Departure

At half past five in the morning on a Wednesday Melbourne Airport is empty anyone but airline staff. The sun hasn’t yet risen, and the big bay gate windows face out into a vast darkness broken only by blinking red lights and the dim movement of the great shapes of planes.

Deserted airports are unsettling places. As many of the flights I’ve taken have been during peak traffic hours, I’m used to being surrounded by people; long lines of people, stretching away from the check-in desks manned by energetic, white-shirted staff with great skin, or waiting to be herded through the thin cream plastic gateways of metal detectors while security guards turn their heads away to joke with each other, but never with passengers, or standing bored at the boarding gate, the long blue-carpeted corridor and the sense of forward momentum that just being on a plane brings only a tantalising few steps away.

Sitting here all by myself is a little eerie.

I want to stay awake as long as I can, in order to reset to California time faster – if I can go to sleep eight hours into the flight from Brisbane, I’ll be well on the way to coaching my body over the line and past the worst of the jetlag on the other side of waking. But because I’m up so early, I’m already fatigued, and if I go to sleep too soon, I’ll end up setting myself back further. My plan is to sustain myself by drinking thin, complimentary airline coffee, the taste of which, inexplicably, I love anyway, and focusing on some writing I want to get done until it’s time to sleep.

The flight from Melbourne to Brisbane is OK, although Brisbane Airport is no place for a young man. Leathery middle-aged women with missing teeth and low-cut pink halter tops over their flat and freckled breasts and entire families resplendent in identical rat-tail mullets and Juicy Couture roam the halls, delighted with the presence of a solitary Krispy Kreme outlet staffed by a lone and defeated Indian man.

I make it through to my gate and find there’s no one here, either. Just a long concourse, clinical and neat in its white tiles and in its empty tables and chairs. It’s quiet; lifeless in a way that seems to have no expectation of ever being anything but.

Where is everyone today?

People arrive and sit in pairs and groups around the departure desk throughout the next hour. When boarding is announced and I take my seat on the plane to Los Angeles I wonder idly if there are going to be any young children sitting nearby. I’m situated two rows behind the main bulkhead, and as the plane starts to fill, my insides clench. Beside me is a family with an infant. To my right, a family with two toddlers. Ahead of me, two more families with young kids. As I watch, another two families, infants in tow, come down the aisle and take the rows across the aisle to my left.

‘Isn’t this nice!’ one mother exclaims to another. ‘All these families here! All the kids can play together!’

On cue, one of the younger babies starts to bawl, which sets off another on the other side of this grid of horror, this devil’s game of tic-tac-toe I have found myself imprisoned in.

‘Excuse me,’ I say to a stewardess as she walks past. ‘I see a seat up ahead is spare. Do you think I could…?’

Thank God, thank God, thank God I’m so good-looking, I think. She’s going to give me anything I want.

‘Oh, I’m sorry,’ she says, smiling professionally. ‘That’s Premium Economy. I can’t let you sit there. But there are some seats spare down the back. After take-off, you could go and have a look to see if there are any still free? If someone else hasn’t beaten you to it?’

‘Thank you,’ I say, and sink back into my seat for take-off.

As soon as the fasten seatbelts light chimes off, I’m up and moving. Like a hungry ghost, I fly down the aisle.

And I see it.

It.

An oasis of solitude – empty seat surrounded by empty seat surrounded by empty seat; row after row of unreserved space. With one smooth motion, I strip my jacket from around my shoulders and launch it through the air. It soars in a graceful arc, its empty arms lifting like the eagle wings of sweet liberty herself, and lands perfectly in the middle seat of one of the empty rows, a message to the thieves and jackals who couldn’t think as fast as I: mine.

That night we hit the worst turbulence I’ve ever experienced, and my three empty seats bring me no comfort. High above the Pacific, one of my three blankets tucked under my chin, and my three pillows gently cushioning my head against the shakes and buffets of the squalling wind beneath our wings, I close my eyes and think  Goddamnit. I’m never going to get to sleep on this flight.

I am right, and my next chance to close my eyes and rest comes at LAX. I catch a fifteen minute nap there, and thank God for the opportunity to sleep on the connecting flight to SFO, even if its only for an hour or so. After I’ve taken my seat, a pale and tousle-haired hipster kid slinks his way down the aisle. He is wearing jeans so tight I worry for his future children’s IQ, and a loose beige cardigan that matches his perfectly dishevelled, scruffy hair. He sits next to me, and before I take my nap I wonder what he would do if I warned him that sometimes I scream in my sleep.

But I do not, and I’m sure I will be sorry for this later.¹

*

Arrival

It’s Wednesday, still, more than twenty four hours later, and I wake from a deep and dreamless sleep as we’re touching down in San Francisco and catch a taxi from the airport to my hotel. The Huntington is a towering old building just below the top of Nob Hill on California Street that I can only afford because of the cut-rate prices on Priceline.com. My room number is 11-11, which I take as a good omen.

