After spending so much time in Europe and Asia over the years, I thought it was about time I went to U.S.A., at least for a little while to see if it was as freaky as I was lead to believe…
I was staying for a few days with some friends in Frankfurt, Germany and on my last night in the country, they took me out to a groovy “sit-down” club to watch a band do their thing. Needless to say, I got rather hammered – especially after returning home and having a couple of shots of Czech Absinth as a nightcap.
I somehow awoke and got myself ready about an hour after I had gone to bed. I certainly wasn’t in very good shape to say the least and as I packed my gear, I neglected to remember to put my pocket knives into my main check-in luggage. So, hungover and with minute traces of blood in my alcohol stream, not to mention a pocket knife in my jumper pocket and a “leatherman” in my hand luggage, I went off to the airport with my friend Andrea.
The airport was hot and stuffy. They had the heating up too high or something. People were everywhere, and my flight in particular was completely full. I checked in and then headed for the first security stop. I was more or less stripped of everything metallic, including my shoes and belt. My jumper went through the x-ray machine in a box following my hand luggage and one of the security personel immediately asked if I had a leatherman in my bag and could I please remove it. “Oh shit! That’s right!” I thought to myself as I slapped my forehead. A security lady kindy offered to put my illicit (and very expensive) leatherman into an envelope and add it to my check-in luggage. I was given a receipt and off I went. Great!! The kind lady then asked me to follow her. I put my hands in my jumper pockets as one does and lo and behold, I felt something else… “Oh shit!!”
I followed the security lady to the next check, and due to the time lost with the leatherman incident, she jumped me to the head of the queue as I quickly debated in my head whether or not to declare my rosewood handled, “opinel” knife in my jumper pocket. For some strange reason the first x-ray had not shown it, or they had not noticed it, even though it was the only thing in my pocket. Should I tell them about it, or risk another x-ray? I opted for the latter and believe it or not, the same thing happened. I breathed a sigh of relief as I got dressed again and followed the security lady the rest of the way to the departure lounge.
Finally I was on the plane and the 11 hour 24 minute flight to Los Angeles commenced. I enjoyed the flight immensely, mainly due to the fact that I had not lost either of my precious knives, the weather was clear and I had a perfect view of Greenland and Canada as we flew overhead. Greenland was just as I had imagined it, not green at all, but a vast mountainous, frozen white wilderness.
Eventually I arrived in L.A. 12:40pm local time and was greated by enormously fat and very surly customs officials. Once that was out of the way, I went to claim my leatherman. The first guy I asked – before I even had time to tell him what it was that I wanted, or even give him the receipt – said, “Yep, sure, I’ll just go grab it for you” and I never saw him again.
For three hours I went from one guy to another who more or less said or did the same thing. Some of them would talk for ten minutes or so giving me completely useless information in some sort of a bid to sound like they knew what they were on about, rather than just tell me, “No, sorry sir, I don’t know”.
Eventually, after being sent all over the airport from one idiot to another, I found myself sitting alone in a waiting area near some sort of service desk. I accosted every person I saw emerging with a uniform and for some strange reason, every one of them would give me the same “I’ll just go get it…” line and disappear, never to be seen again, before I’d even had a chance to tell them what “it” was. Finally, after a very long frustrating wait, another guy tried to scoot past, but I grabbed him and before he had a chance to pull the same disappearing act as his collegues, I forced the receipt into his hand. I caught a sigh and a slight look of disappointment from him as he disappeared out the back in a much less urgent manner.
Right, all that crap was finally out of the way. More than three hours after I had actually arrived, I headed for a large information desk with two ancient ladies – who could have made a lemon pucker – in attendance. In huge block letters across the front of the desk was a sign that read: “INFORMATION”.
“Excuse me, can you tell me anything about accommodation in L.A. please?”
And the very sour and disinterested reply, “No, that would be the other information desk in the other building over there”.
My introduction to U.S.A. and it’s inhabitants thus far had been somewhat discouraging. I had been in the country for only a few hours and had already met countless idiots who were utterly full of shit. However, I did somehow find one of the cheapest hostels in Los Angeles (dorm beds $15/night – unfortunately I do not recall the name), complete with a free airport shuttle bus, right smack bang in the middle of Inglewood. Yep, that’s Inglewood, otherwise known as the “hood” and right next door to Compton. Apparently the most dangerous place in U.S.A. and scene of the L.A. riots after the police beating of Rodney King.
I was warned by an Australian working behind the reception desk, not to set foot outside the hostel after dark, nor to invite in any strangers. Apparently a few days before I arrived, two people were shot dead on the doorstep. One was a prostitute and the other was some random victim of a drive-by shooting.
Great place to raise the kids…