Sunday, February 23, 2014

Repent

I went on a blind date. It was arranged by a committee headed by a girl I've never met in my life, who knew the other guy, somehow learned of my existence, and took it upon herself to hook us up. She's also a staunch Catholic, and while masterminding the whole deal she would sometimes take the time to say that she can't talk about it too much, or she'll have to go to confession. I am not making this up. It was reason #2 for why I went along with it. Reason #1 being my new motto: Beautiful People Say Yes. I took it from a David Guetta* number. Which tells you everything you need to know about the extent of my decline.

The guy turned out to be very nice and kind of handsome and (I think) into me. I turned out to be dead inside. Ana claims that the one thing he was missing was unavailability, but what does she know, stupid Ana, she's not the boss of me.

There is some truth to it, but I feel it isn't the whole truth. And I'm clinging to that, desperately.

* well ok, Sia, but the association still stings

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Evening out

The past few months have been somewhat nightmarish. Hopefully things will improve from now on.

Let's ease back into this whole blog thing slowly with a random picture I stumbled upon today:


I like it. A lot.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Let's see how fast this thing can go...

Last night I went to an Amanda Palmer concert. I don't even like a lot of her music, but she is an experience, and she delivered. What's more, I am now crazy about this song:




It absolutely destroys me. Almost the way that one Iron and Wine number does, except it's also the reason why I can't listen to it, whereas I can't stop listening to this one.

I'm having major issues with my new neighbor blasting horrible music through the paper thin wall. It's been my #1 problem for the past two months, which I guess means that I don't really have any serious problems at the moment. Still, home stopped being a refuge, and for a closet introvert that kind of sucks.

It's also fall now, which is usually when the membranes get thinner for me, and I start jonesing for some... progress. So things are a bit raw.

Wow, this turned out to be a bit of a bummer entry. Then again with a song like that, what did I expect.

I think a major upset in the status quo would not go amiss. Supposedly a lot of people fear looking back on their life on their deathbed and feeling that they have wasted it. I don't care about that - if I'm on my deatbed, I'll be dead soon, and therefore beyond caring. Getting hit with that realization at, say, 50 though? That scares the bejeezus out of me.

On the other hand, the Chinese probably would have something to say about people looking for something a bit more interesting in their times.

The day I stop playing both sides of the argument is the day that happens.

You are impossible, Delilah

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Shrike Cometh

So, apparently this thing still exists.

The first evening of this year when the windshields of cars were frosted over on the way back home. Winter is coming.

Yes, this is going to be one of those self-indulgent ones.

Switched flats. Didn't switch much else. Found a new, rather surprising connection. One that got sort of confirmed (to my surprise) tonight, actually. Nothing life-changing, and nothing to fill the - as Sia put it - "God-shaped hole", but I was surprised at the blue streak of recognition nonetheless. Gah, that's another obscure reference.

Having apartment issues. Trying new things professionally. Emotional life... contained again. My line for the moment is: if THIS is what passes for a problem for you, you've won the fucking lottery.

Are there things gnawing at the periphery? Of course. But "P" is so far down the alphabet.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

That's a nice place you brought me to

I inadvertently reenacted a scene from Weekend today, with minor adjustments, but right down to an actual line lifted from the movie and uttered (also unwittingly) by my companion.

There's a pattern again. Different than usual, but just as bad. This one actually seems easier to break though, and I think I'm going to try.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Austin: The Veterans, Day 2

A Pajiban girl just reminded me of Austin, so here's me trying to give this thing another nudge towards completion.

On the 2nd day at our new hosts it became clear that the Burmese guy decided to become part of our "group". Which to me made perfect sense, since he didn't know anyone else in the city, and our couchsurfing hosts were mostly unavailable, but didn't sit quite so well with Gosia, who at some point started just ignoring him.

We started the day, more or less, by meeting up with the Pajiba people again, this time at a cinema with a built-in bar. It was sort of redeeming, as I actually managed to talk to some of them, hang out, and was introduced to the concept of filling a gigantic cup with a free-refill soda (Dr Pepper in my case) and dumping the whiskey you order at the bar into said cup. Daydrinking is the best.

The Pajibans (mostly writers, plus Ian) were a bit hermetic, but not unmanageably so, and very funny and friendly. Unfortunately, by this moment I remember absolutely nothing about the conversation aside from giggling at stuff and leaving the theatre feeling relieved that I managed to overwrite the previous evening so neatly in my memory.

