Seattle – not much to talk about, or I'm just not in the mood to do so. The first night ended with me getting back to the hostel with a knife, a small bouquet of roses and two “Monster” energy drinks. The next day was more common: I did a long walk along the Piers and then some of the usual attractions. The EMP with it's gehryeske architecture, Nirvana exhibition and SciFi exhibition was definitly on the top ranks of Seattle's attractions. Did you know that Nirvana and a lot of other so called grunge bands originated in the state of Washington and around? Then after having spent a night and a day in the city, I almost missed the bus to Canada because I was standing in the wrong line.
Sitting in the bus and being driven up north, cities are getting smaller. There are forests, mountains and the sea around – I haven't seen cattle in a long time though. I'm listening to music with my headphones (new ones which i got from AMB) for the first time in ages 'cause i feel kind of empty – or hungry.
At the border station we're supposed to get off the bus and cross the border by walking through the border office. In the station a chinese man (he hasn't spoken much english, if at all) dropped a bottle of vine which he had bought in the duty free shop minutes earlier. It was a big mess but one of the border officials acted cool, got a red bin and called for a clean-up. After reentering the bus, I started somehow a conversation with the woman sitting next to me. She grew up in Iran and now lives in Vancouver since years. And we talked a lot about Vancouver, relationships and cancer (she had visited her sister on the east-coast who had multiple chemos by now, let's hope the best for the family).
Arriving in Vancouver she would have liked to show me around, but unfortunatly she lives in Northern Vancouver and I'm there only for a day. After saying goodbye I wanted to take a skytrain to Downtown, but I had problems figuring it out, so a man in torn jeans came to my help and explained the route. Magically he had two tickets and gave me one for 2$ (i had only US $) instead of 2,50 (CDN $), but then asked for another dollar for a meal. I gave him one (US $), because he was so helpful and nice – don't know if the ticket was valid though. Getting out in Downtown at night I was a bit puzzled, but after some walking back and forth I had figured out, where I had to go. At so many corners there was the scent of weed in the air and some girls passing by even asked me for some. Passing by the Stadium where the Madonna Worldtour takes place this evening, i arrived at the hotel. Check-in was quick, but I wanted some last refreshment for the night: Arizona Ice Tea 99 cents. Here it was 2,50 CDN $, so I had to get some canadian money first. For the night I had a single room to be forced to work and plan a bit in the evenings and mornings.
The next day I explored Downtown Vancouver by a bike. 25$ CDN for a single day. It's interesting to see all the different people and sceneries passing by. And to be honest: The people here seem to be friendlier and happier than in the Nortwest of the US and Vancouver seems to provide a high living standard. A lot of children are playing in the green parks, all kinds of people walk along the small coast and some bike around Downtown but not so much into it. Changing between bikepaths, sidewalks and streets, I don't feel endangered at anytime. The up- and downhill quest of the Stanley Park is much more demanding though. But one thing seems off even here: Dealing with the native heritage. I only visited the Totem Poles, but it seems like a rip-off of real native arts just for the means of presenting a picture of a proud, gone extinct society, which doesn't seem to have a place in modern society out of entertaining purposes. Do you get it? Do you?
In the evening I got to the Greyhoundstation, checked out the free WiFi in front of McD and then went on to a so called Sushi-Bar to have at least one proper meal this day. It wasn't bad, although the cook was probably more Canadian then Japanese in his Character. At the check-in there were 2 chinese women with a little boy standing and arguing about their baggage: They had to much and to heavy baggage and didn't want to pay extra baggage fee. It took quite some time for them to stay aside and let the other passengers quickly get their ticket. Before boarding there was a quick security check for the carry- on baggage, which I didn't experience in the US. What followed was a 13h long busride into the northern direction at night. Next to me H. was sitting, a southkorean girl and we talked quite a bit, or I talked quite a bit. Even more now, Korea is on my go-to list.
I didn't sleep a lot, but I was prepared for it. So I silently watched the black silouetthes of needle trees passing by accidently revealing a star spangled night sky until white mist croached up the dark and barren streets and the bus drove away into the dark night.
