All the flying had us in a spin. From island life to the smog of LA, we felt that we needed a shake to roll with the change.

This was Knox’s first sight of the United States in the flesh. Miko had lived in LA before so we had decided to bulk most of our stay on the east coast in New York and just do a two night fly by on the west coast.

The thick pollution filled sight looked so arid from the air as the dry dusty hills stretched away from the flat city. We were exhausted when they arrived after flying through the night, moving forward a few time zones, and we were thankful of a quick, polite passage through immigration. We had to give finger prints and get a photo taken, as we were processed, but this wasn’t a hassle compared to the horrors of lapses in security.

A motel look with a dark, old fashioned exterior and interior was what we came to expect of Best Western hotel. All seemed to need renovations apart from the New President in New Zealand, that had a face lift recently. It didn’t help reading a sign in reception warning guests that some of the building materials in the hotel could cause cancer!




Santa Monica, who could deny it? We squeezed onto a jam-packed, stop go, bus for the hour long journey down to Santa Monica Boulevard. Tour guide Miko was interested to see if anything had changed since it was her haunt in 96’ but for now, as the LA loud bus driver nattered into his loud speaker encouraging people to give up their seats for pregnant woman and ones with children, we wished we’d organized better and hired a soft top for the day.

Miko’s headache dissipated after they got off at Santa Monica Blvd where the filthy rich and famous came to play in their bon’ vivant way. It still looked familiar. The plaza’s in town were ‘same, same’, having nothing unique about them other than being pretentiously known for celeb spotting. 

With LA being so spread out, ones own transport is necessary if one is to see anything remotely interesting. The café culture, people watching and the plastic attitude were as fascinating to watch as paint dry as everyone was trying their damndest to out do others. One could cry at the sadness if it wasn’t so pathetically funny!

The pier and the boardwalk had its usual show-offs that the world has all seen before. There are the jumps and twirls of the bikini-clad dolls and the tight trunked Kens as they compete for the most attention in their blades or fancy runners. The mother’s or nanny’s power walk and shake their booty as they push baby in pram forward and free a few meters before jogging and scissoring to catch up. You have the jokers, the preachers, the know-it-alls, the posers, the gigolos, the watchers, and the clicking ‘wana picture’ tourists. It was all a hoot.

The beach either side of the pier stretched into the distance as far as the eye could see, being so broad it finally backed onto the gardens of well positioned beach houses some 250 metres from the shore at the foot of the small cliffs, on top of which ran the busy free way. Not so much romantic as frantic. 

We decided to give the long winding promenade, snaking its way down to the steroid induced chiselled forms of Venice beach, a miss. 

Instead we opted to try the little Irish bar that Miko remembered being at the start of the pier only to find it was now ‘Rusty’s Surf Shack’. It didn’t matter, after treading the heavy, gnarled wooden boards of the fairground pier, we took a late lunch at Rusty’s enjoying some sweet Californian wine and chilled beer while we crunched on some healthy green leaves that is the LA dining experience.

We left the beach front in the sizzling heat as all the bathers crammed in at the sea shore. Miko was intrigued to wander down memory lane as we trailed up a few blocks from 3rd street. Our heads flicked from side to side with Miko trying to glimpse places from the past, including her old apt block, and Knox tried to fit reality into descriptions. We easily found the local supermarket but after that the trail went cold. It had been 10 years so it was no surprise that in the intervening time her memory had faded and developments had changed the landscape.

An evening drink to reminisce in ‘Ye Olde Kings Head’ on Santa Monica Blvd turned into a bit of a session chatting to some of the clientele. We found there wasn’t much chance to ‘give a tip’, as the staff often just kept the change without asking. All in all it was a hazy return to the hotel.




A drowsy Miko peered bleary eyed at the clock not really caring about the time, turned over again and fell back into slumber to dream of ‘pink elephants’. Half an hour later Knox woke with his head thumping and immediately became frantic.

“Shit, Miko, its 8.10, we haven’t packed and we have to be at the airport by 9.30”, his parched fuzzy mouth gasped, while trailing the blankets off her.

Miko grunted but dragged herself up. 

We finally made it to LAX for 9.45am with just enough time to check in. We were too monged to argue with the 50 dollar levy for the weight of their bags and as we were two sorry states, we were just happy to board the plane, dizzy headed, and get on the way to New York.

Oh how we felt awful but would try to get some sleep before the gruesome 3 hour wait for a connection in Houston.