We went to see some movies, but I don't even remember what they were. To be honest, films were the most underwhelming portion of the whole experience. I probably saw around 20 or so, but remember only Much Ado..., Don Jon's Addiction (which I think changed its title in the meantime), and Sound City. Oh, and Before Midnight. All good films, but I wasn't extatic about any of them.

In the evening we went to our first proper free booze party, using our hard-earned badges. As it turned out, it was also the LAST film free booze party of the festival, because fuck you Polish amateurs. When we figured it out, we decided that we have to get absolutely hammered (7 drinks minimum) to start getting our money's worth, and should possibly split up. Because a crazy night of casual Western Hemisphere...ean sex is just around the corner, and obviously SO us. Gosia went to dance for a bit, and I stayed at the table, downing gin and tonic like... well, like it was free. Which, coupled with my legendary hearing, made the following conversation possible. I swear I'm not making this up.

Tipsy girl suddenly plops down at my table and extends her hand: I'm single!
Me, befuddled: I'm gay.
Girl: You're game?
Me: Gay. G-A-Y.
Girl: Oh... I don't care, I'm engaged.
Me: Then why did you say you are single?
Girl: I said I'm KENDALL.

Yes. Then her fiance came up to us. I have no idea what we talked about because I was busy alternately screaming in my head for the ground to open up and swallow me, and laughing like a maniac.

Eventually we stumbled out of the club and sauntered down the crazy-crowded avenue to catch our very first night bus (aka the Night Owl) of the trip. There was delicious pizza on the way, and a general feeling of awesomeness.

The wait for the bus was absolutely crazy - it was cold, so people were huddled together over a grate that spewed forth hot air. And all the buses were late, so the crowd kept growing. Apparently ours was the most anticipated, so when it finally arrived - 45 minutes late - there was a literal stampede. I remember no longer being quite drunk on alcohol, but feeling my brain switch to a sort of elated full-reception mode. As in: this is so surreal, so outside any of my usual points of reference, that all self-consciousness disappears. Whatever happens, go with the flow, and take this all in. Plus borderline hysterical giggling.

I particularly remember the gridlock outside the entrance to the bus. A sea of people unable to move, being crushed on all sides by equally giddy, confused and disbelieving festival-goers. No hostility, just a general sense of "WTF, are we really doing this?!" from all sides. And then, in a moment of perfect, cinematic silence, someone ACTUALLY saying: Ok... who farted?!

On the bus, we strike up a conversation with a random girl who proceeds to give us tips on the best Mexican and Tex-Mex places in town. Other people join in occasionally to concur or disagree with her choices. She looks us in the eye and says that if we go to this one place, we absolutely have to get the "boom boom sauce" with an intensity usually reserved for passing down the last secrets of a dying civilization. She writes down addresses on the margin of a newspaper (along with "boom boom sauce", underlined thrice), rips it off and hands it to us.

I love her and everything about this day. I've yet to realize that somewhere between the stampede and our getting off the bus my badge got lost/stolen.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Rucola

Found my footing on all fronts, sprained an ankle in the process. So not laying off weepy McLachlan just yet.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Ouch

I dreaded coming back here and reading what I wrote that night - I was so drunk I could only remember that I barfed SOMETHING into the Internet, but had no recollection of the actual content.

It's not good, but not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Small favors.

I'm trying to settle into the new flat. It's not going great. Nothing has collapsed, per se, but a lot of things started wobbling at once, and I found myself without anything to hold on to. Case in point: I was actually looking forward to getting back to translating a horrible 6-hour-long artsy film called HITLER, because it was familiar ground. Structure.

Listening to a lot of weepy McLachlan stuff today, a bit surprised at how comforting it is. Just something I know well, I guess.

Again, nothing bad is happening. I just can't seem to find my footing for the moment, and one of the wobbly bits traditionally terrifies me.

Enough self-indulgence, back to work.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Fault line

I feel like today was important, but I also feel like I need to make this brief, because my body is not entirely complying with the recording impulse.

Today is the last day in my previous flat. I had to pack all my stuff into cardboard boxes and sign the new lease agreement. Then I got to spend the first hour in my new apartment and see just how much of the office building I see through the windows (all of it), how many trees (none), and how many cars I hear driving down the busy street right outside (all of them).

It was not a good day. There's other shit on top of that, but it shall go unaddressed.

