“‘The dolphin guy’? He’s a world renowned artist!” -A woman in a store after I referred to Wyland Galleries as “The dolphin guy.”
Our stay in Las Vegas was over and it was time for the second part of our trek, a five-night stay with Anna’s cousin in Orange County, California. In fact, in relatively close vicinity in Orange County, Anna has two cousins, a nephew and her uncle and auntie.
We would meet with Anna’s auntie and uncle on Saturday morning, they would drive us 4½ hours through the desert to California, where we we would stay until Sunday morning before flying back to New York.
We checked out of the Flamingo at 10:00am and Bob and Susan were already waiting out the front for us. Our desert journey would wind through Nipton, Baker, Barstow and Phelan, before eventually reaching our target destination, Irvine, California.
Naturally, Anna fell asleep as soon as the car started moving, her auntie nodding off not long after, leaving Bob and myself to spend the next few hours chatting about his time spent in the Marines as well as his many drives through that very desert.
This might be a lonely place, but it is an absolutely beautiful part of the country, check it out for yourself:
Once we arrived in Irvine we went to Anna’s cousin, Michelle’s, house, where she had prepared some great ribs for dinner. We sat around eating and drinking with Michelle and her husband, Chip, for the rest of the night, catching up on what had happened since the last time we had seen them, which was at our wedding in Malaysia four years ago. Chip is a very early sleeper and was heading to Alabama the following morning to watch the football and wouldn’t be back until after we had left, so it was Michelle, her two dogs, Anna and myself in their beautiful, enormous house for the next few days.
We had arranged to rent a car from John Wayne Airport, because it is almost impossible to get around California without one, but first we would stroll around Michelle and Chip’s neighbourhood, situated on a beautiful golf club. We were on our guard, though, because there had been mountain lion sightings in the last few days:
They live in a nice, little gated community, but even getting to the nearest convenience store was going to require that car.
When Michelle was ready for her lunch break she took us to Javiers at the Irvine Spectrum Center for some great Mexican food. We ate, looked around the mall, did some Christmas shopping and then it was time for a little adventure; Picking up the car at the airport and experimenting with our first attempt at driving on the opposite side of the road.
We caught a lyft to John Wayne Airport at about 4:00pm, checked out our new Chrysler, our ride for the next week, and then we were off.
Since I developed epilepsy I haven’t been comfortable driving, especially outside of Australia, so, as like in Singapore, Anna was to be our charioteer around Southern California and I, the navigator. She did an amazing job of getting us around, too. Sure, initially I had to drop quite a few subtle hints that she was almost in the gutter, but besides that, she did great. We had one other problem, however; Our new car was a little too high-tech.
We decided it was a bit too late in the day to go on an adventure, so we would leave that for Thursday and just spend the rest of Wednesday back at Irvine Spectrum Center finishing off the Christmas shopping. The ride there would’ve been a lot more comfortable for Anna if we could have ever found out how to make her seat move forward. Mine was just a handle, the driver’s side was more than that and Anna was unable to push the pedals all the way down. Still, this was nothing.
The sun has been setting at around 4:45pm and it was well after that by the time we decided to drive back to Michelle’s house. At first we thought the interior lights of the car would switch off automatically, maybe after a few seconds, possibly a minute. Well, Anna couldn’t see properly while she was driving, one minute turned into two, two turned into ten and in that time I was both telling her where to go, all the while pressing random buttons in the car to get the interior lights off. When nothing worked we eventually pulled over, googled it and found they were controlled by a tiny dimmer switch under the steering wheel, not the buttons on the actual lights. We fixed the light situation and drove back to Michelle’s with an infinitely dimmer dashboard, as well.
We had big plans for Thursday. As I mentioned in the last post, Anna’s uncle and auntie had mentioned something about getting us NHL tickets for the Anaheim Ducks. It turns out that one of Anna’s cousin, Michelle’s, friends works pretty high up at the Staples Center, home to the Anaheim Ducks and the L.A. Kings of NHL and both the L.A. Lakers and Clippers of the NBA. Apparently, she even has a Lakers championship ring, but anyone who knows me knows I despise the Lakers, however, most tickets now would be an opportunity to see them lose. But Michelle’s friend, Christy, came through even better; She got us tickets to the L.A. Clippers vs. Golden State Warriors.
The game wasn’t until 7:30pm, so our plan was to drive in to downtown Los Angeles and check it out. We’ve all seen the image of Los Angeles they show in the movies and on TV, but the image that always stuck with me was the version in the song “I Hate LA” from The Underground Comedy Movie. Sure, the song sucks, but there has to be some element of truth there. I’m not going to post the video for the usual reasons, but it’s on YouTube if you want to find it yourself. It turns out that the image of LA represented both in that song and in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and GTA V are pretty accurate; It’s all smog, traffic jams and crime. Even in the areas you’d expect to be nice and pleasant, such as Hollywood Boulevard, are awful. Still, I put my wallet in my front pocket, kept an eye out for syringes and drive-bys and we moseyed around Hollywood for the afternoon:
We spent quite a bit of time walking around, but it wasn’t that fun being on our guard all the time, so we dropped into Amoeba Music, a place I could have easily spent all day, and then Ripley’s Believe it Or Not!. Ripley’s was interesting for us because it had exhibitions we could both kind of relate to.
For me, it was Robert Wadlow. Who is Robert Wadlow, you ask? Only the tallest man in recorded history:
Robert Pershing Wadlow (February 22, 1918 – July 15, 1940) also known as the Alton Giant and the Giant of Illinois, was the tallest person in recorded history for whom there is irrefutable evidence. The Alton and Illinois monikers reflect the fact that he was born and raised in Alton, Illinois.
