Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Romanian quick-step

December 5th, 2011

I’d not, I explained, actually been to Romania. But I had at least seen the place, across the Danube from Serbia. But Diane, my host for the evening, had visited, studying traditional dance. She’d travelled a good deal with husband Dennis. Had forgotten more Mandarin than I’d ever learnt.

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I’d slept on the floor of their study. In the early morning light lying there gazing at a world map covering an entire wall. Pondering. In awe of its physical enormity, struggling to reconcile this with a new sense of smallness. Sometimes I dozed.

Equally intrigued by a couple of familiar works on their bookcase. Pulitzer Prize winner Jared Diamond’s analysis of societal developments across the continents. Third or fourth copy I’d seen in North America.

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Tea party

December 4th, 2011

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Yorkshire tea.. in a shop in Santa Monica, Los Angeles. Surprising, not least because I thought we’d stopped them trading with the New World centuries ago…

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LA sunset

December 4th, 2011

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Smog tends to lend itself to pastel sunsets…

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Venice Beach

December 3rd, 2011

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Venice Beach, Los Angeles… More tourist tat than gangland spat… in daylight at least…

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Different perspectives

December 3rd, 2011

Los Angeles isn’t all about drive-ins, drive-bys, riots and gang warfare. There are plenty of nice bits, in daylight at least..

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Sunbather

December 3rd, 2011

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Only sunbather to be found around Santa Monica pier, Los Angeles. Proof, if ever you needed it, of what over-exposure can do to your complexion…

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Route 66

December 3rd, 2011

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Heading into LA

December 2nd, 2011

Malibu. A little east of LA. Its principal attraction, I suspected, was that it wasn’t Los Angeles. A narrow, twenty seven mile strip of beach houses mostly teetering on the edge. At the northern end some expensive looking plots, the sort you buy just for the land, replacing the property with something more to your own taste. But the real money was probably elsewhere. More discreet. Told actor Kevin Costner lived much further up the coast.

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LA nightlife

December 2nd, 2011

Ken finally reaches Los Angeles. In the dark…

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Angry young men

December 2nd, 2011

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Santa Barbara appeared to be what you’d probably expect a Californian coastal city to be. More Baywatch than Hill Street Blues. Fit young things on roller skates. That sort of thing. Out of season though for beach volleyball.

But pause for a short while on the edge of the wide beach side cycle path and you’ll soon notice the dispossessed. Deep, grubby tans. Sun bleached, faded clothes. Shopping trolleys laden with their worldly good, gathered together in tatty plastic carrier bags. A few with bicycles and trailers, plainly not long-haul tourers.

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The guidebook suggested against camping close to Los Angeles, the State Park sites drawing in those down on their lot, or tempted by the possibilities of rich pickings. The economic downturn had, I thought, spread potential miscreants further out from the city.

I’d later met Ben, a fellow rider. Seen his bike parked up outside a cafe as I’d hurriedly left Lompoc. He’d explained the place was the Federal Penitentiary. Angry young men he’d said. You were either behind bars, or you’d money but nowhere to go, nowhere to spend it.

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