I love my new nomadic life, but I still miss the wonderful people I left behind, many of whom are in London. So despite it not being on my route to Buenos Aires, I bought a cheap EasyJet flight to London and spent ten days there.
I love coming back to London, but it is also quite stressful. I want to see everybody I know, but ten days just isn’t enough. I construct intricate calendars in a hopeless attempt to slot everybody in, but it never quite works. I run from a coffee here to a dinner there, and yet there just isn’t enough time.
But I will be back, so if I missed you, have your people call my people and we’ll make it happen next time.
My next long term (measured in months) destination was Buenos Aires, but on the way I wanted to visit the friends I made in Los Angeles and Long Beach half a year ago, in particular Don Kendrick. My airline patron made this both easy and cheap. A stand-by journey bought through him must be completed within two weeks. Two weeks! That is plenty of time for me to leave Los Angeles airport, play with my friends for thirteen days and then get my ‘connecting flight’ to Buenos Aires, all on one cheap ticket! (Thanks again, Craig!)
Don picked me up from the airport and drove me back to one of my growing number of homes-away-from-home, namely the motorhome in his driveway. I love it there! I’m contemplating one day stealing the motorhome and drive away. I’d end up on one of those high-speed police chase TV shows filmed from a helicopter. Don’s husband, Jim, is a traffic cop and might be the one to arrest me! Imagine the headlines! But alas, it is just a dream; it would never work. The motorhome is a beast of a machine and I doubt I could even manoeuvre it clear of the driveway.
I did get to ride the sin wagon. (That is the name of the motorhome, given after the song with the same name. Go on, put it on!) Don and Jim invited all their cowboy friends to help me celebrate my birthday in style. We all piled into the sin wagon and a few Jack’n’Cokes later, we all fell into Oil Can Harry’s, a country-western gay bar in Los Angeles. There I was manhandled through a flurry of two-step and shadow dances. I had a wickedly good time!
There are precious few sub-cultures left where couple dancing still plays a part. That is an absolute crying shame. The best nights out are always the ones where you get the swing your shaggys. (If that doesn’t make sense to you, look it up in your big dictionary of Swedish idiomatic expressions.)
There are many things to love about California. The amazing and diverse nature is definitively in the top five. Don and I made two excursions during my visits. The first was to Palm Springs, which I’ve written about before. However, this time we did not go to San Jacinto or Joshua Tree. After the chill of Switzerland, I was quite happy to sit by the pool and soak in the desert sun. It makes for a boring blog post, but it felt damn good!
The Californians themselves are another of the top five reasons why California is so awesome. Don and I were more or less minding our own business at a bar when we got talking to a couple of guys, Dick and Jeff. Before the bar closed, we had an invitation to come and visit them at their desert home some miles outside Palm Springs.
Being a nomad, you quickly learn to rely on the kindness of strangers. That in turn has freed me from the misconception espoused so diligently by the media that the world is full of horrible mass-murdering psychopaths. In fact, it is full of awesome people, like Dick and Jeff, and all you need to do to get to know them is to trust that people often do extend kind offers without ulterior motives, and start saying ‘yes’.
Since I do not have a home of my own, I spend a lot of time in the homes of others. I’ve seen many homes that are good, functional but basic homes. I’ve been in some stunning modern homes too. But Dick and Jeff’s home takes the biscuit, smothers it in chocolate and fudge and serves it up with champagne. No boring clean white minimalist surfaces here! It is deeply personal and alive home, tastefully filled with amazing pieces of art and vivid colours. I got such a serious case of house envy that I was ready to abandon my nomadic dream before I remembered that my decorating ability begins and ends with IKEA.
The house, however, was just one side of this priceless coin. Dick and Jeff were master hosts and their captivating hospitality was simply inescapable. Don and I planned for an afternoon visit, and we ended up hanging around for two days! (Partly due to a desert storm.) Perhaps the reason we bonded so well with Dick and Jeff is that they too are Burners, and after six months away from Black Rock City, it was good for the four of us to reminisce about that other desert we love so much.
Driving back to Long Beach, we took a long detour. The main thing that we wanted to see was the Salton Sea. I’ve already seen an American ghost town, but this is something as rare as a ghost lake. In 1905, a combination of freak weather and human stupidity caused the Colorado River to flood the dry Salton Basin. Two years later, the largest lake in California had formed. In the 1950’s, prospectors spent fortunes to turn Salton Sea (as it was called) into the hottest recreational place for the rich and famous. Thirty years later, the salinity levels of this landlocked sea rose to the point that toxic algae bloomed and killed the fish, en masse, leaving nothing but an intolerable stench. Within a few years, the resorts and the marinas were abandoned, leaving behind a ghost lake of broken dreams and wasted investments. One eerie detail about the Salton Sea is that the white sand of the shores is not sand at all; it is the crushed bones of the dead fish.
Other sights on our drive back to Long Beach was an off-road vehicle training park (where Don the daredevil naturally had to play), a handful of ghost-towns in the making and a mountain road leading from the desert up through some green pastures to snow-on-the-ground pine tree covered land. This area has such a rich diversity of landscapes.
The second place Don and I went to was Big Bear. The astute reader will remember that we visited the little Big Bear cabin on my previous trip to California. Well, it is a beautiful wooded mountain town and deserves a return visit.
I noticed a change in the town though. Big Bear is silently being invaded by carved wooden bear statues. They move so slowly that I doubt that any of the residents have even noticed. It is like when you boil a live frog; raise the temperature slowly enough and the frog never notices. (Kids, don’t try this at home. [Use your dad’s office instead.]) But the invasion is evident to anyone visiting. Every single house has at least one of these arboreal monsters sneaking up on the unsuspecting families inside. I even caught one of the beasts climbing in through somebody’s window!
We were hoping for some skiing, but someone had stolen all the snow. (The wooden bears?) Instead and entirely unrelated, we got unseasonably warm weather. So Don and I drove around and simply enjoyed the scenery during the day and watched Rome (the best series ever produced) by the live fire in the cabin at night. (Mr Jack and his dear friend, Mr Coke, made several appearances, although they rarely stayed long.)
Then my thirteen-day flight connection was at an end. I packed my trusted backpack and went to the airport. It was time for me to go to Buenos Aires!