Oliver is…

He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man

…basically Frank Sinatra

Some cities have a well-earned reputation for being a great destination, others rely on false advertising and being the home of unattainable dreams for many. Los Angeles, one of the most frustrating cities I’ve ever been to, falls firmly into the latter.

I split my stay in LA into two parts, spending half my time in Hollywood and the other half close to the geographical centre.

Getting to Hollywood was amazingly easy. The bus from San Francisco pulled into a station that also had subway trains, with one line that had a stop almost directly opposite my hostel. The early ease of public transport was very misleading as the system in LA is perhaps the most underdeveloped of any major city I’ve visited and really to get to most places you need a car. Except that for the three/four-hour standstill periods around the start of and end of the working day, when the freeways turn into large car parks. Outside Asia and Africa, I’ve never seen such poorly running roads.

losangelestrafficNot even rush hour

In Hollywood I did all the obvious things. I saw the sign (from a distance, the tours were ridiculously priced), I saw a film, I read some of the stars in the pavement. I didn’t go to the cemetery because that’s a bit weird, isn’t it?


After a while though, maybe a day, the glamour of celebrities I don’t really care that much about washed over me. Seeing people dressed up on the street (just in costumes that they bought from a store, they didn’t have any talent or obvious resemblance to anyone) and harassing pedestrians to have their photo taken together, then charging for the imposition, just seemed weird. I wonder how much they make, because buying a Mickey/Spider-man/dress doesn’t cost much and how proud their parents are.


The most fun celebrity thing I did was go to the place where they put their hands in cement and then you see who your hands are most like, probably slowly eroding the casts so future generations can’t play this game. Mine were pretty much identical to Frank Sinatra though sadly my singing voice does not compare so favourably. Samuel L Jackson had fingers about twice as long as mine and Arnie had fingers twice as thick.

franksinatrahandsSaves everyone time when they want my hand prints

In LA proper I trundled my way over to Venice Beach, apparently the highlight of the west coast seaside, which was quite disappointing. I don’t know if I’ve been spoiled by beaches in Australia (and then in Samoa etc) but it was quite miserable. Cheap tack on the boardwalk, dirty sand, huge crowds. American beaches, it seems, are a bit rubbish. Right, Waikiki?

The La Brea Tar Pits were actually quite interesting, and not something I’d expect to see in the middle of the city, and they were also easy to get to. Full points for that one. Otherwise it wasn’t until I got to stage two of my bmm Copy Department World Tour that things got interesting. A nice restaurant, a great vantage point of the city and fantastic company, all achieved thanks to local knowledge, a car and going late enough that the roads weren’t completely blocked.


Is LA the worst city I’ve been to? It’s certainly not the best.

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