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Los Angeles

As it turns out, I can’t sleep on planes. Nineteen hours in a tiny, uncomfortable, if–I–recline–too–much–the–guy–behind–me–will–get–pissy airline seat with no leg room (by my standards) isn’t the most exciting thing I can imagine, but with plenty of movies and television shows screening from the back of the seat in front of me plus a metric assload of photo tagging on my to–do, I can pass the time. Thankfully, the food was good and the free booze helped loosen me up.

To put it mildly, LA has thus far been… unsurprising. Sure, it’s about forty times bigger than any city I’ve been in before and sure, it’s dirty in places and full of crackheads in places and the root of all evil in places (depending on your particular prejudice) but for all intents and purposes it feels just like home; only with more Americans than usual. Any aberrations are being appended to my internal “crazy American shit” dictionary… singing hobos in Santa hats notwithstanding.

California was apparently a very good place to begin our trip. It’s now officially winter here, but it’s exactly the same as a Western Australian winter: cold enough to require jeans but uncomfortably hot as soon as you step into the sun. By night, you need a jacket… no big deal. Most of my clothes were packed with Canadian winter in mind, so right now I’m pleased as punch a pair of shorts accidentally found their way in to my pack.

Mike and I are enjoying the company of a pair of Brits —Sola, who is here to write and record an album; and Paul, who is desperate to get home— both of whom have made it their task to introduce us to American life. I’m yet to see that much of LA, mostly restricted (without a cheap means of locomotion beyond the bus and my own two feet, as I am) to Venice and Santa Monica… which is just fine for now. Santa Monica is (again) confirming my suspicion that California is just Australia without the Australians: a beautiful city with wide, clean streets reminiscent of our inner–city malls, a smattering of bars and clubs and plenty of good shopping. Imagine the Perth CBD mashed together with Subiaco. I’ll say it a few more times before the end of this post: it feels like home.

And as much as I’d like to continue drawing large and obvious parallels between here and home, it’s the little differences that make trips like this fun. The bars don’t serve wedges —which is inexcusable— and have absolutely no idea what the hell you’re talking about when you say “can I get a basket of wedges with sour cream and sweet chili sauce?” — which is horrific. Further attempts to clarify by using synonyms like “chunky–cut potato”, “skin on” and “chili” have so far only scored us what appeared to be a plate of nachos served with curly fries instead of corn chips. Random. Paul took us to a Hooters for a lark, and I’m absolutely flabbergast by the place. We’re in there to have a beer and to ogle tits and asses and there are couples having dinner there. Families with children dine at Hooters, and by our minds the place is just a sophomoric skin bar. There are plenty of hot women working in bars in Australia, but paying them to flirt with patrons is the last thing anyone would think of doing… you can go to a real titty bar if that’s your thing. You end up tipping them the same, but you’ll at least get a lap dance at a strip club.

A difference that actually plusses the American experience so far has been the retail stores’ self–checking EFTPOS terminals. At the Apple store I checked the total of my purchase on a 5×7 inch LCD before swiping my own card, signing the screen with a stylus, and confirming the purchase… brilliant. Faster, more secure (in a “your card doesn’t leave your person” way), and more convenient than anything I’ve seen in Australia.

Speaking of which, the Santa Monica Apple Store is treating me well with their supply of free wi–fi; and I’m interested to go see the LA store at the Grove —one of Apple’s flagship “glass staircase” stores— to see what all the fuss is about. Nice atmosphere, nice staff, and the biggest collection of Macs and Mac–related merchandise I’ve ever seen in one place. I had absolutely no luck looking for a SendStation PocketDock in Australia, but here they’re just lined up on the rack with all the other merchandise. The attempt to make their stores a cool place to hang out is clearly working, the joint has been jumpin’ every time I’ve visited, doing a helluva lot for Apple’s mindshare. One would hope that once we get an Australian iTMS they might consider porting their retail stores; with the iPod gaining traction in the usually slow–to–adopt Australian market, I would assume Apple will start paying a little more attention to the land down under.

More news as events warrant… which basically means every day.