Famous Last Words…


My recent overseas holiday was planned to within an inch of its life thanks to my BFF who organised everything on my behalf. She wasn’t able to come with me, so decided to live vicariously through me and immerse herself within the planning phase. Because she wanted me to get as much time in San Francisco as I could (because she was sure I’d fall in love with the city, which I did!) she created a tight schedule for me to follow half way through the trip to ensure that happened. The question was, could I stick to it and keep my sanity?

After three full days in San Francisco I was due to check out of my hotel at 11am on the fourth day, Thursday 27 August 2015, and occupy myself until my flight to Toronto at 10:30pm. Upon landing in Toronto at 7am I had an hour to clear customs, get my bags and find where my day tour to Niagara Falls started. Given the tour company hadn’t offered any detailed information about the tour location, I was hesitant about the whole thing. I then had to be back at the airport by 7:30pm on Friday 28 August 2015 in order to catch my flight to Vancouver which would see me arrive at 10:06pm the same night. The wedding I was going to Vancouver for started 17.5 hours later so it was imperative things went according to plan. Knowing that I would have no sleep for almost 48 hours and my base in Toronto was the airport I thought to myself “what could possibly go wrong?”

After a wonderful afternoon spent by the Bay and on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco I went to catch the Muni back to the hotel where my bags were being stored and where the airport shuttle would pick me up. The problem was the first scheduled bus didn’t arrive. Neither did the second, or the third, or the fourth. For some reason, still unknown to me, no buses came within the span of an hour forcing me to catch a taxi. I made the hotel shuttle with ten minutes to spare.

On the Air Canada OVERNIGHT flight to Toronto they failed to dim the cabin lights. At all. Superhappyfuntimes trying to get any sleep on that flight.

In Toronto airport my phone with compatible US/Canada sim decided not to work. I had no cellular internet connection and wasn’t able to text.

After complete confusion, asking for directions and a train ride to the Sheraton Hotel, I finally made it to my limousine… wait what? I thought I was going on a bus tour to Niagara Falls. It turns out the limo airport pick up, which was not an airport pick up at all, drove me and another guy downtown to where the tour bus departed from. The ride downtown was almost an hour-long in morning peak hour traffic. This concerned me predominately because of the journey home. The tour bus was supposed to arrive back at the airport at 5-5:30pm. Given the fib I’d uncovered about the airport pick up, I assumed (correctly) that there would be no tour bus airport drop off either which meant a drive back via limo in afternoon peak hour traffic. In prior email communications with my BFF the tour company guaranteed I’d make my flight so in theory I shouldn’t worry. Right?

Once downtown the limo driver helped me with my bags to the tour bus, but when the bus driver saw them he questioned me as to when my flight left that evening. A conversation ensued.  I confirmed I had received assurance this tour would meet my needs and have me safely back at the airport in time to catch my flight to Vancouver…aaannnd I was refused entry to the tour as the driver couldn’t guarantee that. He handballed me to the office staff.

With the limo driver in tow still carrying my luggage we went to the office approximately twenty meters away. They had locked the door on me and refused to speak with me. After five minutes someone, whose name I intentionally forgot, came out questioning what was wrong. The limo driver relayed my story as I was deciding whether or not I would cry or stab the office guy. When I composed myself I explained that given the only reason I came to Toronto was to do this tour and my intelligence prevailed enough to obtain written confirmation from the tour company that they could accommodate my flight times I was a tad pissed off at being refused entry. I demanded a refund of the tour, my flights, and a ride back to the airport. This is where the fun began and the lies continued.

After deleting the confirmation emails, the ones which I couldn’t access on my phone or tablet due to having no internet connection, the office guy showed me what emails he chose for me to see regarding tour arrangements. He assured me nobody would guarantee that I’d make my flight to Vancouver because it is a guarantee that could not be made and sure enough the selected emails I saw did not comment on my flights. I assured him I was not stupid and would not dare arrange to come to Toronto for less than 24 hours to only do this one tour without a guarantee I’d make my flight to Vancouver at the conclusion of it all. We hit a stalemate. I cried. If logic wasn’t going to make a liar bend then perhaps I could appeal to the scamming bastard’s emotional side. Err, no.

The owner walked in. The story was relayed again, I cried some more. A deal was struck. The tour company would pay the limo driver $250 (in addition to them still pocketing my $110 for a tour I didn’t go on) to take me on a private tour of Niagara Falls. It was either that or spend a day at the airport waiting for my 8pm flight.

The limo driver and I left the office when suddenly the office guy came running out. He handed me a Trivago card and asked if I would please rate the tour when I finished. I think everyone within a mile radius heard the sound of my jaw drop and hit the floor at that precise point in time. I told the dumb son-of-a-bitch that I would review the tour.

Over the course of the next few hours I got to know a truly lovely gentleman by the name of Jeya who drove me to Niagara Falls, bought me lunch and made the only low point of my two weeks away bearable. I also established that Jeya was an independent contractor, not affiliated with the tour company and that he was missing out on $150 for taking me on this private tour.

I did get to see Niagara Falls which was a phenomenal sight to behold and being the sleep deprived, emotional person that I was gave Jeya the additional $150 because he was collateral damage in the events of earlier, plus his presence in the office played a big part in having me heard at all.



After a whirlwind trip I left Toronto for the divine Vancouver with a very bad taste in my mouth about the overall experience. Upon my return home to Australia the emails from the tour company which guaranteed I would make my flight to Vancouver were forwarded back to the tour company. To date I still have no reply from them.


City of Angels?


