The Grand Finale

Trip Start Aug 01, 2005
Trip End Nov 22, 2005

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Sunday, November 20, 2005

DAY 111. SUNDAY NOVEMBER 20. Somewhere over the Pacific Ocean
The grand finale

The last day. It felt sad just typing those words. After sixteen week this was the last day of our adventure. The one positive was that we were packing our bags for the very last time. You would think that after the number of times we had packed our bags we would be good at it, but it was a real struggle and our clothes were packed in so tight that the bags looked like it could explode if someone looked at it. With fingers crossed that it would hold together, we took the menagerie of bags downstairs to be stored and headed off down to the beach.

Despite the fact that it was only a week or so before winter, the temperature was a delightful thirty degrees Celsius or about 1.3 billion Fahrenheit. (I still can't work out the conversion). The public bus was surprisingly quick and before we knew it we were at the famous Santa Monica Beach. Home to a pier full of tourists and fairground attractions and former setting for that theatrical masterpiece Baywatch. Eagerly I searched for young blonde busy cheerleaders with flotation devices running in slow motion down the beach. Alas I could not see any, so any thoughts of faking a drowning episode so I can be rescued by a lifesaver and her flotation devices were put to rest. I did see David Hasslehoff but the thought of mouth to mouth with him, whilst appealing to many Germans, was kind of disgusting.

As it was a Sunday the beach was full of people taking advantage of the fantastic weather. Thankfully most Californians, unlike the rest of America, are fit and there were lots of bronzed and buffed bodies about. In fact along the beach were lots of gym equipment, bars and areas for working out, as this area is known as "Muscle Beach". I think many of the people working out were there to be seen as they posed and preened about. I guess it should be no surprise that with so many people so into themselves and their bodies that they would vote in Arnie as their governor. Many of them were putting on quite a show as they did chin ups, push-ups, sit-ups and the like. Of course the men were all topless and were very happy with themselves. I am sure many of them are would be actors (or more likely reality game show contestants) waiting to be found. The only thing they are likely to be found by is another narcissistic self obsessed egomaniac.

We walked along the beach dodging roller bladders, dogs, cyclists, joggers and the beautiful people, taking in the glorious rays of the beach. Gradually the people watching began to change. After 45 minutes we had left Santa Monica Beach and had entered Venice Beach. Here is where the hippies, the stoners, the punks, the nutters, the homeless and the alternative hang out. It was far more interesting.

There was a Sunday market and along the beach were hundreds of stalls. Many of them were selling home made handicrafts and there was an eclectic bunch of things for sale. In addition there were people who could read your palms, predict the future, sign you up for alternative religions, draw you, paint you, massage you and so on. Very few of them were doing business and I wondered if they ever did, but they were entertaining to watch. In addition to the official stalls there were people busking, begging and flogging hip hops CD's. There were musicians, magicians and entertainers. It was one of the best places I have ever been to people watch. Having walked for over an hour in the heat we found a spot on the beach and watched the entire goings on. I was approached to join a cult, buy a bong, sign a petition and save my soul, but managed to resist all temptation. Venice Beach is definitely a place to check out.

Further along the beach were basketball courts where the locals play hotly contested pick up games. We sat there and watched some extremely talented kids play some ball and more importantly trash talk. Most of them were African American and the skills they had were sublime. I sat on the sideline like the fat kid at school hoping that they would invite me to join them but they never even glanced by way. Even when the ball went out and I chased it down and handed it over expectantly all I got was a "yo dog," and the game continued. Guess I am not hip enough to paly street ball at Venice Beach. (Or tall enough. Or black enough. To quote Kasey Chambers, "Am I not pretty enough?")

By now it was mid afternoon so we headed back to the hotel to change into our airplane clothes and catch a bus out to Hollywood. Despite having been to LA several times I had actually never made it in to Hollywood. The bus was quite slow and we missed our stop resulting in a long walk to the famous Hollywood Boulevard. By the time we arrived it was dark and thus I couldn't see the famous letters high up on the hill. That was the first disappointment. The other was Hollywood itself. There aint that much there. It is just a street with lots of crappy fast food joints and crappier attractions. Along the footpath is the Walk of Fame, which is sort of exciting; although for every Jack Nicholson or Meryl Streep there is a Billy Johnson or Edna Husson, people that I have never heard of. We walked along looking at the stars and trying to find people we recognised.

Halfway along the Boulevard is the famous Mann's Chinese Theatre. As the name suggests it is a Chinese Theatre, but the attraction lies in the courtyard in front of the entrance. This is where the most famous of the Hollywood actors and directors have their hand and foot prints in the cement. This allows you to put your hands and feet in the place where these famous stars (and subsequently a billion tourists) have placed them. You may be interested to know that the biggest hands that I could find were Arnies and that my feet are the same size as Stephen Spielberg. If only my bank account was the same size as his. Once this novelty wore off, there was little else to do in Hollywood so we headed back to the hotel to wait for our shuttle. And wait. And wait some more.

We had booked a pick up for 7.45 so were panicking when at 8.45 we still hadn't left the hotel. Eventually we left at 9pm and made it to the airport 90 minutes before the plane was due to leave. Normally that would be plenty of time but at LA airport (definitely the worst airport I have ever been to) it was barely enough. This is because of the ridiculous security measures. First we lined up for thirty minutes to check in. At check in they tagged our luggage and we then had to take all our luggage to a security screening where we waited another thirty minutes. There they x rayed our bags whislt we watched and then took them back to the check in counter. Why this is necessary I don't know. Once this is done we then had to go with out hand luggage through another security screening which took another thirty minutes. By the time all this was done we just made our flight. So between the hour late shuttle and the 90 minute security and check in process we were both very anxious and stressed. Just what you want before you board a 15 hour flight.
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