Well, here we go again. Sorry about the neglect which was down to a combination of me being a lazy prick, problems with access to electronic abacus machines and some other job related crap which isn't really all that interesting given that most people go through it. Enough of the maudlin apologies, let's get cracking.
After tooling around Europe I decided that a trip over to North America would be a good idea. Sure, my thinking was vague,
"North America is thataway. Duck me fed, another long haul flight but at least they'll speak English. Kind of. Better save up some cash and git on over there" but I had a few ideas.
The plan was to visit a couple of people I'd met in Europe, hang around them like a bad smell and annoy the bejaysus out of them and see a little bit of the good ol' USA and a fair bit of Canada. I had contacts in Calgary and Toronto and decided to make the rest up as I went along. I had some definites; July 4th in a vacation type setting, Vancouver Expo, Calgary Stampede and making a nuisance of myself in old mate Doug's home town of Toronto. Sure, he was fine in Europe when he was free of employment and hometown duties but when a freeloader like me comes to town? All I can say is good luck. Oh, I also wanted to hit Disneyland.
The flight from Sydney to L.A. was through the dubious agencies of Air New Zealand. They were the cheapest deal I could arrange and in my travel package they threw in a week's worth of Holiday Inn vouchers for ten bucks. Trust me, I checked out all the offers and this one was straight. Flying with Air Paewa Fritter meant a stop in Auckland at crap o'clock with no bar service, another in Honolulu with genuine friendly American "Welcome to America" sentiments and then
"L.A. International Airport
Where the big jet engines roar" - thanks Susan Raye.
So what does a clueless Aussie do when landed in Lala Land with a transfer voucher to the Holiday Inn at Anaheim. (Yes, I wanted Space Mountain real bad.) What I did was get on the coach and have a look at the LA-Anaheim road trip. Not that exciting, but I'd been told to expect not much except for the amusement parks. I was dropped off at Anaheim Holiday Inn, hitched my pack and checked in. The room was pretty good and I had a feeling that my near future of hostels. Y's, cockroach dives and couches of friends would make this seem like the pinnacle of luxury. I was right. I knew it deep down so I immediately dialled up room service and ordered the test marker of any hotel, a club sandwich. They did a fair job of the sandwich while I was using the shower and stashing the soap and shampoo reserves. I also sampled my first Bud out of a can in the U.S. Wasn't as crappy as I thought but it was like a Macdonald's beer. Yeah, you can drink it but there's better stuff around. So I decided that one way to fight jet lag would be to check out the hotel's bars. I found a dodgy lounge affair, a piano bar and finally settled on a regular type bar with a lively bar guy. I settled in and ordered a draught. I held out cash as the barman brought my beer but he said to run a tab instead. I then remembered I was meant to tip. Did I tip the room service guy? Yep, and it was at least ten per cent. Okay, how does bar tipping work when you run a tab? Fuck the confusion, just ask the man behind the bar. The response was that you can tip small for each drink or just leave a nice note at the end. If you're in a group just tip each time the waiter brings a round of drinks and make it ten per cent minimum. If you tip more, you'll get more. If you do neither then don't come back and expect to be served anything halfway decent. Thanks Mr Barkeep, I'll steer clear of the beer for now and give me a double Jack thanks.
"Whoa, Big Guy!!"
I then found out why he said that. His version of a double was basically to free pour a generous slurp, then another and then double that. Ended up being almost the volume of a hip flask. In a very large glass with ice and a splash of coke. It looked magnificent so I tipped him four bits, keeping a couple of notes on the bar as obvious tip bait. I had a beer chaser and then started feeling Mr Nod zoning in so I went and zoned out after he poured me a complimentary single shot straight up. I swallowed it down sharpish, feeling the warmth begin to remind me of time differences, potential jet lag and limited budgets. I did some quick bar maths and figured I'd been treated very fairly even after leaving a couple of bills on the deck. The reason you need to know this is because bar etiquette is very important to a thirsty traveller and once you crack it, you can crack most anything when visiting foreign countries. Food is always easy but bar smarts are essential, no matter how complex they may appear at first glance. Remember, always, always have a towel, toothpaste and condoms. Stash bread and cheese in your day pack with a bottle of vino or a ocuple of beers and you'll make it through anything. Oh yeah, a hip flask may sound pretentious but they are very fucking useful in a tight fix (like a no alcohol venue). Oh shit, is this gonna be another series of ramblings about drinking? Well here's a big fucking clue; the first anecdote was about learning how to tip in bars in the USA. There's other crap to throw in so don't feel neglected if you're a non drinker, just feel like you're on the outer.
So the next morning I got up wonering where the fuck I was. Then I saw an empty Bud can on top of the teev, a few remnants of my club sandwich from the previous night and an opened bottle of JD on the kitchen bench. Where the hell did that come from? Oh yeah, sweet sweet Duty Free. I was some sort of genius.
So what was in store next? Where was I? AnafuckingMountDruittfuckingHeim. If you're lost, google Mt Druitt or Fountain Lake, then google Anaheim. There's no fucking difference except Anaheim has more MacDonalds outlets and theme parks, the biggest and best being good ol' Uncle Walt's pioneering effort. Yep, I had a dream of going to Disneyland, smoking some jays with Goofy and chasing Minnie around those stupid fucking teacups. A bloke has to have ambition. So Disneyland here we come!