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Monday, August 25, 2003
(personal) Travels, Part 1  
Finally back from the US, and able to write (I've been at a conference, which will get some sort of a write-up as it does relate to library stuff).

The trip: I'm kinda scared, because I hear security in the US is hyper strict now (unsurprisingly). I get searched twice at Auckland International, the second time my belt buckle and zip set off the metal detector (you are *not* getting metal on those flights). Weird thing is, the incoming security at LAX is less strict than at Wellington (maybe because we're so worried about food products? But in NZ, there are sniffer dogs all over your bags as you collect them. In LA, I saw a sniffer dog, but it didn't come anywhere near me, or most other people there).

Anyway, after panicking because my ATM card won't work anywhere I manage to score some cash and head for Union Station to catch the San Diego train.

Arrive San Diego, it's baking hot, wander round for a while before going to meet Brad. We chill out for a while in his impressive apartment, then go check out the nightlife. It's OK, but kinda mainstream. The interesting thing is the hookah bar - a place that sells hits of flavoured tobacco (yeah, just tobacco) in hookahs. Very strange, but it does have an effect on you if (like me) you aren't used to smoking. Best avoided, in my opinion. The effect isn't very desirable.

Next day is spent talking sport with Jeff before meeting Amy and Aly. Totally awesome to hang out with these people, even if only for a few hours. We play a sedate game of disc golf (I pretty much suck) in the sun, then go for dinner. After that, it's time for the bus back to Los Angeles, which is only eventful due to the presence of US Customs officials. Luckily, they are only looking for illegal Mexicans, so I'm OK.

Get to LA at midnight and decide to sleep in Union Station, because I've got no cheap way of making the airport that night (1 hour cab ride? No thanks. Not on a NZ librarian's wages). Which is actually no hassle. There are a couple of security guards, so no problems from anyone. There's a lot of homeless guys trying to sleep in the waiting room but the guards keep throwing them out.

Then down to LAX for the flight to New Orleans. LAX sucks - queues a mile long for everything, due to security. It's not the security per se that bothers me, just that everything is so badly organised and takes way longer than it should. (All the other airports I was at were a lot better organised, so I'll put it down to LA, rather than the US as a whole).

New Orleans rocks though. I spent my time there hanging out with Sri and Brooke and her friend Art. There were four of us sleeping in one room, right near the centre of town, and the next few nights were spent strolling Bourbon St, drinking in the open, having water pistol fights and putting together a campaign for the governership of California (it made sense at the time). We also check out the aquarium and Imax before trying to get into a rave on the last night. Sri is refused entry, so we end up in an incredibly tacky club playing 'Commercial Trance Anthems 2001' on rotate (or so it seems). We have tacky fun and dance till 3am or so, but that's pretty much all the alcohol we can handle and stagger back to the hotel to watch Finding Nemo on the payTV as we fall asleep.

New Orleans is incredibly hot and humid, and incredibly loose. Everywhere else in the US seems so uptight about drinking, especially in public, but there it's basically encouraged. And the bars will let you take drinks onto the street, too. Bourbon St stinks worse than anywhere I've been since India, though. (apparently, there are parts of New Orleans that are more like my stereotype of the place - cool little jazz and blues clubs everywhere. Although I had native guides, they didn't take me to any of those places. Oh well).


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