When I was eleven I went to Los Angeles with my Mum. We spent approximately one week there and did all the typical touristy things: Disneyland, Universal Studios, Beverley Hills, Hollywood, saw stars homes, saw stars on Hollywood Boulevard and anything else you could think of. We stayed in a decent little motel in Anaheim and saw a typically Hollywood portrayal of our surrounds. I absolutely loved the entire experience.

Fast forward twenty-seven years and I found myself back in the City of Angels, this time on my own for the sole purpose of attending FYF Fest, a two-day music festival. Due to my earlier trip and due to time constraints, I had no intention of doing any sight-seeing and hadn’t planned any either. However, when I arrived at 8am on a Friday morning I figured I had over 24 hours before the festival started so maybe it was a great chance to see a few things I hadn’t previously seen.

I had booked an Air BnB apartment which was chosen due to a) the price and b) being positioned within spitting distance of the Metro which I needed to take to/from the festival. The apartment itself was wonderful and I would recommend it to anyone, however its location was one that opened my eyes to the reality of LA. I should clarify and say the apartment was in an okay location and within close proximity to everything of relevance, well as close a proximity as the great expanse that is LA allows.

My home was a block away from Wilshire and Vermont in Koreatown. It was East Koreatown, the quieter side of Koreatown and from all accounts quite a safe area. On Saturday morning I decided to head to Paramount Pictures to do a tour, which according to google maps, wasn’t too far away. I’d established I needed to get to Wilshire/ Western station and then catch a bus to Melrose before taking a short walk to the studio. I figured it would take about twenty minutes to walk to Wilshire/ Western so I left with plenty of time to make my bus. This was not a problem, I was all over it!

Armed with my Paramount tour confirmation, money in my pocket, excitement bubbling over the surface and a totally shit sense of direction I started walking. It was an overcast morning, hotter than I had experienced in well over three months, with humidity off the charts.

I kept walking.

Koreatown is best described as an inner city suburb. It’s not shi shi by any means, nor is it Skid Row. But it’s close to both shi shi and Skid Row depending on which direction you head. It’s very middle class, perhaps slightly below even, with an even split between residential and retail. There were always people around, even at 2am.

One of the first things I noticed about Koreatown, which is common across most of LA, was the homeless. Whilst not surprised to see people sleeping in alleys behind the apartment, or in the Metro station, or around the corner, the amount of homeless people I saw was eye-opening.

I kept walking.

The second thing I noticed about Koreatown, which is common across most of LA except the shi shi areas, was the dirtiness. The amount of rubbish on the streets and the sidewalks was unexpected and when combined with the smog made for an unpleasant environment overall.

I kept walking.

The third thing I noticed about Koreatown, which I found to be common wherever I went in LA, was the smell of urine. No matter where you were it would inevitably rise up from the ground and smack you square in the nose. You couldn’t avoid it.

I kept walking, and wondering when the hell was I going to reach the station?! By this stage the streets had become quieter, fewer people were around. It had an eerie quality about it, but I pressed on.

The fourth thing I noticed about Koreatown, which I found to be common wherever I went in LA, was the money that was spent on the strangest of things: new, high quality petrol bowsers in every petrol station; advertising printed on glossy, laminated paper; air conditioners on every mode of Metro transport…but the homeless, the rubbish and the urine remained on the streets. This wasn’t right.

I kept walking until I reached MacArthur Park. I stopped. Shit!

In my spare time I was reading Digging the Vein by Tony O’Neil of Brian Jonestown Massacre fame. The novel was based loosely around Tony’s experiences, was about a has been musician and his fall into heroin addiction, and was set in LA. MacArthur Park was talked about often as a guaranteed spot to score dope. In the 1980’s and 90’s it was referred to as Murder Central due to the heavy gang presence. In 1990 as many as thirty people were murdered in MacArthur Park alone! I was in Murder Central. The fact it was 2015 and the Park had seemingly cleaned up its act thanks to a combined effort from the LAPD and the residents was totally irrelevant. I was in Murder Central and completely irrational.

I walked through the park and into a world I hadn’t ever seen before in Adelaide or anywhere I had previously lived. It was then that I realised what a sheltered life I had led, what a lucky life I had led and, when I checked on google maps where the hell I actually was, that I had an utterly shit sense of direction. I had walked east almost directly to Downtown LA instead of west where I was meant to be going. The time had arrived to obtain a crash course in the Metro and I hopped on the first bus heading west because I sure as hell wasn’t going to walk all the way back to where I came from.

The fact I was one of the few, occasionally only, caucasian in the area and on the bus didn’t escape me, but I wasn’t made to feel out-of-place at all, on any of the buses I caught. In fact, I was so impressed with the friendliness of everyone and their willingness to help me every time my sense of direction sent me travelling the wrong way. This was, I’m embarrassed to say, a common occurrence during my four-day stay. That morning I got so lost I missed my pre-paid tour of Paramount Pictures, but I experienced a side of LA that I wouldn’t have gone and sought out intentionally and in retrospect I’m glad I did.

Over the next three days the Metro became my only mode of transport and its reliability and ease of use did come as somewhat of a surprise and helped to highlight a disconnect in LA. How could there be so much money put into things like petrol bowsers, advertising flyers and the transport system, yet there be so much poverty everywhere you looked? I didn’t understand. I still don’t understand.

FYF Fest was a wonderful experience, one that deserves its own full length description, and I will take from LA such a content feeling from the event, however it will forever be underlined by a feeling of confusion. Los Angeles is void of logic and I find that unsettling.