"Why don't you just fly to California while I'm gone`?" my boyfriend suddenly asks while we debate his five-day absence.
"I don't know," I say. "Why don't I just fly to California?"
Ten minutes later, we book a flight to Los Angeles for me. Kaboom! My favorite tool for making decisions has always been the hammer. All or nothing at all. Now or never. YOLO.
One week later I arrive in the blaring heat of the West Coast. After four months in the woods of Wyoming, the shrill and crowded metropolis crashes into the iceberg like the Titanic. I am the iceberg. I'm standing at LAX Airport like Gretel, wrapped in a cloud of smog between roaring horns and yelling homo sapiens, by trying to find some breadcrumbs that give me a clue of how to find the subway. I have no idea yet that I will be fighting my way to my Airbnb across the entire city in two trains and three buses for the next three hours. By meeting almost everyone from rail security to a drug dealer. Hello, Los Angeles!
Every reasonable, large airport has a subway or train station in the basement. This also seems to apply to Los Angeles. That's at least what I figure after a brief glimpse at the metro map. How funny that I just can't find the damn thing. It's hotter than Hades in the picturesque concrete underworld in front of the airport. I inhale the CO₂ content that's produced in Beijing during the entire year while dozens of growling buses are thundering along the road. An indefinable stream flows over the floor, which could be coke or piss at the same time. A tiny arrow with the inscription "Metro" left me a quarter of an hour ago and I stare at the offline map of maps.me, without seeing anything. I start to question the position of the GPS marker and why it is showing my current location as Los Angeles and not as Calcutta. Then I move into my solo travel mode, try to clear my thoughts and talk to a lady in a uniform. "I'm kind of too stupid to find the metro station," I say diplomatically-honestly.
She nods. "Yes, you'll have to take the shuttle bus. The metro station is a few miles away. That's something they want to change in 2022 or so. We're a little bit behind with that." I'm smiling like a fucking idiot. Great. Luckily she shows me the spot where the bus is leaving. What just happens right in front of me. I'm smiling even dumber.
As the next shuttle arrives, the lady and I board it together. Soon we are on the way to the mysterious subway station. In between we talk about traveling to Japan and fear of flying by almost crashing into a taxi that makes an emergency braking right in front of the bus. As we arrive at the subway station, I realize that the train is running above the ground. Before I can buy a ticket, the lady gives me a charming wink and takes out a master key of her security bag to let me straight through a small gate to the platform.
Shortly afterwards we sit together in the metro and blaspheme about Trump. Rap music roars through the compartment because a few kids have not found another use for their ghetto blaster. Facades with graffiti pass by as well as rotten skeletons of buildings and very scenic trash. There are houses everywhere. Up to the horizon. An army of jackhammers is booming. As the doors open briefly, a drunken guy groans, yells "God bless America!" and waves with a pillowcase. Then the doors are closing again. I'm a little dizzy. Where are my mountains? Was the world this messed-up before? Whatever. When you travel alone, there's only one direction: forward. Head over heels. No whining.
I say goodbye to the nice security-lady as the train stops at my connecting station.. Now I only have to go with the dark blue metro line to the light blue metro line and walk a few feet to the Airbnb from there.
The dark blue metro line is torn off. I mean, completely. Inexistent. I traipse right into the construction site by crossing a strange railroad crossing without barriers. An arrow tells me there's a rail replacement transport somewhere. Are we in Germany or what? And what is it with all those arrows that lead to nowhere?
I spot two syringes on the floor in a corner full of dirty blankets, where it smells dangerously like a public urinal. Maybe I ended up in the not-so-fancy area of Los Angeles. However, fear and prejudice are the worst advisors when travelling. So I turn to the next best local homeless guy who handles weird bags and asks what's wrong with the damn train.
"It is torn down," he happily explains to me.
Then he sends me back to the metro station, gives me a detailed description of the rail replacement bus stop and wishes me luck. I wish him a nice day and give him a few dollars that still look like Monopoly Money to me. Problem solved!
A motherly policewoman picks me up right at the stop and puts me onto the bus. For a mysterious reason I don't have to pay anything again.
For the next hour and a half I am stuck in a rattly bus in the traffic madness of Los Angeles, without having a clue where to get off. So I am going to waste a few percent of my precious phone battery to locate my position on Google Maps to find out when and if I am ever approaching the light blue metro line. I just hope it would not be torn down as well. When the bus makes an irritating turn, I quickly download the Uber App. You never know. A few bizarre fellow travellers laugh loudly and throw something all across the bus that it sounds like the windows are breaking. I do what I always do in precarious situations: smile and wave.
Then I suddenly see a sign that lets me know that we are still approaching the light blue line in this life. I nearly break my finger by pressing the stop button and almost fall out of the open bus doors.
A heat wave hits my face. My hands are sticky and palm trees sway in the wind of the pale sky. I take a rotten selfie and send it to my boyfriend.
I found the subway. Again, I write.
What the hell are you doing? Call a cab, he anwwers somewhere between humor and real worry. The subway's above ground. What else.
I decide that a cab is for losers and I actually buy my first real ticket. For smasing $1. 75. Then I take the light blue metro line to Santa Monica.
I had originally planned on walking the 1.2 miles from the last metro station to the Airbnb. Actually, I wanted to be there two hours ago and spend the evening at the beach.
Haha. Since I am only travelling with carry-on luggage, also known as my backsack, my shoulders almost break off. Besides, I haven't really eaten anything since the dry salt
cookies in the plane also known as birdseed. I'm about to invade Starbucks, but I just can hold myself back. Some buses seem to stop right outside of Starbucks' door. Since my ticket is
valid for two hours on all trains and buses, I find that I have no desire to walk anymore. The information at the bus stop is very sparse. But I only have to go up the main road
for a short distance anyway. Should work out. I get on the next bus that comes along. It turns on to the main road. Yay! The air conditioning would even prevent the polar caps from melting and
nder a bridge I spot seven tents with even more homeless people.
Then the bus suddenly turns.
I'm looking out the window, distraughtly and sluggishly. I'd really love to steal the donut from the kid in the front left corner. Before the bus drives to the Death Valley, I am getting off. It's another mile from here to the Airbnb. Whatsoever! I start walking. The evening traffic on the four-lane expressway next to me sounds like a thunderstrom. A few yards in front of me, a man in rags is pushing an empty shopping cart. I think I've been really lucky today, despite everything. Because once again I met really nice people. I run and tap the man on the shoulder. Then I give him some Monopoly Money, too. He is super happy and explains the direction I have to walk to although I know it anyway because of my map.
When the pink sky explodes over my head and the first stars appear like milky spots, I crawl to my Airbnb with a wet foot (because of garden sprinklers). My host opens the gate and presses a water into my hand.
A few minutes later I am faced with the decision to satisfy my yawning hunger at McDonalds or a dubious Mexican food truck on the main street.
I am buying a burrito. In Spanish. I don't speak Spanish at all. Anyway, the food truck people and I still have a lot of fun. The crap tastes delicious and my stomach mucosa is still intact the next day. Welcome to Los Angeles!