Again there is a force which doesn't want an article on Portland to be written. I write this article now for the third time and hope it won't get lost again (better make a backup this time).
The busride to Portland was really great, there was a lot of legroom, the ride was quite short (just about 12-13 h) and the service was excellent. After my arrival in Portland I went to Voodoo Doughnoughts to enter the line for grabbing some breakfast. It seems like it is the “mustgo” place, but although their Doughnouts are good, some people told me the place(s) are hyped way to much. On my way to my couchsurfingstay at M's apartment, I got a bus ride for a reduced rate: Public Transport in Downtown Portland used to be free, but now is 2,50 per ride. I only had a single one Dollar bill next to a 20, having had no change the driver told me to pay just 1 Dollar and get in.
Arriving at the apartment I was friendly welcomed (he also told me what he experienced this morning looking at the methadone clinic around the corner) and we went to a pub (it was around 28th E Burnside) for lunch, which was very affordable because of the pub's happy hours in the early afternoon. After returning and riding a bike around the neighbourhood and onto Mnt. Tabor, M. invited me to a local arts festival. And this is probably one of the centerpoints of Portland's characteristics: There are many artists or so called creative people around. Despite that there are a lot of bridges, nice wooden houses, microbreweries, stripclubs which are allowed to serve alcohol and a lot of trees. After the arts festival we visited a pub in an old school building, where I was confronted with the huge selection of local brews. After returning to the apartment, we called it a day by visiting another pub around the corner with M's colleagues. Here I met L. who is involved in the construction of office spaces (boxes) for Intel and he told me that everytime he is at this place, people walk around looking to the ground and not greeting or talking much in elevators. Is this a sign for a good working climate?
The next they, out of curiousity and stupidity, I started my citytour at the far south corner of the city on a big graveyard. So i had to figure out how to get back to the places I wanted to visit. I walkes along the street until I found a hiking trail which I ran along until I reached the Japanese Gardens. This place is a harbour of tranquility and relaxation, but it was designed for this purpose afterall. I really like these thoughtfully crafted environments which are meant to free people and not to put them behind bars. One thing I was told there was, that it's illegal to take sth. off the Oregon coast (for example stones). Don't know if it's true. A bit further north there's the Rose Garden around, which is nice but not impressive. So I walked further north.
By accident I ended up on the Holocaust Memorial on my way back to Downtown and it really grabbed my attention. By now I spoke with several Israelis I met about the topic of guilt and history but I don't want to bore you now. Fact is this Memorial always make me think about what humanity should be like and that it's still a long walk to get there (on time hopefully). Into the night I walked the whole way back to the apartment and thought about grabbing sth. to eat, but all the places I looked into had a dark and depressing mood about them – does this tell sth. about the city and it's people? Also everything here seems to be smaller than in other U.S. cities, at least telling by the size of some of the shops (for example The Home Depot).
The next day I saw works of Kienholz at the local art museum and got on my train to Seattle. There I met an architect from Oregon who spent a year in Switzerland some decades ago and we talked about politics, architecture and living standards. Looks like I'm really interested in living spaces.
It would be rather cool if every day something spectacular would happen, but most of the time your better of finding the small pieces of entertainment burried in everyday life. A man at Los Angeles' Union Station who's picking up leaves and putting them to a bin (everything has to be perfect), or watching a nordic walking group from an apartment's balcony in Davis, doing their morning walkout (everything has to be timed), which reminded me of the many walking groups I used to see back then in Germany when I was driving to my distant workingplace in the mornings.
Okay. What the fuck? This is all your coming up with when you're, bored as hell, sitting on a table draped with pictures of red flowers, green birds and yellow butterflies, while a sweet scent of spicey tacos creeps out of the busy kitchen into the attached rooms, creating a smokey layer of hunger irritating gas. Yummy. Looking up to the left there's a green sign declaring: Las Vegas 25mi. And looking up to the wall in front I only see two empty chairs and above them a orangish sign warning “Bump”.
