Well all my dark nightmares of being wrestled to the ground at the immigration desk and then probe searched by customs turned out to be unfounded. I arrived safely in Los Angeles after an uneventful journey in which I did not sleep. This is curious to me as I fall asleep on any other form of transport, just not planes as (Aimie will testify after being on several trains with me on mini breaks) I fall asleep on public transport at the drop of a hat. However, planes do not lull me into that good night.
Anyway, I pensively approached the desk, greasy face and hair, clutching my little book with my information about where I was staying and my ticket leaving Canada etc etc, full of nervous anticipation. IS THIS YOUR FIRST TIME IN THE US? OH MY HAVE A NICE TRIP! I was stunned and moved quickly onwards to the customs queue. The customs man looked me up and down, OH MY GOD DO YOU ONLY HAVE ONE BAG? For some reason, despite only having one bag, my trusty rucksack for the last 6 months without change, I turned and checked my back, "yes" I said. OH COME ALONG THEN!
From this I surmised two things. All Americans shout at all times and most people coming to the states must have multiple pieces of luggage. In my by then exhausted and slightly confused state I began to search for a door to door shuttle bus- there was no way I was going to try and naviagate public transport with major jet lag. What was so confusing was that I actually gone back in time having left Auckland at 5pm on Sunday, I had arrived at 11am on the same day. I had gone back in time. I truely am a God. Anyway, I got my shuttle and was driven to downtown LA. Now the only reason I picked this particular hotel (yes a hotel, I decided hostelling with jetlag would be unfun) was it was near the bus station so I could walk to the bus stop to get my bus to Las Vegas the next morning. The guide books aren't too kind about downtown LA and after driving through it, I could see why. It was just dirty long streets with dirty people. However, prehaps in my exhausted state I was being unkind. I got to my hotel and when staright to bed for a few hours.
On awakening I realised I was hungry and I would have to venue into the big bad world to get some food. Now despite my anxiety about getting into the country having disappeared, this was replaced by a fear that I would be accosted and robbed by gang members who all had guns and would rob me of my virtue. So in my jet lagged state I stepped into the world. I had not unfairly judged it before. As I wandered the sweaty streets desparately looking for any kind of food shop, all I found where discount diamond stores (?!) and lots of random old men who didn't yell at me at me per se, but every one I walked past would make a funny noise. It was most disconcerting. I saw a MacDonalds and I say with no shame, I got some chicken nuggets and I high tailed it back to the hotel before I was killed by a crazy man.
I ate said chicken nuggets or 'McNuggets' (ho ho so clever) and promptly fell asleep again. I was awoken my the bed shaking and the remote for the TV falling from the bed to the floor. I thought to myself "oh a big truck must have driven by' and thought no more of it until about half an hour later I was channel surfing and came across this headline "LA rocked by biggest earthquake in years!!!" Ah, my first night in California and I had experienced an earthquake. The cliche! This also worried me slightly. No, not the brush with death (it was a very mild earthquake, two shop windows fell out and some stuff fell off some shelves in a petrol station), but the fact the first one in ages had occured on the day of my arrival.
Cast your minds back to my Australia trip. During my time there I was in Melbourne for the devasting fires, left Tasmania the day 30+ whales beached and went to Cairns the day after a cyclone had hit. I was concerned that my bad ecological luck had skipped New Zealand and was now about to strike the States. So keep your eyes posted on the news.
The next morning I awoke unrefreshed, but raring to go. I had decided I did not like LA and was not regretting my decision not to spend anytime there (thank-you Esme for some sound advice). I asked the hotel receptionist if it was far to the bus stop- NO NO! So I began to walk. And walk. And walk. Half an hour later through urine soaked streets and a brush with a fire engine (I keep forgetting that they drive on the right) I arrived at the bus station. Ew. Smelly and dirty. The bus was no better. It was full and I had to sit next to a Mexican chap. I think he must have known a tourist was going to be sitting next to him because he'd obviously gone out and bought the outfit. He had a white stetson, snake skin boots and was chewing a matchstick. I mean really, c'mon, can you fill the stereotype any more than that?!
