Yes Man…

If you haven’t already seen it, I highly suggest you all go and watch Yes Man immediately. Here, I’ll make it easy for you. Follow one of the links here.

Might want to have Ad-block running...

Click here to watch *cough*

The premise of the film is that Jim Carey’s character has to say ‘yes’ to anything and everything he’s presented with to try and excite his otherwise boring, dead-end life. Now on the face of it it may sound like a generic romantic comedy (which it is), but the chemistry between Carey and Deschanel coupled with a well-written script make it worth watching in its own right. The reason I like the film so much is the underlying theme and general lifestyle change it advocates.

At this stage you might be asking yourselves why I’m writing about a film on a travel blog, and you’d be right to do so. Allow me to educate you, dear readers.

Since I left on my trip, I have been trying to embrace as much as possible the tenets behind Yes Man, and being open and willing to do anything that presents itself. Now obviously this isn’t always possible for budgetary or practical reasons, but other than those it’s been going pretty well. This may sound cheesy, but screw you.

Case in point most recently: You’ll all remember the friend I hung out with through the Couchsurfing website a week or two ago who upon the first day of us meeting guided me gallivanting through LA’s downtown area, and without warning the second time we hung out took me hiking in the mountains looking for a mythical bridge.

Well, while I was in San Francisco (I’m back in Los Angeles now), we were chatting online and she asked when I was coming back to LA. I informed her that I’d be back on Thanksgiving, which is today, or Thursday for those of you who’re late to class. Her reply was, and I quote verbatim:

“oh! then you will be coming to a party with me on friday”

“Will I?”

“yep. you’re coming. bring something.”

And then right at the end of the conversation…

“OH. bring a swim suit too”

“… wat. Somewhat important and randomly tagged on the end there.”

“not really. its an afterthought. we party hard. we are zesty.”

“And that somehow involves swimsuits?”

So that’s the story of how I was ‘invited’ to a party tomorrow night somewhere in Los Angeles, with some people I don’t know, that may or may not involve the need for swim shorts.

“Yes.”

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There be gold in them there hills…

…but we didn’t find any.

So I got a message on Facebook last night from my new Couchsurfing buddy inviting me to join her and a friend of hers on an excursion. Didn’t know where we’d be going, but of course I wanted to go.

Turns out we were going up into the San Gabriel mountains to find something called the Bridge to Nowhere. Sounds suitably mystical and ancient, right? It certainly proved elusive.

U NO DAM HERE

This sign greeted us at the car park before the hiking began. In case you can’t make it out, it reads:

Please do not build dams in the river. Building dams in the river can be harmful to fish and aquatic life in the stream. Water temperature increases if it is not allowed to flow freely. This can kill the fish and aquatic life and at the same time it increases the levels of bacteria and algae. Please do not build dams in the river.

Now I’m not sure, but I suspect we’re not allowed to build any dams in the river. There are rumours it may do some kind of harm to the fish. This was of great disappointment to me as many an hour during my childhood growing up in the countryside was spent building dams across streams and rivulets for purposes unknown. Possibly porpoises.

We started a trek down a river canyon in search of the Bridge to Nowhere that my friend had read about online. Spoiler alert: we didn’t find it.

The canyon we were hiking through was at some point long ago a huge river, but the water certainly wasn’t very high when we were passing through. Apparently, although we saw very little evidence for this, the canyon used to have a road trail, and possibly a railway through it as well. I found this incredibly hard to believe given how much trouble we had walking it, and we are not the size of a train.

It was a lovely hike of about two hours, involving several precarious crossings of the river. We were balancing on wobbly trees while trying not to fall in, and at one point dealing with a very stubborn grass hopper guarding his particular crossing. At that point, we met a couple of hikers coming the other way back down the canyon. We asked them if they’d managed to find the bridge and they had, but they told us it was still another two hour walk from where we were. The sun was already on its way down, so we decided that we weren’t going to make the bridge sadly.

