Archive | November, 2011


24 Nov

I’ve been in Sydney now for nearly three weeks, and despite a spate of bad weather for the last couple of days, I am loving it. I’m writing for Australian Geographic in  the week, and start a new job tonight at a bar. Sydney is such a fun, vibrant city, it’s hard not to love it. It seems to have all the charms of a smaller town with all the electric excitement of a large city. It’s beautiful – those who have been down to Circular Quay and seen the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge will testify to that – and has everything I could ever want. In fact, it’s going to be difficult to leave.

Not that Australia is perfect. It has a real gambling problem: one government website claiming 70% of Australians playing the pokies (gambling machines) regularly, and one in six of those having a real problem. It’s also expensive, in some cases more so than New York, which surprised me. I thought I’d left those days behind me.

Before I go, I’ll just leave you with some cracking music from Chris Thile and Michael Daves.


Los Angeles and Sydney.

4 Nov

I spend a few days in LA, for the most part relaxing before my big trip to Australia on the 2nd. I spend a few hours wandering around aimlessly in Hollywood and Downtown LA, go for a few drinks with Faroese Pauli and his Musician’s Institute colleagues, eat some quesadillas in a Salvadorean restaurant that, despite being situated in an English speaking country, necessitated the full extent of my Spanish language GCSE in order to extract our order from the dirty kitchen. Real Hispanic food.

After sightseeing in LA, I realised one very notable thing. I don’t like LA. It’s dirty, smoggy, unfriendly, confusing and a bit boring, at least for a tourist. Aside from Hollywood, there wasn’t a great deal to see without going 2 hours on the subway, and even Hollywood seemed a bit tatty and unrealistic. The Grauman’s Chinese Theater was alright, and I saw the Hollywood Sign which is pretty iconic, but one of the best things about LA, aside from my friends, was leaving it.

Then on a sixteen-hour flight to Sydney. It’s uneventful, my usual routine for a long-haul flight: aisle seat, for easy access to toilets and more beer, a healthy supply of the free beer, and cram in a few movies. One of the good ones was ‘Senna’, about the doomed F1 driver. Watch it.

And now I’m in Sydney. I lost a day on the flight over the date line, so left on Wednesday night and arrived on Friday morning which sucks, but it’s just getting to summer again, and I have high hopes. For now, I’m going to chill out for the weekend and start job hunting on Monday. I can’t wait.

New York City Moves To The Sound Of LA

1 Nov

Rolling on through what I can only describe as a creepy uneasiness of Salt Lake City, the bleached bones of Nevada and the ‘Little Big’ town of Reno, I finally barrel through the jagged Sierra Nevada mountains and into California. The land of pines and palms, crystal glasses and crystal meth, Steinbeck’s paradisiacal finishing line, Schwarzeneggar’s political stomping grounds and ultimate collapsed legacy, California has it all, the land of yellow gold, black gold and silicon gold. It’s the third largest state in the Union, the most populous, and has the second- and sixth-largest cities in the United States, namely Los Angeles and San Diego. Other cities of note: San Francisco and Sacramento still entice hopeful refugees just as they have been doing since California was admitted to the Union in 1850. My first stop in the Golden State, Sacramento, is the State Capital, and the western end of the original Trans-Continental Railroad, the starting line for the Central Pacific Railroad as they ploughed East, laying track, blasting rocks and fighting Indians. Since crossing the state line, I have been on a train hurtling down from the northern mountains onto a vast, dry plain. California countryside always looks dry. I am only in Sacramento for a few hours, but I have enough time for a pint, so I walk to Old Sacramento to indulge myself. It’s my first city in California, and Old Sacramento is built up like the Old West. The saloon I venture into has peanut shells on the floor, a spittoon running along the foot of the bar, sarsaparilla specials and a wax cowboy, complete with gun. I strike up a conversation with a retired property manager lamenting his decision to road trip with his wife and reminiscing of his good friend, currently in Cambodia with his third wife, a twenty-one year old ‘Asian goddess’. Either way, he and his wife reunited after a few hours respite from each other and continued through on their way through to Mexico.

I got on an uneventful train to Fresno, and finally arrived to see my good friend Nick on the platform. We’d gone through music college together in Coventry. His chin befitted his status as a guitarist in a bluegrass band (see the Links page), covered in a thick beard that Ambrose Burnside would have been proud of. And Fresno is where I have been, indulging myself with California Burritos from Robertitos, Taco Bell, Hot n’ Ready and In N Out Burgers, and plenty of whiskey. In retrospect, it hasn’t been the healthiest week or so. Turning southward, I went to Los Angeles through Bakersfield, and a complete change in topography to vast farms, oil fields complete with busy derricks, rolling iron hills covered in tufty scrub and one of the most horrendous car accidents I have ever seen (even worse than some of the Ghanaian wrecks).

And now, Los Angeles before my flight to Sydney. My journey to America began with the Atlantic Ocean and is finishing with the Pacific. But more on that when I leave.