‘What brings you here?’ the desk clerk asks as I’m signing in.

‘Halloween, man,’ I say. It is the first of a hundred times this week I will say this.

‘You came just for Halloween?’ he asks. ‘Really?’

It is the first of a hundred times someone will ask this.

I shower and unpack before heading down the hill to buy toiletries and food and coffee. I’m here. I’ve done it. This is my time.

At last, I will have my Halloween.

*

Inside Baseball

It’s Thursday, and Meredith texts that she and her friends are going to watch Game 2 in a bar in Glen Park. On arrival, I am greeted by a sea of Giants fans in orange and black, and a buzz of friendly noise. I order a drink, Meredith introduces me, and I have to ask the group: ‘So how do you play this game?’

The rules are explained to me, and suddenly the bar erupts as we score against Texas.

‘OK!’ A, one of Meredith’s friends says. ‘Let’s drink a shot every time we score!’

In the eighth inning, Posey singles up the middle. Holland walks Schierholtz and Ross to load the bases, then walks Huff. Lowe walks Uribe, Rentería singles to left field, and Ross and Huff score. In the space of five minutes, the Giants score six runs, and we decide it may be in our best interests to abandon the drink-a-shot-whenever-we-score rule. Instead, we start drinking freely, and when the game ends with us victorious, we pour out into the night looking for another bar.

This is much better than any Australian sport.

*

Before Halloween

Just as I’d hoped, Halloween is everywhere and by serendipitous coincidence, with the city in the Series, the streets are decked out in orange and black.

Everywhere I look, there are carved pumpkins on porches,  or toy ghosts hanging in store windows, or cartoon witches soaring on broomsticks through supermarket shelves.

It’s the best thing I’ve ever seen in my life.

My first real taste of the day comes as I’m getting a haircut at a salon a floor above street level. ‘Oh, quick!’ Joey the hairdresser says and puts down her scissors. ‘The kids from one of the schools nearby are trick-or-treating! You have to come see this, you’re going to love it!’

She drags me to the window and from our viewpoint about the street we can see the long lines of kids, held in formation by the watchful shapes of teachers, dotted at regular intervals along the column, dressed in costume. Sunlight glints off astronaut helmets, off fairy wings, off the blades of cutlasses worn through belts.

I hate all of the children. Their bright and shining faces remind me that this could have – should have – been mine, and it never was.

Also, one of them has a bitchin’ Lady Gaga outfit.

I could never pull that off, and I know it.

Saturday night is Meredith’s all-girl football team fundraiser. Ten bucks at the door buys unlimited PBR, and Sue’s packing a giant bowl of Jello shots. Me and Zhu and Emily, Kate and Tara and Lindsey, and Lyn and Erin and Casey shout at the TV as the Rangers take the lead in Game 3 and beat the Giants. We turn to the bottomless PBR to drown our sorrow. Someone puts twenty bucks in the jukebox. The fundraiser tails into an invitation to a house party in the Mission, and we drag ourselves away from Stray Bar in Bernal Heights and work our way there across 18th, across Dolores, by bicycle, by taxi, by car.

The house party is being held by someone named Tersch, a werewolf with a kitchen full of Brazilians. She paints my face in black and red and shows me where the drinks are.

Zhu and I make it our unspoken mission to have more fun than anyone else here. We drink the unfinished Jello shots, we shoot Tersch’s whiskey, and when someone starts passing around a bottle of Jager, we can’t seem to avoid it. Twenty minutes into the party, Zhu’s doing a handstand against the wall and I’m holding onto her boots while she drinks a cup of water upside down to cure her hiccups. A nerd and a Native American and Cupid look on and laugh as Zhu proclaims her temporary illness finally fixed.

Somehow, a half dozen of us end up sitting on the side of the street, under a blanket in the bed of Cupid’s truck, crowds of hundreds of migratory Halloweeners laughing and partying and shouting out around us. Someone steals Tara’s crutch while we’re not looking, and I run across the street to ask security at the nearby street party if they’ve seen it.

I see a girl sitting holding onto a crutch and I think Aha! I’ve got you now!

Then I see she’s wearing a giant moon boot.

‘Can I help you?’ she asks.

‘Oh.’ I say. ‘Well, see, someone stole my friend’s crutch, and I thought… ‘

She looks at me, and with the honesty of someone who’s been drinking for about six straight hours, I say ‘I figured maybe you’d be the kind of awful human being who would steal someone’s crutch, but now I see that you have that big boot on, so you probably need your crutch, but I kinda hoped that whoever stole the crutch maybe thought it was part of a costume, because who steals a crutch? So I came over to check, but it looks like you actually legitimately need your crutch, and you didn’t steal it from my friend. Oh. Both of your crutches, I see.’

