24 April 2006

"You're Australian, right?"


"New Zealand?"

"No. British."


I've also been asked if I'm South African, Welsh and accused of being Irish.

"Why San Francisco?"

Like it's a shithole not worth visiting. Obviously if I met a tourist in Clacton On Sea I'd ask them that, but, San Francisco - while it doesn't have the shiny sun of LA - is actually a pretty cool (literally) place.

I rented a car and drove up here from LA. Having never driven on the right hand side of the road, and having never driven a left hand drive vehicle - it was something of an experience.

A few years ago when The Thrills released their album "So Much For The City" I heard the song "Big Sur" on the radio a lot.

Obviously, on the radio you can't here spellings, so I thought the song was "Big Sir" - perhaps a song about a dodgy, well-endowed teacher. Turns out that actually, Big Sur is in fact a place on the California coast.

Looking at the map, I thought it'd be an ideal distance along my way to stop overnight for some kip. Until I got there. Then I fully understood why the lyrics went "Just don't go back to Big Sur..." (and from that lyric you can also understand how I came to my misunderstanding over what the song is about).

I did pass a couple of inns/hotels/motels, drove past them and thought "You know what. I'd kinda like to stay somewhere that looks like it's got electricity. My iPod needs recharging if it's going to see me all the way to San Francsico."

So, I passed through the town thinking of one of The Thrills other songs "Oh Santa Cruz, No, you're not that far..." because I was getting kinda tired having been driving for 11 hours and I was looking for a place to crash. As in sleep - I wasn't looking to wrap my rented car around a pole, even though it was insured.

When I finally reached Santa Cruz, I checked into a motel. The first time I've ever stayed in a proper park-your-car-by-your-bedroom-door motel. I was somewhat nervous about the prospect, especially the thought of having to take a shower the following morning. I wanted to survive to see San Francisco and not to wind up with the contents of my veins flowing down the shower drain like I was circulating chocolate syrup. I've seen that movie.

I was nervous enough on a plane to Los Angeles - I was convinced the tail section would snap off mid flight and I'd wake up on the beach on a desert island, strangely no longer disabled.

I survived the night and the next morning packed my stuff back into my proper grown up car (seriously, Hertz gave me a Toyota Camry. What do I need a huge family car for? There was just me, and I'm used to my ickle 206) and discovered that I do, in fact, know the way to San Jose.

From there I headed towards San Fran via one of the US's infamous Outlet Malls. Can you believe they had a Skechers store and I managed to resist buying any footwear at all?

I arrived in San Francisco and checked into my hostel. I haven't seen that movie yet, so wasn't so afraid of getting butchered. I have bought the DVD whilst over here though. But I figured that was one to watch when I was safely back in my flat. However Massacre in a one bedroom Camden Council Flat is one I shall be avoiding.

15 April 2006

Yesterday I felt truly at home, here on the other side of the world.

It absolutely pissed down. How British.

"What the hell am I doing drinking in L.A. at 26?" Sheltering from the rain. That's what.

And as if that wasn't enough... I spent over an hour waiting for a bus with a lift that worked. I really felt like I was back in London. Except of course for the fact that I was having to wait for the bus on the other side of the road.

The one thing to constantly remind me that I was, indeed, in America, was the fact that as I waited for my bus:

1) No-one asked me if I needed any help crossing the road.
2) No small children pointed and stared.
3) None of the passing dogs started yapping at me because they've never seen a wheelchair before.

In America, we can get everywhere (hell, even the Lush store a block from my hostel is accessible. You know you're in a crip friendly country if you can get in a Lush with ease), so, we are everywhere.

As a result, your average American is used to seeing us wheelies everywhere and doesn't look at you like you're a piece of modern art on wheels.

When I did finally board a bus, only one person on board did an owl impression (the head rotation) to see how the lift worked liked they'd never seen a crip getting on a bus before.

You know. I could get used to this...

13 April 2006

"On behalf of British Airways, I'd like to welcome you to Los Angeles. Oh, but we've lost a bit of your wheelchair."

I found myself remembering the final shot of Serenity as a piece fell away from Serenity itself. A piece about the same shape as the one missing from my wheelchair. I could even picture the Captain, somewhere over the Atlantic, turning to a somewhat unstable co-pilot and saying "What was that?"

As I sat at the customer service desk and they showed little interest in either finding or replacing my skirtguard (like I'm ever gonna wear a skirt. They should call it a buttguard) it all came flooding back to me why I was never going to fly BA again.

In 1997, they lost my suitcase. And then found it about 10 minutes before the deadline by which they'd have to compensate me. Of course, I didn't get it for a couple more days by the time it had been sent to the hotel.

I'm not much of a crier, but, yesterday I did discover the power of turning on the waterworks. As the tears rolled the Duty Manager fo BA pulled me outside, whipped out his mobile (or "cell" I suppose over here) and called the manufacturers of my chair - who handily happen to be here in California (which does make it somewhat slow when Camden and Islington Wheelchair Service have to order parts to be sent to the UK. Maybe I should stock up on spare wheels while I'm here?). As the LA sun baked dry the tears on my cheeks, he was getting a quote for a replacement part. He still wanted me to buy it and claim the money back when I pass through San Francisco airport on my way home in a couple of weeks, but at least a weeping girly prompted him to at least be somewhat helpful.

The irony is of course, once I got out of my chair to load it into a shuttle to head for the youth hostel, the buttguard fell out of the backrest. How the hell it got in the backrest I do not know. But, hey. I got got bemused look as I shrieked with excitement at the shuttle driver who presumably thought me less than sane getting excited over a funny shaped bit of plastic. Those two hours of weeping and trying to elicit some kind of helpful response from anyone working for BA were for nothing.

I'm in California. It is sunny. I am indoors. Must fix that.