Then in the evening A came. We bought some munchies, some rose wine, and went to the new flat. A talked. A lot. Then we had a conversation. Not about the flat per se, just about life. I drank most of the wine because she's ill. A thunderstorm came. She left. I felt... so much better. Things would be ok.

Then stuff happened, but it's inconsequential. The story really picks up when I was with B, looking for a cab to take them home, and talking about... stuff. Stuff that I decided I would talk about, on this particular day. Stuff that made us forego the cab and go for another drink somewhere else.

And we talked. About various things, some of them perhaps more vital than the trump subject, but... it was an important moment as well. There was a pretty rudimentary connection. Here I was with a good person who, as it turned out, had my best interest at heart. Which should have been obvious, but it wasn't. And it will be from now on.

Were, I to write this tomorrow, I'd probably do a better job, but I felt the need to mark this moment now. Today was important.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Reemergent shapes

Going to see a promising flat the day after tomorrow. Hope it pans out.

One of my instant imprints from a while ago popped back up under somewhat different circumstances. Potentially debilitating, but that's life. If nothing else, it will provide me with a poster child for getting in shape.

This is my head right now:


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Austin: The Veterans, Day 1

On the next day we got up really early, because we had to meet our next hosts at a cafe at 9:30 a.m. I have to say I don't exactly miss the early mornings. For two weeks or so I ended up being exhausted by 10 p.m. and that's just WRONG.

Anyway, we managed to locate the cafe, though not without problems, and were greeted by a sweet middle-aged couple. We started off by the guy trying to give me keys and me thinking he's going in for a fist bump, but it got better from there. They are veteran couchsurfers, to the point where they have several sets of keys to their place, and a whole FAQ on the inside of the door - wifi password, cat's habits, etc. As we were dragging our suitcases to their door, a guy dismounted from his motorcycle in the parking lot and asked if we were staying with them. And then he told us they actually hosted him a couple of years back, when he was couchsurfing, and he liked the city so much that he moved here, and now he's their neighbour. There was something completely cinematically economic about this moment - as in: all background characters serve some purpose, because there's just no time to have random people pop up and not tell us something about the protagonists.

Unfortunately, that 30 minutes at the cafe was also the longest we ended up talking to them, because they left for work before we got up, and we'd come home after they've already turned in for the day.

Once we had the keys, we moved our stuff from the kid's place to the other one, which turned out to be all the way across the city. Which made me miss my first movie. Once we got there, we met a fellow couchsurfer - a Burmese native who came to USA when he was about 16, lived in New York, and then had a quarter-life crisis, burned out, and is now traveling around the world and trying to figure out what he wants to do. Obviously, we went for tacos. They were my first proper tacos, and they were good, though we were kind of confused by the fact that you should apparently order 2 or 3 at once, because they're kind of small-ish.

After the tacos Gosia and the Burmese guy went to see a movie, and I decided that it was finally time for me to get a local SIM card. I googled the location of a T-Mobile store, and set out to find it. On foot, because Austin public transport suuuuucks. I found the street easily enough, and started walking. I walked. And I walked. And then I walked some more. It seemed like I was actually leaving the city. I crossed some railroad tracks, and in my book that's always a bad sign. Turns out that the street just went on forever. I had a crisis of faith after about 45 minutes, but I was already more than halfway there, judging from the home numbers, so I persevered. Eventually I reached that friggin' store, at about half an hour before closing time, and managed to get the SIM card. I was so happy I sat down on the curb and immediately replaced my Polish one with the new one. And everything worked! Off to the bus stop I went. Leaving my Polish card on the curb, never to be recovered again. Yay.

At the bus stop, there was a homeless guy sleeping on the bench, and a portly fellow staring at the road wistfully. 30 minutes later we were joined by someone from the transit authority who came by to get rid of the homeless person. He had no idea when the bus was supposed to arrive though, or even if it was going to come at all. This pretty much meant that I wouldn't make it to yet another movie. Eventually I started talking to the portly guy, and we agreed that we'll wait 10 more minutes, and then call a cab and split the fare. Our ultimatum worked, and God sent down a bus, so we got to talk some more. Turned out he was from England, came for the music part, and was on his way to some sort of animation screening accompanied by free booze. Because apparently there was that as well.