‘Your poor friend!’ she says. ‘I wish I could give her one of my crutches.’

‘Yeah,’ I say. ‘Anyway, I’m gonna go.’

*

Halloween

It’s Sunday, and I’m going to meet  friends in a bar in Bernal Heights to watch Game 4 and grab a few quiet drinks. I catch the 22 to the top of the hill, and when I get off, the sky is still that perfect hazy shade of powder blue and ice-cream white.

I have no way of knowing that Bernal Heights is where people take their children for trick-or-treating. It’s like the whole suburban neighbourhood turns into a small town for the night – I crest the hill to see an ocean of people with their children, everyone in costume, wishing each other the best and knocking on doors. Jack O’Lanterns sit outside houses and stores alike; ghosts and witches hang from streetlights, the doors of haunted houses are thrown open to reveal thick cobwebs and polished skulls and grinning demons.

This is so perfect I’m almost on the verge of tears. This is everything I ever wanted from my childhood, and it’s right here. This is exactly how I pictured Halloween as being when I was a kid. I move through the crowd, taking photos, talking and smiling and never wanting to be anywhere but here.

*

Fear the Beard

It’s Monday night and Meredith and I are in the Mission. We’re sitting and watching Game 5 with two friends of hers. Lincecum is pitching what may turn out to be the game of his life – firing off eight innings of death from the mound. I wonder if he’s related to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and why his face looks like it’s always going to crumple into tears.

The ninth rolls around with the score 3-1 to the Giants.  Wilson takes the mound. He strikes out Hamilton, Guerrero grounds out, and Cruz takes the plate.

We’re watching the game on a TV with a delay of maybe two seconds, so as we see Wilson wind up for his final pitch and a roar suddenly goes up over the Mission, we know we’ve won.

Meredith and I take to the streets to meet some people I know, and the city has become a madhouse. Everywhere, Giants fans are roaring, running through the streets, slamming their palms down onto the horns in their cars. There are cops and roadblocks in the Castro, while people shout and sing and throw rolls of toilet paper over the streetlights. No one is inside; it’s like we just won every war that’s ever been fought.

Later that night, as I’m walking down Market Street, I come to a pedestrian crossing in front of a line of cars that goes back three blocks.

Unable to help myself, I yell ‘Go Giants!’ and the intersection explodes with the sound of people calling back to me and honking their horns. I’ve never seen anything like it.

The next day I read that people were burning mattresses in the streets.

Those guys party much harder than I do.

*

Jornada del Muerto

It’s Tuesday, and we’re in a giant open warehouse with a skull-headed DJ playing beats. For five dollars, make-up artists will paint your face with spray guns, shading paints, brushes and pads and pencils. But there are too many people here, and the line is too long, and the parade starts at seven. Zoe takes me to the DIY table and makes me up with black eyes, a hollow nose, and lipless teeth. She makes up Lexy too, before we head off for the parade. The organiser with giant hoops in his ears is bitchy about giving me my money back.

‘Well, I guess you’ll have to get here earlier next year, won’t you?’ he says.

Well, I guess that would help if I lived here.

Five of us start off through the Mission, following the route of the parade for Dia de Los Muertos, but Zoe’s stylist, whose name I can’t remember, hangs back to meet some people. Lexy and I and the other girl, another forgotten name, lose Zoe, then find her, then I lose the group. We stay in phone contact as I wander through crowds of the dead. Hundreds, thousands. Skulls and candles and offerings are everywhere. A giant black coach emblazoned with calaveras moves slowly through the mass of people that packs the streets. People hoist paper skeletons high on poles. Dead women in white dresses and dead men in black suits move through the crowd to the beat of graveyard drums.

I find myself at the head of the parade; dancers in long headgear shake and writhe under long banners. Somehow, I’ve overshot the mark of meeting everyone. There’s an anonymity here, all of us dead together and reaching out to offer a spark of life and love to that other black world that crowds in around us tonight.

I can’t believe I’ve never been to Dia de Los Muertos before.

This is the best week ever.


 

*

San Francisco

It’s Wednesday, and I start to realise just how much I miss it here as I walk into Walgreen’s for the first time.

I miss the way the light breaks over the top of houses in Bernal Heights and Noe Valley.

I miss the way coffee shops with dark wooden interiors and twentysomethings with yoga mats using Apple computers sit alongside Starbucks full of professionals with that wholesome mid-Western American look.

I miss that cold clean breeze that moves through the streets when the end of the afternoon starts to deepen into the start of twilight, and I miss the inexorable chill that signals the sun is going down.