Since we were walking through an old riverbed covered in rocks, it seemed like building one of those rock pile statues was, you know, the thing to do. I played Tetris a lot as a child. As you can see below – it paid off, with change. Another curious thing we kept finding as we were making our way through the canyon was people looking for gold. They had many different bits of equipment with them, but they were all sifting through the mud and silt at the bottom of the river trying to find gold. Given the sheer number of people doing this, there must be some kind of success to be had with this. Or they’re all crazy people. Both possible, I suppose.

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We decided not to get stranded half way up a mountain, down an inaccessible canyon with the sun setting, so we turned around and headed back to the car. Not before a quick shot with the statue we left, though. This couchsurfing thing is an excellent way to meet people.

Couchsurfing for friends part deux…

Nothing to do with light switches happened today. Get over it.

As I mentioned a post or two ago, I was going to try using Couchsurfing to find some people to hang out with while I’m in Los Angeles. After browsing through a load of people’s profiles to find someone I’d get on with, I sent out a few messages to people explaining what was going on and asking them if they had any free time. One of those people responded saying they had a spare ticket to an event on Sunday and would I like to join them.

Well of course I would. Knowing nothing more about where I was going than it was ‘an event’ and nothing more about the person I was going with than I’d read on her CS profile, I set off.

We got on really well and had an excellent day bumbling around Los Angeles. The event itself was a fashion… thing. I still haven’t quite worked out what, exactly. We didn’t stay for long, and sadly I saw no identifiably famous people.

After we left we spent the next few hours walking around downtown LA investigating a load of the old theatres along Broadway that’ve all now sadly closed and been turned into bargain basement clothing stores, or just simply locked up and left to disrepair. Such a waste. The one that was open we were able to get into was about to hold a religious service of some kind, but before we were stared out of the place we did manage to sneak to the higher level of the auditorium and see the incredible old chandelier that still remained. Like I said, such a waste.

We explored parts of apartment buildings and hotels off limits to the public to see huge old ballrooms, again, left to disuse and disrepair. We climbed to the top of buildings and scaled their fire escapes for incredible views over the downtown buildings. We got lunch at a huge indoor market and ate far, far too much food.

Oh, then we witnessed a car crash.

After exchanging contact details with the crashees in case either of them needed a witness, we drove up to a lookout point with an incredible view over LA, the Valley, and of the Hollywood sign. The sun had just set, so the lights of the city below us and the lovely orangered of the sky were beautiful. Good thing I had my camera with me, too.

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Downtown LA and the 101
My couchsurfing LA guide

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When I got home, I received an hasty message from my new friend urging me to put the news on right away. Apparently someone had been shot on the exact corner where we’d earlier parked the car. Soooo, LA’s safe…

All in all, an excellent day. We’re going to be getting together again later on in the week, and quite possibly when I get back from San Francisco.

Couchsurfing for friends…

So it’s time to try and use Couchsurfing again, but this time not for somewhere to stay. One of the options on the site is to meet people for ‘coffee or drinks’, although effectively it’s a “do you wanna hang out” option.

While I may be staying with a friend while in LA, and when I trip up to San Francisco in a week’s time, I still don’t actually know anyone here (or there) to spend some time with. Said friend I’m staying with is one of those ‘responsible adults’ I’ve heard so much about, but evidently know nothing about achieving myself, so she’s not got too much time to devote to me. This is totally fine and I expected as such beforehand.

I haven’t used Couchsurfing for this before, so I’m not exactly sure how I should go about it. When one is requesting a place to stay there’s a specific option to click to do so, but if I’m not needing a couch to kip on, I am unsure as to whether I should use that same option. Any readers please feel free to chip in with an opinion here: whether I should send a couch request or just send a person a message instead?

There are other website specifically aimed at organising meet ups for people, such as, surprise surprise, Meetup.com. I’ve checked it out briefly and there was nothing nearby taking place in the close future that caught my eye, so I’ll let you know if anything comes of that.

While I’m here I really want to work on my meeting new people and complete strangers thing. Since I’ve not been staying in hostels much while in the US I haven’t met as many new people.That said, it is great because I get to spend time with my friends.

Couldn’t find a suitable picture to include in this post for any reason whatsoever. It’d have just been for the sake of it, so you’ll just have to read the words instead.

Couchsurfing…

So I’ve spent almost a week sharing the houses and couches of a couple of people via couchsurfing.org now. It was on the whole, and indeed on the half, a wonderful experience.

