Fiji evenings had been. Alia and Tuukka had work the next morning, but that didn’t stop them staying out ‘til 2am.

I quickly came to realise that LA is beyond massive. People had been telling me this, but having spent time in some really large cities, I put this advice in the same category as when a Singaporean tells me the weather’s cold.

In a dark room, sometime in the early 20th century, motor industry magnates and US government leaders agreed to invest in highways not railways. The system of highways is exceptional, roads are wide and long and it’s fairly easy to navigate once you get the hang of the main artery roads.

LA has developed the way it has because of the car. I was surprised at how low-rise it is. I was expecting a sea of skyscrapers, but everything is flat, which means it extends very, very far. There’s no city centre as such, just a series of neighbourhoods that are actually more like cities unto themselves, their edges fraying into one another.

As I faced a choice of walking for hours and getting not very far or open-wallet surgery in the back of a cab, I cursed that bunch of men in suits 100 years ago.

There is a complete dearth of public transport. There’s no centre, so no logical place to be the hub of a transport wheel. This makes planning public transport harder, and it’s less likely that routes will be helpful to people. So they’re not profitable. So they don’t run many buses, which makes the buses that do run inconvenient because you need to wait too long. So people take the car. It’s a vicious circle.

With ever-increasing prices for oil, I reckon LA is facing a transport crisis. The average number of cars per family is 3, and unless billions are invested in a mass rapid transit system that gets people where they need to go, the city is going to grind to a halt at some point in future.

It’s like London, stretched out over even more space, without the underground and with hardly any buses. I couldn’t conceive that there would ever be a city that size with no public transport to speak of. So now I will listen more closely when a Singaporean tells me the weather’s cold…

With a grimace, I opened my wallet and faced the inevitable exorbitant fare, taking a long run through Hollywood, Bel Air and the Hollywood Hills to the famous Hollywood sign, passing the enormous, extravagant homes of the stars. I then pounded the pavements from Hollywood to Beverly Hills, stopping for tours of the Kodak and Chinese theatres, following the path of the Academy Award hopefuls, looping around the famous Hollywood Bl, Sunset Bl and Santa Monica Bl, wandering round the shops and finding wonderful food and great service in delightful restaurants.

I enjoyed my brief time in LA. People surprised me with their friendliness – I’ve become used to a level of unfriendliness in large cities, but in LA people will interact with you and are interested in talking to you. I’m glad LA exists because it’s obsession with the silver screen has produced some of my favourite movies. It’s an interesting place, with a high-level excitable energy that I could taste and touch during my whole time there, like the energy of an aspiring actor waiting impatiently for their lucky break. The energy there runs to a different beat from me – I don’t think I could live in LA. But the city is built on chasing dreams, on working hard to make them come true.

As someone who’s a big fan of chasing dreams, how could I not identify with that?


8 thoughts on “Los Angeles”

  1. Hey! My girl’s a star on Hollywood Boulevard!! No real surprise there as you’ve always been a star to me. Dead impressed with the photie under the Hollywood sign. Dad and I just couldn’t find it when we were there! I know. It’s big. It’s on a hill. But still, we couldn’t find it and had to settle for a postcard! Sounds like a great time and as we had a hire car there, only time we used a taxi was to go to see the Producers at Pantages Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard – massive. Knocks the Kings into a cocked hat and then some!

    Hope SF lives up to my memories of that place too.
    Lots of lala love. Mum

  2. Hey Jacki loved the pic’s again you look like you are having a great time ande loved the stories as always you have to keep up the writing when you get home.
    you heading to SF now and i bet you will have some more great stories to tell us all back here in boring old Glasgow cant believe thats you nearly at the end of your big adventure cant whit to see you and hear more of yout fab stories
    anyway take care and see you soon

    lots of love

    Charlene & Logan xxx

  3. Hi mum, Chazza
    Mum – If I’d had a hire car I’d never have found the Hollywood sign either. It’s at the top of a steep hill, up these amazingly narrow, curving roads, past huge, extravagant houses in Hollywoodland. And like a lot of things, it’s a lot smaller than you expect it to be once you get there. It was a bit like seeing the Scotland Yard sign outside the Met Police headquarters in London for the first time – on telly it looks huge, in real life it’s pretty small.
    Chaz – I know – can’t believe it’s my last stop either!? Looking forward to catching up in person very soon!

  4. …and I can’t believe I forgot to write about this…
    Flying from Fiji to LA, I realised how easily confused I am. Travelling across the dateline meant that I left Fiji at 10pm on Tues 26th and arrived in LA at 1.30pm on Tusday 26th – 8.5 hours before I took off!
    So it was the longest day I’ve ever experienced – breakfast in Nadi, into town, a few hours on the beach, shower, to the airport, 10 hour flight, arrive LA, another shower, into West Hollywood, dinner and drinks. By the time I was done with Tuesday 26th August, I didn’t know which way was up!

  5. Jackie,
    I miss you already! I’m glad we got to hang out over drinks. If you ever get back to LA, you have friends to hang with. =)


  6. Hey Alia! Missing you too! It was so lovely to meet you both in Fiji, and thanks for an amazing night out in LA. Loved it! Keep in touch! See ya somewhere in the world! :-)

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