May 2015: California

By bonjpki

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Before I launch into a rose-tinted account of my 3 weeks in California, I want to set out my itinerary. Otherwise you may wonder why exactly I was wandering back and forth between cities.

LA (1) > Berkeley (2) > LA (3) > SD (4) > LA (3) > Berkeley (2) > LA (1)

Everybody who I outlined it to seemed to find it complicated, but it is actually quite simple. The numbers can help you imagine concentric rings or frames - I started off in LA and ended up there too. Then the bulk of my trip was spent in Berkeley but was broken up into two parts with an intermediary SoCal trip (LA, with two days in SD in the middle).

I'm going to keep the writing in this journal quite raw, not to be disturbed by too much editing. To mirror how raw my experiences here were (and I'm not using the term as a synonym for 'dope', 'cool' which is how it increasingly seems to be used).

Come on this adventure with me!

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Already within my first 32 hours of being in California, I have experienced everything that SoCal meant to me: KBBQ, boba, sun, SoCal hip-hop dancers, late-night food, traffic, LACMA, travelling inane distances to meet up with friends who also live in 'L.A.', food, food, food.

I watched my first major dance competition this weekend, Ultimate Brawl 2015. (A dance competition becomes 'major' when Gerald Nonato covers it, of course.) This did not come without its struggles of course. My friends drove across the whole of LA to pick us up, just to have to drive all the way back across LA and beyond, to Riverside. And this had to be on the day of both the Mayflower-Pacquiao fight and the Clippers game which meant that the LA freeways were packed. Well, at least I learnt about the concept of the carpool lane.

So we entered the theatre late and somewhat flustered - without the pre-show hype that I usually go through even as a spectator, I was not mentally prepared for the fact that I was about to watch some great dancers on stage.

My friend's team, ACA, won first place. The previous night he had told me about the rivalry between his team and CADC. The latter had beaten ACA to first place in a recent competition, and they would be performing those same sets at Ultimate Brawl. It's always tense during the announcement of results, when the phrase 'in 2nd place...' is followed by your rival's name. That's what it was like for my friend and his team.

Around midnight, after the post-show team gatherings outside of the theater, my friends and I went to a Korean soon tofu place for late-night dinner. I had been to this same place with the ACA friend and another good friend almost two years ago, just after we had watched Kick-Ass 2. Memories.

Also, while napping in the airport waiting for my flight to NorCal, I experienced my first minor earthquake.

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After staying up practically all night at LAX, taking the 7am flight to NorCal, and getting hardly any sleep through napping, I somehow made it through the day reuniting with many friends who I hadn't seen for a year and a half, rehearsing for a dance show, and performing at the actual show.

With old friends, it can feel as though you hadn't left at all. But you're still not prepared for that rush of feelings you get from reuniting with some friends. Incidentally, the two friends who picked me up from the airport were the only people over whom, later, I would almost tear up over when we said our goodbyes.

I performed at the showcase hosted by my old dance club tonight. Except it's not really my old dance club anymore, since I would probably know only 10% of the people there. It's changed a lot. Past meets present meets future.

I was a complete outsider to the post-showcase hugging, photo-taking, celebrating. I even wondered why I had come back to a place which didn't seem to need me anymore. People move on without you.

But then, I realised I wasn't sad or regretful about no longer being part of this dance community. I took this to be a sign of closure, of me moving on.

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Today was the day I began to realise that Californians' social lives revolve around food. They eat altogether too much food. I ate altogether too much food.

One day I grabbed breakfast with a friend, which was a huge omelette with toast and a smoothie. This was followed by another smoothie with another friend. Then, immediately after the dance workshop, I had chicken teriyaki with a huge wad of rice and salad as well as my friend's slices of orange. Soon after that I grabbed a drink with a friend at a bar. Dinner consisted of gyoza and pork katsu at a Japanese restaurant, topped off with green tea ice-cream.

Can you see how long that paragraph was? And I didn't even go into that much detail about each meal.

I did have the best ramen of my life at a restaurant called Noodle Theory though.

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My friend who is a double major in CS and Art took me to her class' final-year art exhibition. Her project involved Putin, horses, sparkles, rainbows, ice-cream, sunglasses, guns. In brief, all the cool things in life. (To be more detailed, it was a video game where you were Putin riding a horse, trying to collect bonus items as listed above.)


After dinner on the unique day when I ate altogether too much (previous post), my friend took us to his place which he shares with his artist father. There was a lot of art around the place, including his father's panels in the style of the Dordogne caves in France.

My friend creates art too, not only as a music producer, but in his reworking of cars. When I knew him two years ago he was reworking his car, and now two years on, he's reworking two different cars. They all turn out super jazzy and cool though. And every time I ride in his cars I have to hold on to the handle which a friend of his has knighted the 'Oh Shit handle' because this friend drives around so fast and furiously. But that's why I always love riding in his car because his almost reckless driving and his obscure yet good rap music blasting out of the windows are a simple pleasure.

As a Berkeley native, he's always showed me a different side of the city. He was the person who taught me how to skateboard, who introduced me to live underground hip-hop (he collaborates with his rapper friend whom I also befriended two years ago and they actually make good rap music), and whom you will meet again in a later post in an interesting setting.


Avengers 2 is no piece of art. But at least my two old roommates and I got a cool Polaroid out of the outing.

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I didn't get to spend much time in SF during this trip. In fact I spent only one evening there, which is a criminally insufficient amount of time to dedicate to this amazing city.

This was another overdose of food, consisting of a huge burrito, a large cup of boba, and a lot of delicious Bi-rite ice-cream. All in the space of 2-3 hours.

This quote, from the penultimate night of my trip, seems an appropriate caption for the third photo: "can you actually think of any country in this world that you wouldn't describe as 'they drink a lot'?"

(It's a good thing that the wine in that photo obscures the measurements on that jug because they're rude as hell.)

(Disclaimer, I did not partake in any chugging of that chug jug.)

To top this beautiful night off, I took the overnight Greyhound down to LA.

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Sleep. I needed it after the Greyhound ride down from SF. Thankfully there was an express bus service direct from the coach station to my friend's apartment in Westwood.

Once I got there I crashed and slept for a good 4-5 hours. I was sleeping on their living room couch and apparently one of the housemates came down the stairs in nothing but his underwear, and was embarrassed to realise that I was there. In my semi-functioning barely-awake slumber, luckily for him I saw nothing. My friend told me his housemates semi-scolded him for not telling them a girl would be crashing in their living room.

Having awoken (waking up from daytime slumber is always an especially groggy experience) I eventually booked an Uber (first time using this renowned app) to the Getty. I'm used to having public transport links to, well, everywhere. L.A. is a far cry from London in that area.

I made it to the Getty. It seems I came to California at a good time - the Getty had a special exhibition about J.W.Turner. I love anything aquatic, I love watercolour, and I like art exhibitions. So this exhibition was soothing.

The appeal of the Getty rests upon its location and on the tram ride between ground level and the museum. The permanent collection left a lot to be desired.