Wadlow reached 8 ft 11.1 in (2.72 m) in height and weighed 439 lb (199 kg) at his death at age 22. His great size and his continued growth in adulthood were due to hyperplasia of his pituitary gland, which results in an abnormally high level of human growth hormone. He showed no indication of an end to his growth even at the time of his death.
For Anna, on the other hand, it was the exhibition on Chinese foot binding that caught her eye. Why? Because Anna’s great-grandmother arrived in Malaysia from China about 100 years ago with bound feet. Anna, though, has quite large feet for a Chinese woman, so the contrast was pretty obvious. So, what is foot binding?:
Foot binding (also known as “lotus feet”) was the custom of applying painfully tight binding to the feet of young girls to prevent further growth. The practice possibly originated among upper-class court dancers during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period in Imperial China (10th or 11th century), then became popular during the Song dynasty and eventually spread to all social classes. Foot binding became popular as a means of displaying status (women from wealthy families, who did not need their feet to work, could afford to have them bound) and was correspondingly adopted as a symbol of beauty in Chinese culture. Its prevalence and practice however varied in different parts of the country.
The Manchu Kangxi Emperor tried to ban foot binding in 1664 but failed. In the later part of the 19th century, Chinese reformers challenged the practice but it was not until the early 20th century that foot binding began to die out as a result of anti-foot binding campaigns. Foot-binding resulted in lifelong disabilities for most of its subjects, and a few elderly Chinese women still survive today with disabilities related to their bound feet.
It got to about 5:30pm, two hours until tip off, so we decided to try and beat the aforementioned traffic jams and get to the Staples Center early and grab some dinner there. Besides, as much as I hate the Lakers, I wanted to check out the statues out the front.
We went to a really good little pizza place and then it was time to find our seats. I was excited for this game, I knew it would be a great one so we were just happy that Christy had come through with the tickets. What we didn’t expect was to be sitting in the 13th row behind the Golden State Warriors bench and opposite Floyd Mayweather, who was sitting courtside. Billy Crystal and Jay-Z were there, too. In fact, Jay-Z owns the Brooklyn Nets and even he would rather watch someone else play, goes to show how bad the Nets are this year!
Our seats were amazing, here are some of the sights from the night:
It was an absolutely amazing game, but Chris Paul had a groin injury and JJ Reddick was suffering back spasms, leaving them both questionable for this one. Reddick didn’t suit up, but Paul wasn’t going to miss this game and was on fire from the beginning, scoring 18 points in the first quarter without missing a shot, including 3/3 3-pointers! The Clippers were up by 23 points at one point and a lot of the Warriors fans went home after three quarters. I told Anna not to count them out and I guess I was right. Here’s the final 40 seconds from our vantage point:
Besides a couple of drunk douches in front of us who felt the need to stand, even when nothing much was happening and threatened to fight anyone who asked them to sit, we had an incredible time! It was a fast-paced game and Anna, due to sitting so close to the action, still can’t believe how big NBA players really are, especially DeAndre Jordan! I just made one small mistake; I inadvertently wore a Warriors-coloured jacket to a Clippers home game and received a few glares and comments as we were exiting.
Cheers for the tickets, Christy, we owe you big time.
Friday was a nice, relaxing day. We figured that, while we were staying in the O.C, we should hang out at the beach, Laguna Beach in this case.
Anna drove her auntie, uncle and myself to Laguna Beach and our first stop was The Deck for lunch. For my fellow Australians, the easiest comparison to make to beaches in Orange County is Byron Bay; The beaches and surrounding towns are full of hippies, stoners and surfers, both young and retired. We spent the afternoon walking around, looking at all of the small, local stores, then met back up with Bob and Susan to catch the sunset (right), before we went back to Michelle’s place. After that it was down to the Golf Club for dinner and then some drinks back at Michelle’s house with her neighbour.
It was our last full day in California and our initial plan was to drive down to San Diego to hang out, but it was going to be a three-hour round trip, plus we wanted to meet up with another of Anna’s cousins, Tina, and her family for dinner, so we opted for another local beach. This time it was Newport Beach and we had a nice day just walking around, watching seals swimming around the pier, that sort of thing …
Our second day at the beach soon came to an end and it was time for dinner with Anna’s cousin, Tina, her husband, Chuck, and their son, Evan. We saw them briefly when we arrived on Tuesday, but this was our first chance to see them properly.
We had had a nice day and hanging out with Tina, Chuck and Evan was a lot of fun, but we had to go back to Michelle’s place to pack for our return to New York.
We flew back to New York from LAX, this time on a flight that had free movies, but lacked seats that reclined.
We arrived in New York and were greeted by the siren song of emergency vehicles and car horns, coupled with the fragrant, aromatic mix of garbage juice and urine and it felt like home. We didn’t end up doing any of the things we had planned, the Hoover Dam, an Anaheim Ducks game, Universal Studios, but it was still a fun trip.
We liked California, we really did, but we are both so glad that we never ended up living there. It is an extremely inconvenient place to be, so spread out with next to no public transport, leaving you with no option but to drive to the closest shop, which will probably close early, anyway.
*So, no, I don’t rank California über alles (“above all”), it’s just a song by a band I have always loved, Dead Kennedys.
I got home , jumped on the scales and realised that in the 10 days I had been in Las Vegas and California I had gained 1.5kgs (3.3lb). They say that everything’s bigger in New York, but the west coast is putting up some serious competition. Here are a few examples: