Monday 17th April – On the Streets of LA

My body had obviously adjusted to the few hours of sleep I’d been having over the past few days, getting me up at around 6am. I was awake and we’d wanted to get going early to avoid traffic as much as possible so I got up. On the way to the bathroom, I noticed a few of the campsites had already been vacated, resulting in a bounty of free stuff to be had. There were plenty of goods and chattels left over, like chairs, tarps, even tents! Paying $450 a ticket obviously means the people in attendance have a lot of money so they’re not fussed about a tent they just needed for the weekend. I scored myself a bandana and made my way back to camp.

I made myself some cereal and got straight to work breaking camp while I ate. I started with the tarps and had two of them down by the time Kaila crawled out of the tent. Over the next hour, we’d said good morning to Megan who emerged, packed away the tent, took the remaining two tarps down and folded up the canopy. I positioned the still-half full cooler on the bed on top of a tarp and we were ready to drive off. Andrew was still conked out in the tent, but we both gave Megan hugs, thanked them for a great weekend and wished them safe travels back to San Francisco. It wasn’t even 7:30am when we rolled out of camp.

We were in a small line up as we drove out the dusty path away from our home of the last four days. A minority group, the line moved fairly quickly since the majority of people were still comfortably camped. I was sceptical that all camps would be vacated by the required 10am. We got onto the road into Palm Springs and the traffic was not to bad, just a lot of traffic lights with shitty programming. On the highway ramp there was a policeman directing traffic to handle the queue of cars, but other than that, we were out of Coachella and on our way back to the coast.

The highway was busy, but nothing more than normal according to Kaila. We had fun pinpointing others like us that had a layer of dust on their cars, chalk paint and piles of stuff loaded into the back. The highlight was seeing a white van pulled over on the side of the road, the driver with his head out of the window and a triangular stream of yellow puke running down the outside of his driver’s door. Eeeeewwwww.

We drove through windfarms and gorgeous hills out of Palm Springs, but it soon became boring, mindless highway. Needing to fulfil a Coachella tradition, we sought out an In N Out burger place only to discover they didn’t open until 10:30am, so on we drove. We were both hungry by the time we found an In N Out just after opening time and thankfully we weren’t far from LA. I was wary of eating at this place since I’d completely gone off it after overdosing on it over a year ago, but it was alright. There were plenty of other Coachella goers in the place doing the same thing. On the way out, I stopped to talk to a homeless guy who had a pitbull-type dog that was the same colour as Cleo with very similar patterns on her body, but she was about three times the size. I wanted to take a photo to show Dan so I asked if it would be alright and he obliged. Before I left, I gave him a bit of cash for his trouble.

Onwards to LA, we drove into Santa Monica with the goal of finding a jewellery store so that Kaila could buy her friend a gift. After driving in circles to find a park, we put some money in a meter and walked the tourist-ridden streets. Santa Monica reeks of the rich and famous, so not really my style. When we walked in to the department store, I immediately felt out of place. I hadn’t been into one of these in years! We wandered a little through the shiny things and expensive products but it didn’t take long for Kaila to find something her friend would like. We left the store and trodded down to the beach.

I was excited to be back at the ocean again and couldn’t wipe the smile off my face when I saw the waves lapping against the yellow sand, umbrellas and towels dotting the beach. We walked down Santa Monica pier, touristy as ever and I remembered that I’d been her over a year ago with Mikey. Kaila and I couldn’t resist the temptation to dance to every piece of music we heard, coming from the buskers on the pier. After three straight days of dancing around it was hard not to. Good thing no one knew who we were. At the end of the pier we sat for a while, Kaila covering her whole head in her hoodie to stop sunburn, looking like a depressed soul. We couldn’t stay long, having to get to Venice Beach and find a quiet spot for Kaila to do some work.

Back at the car, someone was very happy to nab our parking spot as we pulled out and head south along the beach towards Venice. We stopped at the first carpark we saw and spoke to a man about the rates. He was very forceful, repeating that it was $10 when we asked questions like “where is the space?” and “how long can we stay for $10?” Whatever, we paid him and he directed us to a spot. Kaila had planned to sit in the car for her phone conferences, but since we were parked between two tall buildings, there was no reception so we had to make another plan. She grabbed her gear and we wandered down to the Venice beach promenade to find a quiet spot. Not exactly an easy feat. We eventually settled on a spot of grass at the top of the beach, relatively distant from the nearest establishment playing music. Kaila got herself set up with her laptop and phone and I left her to it and wandered down the promenade.

The path was lined with street vendors selling all sorts of artwork and trinkets. They were very forceful in their salesmanship and I got accosted more than once by people. I soon learned to just ignore them all and keep my head down. I’m sure they nab a lot of the tourists. I came across a group of street performers that were doing gymnastic-style things, jumping over volunteers from the crowd and such. I watched one trick and joined the crowd in their applause, amazed at the height and length of the jump a huge tall guy had done. They got a couple of kids from the crowd and got them to dance along as they did tricks, very cute, but I think they were all a part of the show, not the random volunteers they pegged them to be. I walked off before the grand finale because there was too much build up and money collecting before the action. I only walked a short way more along the promenade when Dan called and said he was in the area and looking for me so I walked to the skate park for a meeting place.

The skate park is right on the beach and looks like old swimming pools, but was built as a skate park. I was mesmerized from the start. There were some very talented people skating around at alarming speeds and getting some serious air. In particular there was a little girl, probably no more than five years old, absolutely killing it. At one point, she joined hands with an older boy and they skated around the bowls together in perfect harmony, it was brilliant. Dan surprised me when he came up to me from behind and tapped my knee. Yay! Hi Dan and Cleo! We caught up on the last few days as we watched the skaters. He was just as impressed as me with the talent on display. When Dan dropped his water bottle, somehow as Cleo jumped out of the way, she ended up sliding down the side of the skate bowl, much to our horror. She was still on the leash so couldn’t really go anywhere, but she was terrified and couldn’t get out. Then, a skater came racing across the bowl and had to stop himself to avoid her. He did so and gathered her up in his arms as she squealed. The skater took her off the leash and pushed her up the bowl and into Dan’s Arms. She was shaking like a leaf, the poor thing, what a traumatic experience. A good hug by Dan is she was alright again.

It was break time for Kaila so the three of us walked back along the promenade to meet her. I walked with Cleo as Dan skated on his short board. Right when we found Kaila, he stacked it and sent his skateboard flying straight into a vendor’s street art that had been propped up. He apologised profusely and helped him to re-setup his gear. When I reached Kaila, she was still on the phone, another meeting having been snuck in to her schedule so me and Dan thought we’d walk down to the water. On his advice, I went up to the police men parked in their SUV on the beach and asked if dogs were allowed and they said no, so no beach walk for us. By the time I got back to Kaila and Dan, Dan was in a heated argument with the vendor whose goods he’d knocked over. I’m not sure how it started but they were in a shouting match and Kaila had wandered off to seek quiet. The cops saw what was happening and blipped their sirens a bit to alert them of their presence, but everything died down after a few minutes.

I laid out a towel on the sandy grass and we hung out, watching the riders and skaters go past in front of us, with the beach as backdrop. Dan skated back to his car at one point to get some more water while I stayed with Cleo and Kaila continued her conference calls. When Dan returned, much to Cleo’s joy, Kaila was finally finished with her work so we all got to chill for a bit, but it wasn’t to last. Kaila had to get to her friend’s place for dinner. Before we left, we gifted Dan a few of the beers we had leftover from Coachella and he went off to give some of them to the street vendor he’d had a fight with to make amends.

I drove Kaila a few miles inland through the concrete jungle and decided fair and square that I do not like LA. It is dirty with depressing decay and untrimmed gardens in the medium strips. I was astounded that anyone would want to live here. We parked down a narrow street and sorted Kaila’s gear out, making sure nothing was left in the van. Her friend was just finishing walking the dog and met us at the front door. We went up to the apartment where I used the bathroom which I so desperately needed and we all chatted for a while before I said my goodbyes to Kaila with a big hug and a promise to see her again later in the yaer when I plan to return to California.

Back in the van, I hadn’t received a text from Dan to say where he was, but I still had plenty of time to get back to the beach. On the way back, I stopped in at a movie store in the attempt to buy the Fast and Furious DVD box set but no luck so I carried on. By the time I got back to Venice Beach, I still hadn’t heard anything from Dan and when I called him it went straight to voicemail so his phone was obviously dead. I drove slowly around the nearby streets, on the lookout for Air Force One through the thick fog that had rolled in off the cold ocean. It was bloody freezing and depressing after a full afternoon in the sun.

After driving around a few blocks, I had no luck finding Dan so I contemplated what to do next. There was still some light left in the day so I figured I’d keep trying btu on two wheels instead of one. I found a sweet free park on 18th avenue and set off on the mountain bike. I did a quick run along the promenade and the skate park, then tried along the streets by the ocean, coming up with nothing. I then retraced my tracks along the main street, looking down the roads the lead away from the beach. When I was nearly back to 18th avenue, I’d decided to give up, but then I came to a street and my gut told me to go down it and so I did. As I rolled down the hill, I saw in a cul-de-sac by the street I was on, a Ford Explorer that looked exactly like Dan’s. My heart skipped, but then I realised there was a guy sitting in it that definitely wasn’t Dan. Then I saw Cleo in the front. It was Dan’s van! I carried my bike down the stairs to the cul-de-sac and sure enough, there was Dan, drunk off his rocker with two new friends in the van chilling with him. He was happy to see me and so was Cleo while I was a bit shocked but chuffed with myself for managing to find them.

Dan’s mates left soon after, back to doing whatever it is they’d been doing before they met Dan. Dan was in a bad way from the spirits he’d been drinking. After a quick spew, he got into bed to sleep it off. He had another chunder out the back of the van before falling into a light sleep. I rode back to get my car and park it infront of Dan’s. This was not the most friendly neighbourhood, but we had Cleo to protect us. All of Air Force One’s doors were locked when I got back so I had to crawl in through the back door where I played Mum the rest of the night with both Cleo and Dan. I fed and watered Cleo and put a bucket underneath Dan’s head when he went for another chunder. Poor thing. I stayed up watching F1 while Dan snored away, his body trying to process the alcohol out of his body. Throughout the whole process, he kept mumbling “I’m sorry”, swearing he would never drink spirits again.

When Cleo sat on the edge of the bed and started making gagging noises I informed her that there was no way I would tolerate two beings throwing up in one night and she contained herself. I took her out for a quick pee before bed and we all settled in for the night, me stroking Cleo behind the ears with one hand and rubbing Dan’s back with the other.

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