Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Hey Hollywood!

Los Angeles is a peculiar one.
When I told people that I planned to spend six days there and my last three in San Francisco, I was met with a wary shake of the head and told umpteen times that I should have done it the other way round. 
But the hostel was booked and New Year's Eve fast approaching so there was no other choice but to buckle up, settle down and have a good time. 
I booked into USA Hostels Hollywood, about fifty metres from Hollywood Boulevard, it's streets lined with stars, armies of tourists, crack heads and the world's most decorated hobos. 

My room mates included a ridiculously upbeat Japanese nursery teacher and a Dutch girl who felt comfortable enough to sit me down later and regale in minute detail a recent INTIMATE liaison with a jazz-loving tour guide by the name of Doug. Doug the sex god. Why do people feel the need to unzip such personal secrets to me? I must have a trustworthy face. Another woman once whinged about her incompatibility with certain sanitary products as a result of a complicated labour following pregnancy. SHUT UP.

I woke up in the evening, in time to cash in on a hostel-run barbecue and have a look at the other guests. Arriving in a new hostel is like looking at an identity parade for disposable friends. They form a line, you size them up and select a partner in crime, you friendship expires the day one of you leaves. Perhaps a bit ruthless but completely true.

And it was at this juncture the hemispheres collided, the moons aligned, a butterfly in Chile fluttered its wings and I met my New Zealand double, Hailey. We were so alike, it was freaky. 

From her flicked black eyeliner, can't-be-arsed indifference with begfrienders, to the affection for leopard print to the chipped, glitter polish on her nails, to the beds and lockers (unallocated) in our rooms, we were the same. 

The weirdest thing of all was that she had done the exact same job in New Zealand to the one I'd left behind in London. It's not like our jobs, or even the sector we work in, are well known. It's the Diagon Alley of media

We swore a blood oath over cups of moonshine-spiked cocktails to knock about together the next day - Hailey's last and my first. I had heard about a World of Leggings on Melrose Avenue (rubbish and overpriced, so if you were considering going, don't) so we ambled in that direction, weaving past the hoardes of snap happy tourists outside Mann's Chinese Theatre and ducking tour hawkers screaming up and down the street for business. 

Los Angeles is so huge, with no nucleus or core, it makes it difficult to know the city. It's like a set of towns really close to each other but no one place, like Trafalgar or Times Square, where all the major events happen. There are Scientology Churches on every corner, adding to general air of surreality. The skies are circled by LAPD and tour choppers, giving you the sense of being constantly under siege and surveillance. 
Having already spent a couple of days around Venice Beach and Santa Monica pre-Hawaii, I had no urge to return to the shore, and Universal Studios held no attraction as a solo traveller so I spent most of my time wandering in and out of steam punk and vintage shops, being made to stalk celebrities around the gold-plated streets of Beverley Hills, exploring the hipster quarter of Silver Lake and gulping down the best sushi in the world. 

I was introduced to Kino Sushi by my perpetually-cheery Japanese room mate. The chef and staff cheer greetings - 'HELLO! WELCOME!' - as soon as you wander in off Hollywood Boulevard. I got a bento box which included spicy chicken teriyaki, sticky rice, prawn and vegetable tempura, miso soup, weird but tasty salad gunk and California roll sushi pieces, all for $12. Delicious. 

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