I managed to just miss my next screening, so for the next hour or so, I ended up wandering around the city like a total twat. At that time, it was the definite low point of the trip. Finally, I reconvened with Gosia, very happy to see a familiar face and have someone to talk to, and we went to see a documentary on some punk rocker lady. I wasn't overly impressed and skipped out on the Q&A to get ahold of Ian (who came down for the weekend from Dallas) and possibly meet up with some Pajiba people. Which is how I missed Amanda Palmer, who apparently was at the same screening and had some questions for the lady.

On my way to the Pajiba people I managed to get lost, and actually arrived at the bar after Gosia (who stuck around for the Q&A). I was completely deflated and ended up sitting on the very outskirts, next to all the people I knew, so I wasn't even able to interact with the people I came to meet. And they were all tired, so they called it a night pretty quickly. The whole evening ended up being a pretty stinky anti-climax to an exhausting day filled with failures great and small. Ian was loads of fun though, from what I recall, as was his childhood friend who was also there, though I don't recall why.

Austin: The Kid, Day 2

My apartment search is still underway, but I've got some leads now. And I'm once again slightly drunk on that orange vodka, so let's keep the ball rolling.

On our first proper day at SXSW, we went to see Much Ado About Nothing. We got our first queue experience. I got saddled with a rather boring music blogger guy, who's seen it all before and sneered at all the people excited about various freebies. I was one of those people, but kept my mouth shut and soldiered through the small talk.

The film was ok. The panel afterwards was better, as the whole cast (and Joss) was there. Everyone, except Fran Kranz, was funny, but I don't remember a single line. Fran just seemed full of himself, and his line I remember: he said something about being grateful for these roles that allow him to show "his amazing acting range". Oof.

The Whedon fans were a bit overwhelming. One poor girl nearly had a nervous breakdown. But you know what - more power to them for standing up and having a public moment.

After the screening, we went to the food truck enclosure to get something to eat, and oh my God food trucks. There were these tiny sliders, they had 6 varieties, I think. One was with pulled pork. One was with a meatball in tomato sauce. One was with some sort of honeyed chicken butter thing... I'm drooling, I need to stop. But yes, food trucks.

When we got back home the acroyoga guy was there, and he juggled Gosia around for a bit while we gawked and giggled. After that surreal interlude, we got shuttled to Before Midnight by our host. We were supposed to meet him for drinks later, but that never really came together... but I'm getting ahead of ourselves. Our next queue line experience turned out to be an elderly couple from Austin who have been attending the festival from the very start. They have a flat in one of the highrisers downtown (which was surprising to me), and at some point the elderly lady mentioned that when she last checked Twitter there was a tornado warning. So yes, twitter-savvy grannies. And tornados.

Unfortunately (well... I guess - I'd like to see a tornado) that never materialized, but when we got out of the theatre, there was a rainstorm. Thankfully our host came to pick us up right off the street. When we got into the car, we realized that a) the boy is drunk, and b) there's someone else in the front passenger seat. A quiet, slightly giggly Indian-looking person who wasn't really introduced to us, so we had no idea what the deal was.

To make matters even more fun, it turned out that there's MORE couchsurfers coming - a French couple who had had a dismal layover in Chicago (they missed their flight) and were due to arrive in Austin any moment. And they kept calling our host, who wouldn't pick up the phone as to not be saddled with international charges. Eventually he managed to learn that they landed, and that the taxi driver dropped them off... somewhere in the vicinity of his apartment, but not quite there. So he delivered us to the flat with the strange guy, and promptly left. Awkward small talk followed, until the guy - who by now we realized was also tipsy - said: God... I'm too old for this. I just want to go home.

And then, as we stared in dumbfounded silence, he proceeded to tell us that our host has this boyfriend, but the boyfriend's going off to college, so he's a bit lost, and this guy is some sort of deal on the side, but he's just really tired and this is weird and he just wants to be home now, but he didn't want to be an asshole, and also he has no idea why he just told us all that.

I started giggling uncontrollably. I tried not to, but I was just not ready to be a supporting character in one of those sitcoms.

At that moment our host arrived with the French people, and the Indian guy quietly negotiated getting dropped off at his own place. The final image from that day is the French guy suddenly perking up when he realized the two boys are leaving and asking: "Oh, you're going out, guys?" To which Gosia, of all people, blurts out in a moment of well-intentioned panic: "It's a private party!"

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Austin: The Kid, Day 1

Ok, obviously this is very long overdue, but I have a bottle of homemade Sicilian orange vodka and...

And I just spilled some on my keyboard. Like, seriously. Thankfully it's a crappy cheap one, and I'm moving anyway, so I might as well replace this piece of hardware too.