[background soundtrack playing, which you'll find at the end of the post]
A bump? Oh Jesus in heaven, why are things getting complicated as soon as you put thoughts in them. A single “bump” suddenly becomes the small center of an entire shity universe pregnant with thousands of mean meanings.
[Insert philosophical talk about “bump(s)”]
I guess all these bumps are just essential to everything in our hypergiganticmegaheavyandgodblessedmotherfucking Universe. They fuse and they detach every single element in life since billions of years. (Although David Guterson in “Snow falling on cedars” still believed “that accident rule(s) every corner of the universe except the chambers of the human heart”.
[end of background soundtrack, which you'll find at the end of the post]
And then again, getting fucked by some shitstorm changes as much as a shitload of concerns.
A couple of hours, liters and hits later I see myself next to a red sofa featuring a “Las Vegas 10mi” sign next to it, which you can't miss when you try to lie down on your back. The sign seems to be the same as the other – despite the distance not much has changed. My still conscious mind tries to reflect on what it experienced
today tonight: A couple of notable faces which will fade away fast, a nice guy on crouches, a pink flamingo, a red shoppingcart, a less furious onehit fight, sweet compliments, lost games, forgotten names, ignorant thefts, a cheeseburger and a leak next to a public parking sign. Then again lying down on the red sofa and hoping not to fall over, I ask myself when a new part of “The Hangover” will arrive and if it's worth watching it. For tonight I'm done for. Wraping myself in a dark blueish Batman planket I see no point why we should change roles. For now.
In Tourism-magazines it is marketed as “Incredible India” but it's even more. You can't describe it, you can just experience it. I can show you some of it, but you have to taste it, to smell it and to feel it to connect to this magnificent place.
These videos should be a good start for a “Impressions of California” post because they're telling real stories of a place, where fiction and reality are closer together than in many other places. Nothing from fiction, although a lot of fiction is from here. A place of dreams, fullfilled or smashed, of lives, rich and famous, of sceneries, deserted or green, of cities blooming in light or hiding in the dark. A place where future gets born and your past gets lost. A place where things happen. Where you can experience. Where in one city alone you can visit an observatory and destroy the earth, where you can visit a museum and see masterpieces of art for free, where you can go to the beaches and pretend to be David Hasselhoff in Baywatch (I didn't do that though). A place where you find yourself from one hour to the next at a small concert right in front of the hollywood sign, a neighbourhood of people who did the screenwriting for Mac Gyver or are in Snoop Dog's PR-Team. And the next day your living at a nice place away from Downtown with a really nice family and ending up killing their plants – just kidding – although the saw was real. So to put it short California is:
A place to see, to experience, to live, to survive and alive.
… and sorry for that, but three of the following pictures are actually from Nevada.
Look, I hate watching over half an hour of TV-previews and trailers in a cinema before a movie starts. Sure the huge AMC-theatre in Downtown San Francisco is an experience to itself with it's huge lobby, workout room, moving staircase to the different floors and so on, but why should I prefer this to the plenty of independent movie theatres which are still around here? Just for one goddamn movie: The Expendables 2. I guess there are people around who won't consider it to be a (watchworthy) movie, but although there're a lot of screw ups regarding the story, the portrayed countries and the wanna be lines, it's still a feast. At least for men grown up in the eigthies and ninties with a hang for action movies. If you've seen Rambo, Rocky, Missing in Action, Terminator, Predator, Kickboxer, Red Heat, Walker Texas Ranger, Die Hard to name just a few, you know what you'll get: All the heroes and foes of your youth together at one point in space and time, although grown old (probably more then you) but still in shape (also probably more then you). It's not about the tragic and not so tragic ends of lives , which are a theme of the movie. It's also not so much about the violence. It's more like a spoof, an iconic tribute to the idols of the past and their image nowadays. The good, the bad and the ugly past. Rambo 1 was rather good, Terminator 1 was terrific, Terminator 2 not too bad. Die Hard is a classic. Jean Claude's movies: You watch them because of the physicality and his moves, probably because of his body (in men's perspective this may sound gayish, but look at all the bodybuilding maniac types in Martial Arts). Jason Statham is just a cool guy of the new kind. Terry Crews just has poooweeeerrrrrr. Despite these men the role of women in this movie is simple: They make things complicated. For men trained to kill, trained to set emotions aside and to focus on their task women are a disturbing factor introducing problems. A call on the battlefield to ensure the sweetheart is still ok, a female companion needing protection, some recalled memories of loved ones passed away, villagewomen begging for their men's lives and so on.
But the hero's keep on living and fighting on the edge of life. You remember what Rambo got to know? Although it's not his war, the only thing he was made for was to fight wars. And the wars always found him.
It's the same with most of the movie's actors. As hard as they try: Most of them will be actionstars for eternity.
And now to be straight: Out of a rational and intellectual perspective this movie sucked hard, but for a man's mind it was sweet as sugar. It's “The Avengers” in a non-comic actionstars edition. And now fuck you Liam Hemsworth, Chuck Norris doesn't need a sniper-rifle to kill all these guys from a distance. I only missed Mr. T.
Does someone have a review of a female reviewer at hand?
Leaving Los Angeles and driving along Highway 101 and Route 1 one soon discovers the other wild side of California. Along steep cliffs, small vineyards, huge strawberry fields and wide beaches you're able to escape the rush of the cities. It is here were California's surf culture originates (coming from Hawaii), on the beaches of Pismo, Santa Cruz and others you can find surfing schools, lifestyle shops and good sea food. For good clam chowder and other seafood got to Splash's right next to Pismo Beach – alone the surferboy atmosphere is worth it. And in case you'll ever feel stressed out, try to get on a surfboard: Sitting on a board, waiting for the waves, wishing for the waves and ideally soon after ride on them is a feeling hard to beat.
Going up north the cliffs get rougher, the temperatures are cooler and the environment greener. The region around the Golden Gate with names like Cupertino, Palo Alto, San Fancisco and Napa Valley is an intellectual and cultural melting pot were creative ideas form the future not only of California.
The U.S. one should think would be one of the best countries to be suitable for traintraffic, but it seems they think different – yet. Altough there are so called highspeed trains, they in average drive with half the speed of their european counterparts. The biggest problem hereby is the tracksystem, which actually was sold to a transportation company called Union Pacific And is now rented out to Amtrak for passenger service. It feels like all the heavy tansport trains have run down the tracks pretty much.
Consequently the best decision would probably be to go electric. The east coast to west coast trains run through a lot of desertlike environment which probably could serve all the need for electric energy needed by trains.
Despite what could be, it is a nice experience if you have the time, you're not to luxurious in your needs and if you like changing landscapes. Although we heard of 17 hours of delays, our train was just 30 minutes late after 2 1/2 days.
But afterall it's all about the experience. Where else are you forced to meet a couple of different people unless you want to spend all the time crammed in a small cabin. Did you know that Amish have mobilephones? Have you already met a couple who travelled Europe in a VW bus back in the sixties and enjoyed the cheap first class food which was available due to the great exchange rate of the dollar? Have you ever met a boyscout who accidentally gave himself a shot of Adrenaline? And have you ever thought about how nice and convenient traintravel in Europe is (despite the price).
Buffalo feels strange. There are long stretched suburban spaces and an inner city core which feels kind of artificial. There's one straight metrotrain line running through the city center, for free. There are some highrise buildings, some old style buildings inbetween and many spaces for sale. At least there's a free concert going on this evening, but no access with cameras. The decision to head back to a big mall “near” the trainstation was made quick. On th bus there you can see the people living and struggling here. in the bus and off the bus. Clischee american neighbourhood. Run down houses, flags, old cars, people with basecaps sitting in front of the house on chairs.
And then the mall which reminds you what the system is actually about: live your life, hot hot sale, special savings, buy one get one, get a free gift, a body for every body, make me a beauty, take off, dream-focus-succeed. Just to name a few prominent ad-extracts. And then there's a sportswear shop with sports gear, hunting gear, bikes but without stairs.
At least the food shops are open till the middle of the night. Chocolate Cheesecake anyone?
Next stop chicago.