The bus journey to Las Vegas was unpleasant, but uneventful apart from one thing. I had managed to fall asleep, it not being a plane and suddenly the bus screeched to a halt and I was woken up. Now as I said the bus wasn't great and there was something wrong with my seat so whenever the bus slightly sped up or slowed down it rocked back and forth. With this sudden stop I was flung forward. I looked aorund and all I could see was sand. Of course driving through Nevada meant lots of sand, but a gust of wind had caused a mini-cyclone of sand to swirl around and by chance had hit our bus. It wasn't a strong wind, but the bus had to wait til it passed and the driver could see again. I t was a bit alarming and excited the two old ladies wearing matching wigs, green and orange linen suits in front of me to no end. You just know that'll be the story at the knitting circle next week.
I finally got to Vegas and caught a taxi to my hotel. It was very expensive and I think I was had, but I was so grateful the taxi driver didn't kidnap me and sell me into white slavery that I paid it gladly and scampered. Now those of you would know anything about Vegas or if you are like myself and get all your information from CSI, you will have heard of Caeser's Palace, the largest casino and hotel complex on 'the Strip'. Well, I wasn't staying there, it was too expensive, I was staying at the Imperial across the road. It was immently cheaper and immently obvious why. The hotel rooms were very basic and didn't appear to have any light switches. However, it was cheap and private and had a TV channel that only appeared to show Law and Order so I was happy.
After a shower I ventured out into the big bad world of Vegas. Celebrities, fashion, money, sophistocation! Well, they must all have been on holiday somewhere else because all I saw was fat, ugly, poor people sweating. It was bloody hot and not in a nice Australia way, in a dirty smoggy London way, but three times as hot. I resolved to the see the sights so I dutifully walked to the south end of the strip, took pictures of the fake Effial Tower, the fake statue of Liberty, the 4 floor M&M shop, dodged past the hundred guys trying to give me little porn cards with prostitutes phone numbers on (these guys literally lined the streets) and tried to be a good tourist. I wasn't really feeling the love, but I was trying when suddenly a tall chap started walking next to me and began talking to me. He was young, American and of course shouted. I found it was rather odd that he would suddenly start talking to me as I was just walking along, I wasn't stopped anywhere looking at something and I felt the random talking to stranger etiquette had been broken. However, my inability to be rude led me to chat back (but I kept my steady pace). This guy seemed perfectly reasonable, but was obviously angling for me to have a drink with him and I was thinking how I would politely say no and leave (remember most serial killers are American white men between 20-40, trust no one) when he did something I would like some feed back about.
Now to recap, he had started talking to me randomly and we had just started talking. As we walked along the pavement, the way became narrow and we had to go single file. Now I know I'm not the most graceful of people, but I have been walking and standing independently for most of my life, I can manage it. Well, this chap put his hand low down on the small of my back and 'directed' me to where I should walk. I felt this was A. Insulting and B. invading my personal bubble. Now I take my personal bubble VERY seriously, just like my hostel etiquette and he has broken it severely. All pretences were gone. Shortly after this incident we pasted a dancing fountain, he slowed and stopped and I said "oh I'm tired, enjoy the fountain" and ran away. Bravely ran away, away, like a true hero. Was I over reacting? Or do you think he was a creep?
I returned to myhotel room(it was getting on- at least 8pm!) and hid there for the rest of the night. The next morning I resolved to try and enjoy myslef more. I mean come on it was Vegas! Sin City!!!! Money!!! Lights!! Glamour!!! So with this new enthusiasm I was walked out with my head held high to go the north end of the strip. I lasted about 3 hours of street porn card abuse, scary looking old women wearing inappropriate clothes and the blistering heat before I bought a sandwich and went back to my hotel again. I realised then the truth of the matter. I hate Vegas. It's dirty and hot and full of desperate horrible people who all want something from you. So I cut my losses and stayed in my hotel room until the next morning when I checked out and went to the airport to fly to San Francisco.
Now, as I sat on the plane (not sleeping) I looked back at my time in Vegas, realising that I had spent most of my time in my hotel room hiding from the celebrity look alike black jack dealers and the like, and thought 'do I regret that?'
The answer is no.