Oh, right. I just learned (yesterday) that I have to move. The flat is no longer available. And I love this fucking place. It's home. Sigh.

Anyway, I can process that later and elsewhere. Back to the roadtrip. Austin. The couchsurfing adventure begins.

We arrived quite late in the day, towards 6 p.m. I remember that our host's flat was located in the north part of the city, and that it was a very nice area. Quiet, with low, two-story brownstones. They weren't really brownstones in the big city sense of the word, but they were made of brick, and the brick was brown, so I'm not sure what I should call them. Our host was young (23-ish, I think) and accompanied by someone else whom I took to be his boyfriend. The supposed boyfriend was thoroughly American in the sense that you really don't see bodies like that outside the US and American TV shows. Later it turned out that he was actually another couchsurfer, from San Diego, and that he was in town to attend an acroyoga workshop. Acroyoga, in case you were wondering, is a combination of acrobatics and yoga (I know!) And from what I gathered, and then saw - as we were given a show - it mostly consists of juggling people using your legs.

The guy actually had a good sense of humor, and seemed like a really nice, warm person, slightly in the vein of Rudy from Generation Kill - talking about taking care of yourself, good energy, etc., but as we were leaving I asked if I could get his personal information so that we'd be able to find him on Facebook and ask for sightseeing tips for San Diego (since that was on our route), and he said yes, but then refused to accept my friend request, so that has retroactively tainted my image of him. I mean, come on, he could have just said he won't be in town, or will be busy, or whatever. It felt a bit like a "oh, so I guess all this time i thought we were getting along pretty well, we really weren't" type of deal. But that only came later.

We put down our stuff and headed out to the opening events of the Interactive section. I've no idea why, or whose idea it was (it might have been our host's), but we did. As it turned out, the showcase was winding down, and we didn't have the credentials to get into the Interactive parties, so we headed downtown and stood in a random line to get into some other, more generic party. Later we were told that badge-holders (i.e. me and Gosia) could cut in line, but we didn't want to leave our host, so we persevered. Which is how we met an insanely talkative Pakistani girl and her reserved, but very nice, IT friend. Who accompanied us for the rest of the evening, which was actually quite a fortuitous thing in that whenever we ran out of things to talk about we could note how talkative that girl was. (She really was intense).

An hour and a half later we were in. At some... party. Promoting something. We never learned what it was, but who cares, the booze was free. I mostly remember grabbing something to drink and making my way past throngs of people somewhere. That somewhere turned out to be the roof. All around us there were downtown Austin skyscrapers. There was some sort of screen showing a not exactly engrossing visualization, an absurd amount of strange people, and a profound sense of being somewhere not home. In a good way. It was the sort of sensory overload that carries you with it, wide open to anything that might happen next, and screams "memories under construction!"

Eventually we got drunk and tired enough to make our way out, and try to catch a cab home. Apparently catching a cab in Austin during SXSW is... I don't think it ever occurs in nature. Eventually we managed to call one, and got back home, only to have our host put us in his own car and drive us to late night burgers at some drive through. Totally shitfaced. This was the first (of several) instances in which I was made aware that Europeans approach drunk driving quite differently than Americans. Apparently in the US it's no biggie - I mean, how else are you gonna get those late night burgers, right? There's no public transport! And nobody walks! Thankfully, I was still inebriated, and carried by the "Advernture!" current, so I didn't mind a bit and just took it all in. Weirdly enough, I remember the burger very well. At our host's advice, I ordered something chicken-based. It was dunked in batter, and almost sickly sweet, either because of the bun, or the sticky sauce. Weird. Foreign. Delightfully so.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

SXSW: The Basics

A couple of words about SXSW.

It has three segments – green Music, blue Film, and orange Interactive. You can get badges for either one of the three, a Gold badge (Film + Interactive), or a Platinum one (all three). All of them cost a fortune, and the Platinum one also requires you donate an organ.

A peg lower are wristbands – you can get a Film one for 80 bucks, and a Music one for 180. Wristbands place you in the queue behind badge holders, but in front of general admission.

The Film and Interactive parts start off at roughly the same time, then Interactive ends and is replaced by Music. Film lasts throughout. That’s the basic structure. It’s also bullshit. Once Music arrives, everything else ceases to matter. It dwarves the other two segments combined – it’s spread out over nearly 200 venues, and consists of about 2000 separate concerts. It’s ridiculous and all-encompassing.

