What I Did On My Holidays

Intermission II

Just when you thought it was safe to leave L.A.


If three days is enough for a summary of Japan, two days is ample for L.A.

L.A. is a city that gets a lot of publicity. Everyone has heard of L.A. Everyone knows it is full of freeways and terrible traffic. Everyone knows it is full of glamorous movie stars.

It didn't appear that way. The traffic seemed no worse than Melbourne traffic. While Rodeo Drive had very expensive looking shops selling very expensive looking brands, the rest of L.A. seemed dusty and a bit run-down. This probably has something to do with only seeing a few bits of L.A. on weekdays. Not exactly representative. Also having a guide who grew up on the east coast and in Australia, who had only lived in L.A. for a year or so and who spent most of that time in his office working and avoiding most of the L.A.-ness, might also have skewed the sample. Nevertheless, there are some observations to be made.

Firstly, the first impression of L.A. from my first sight of the city. The flight from Tokyo hit land closer to San Francisco, in a thankfully metaphorical sense, and headed south to L.A. parallel to the coast. So the landscape was the steep mountainous land clearly indicative of fault lines and tectonic plate collisions. The first sight of L.A. was when the relatively flat valleys between these hills ceased to be farmland and stated to be hill to hill suburb. The standard front and back garden variety house plonked everywhere the land was flat enough for the house to stay put (until the next mud slide).

This soon panned out to a vast plain covered in a grid of roads, houses, factories and in downtown L.A., a few skyscrapers. All covered by a smog thick enough to be scraped. I never saw a southern limit to the city, but I assume there was one.

Naturally, L.A. is full of cars, big cars. Technically, not so many cars, just lots of SUVs. Sport Utility Vehicles - two tons of steel to get you to the milk bar. Every second road user is some enormous tank that makes your average Toorak tractor (1) look somewhat anaemic. If it's not a SUV, it's a pickup. Somehow there are many city dwellers thinking an essential requirement in their personal transport is a large empty pickup bed.

Of course this is the only form of transport in L.A. Even walking is impossible apparently.

Then there is the food. There seemed to be three consistent features of the restaurants in  L.A.; huge servings, excellent quality and service that is so attentive that it borders on intrusive. I guess when the food service technician (warning politically correct term) is dependent on your tip for a significant fraction of their income, they have a good incentive (2) to be polite and friendly, as sincerely as they can be.

(1) Melbourne centric description of the four wheel drive used for shopping and fording mighty puddles. (back)

(2) This terms needs to updated. Either a correction for inflation - indollarive - or as an aid to tipping newbies - inten-to-fifteen-percentive. (back)


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© Copyright 2000 Andrew McIver

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