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The End

March 26, 2010

The end is near, O my brothers and only friends. The bus pulled out of San Francisco with its cargo of Mexican immigrants and an Australian backpacker and headed south to L.A., past rolling green hills, vineyards and spectacular mountain passes I had not expected to see. By the time the bus pulled into Hollywood the sun was beginning to go down. I walked along the star-strewn pavement to the hostel. In my room were two rather strange Germans, who were either sleeping or under the influence of some sort of substance every time I saw them. They also never appeared to leave the room, reminding me of a rather amusing experience I had with two other Germans in Berlin (but that is a story for another time).

I walked the darkening streets in search of food, settling on an In-N-Out Burger which was packed with people having dinner before the night’s festivities. I found a seat and ate amongst the chaos and tried to ignore my ever-persistant cold, which had returned once again. Dosed up on cold meds I returned to the hostel and crashed into bed.

Wandering through various stores completing my shopping the next door I received a phone call from none other than Tal, who was not only also staying at the same hostel but was in the room directly above me. “Hey man. Get in the car,” was the greeting I received as I met Tal back at the hostel. I piled into the Honda with Tal, another Australian called Luke, and their American friends Justin and Jim. As we sped downtown they regaled me with stories from the Mardi Gras party the night before, so there was much hilarity as we found a park and ate Quizzno’s. We arrived at our destination, the science museum, but as it was closing in half an hour we got in for free and wandered a couple of the exhibits before we were kicked out.

Back at the hostel we farewelled the other three who were moving on. I moved into Tal’s room with a crazy Serbian guy who told me he had been kicked out of and subsequently banned from another hostel for having a threesome with a girl the manager liked…or something. He was something of a sketchy character; his backstory purported him to be an artist living in New York with his American wife, yet he was in L.A. staying in hostels sleeping with girls (apparently) and trying to find a dealer who would buy and/or exhibit his art.

Meanwhile an extended relation of Tal’s was hosting a cabaret show at a cafe downtown so along with two English girls, Jess and Nat, we piled into a cab and sped off. About 15 minutes later we arrived at our destination courtesy of Tal’s iPhone and went on in. The show itself was great, amongst other performances, two black girls sang the blues like no one else can. Afterwards we headed for the Standard Hotel with its fabled rooftop bar. Unfortunately due to the ages of our English friends we were denied entry (despite one ID passing) so we ended up at a revolving restaurant at a nearby hotel. We had dinner and were later joined by Tal’s third cousin and some of the performers from the show, and another cab ride brought us home.

In the morning I announced to Tal that I was going to Venice Beach so he joined me on the hour and a half bus ride. Along the way a friend of Tal’s hopped on to the bus so the three of us wandered the bizarre circus that is Venice Beach before settling down at a bar for some lunch and beers. A turbaned guitarist on homemade rollerblades skated past as we messed with a pot dealer by telling him we’d never heard of marijuana and we didn’t have it in Australia. We farewelled Ari on the bus home and were soon back at the hostel.

With Jess and Nat on the limo tour there was no one to prevent us from entry at the Standard Hotel. We caught a bus to the wrong Standard Hotel, and got another the right way after seeing Chris Angel walk past with his entourage of gothic types. We headed upstairs and the lift opened onto a rooftop with couches and gas heaters. Around the corner was a pool and a vending machine stocking towels and bathers. We got beers and Tal cracked out the Cuban cigars Ron had brought him, which we smoked overlooking downtown L.A. After a couple of beers, the cigars and a good chat we got a cab back to Hollywood and found the limo party had returned with drunk people everywhere and one girl sobbing in the corridor. It was late and I was leaving in the morning so I had a cup of tea to mark the beginning of my detox and went to bed.

With bags packed Tal and I checked out and I walked him to the Greyhound station. As I headed to the bus stop I ran into Nat and Jess and so after a quick chat I said goodbye and waited with aching arms for the bus. On board I deposited my various bags of clothes and CDs and settled down for the hour and a bit bus ride to Hermosa Beach, my destination. The bus filled and emptied along the way, through Hollywood, downtown, Inglewood…I changed buses and waited 35 minutes for a connection, another 25 minute ride and I arrived in Hermosa Beach at the same place I had all those weeks ago. I walked down Pier Avenue and arrived at Surf City once more, where I was checked in by the same stoner guy as last time who had no memory of me.

I wandered down to the beach and ate cheap tacos thanks to happy hour, and broke my 16 hour detox by accidentally ordering 2 for 1 beers. In my room was a sleeping Tasmanian by the name of Alex and upon my return to the room later he was awake so we headed to Vonn’s to get supplies and made bolognese for dinner. We ate while watching the Comedy Channel with a couple of Irish guys who were competing with us for the best bolognese. More TV followed before I retired to bed.

After 85 days, three countries, 14 states of the US, and countless thousands of miles I awoke to my final day in the United States. I wandered down to the beach one final time and looked out onto the sand and the lifeguard post to where it had all started that December night. I wandered along the pier, where I stood and stared out into the Pacific; somewhere on the other side lay home and the next adventure.

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