That is why everyone Film-related who knows what they’re doing LEAVES the festival halfway through. Barely any new films are screened in the latter part, and so the only people that stick around are clueless morons like me and Gosia, and Platinum badges.

This year, there were about… seven or eight Film venues, including two so-called “Satelite” ones that I never saw, because they were somewhere outside the venue map and required some sort of transportation (that’s literally all the info you are given, so I suspect they’re just a money-laundering scheme, no one I talked to actually went to either one of those). The big marquee one is the Paramount, a beautiful old-timey theatre with equally old-timey ushers and a general aura of grandeur. It has 1200 seats, so that’s where all the flashy premieres are held. Of note is also the Alamo Drafthouse – a cinema where you can order drinks and food to be brought to you during the screening. And I don’t mean coke and popcorn – there’s burgers, salads, pizzas, various alcoholic drinks, and – my favorite – adult milkshakes. Yup, the kind with booze in them. I spent an entire day in that cinema (had three screenings there, back to back), and I have to say it was a very good day for me.

The whole thing is very well organized. There are separate queues for the various echelons of spectators, and if the queue is long, at some point you get issued a queue card – a tiny piece of paper with the name of the screening and a number that is lower than the amount of seats at the venue. Basically, if you get a queue card, you’re guaranteed to get into this particular screening, so the stress is off, and you can go pee or grab a bite.

The queues lend themselves to a sort of “queue culture” that is one of the most fun aspects of the festival. People often just strike up conversations randomly, and since you’re sometimes in line for close to an hour, you could end up exchanging numbers. These random chats are also aided by the fact that festival badges are like these big registration plates you wear around your neck – I’ve had complete strangers pause for a second to openly peer at my badge before moving on.

Most of the cinemas are downtown, within walking distance, but there are also two that are south of the river (which is for some reason called a LAKE), and for those you get special festival shuttles with counter intuitive AC (as in: blasting Antarctic chill on an already cold evening, or gentle warmth on a 31 degree day) and opaque windows that make it impossible for you to keep track of where you are at the moment. These are provided for Film and Interactive people, the Music crowd would just suck them into its pulsating mass, and there are – as I mentioned – almost 200 music venues, many of them on closed-off streets, so there’s really no point for Music transportation.

On top of the film screenings, there are also panels (that you need a badge to get into), and parties (that a badge helps you get into). Panels are pretty self-explanatory, and parties are free booze watering holes where you’re supposed to network, I guess.

Throughout the festival there is also a whole lot of free events that operate on a first come, first serve basis. They offer free food, free booze, free t-shirts… anything, really. Apparently there was a tumblr page dedicated to posting directions to the free stuff events of the day, and the festival-goers like to say that theoretically you could get through the entire SXSW not spending a dime on food, alcohol, or clothes.

One last thing: the people. There were some seriously pretty people around. The place was  crawling with them. And most of them wore orange (Interactive) badges. I have no idea at which point gym memberships and grooming became part of the gaming industry landscape, but at times I found myself questioning my career choices. It was actually enough for me to start taking pictures of people, like a bona fide pervert, but I got caught - and judged, hard - by one of my subjects very early on, and decided I just didn't have the balls. Oh, and also the moral aspect. That too, totally.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Temporal Rift

This is going to look off when I revisit these notes, but my backlog has grown too big, and I've grown tired of reheating memories. I want to write about something that just took place, before the adrenaline fades and things get packed into a cut and dried, impartial infodump.

I'm in Los Angeles right now, it's 2 a.m. We're leaving tomorrow. It's the penultimate day of this roadtrip, but as far as I'm concerned it could very well be the last one. We're staying at a cozy North Hollywood apartment belonging to a married couple I "know" through Pajiba. And it's been quite a day.

We got up pretty early and went with Rob (the husband) for a drive up Mulholland Drive to see the city from the hilltops. Mulholland is very long and very windy. The views are all pretty, but have this "I think I've seen it all before" quality that many famous American sights suffer from due to... well... global imperialism. The green seems (expectedly) faded, and the skyline (expectedly) smog-hazy.

The plan is to do the Mulholland thing, and then drive down into the valley to an abortion clinic where Mary (the wife) volunteers as an escort person on Saturdays. She and a couple of other people are basically there to escort women who want to get - perfectly legal - abortions past the pro-life protesters that gather outside the clinic. Yeah.