I’ve already explained how I apparently chose my first host very well simply judging by the apparel adorning her walls, and I certainly did. I had a fantastic time hanging out with Karen, Elaine and Hope. I’m pretty sure I’ve detailed what we got up to elsewhere, so I’ll not repeat myself. However, I will say I was shocked and almost overwhelmed with Karen’s generosity and kindness. Not only was I given somewhere to stay, but she made lunch and dinner for me (and the others living there) both the days while I was there, as well as left all the entertainment choices up to me (far too much pressure to decide there, I might add). It saddens me that I can’t reciprocate somehow – I’d offer to let them stay with me except that has a couple of fatal flaws. One, I have no fixed abode, and two, they’re more than likely moving to Iceland, and who wants to come to England when you live in Iceland?

My second host was in Chicago. I contacted her and she agreed to let me stay with her for a few days on the basis that she liked my name. Well, that’s a saving grace for this otherwise cursed nomer I have been given. I reckon nomer should be a word, because misnomer is, and if you remove the mis, surely you’re just left with a nomer, right?

Anyway. I arrived later than I expected because my coach was a little delayed (America’s transport infrastructure really is shocking), and I decided to walk the two miles from the Greyhound station to her house in one of the neighbourhoods instead of getting a bus. I arrived about 20 minutes before she was due to go out to a party with her boyfriend. She showed me around the house, told me to use any of the facilities I wanted/needed, handed me a set of keys to her house, and left.

Handed me a set of keys to her house and left.

I’d met this girl not half an hour before she left me alone in her house with the keys. The level of trust given to a perfect stranger here astounded me (not that it was unfounded at all, but still, it’s the principle).

It turned out she and I got along very well and we spent quite a bit of time hanging out over the couple of days I was there. She lives in the middle of one of the largest Mexican neighbourhoods in the US (did you know, Chicago, very soon, will have a higher population of Mexican people than any other ethnic/racial group, including us whiteys?), and so I was given the chance to eat lots of authentic++ Mexican food while I was there, as well as get a detailed rundown of some of the culture and history of the area and the ethnicity in Chicago.

So all in all, so far, couchsurfing has gone well. The friendliness and helpfulness of the community as a whole is incredibly impressive and encouraging. It’s a great way to travel and stay, because having a local host who knows the area and can recommend places for you to visit, eat, see, makes a real difference to staying in an area. Wandering aimlessly around can only take you so far.

Confusion and couches… unrelated…

Someone subscribed to the companion blog, Pictures of the Long Road to Nowhere. Now, you see, this is fine. I have no problem with this at all. The issue here is that I do not recognise the email address of the subscribee (not a word, but you know what I mean, wait, no, it should be subscriber… fuck it) and it is not an email address of anyone who has subscribed to this here blog. The confusion further intensifies when one takes into account the fact that PotLRtN isn’t linked anywhere except here, so I’m wondering how said person came across it, and why, in fact, they subscribed. So if it was you, come on, own up.

Now I feel the need to update it with a picture, and I don’t have any ready. Dammit.

Oh yes, couches. Spent my first night as a couch surfer last night, although I was sleeping on an inflatable air mattress and not a couch. The room I was staying in had a large banner with Cloud from Final Fantasy VII on the wall, a Firefly banner, and various motherboards, PCI cards and computer components mounted on the wall as a display. Now, those of you who know me well enough will know that Final Fantasy VII is my favourite, and frankly the greatest computer game ever made, Firefly is one of my favourite TV shows, and computers are a big part of how I’d spend my spare time. Apparently I chose this host well.

We ate, watched Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, then played a long-ass game of Risk. I lost, badly, but hey ho, I’ve never played before. Now I know how to dominate the world.

Speaking of, my host and I then had a long conversation about how we’d go about achieving world domination and/or destruction if we were evil overlords (which of course, only one of us actually is). I didn’t get to couch until about five in the morning in the end, so that was a fun evening.

I’ve booked my train ticket from Chicago to Denver for this weekend. 19 hours (assuming no delays…) on a train, but overnight, and relatively easy to sleep on, so, it’s going to be fun.