La la la…Los Angeles

I MADE IT! I’M IN THE USA!

I dragged my stupidly tired and jet-lagged self off a plane at 6.30 in the morning yesterday and waited in a stupidly long line with passengers from two other planes while a gorgeous Hispanic lady with so much make-up you’d think she was about film a TV show (oh heck, this is LA…maybe she was!) herded us through and into our places and made us giggle, which was no small feat considering we’d all been on a plane all night.

I caught a door-to-door shuttle bus to my friend Theresa’s house. These are amazing things, like group-taxis kind of, and it cost me $65 for an hour-and-a-half ride with a wonderful Lebanese-American man who told me heaps about LA and even bought me a coffee from Starbucks. Yes. Americans are wonderful.

The first thing I noticed was how much it looked like Melbourne. We didn’t see any of Downtown LA, but the suburbs are just…Melbourne…but bigger. And MORE. They even have Westfields, to complete the illusion – that IS a Aussie company, isn’t it? I felt the need to keep half an eye open for stray Banjos Bakeries, and felt sure that any minute my Lebanese-American driver was going to tell me he was really Lebanese-Australian, and that we’d be approaching the Dandenongs any time soon. Then I saw the mountains.

The mountains behind LA are beautiful. More than beautiful. They are spectacular. THey rise up out of the flat valley floor like a wrinkle in a blanket, and they’re wrinkly and ancient looking and at the same time look like the hand of God could come along and smooth them, blanketlike, at any time. My driver says they were pushed up by the movement of the earth plates. They are the result of the famous San Andreus Fault Line, and they go all the way up the West Coast of the USA and into Canada. I wanted to go and climb them and explore all over (which is not possible this trip). Theresa later told me that there are coyotes there, and it’s rattle snake season. Their house backs onto a sandy desert hill, and it’s not safe to explore there either, for the same reasons.

But I love it here. I love seeing old friends, and being able to hang out and relax and chat and simply spend time together. Any amount of sleeplessness is worth it to spend time with these lovely people again.

Here are the main bits of difference I’ve noticed day 1:

Milk comes in gallon-bottles.

There’s garbage disposal.

All the houses are made of stucco. There are no brick houses anywhere – they’d crack with all the earthquakes.

In this neighbourhood every second house has a US flag hanging on the front porch (I’ve been told this was for Remembrance day) and pumpkins out as decorations (go out for Halloween, stay out until Thanksgiving, and as soon as they come in the Christmas decorations go out). But they still don’t EAT pumpkins…only ones in cans.

I’m told it’s really hard to buy electric kettles. Most people have the old-fashioned sort that you put on the stove top and take ages to boil. Theresa bought her electric kettle in a Camping shop. (Yes. Because I’d pack an electric kettle if I was going bushwalking and living in a tent for a week too!)

Theresa’s kids are petrified of house flies. There was a tiny one outside on the deck, and the youngest screamed and ran inside. Here there are no flying insects! No flies, no mosquitos, definitely no enormous blowflies like at our place at the moment.

You can’t say the word “toilet” (Theresa’s kids don’t even know what it means! I told one of them I had to go to the toilet before I played another round of cards, and she looked at me funny and said “what?”) although you can – and should – wear ugg boots* in public. Here that is not at all Bogan. Here it is the height of fashion!

So Aussie friends, when you boil your kettle today think about America. And then, when you go to the supermarket and see people in ugg boots, congratulate them on their excellent fashion sense – even if it is in the wrong country.

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*I presume everybody knows what ugg boots are. Sheepskin boots. In Australia we think of them as bedroom slippers, and only wear them outside the house in desperate times…or if we forget.