We're supposed to go down there, experience that particular bit of Americana, then go to brunch with the volunteers, and then drive down to Venice Beach to catch some sun and do some people-watching on the famed boardwalk. The whole thing still sounds surreal to me, by the way. Anyway, it's not meant to be - the traffic is pretty bad, and the protesters apparently decide to call it a day earlier than usual, so we head straight for the brunch place. And then it turns out that one last protester appeared at the last minute, so some of the brunch crowd had to go back to keep on escorting. We end up driving back and forth, and when we finally meet up with Mary, she seems pretty upset that the carefully prepared get-together has unraveled. We order the food, have some mimosas, chat about nothing in particular, and slowly get ready to hit the beach. Which is when a very handsome young man walks in. It turns out he's one of the volunteers, and that the others are not far away. We chat for a while, cracking jokes. He seems sweet, smart, very funny, and groomed well beyond heterosexuality (though it's possible that my readings were off and it's just an LA thing).

Finally, the rest of the volunteers arrive, and it's obvious that we don't have enough room at the table to seat everyone. We hang out for a short time, waiting to see if maybe another table becomes available. They all seem like a load of fun and at that point I basically want to do nothing more than hang out with them. Yes, mostly on account of the first arrival, but not exclusively so.

It's also when I finally come to the conclusion that for me, traveling is 95% about the people. I'd be perfectly happy leaving a city without having seen anything of note, if it meant that I got to spend time with a cool newly met person. Really, no contest.

Unfortunately, the most logical solution to the conundrum is for me and Gosia to just leave and go to the beach, thus vacating some space. Which we do.I get a very familiar feeling of wanting more, but also a certain satisfaction. I've had several of these hopeless end-of-the-road encounters now, and this one's a perfectly manageable, microcosm version - I'm gone tomorrow anyway, the whole thing's completely insignificant, but it does provide the barest minimum of substance to feed my personal narrative. I indulge in it, to the degree that I'm able to.

The drive to the beach is pretty long, and we spend over an hour looking for parking. Actually, Gosia does - I spend most of that hour texting our host (which is part of my indulgence). We finally do get out of the car though, and dip our feet in the ocean. It's icy cold.

The beach is enormous, and sparsely populated - it's still too early in the year. We lie down. The sun is shining, the ocean is doing its thing... Things are nice. We take a long walk up the coast, and then return down the Venice Boardwalk (which is not the official name, but I'm too lazy to look it up). It's crazy crowded, but we're sort of mellowed out, and don't mind it at all. Full reception mode.

We get into the car at about 6 p.m. and start driving back home, which - according to the GPS - is almost 50km away. Just to to give you an idea of the LA sprawl. We make a pit stop at Stone Cold Creamery - a place Gosia wanted to go to since we landed that had eluded us thus far. Having learned a lesson in Venice, we take the first parking spot we see in the general area, even though it's several blocks away from the Creamery. We walk those few blocks as the sun is setting. As we get closer, the crowds start getting thicker and... younger. Like... kiddie younger. And ecstatic kiddie at that. Then we see that the cops have taken over traffic control on a big intersection just up ahead. Apparently, this being Los Angeles, the Kids' Choice Awards are being right down the street, and everyone wants to catch a glimpse of Selena Gomez, or whoever... There's even a bunch of paparazzi. In a way it makes me feel like I'm really getting my money's worth.

As we walk back with our ice cream, one of the cops winks at us. "Stone Cold, huh? I know where I'm heading after work." Yes, we even get the Disney version of LAPD. America really wants to get into our pants.

We get home, change into evening clothes, and go out for food and drinks with our hosts. I'm kind of hoping we'll get to see the abortion clinic people again, since I sort of tried to make it happen (fuck off, why not?) but that doesn't quite work out. Still, we end up having a lovely evening waiting for a food truck and then having drinks at a logwood cabin style bar called the Yeti Lodge (or something along those lines). It's loud, sort of rustic, and very nicely lit with these weird, gigantic bare light bulbs that look like something out of a folksy indie band video shoot. As we're about to head out and go home, this song comes on:


Fleetwood Mac, and specifically Stevie Nicks has been something of a recurring theme over the whole trip. They just kept popping up, sometimes in very unlikely places. So that is going to be my final snapshot. A crowded bar, bare light bulbs giving off a warm glow, and Gypsy. Tomorrow's (well, today's) drive up the scenic Highway 1, is doomed to be an afterthought. But I'm fine with that.