After a rather tiring and relatively un-eventful trip from Milwaukee to LA (via Chicago), I arrive at the famous and lively city of LA. I get picked up from LAX by one those classical sleezy shuttle drivers who takes me to my backpackers (which I booked from NZ), the Venice Beach Cotel and overcharges me as expected. Fine, at least I am there.
Wow, what a shock! Let's just say the place is swarmed by street kids and homeless people who have saved their money and got a bed for the night in order to avoid the rain which has just set in. Gone are the sunny views you see on the hostel's website, gone are the CLEAN beds too. And what is with all the stairs you have climb with your pack (they forgot to take a photo of them) and the unfriendly people?!? After dropping my stuff off, and being made to pay the whole amount for the full stay, I go outside where "creepy" takes a new meaning. I go back in and try to ring Gareth's friend Michael from the hostel. No luck, I must have misdialled.
I go outside and see a Best Western Hotel a few doors down Creepmania St. Their rooms are a whooping $170 but the guy feels so sorry for me he gives me $99 rate after several barganing attempts. Still way too high for what I can afford.
I find a payphone and manage to ring Michael who comes and rescues me. Thank God for him! We go back to his place where other Kiwis are crashing on his floor, trying to rest before their flight the next day. Everyone is friendly and smiley and they all agree I need to find a new place to stay.
Michael and I jump on the net and after some ringing around we find this place where it looks like I will pay a whole $75 a night, but hey, who wants to be stuck at the crazy house in Venice Beach for $30?
So off we go to check out the room, looks ok, no homeless crazy kids hanging around. We go back to the hostel and put the hard word to re-fund my credit card money. Not having a great deal of luck since the manager is not there, but hopefully it will happen the next morning we are told. We rescue my backpack at least and take it to the new room.
We finally go to the supermarket and get some dinner to take home. We eat at Michael's after which he drops me off at my new home. Aaahh, bed, sleep...but then during the night I get woken up by constant comings and goings on the stairs which are right outside my door. Plus Michael said to make sure to put the latch on the door, but the door has no latch - it has long been ripped out.
So with little-ish sleep I drag myself out at about 6am and go in search of some cafe where I can do some work and grab a coffee - I have lectures to prepare and a talk to UCLA to stress about.
At Gareth's suggestion from last night (I managed to check my e-mail via the wireless connection), I bus into Santa Monica and find a nicer looking backpackers. So I take a bed there - $35 a night - I feel much better already. But of course, another re-fund to deal with back at the fancy hotel (though let me tell you, for the 75 dollars it's pretty shabby after all!!!), and yet another grumpy person who won't give it to me. But I am tired, moneyless, and hungry by this stage, plus the prospect of carrying all my belongings on the bus to Santa Monica does not enchant me. So he gets a piece of my mind. Re-fund is suddenly no problem, so is a receipt, great! Done.
I race back to the hostel with my everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-backpack and dump my stuff. On the bus I seem to have started a whole conversation with the entire bus population. Someone overheard a man asking me where I was from and now everyone on the bus is practically talking about New Zealand and some dodgy looking Latino guy hands me his phone no if I would like him to show me around. No thanks. Honestly. I take the piece of paper and say "thanks", but I hope we both know it ain't gonna happen. Please let me out. Finally, we are there and I am back to the new and improved hostel, where I have another problem. I promised to call Prof Sandra Thompson by lunch to arrange a time when I can get to Santa Barbara for her to meet me. My watch says 11am.
I need to call a toursit office to organise my getting to Santa Barbara first. A few calls later I have an Amtrack booking and am "all set" as they say here. I call Sandy at home and, yes, of course she can meet me at the train station and show me around Santa Barbara a bit, yes that will be lovely. Phew. Aaahh, the mad rush can now stop and I can breathe easy....except for the fact that in the process, I realize I forgot Gareth's mp3 player on the plane and trying to call LAX lost and found is a bit like trying to call Caesar in Ancient Rome - forget it! After wasting more coins on the phone, I get to an answer phone and as I brace myself to leave a message (which seems to be my only option since after calling several times it appears no one actually tends to this phone), the lovely happy sounding voice at the other end informs me the machine is full so no, I can't even leave a message either. Aaaah! Good-bye mp3 player.
Let's just hope tommorrow will be better and that I won't have to repeat the whole "staying and paying for 3 hostels/hotels in 2 nights" anytime soon affair. I wonder what else is in this now sunny place apart from weird hostels and strange people.