I miss standing on the porch in the Castro and seeing the city spread out in front of me at night.

While I’m here, I walk from Chinatown to City Lights bookstore. I catch the Muni as much as I’m able, from Powell to Church, to the Castro. I catch the BART out to the Mission. I walk through Nob Hill, through the Mission, through the Embarcadero. At long last, I catch a cable car. I sit in Barnes and Noble and drink caramel lattes, and I want to be back here.

We drink at the Lex, we drink at the Argus, we drink at Stray Bar. We get coffee at Philz, at La Taza, at Urban Bread.

I get lunch with Angela Tung, and a bird relieves itself in my hair.

I sit in Dolores Park with Meredith, and we talk about traveling and settling down.

I buy a Giants cap at the Westfield Mall, and, unwittingly, take off and throw away the hologram on the brim that will result in it being worth money some day. I don’t care; I’m never selling this thing.

I promise myself that I’m going to get back here. Some way or another.

 

*

Los Angeles

It’s Wednesday, and I arrive, exhausted, at the Grafton, on Sunset. I make a couple of calls, send a few texts, and open up my laptop  to discover that the loose casing (my fault) has finally cost me. A wire is visibly broken, and my computer won’t turn on. I sit down on the bed and wake up the next morning.

*

My American Year

It’s Thursday, and my friend Erinn comes into town from Ventura and spends the day ferrying me around. We go to Olvera Street and I buy a bunch of Dia de Los Muertos souvenirs for people. I pick up a 50-piece jigsaw puzzle for my mother, suddenly acutely aware that I have never once brought her back anything from overseas.

Better late than never, right?

We head out to the beach and I insist we find a place where I can buy a yearly planner for 2011. My reasoning is that if I buy it in America, it will be a sign to the universe that 2011, for me, will be a year spent in America.

I’m wearing my Giants cap, and we pass a woman wearing the same as we cross the streets.

‘Go Giants!’ I say, cheerfully. The woman stares at me blankly as we walk past.

‘Who were you talking to?’ Erinn asks. I shake my head and make a note not to show off any more.

Then as we’re in line at Barnes and Noble, where I’ve found a planner I like, I see a guy wearing a Giants cap two places ahead at the counter. He sees me looking at my hat as I see him looking at mine. He doesn’t say a word, just gives me a silent, satisfied nod of affirmation. Erinn laughs beside me.

‘Yeah,’ she says. ‘I saw.’

*

The Usual Suspects

It’s Thursday night and I can’t help it; if I think of Hollywood I think of Los Angeles, if I think of Los Angeles, I think of Lenore and Duke. If I think of Lenore or Duke, I think of Los Angeles, and I think of Hollywood. It’s just the way it goes.

Lenore and Duke pick me up from my hotel and we go to Delancey’s for dinner. I like that this is where we go when we’re together in Los Angeles, like it’s kind of where you go if you write for TNB. There’s an empty place at the table for four, and we allocate it to Zara, who calls a few moments into the meal. The food, as always, is good. Duke gets the chocolate cake for dessert, and I am jealous, as his choice is superior to mine.

It’s good to see them, and it’s strange to think I just got here and already I’ll be leaving tomorrow night. On the way back to the car we pass a cat who wants to play with us, and we decide that Zara’s place in the group can be taken by our new cat friend.

I secretly cannot wait to tell Zara she has been replaced by a cat.

*

Departures

It’s Friday, and I’m hanging out with my friend Linz. I’ve stolen Ben Loory’s delicatessen, Greenblatt’s. This is his place, as far as I’m concerned, but I want the hot pastrami dip sandwich. I must have it. I can have nothing else. The waitress is from San Diego and makes idle chatter as we wait about how good San Diego is, but has trouble pulling out specifics.

‘Hang on,’ I say. ‘We’re going to settle something.’

I call Joe Daly and ask him what the best place in San Diego is.

‘My house,’ he says, sounding surprised that such a question would even occur.

I promise Joe that Zara and I will make our next trip soon, and we will come to San Diego.

The day goes by too quickly, and soon I am back at LAX. I talk in my bad Spanish to the woman in front of me at the security checkpoint. She is from Colombia and going to Wisconsin, of all places. She is old, with bad teeth and a shy smile. We sit together after going through the metal detectors and put our shoes back on. Something falls from her bag, a piece of paper, and I hand it back to her.

‘Gracias, senor,’ she says.

‘De nada, senora,’ I say in reply. ‘Que tenga un bueno noche.’

‘Si,’ she says. ‘Y tu.’

I have no idea how to say, ‘I’ve had one of the best weeks of my life and I don’t want to go back to Australia yet,’ in Spanish. We haven’t covered that at El Patio Spanish Language School. So I smile and go to catch my flight, and in my head, I am laying plans for my return.

This week I have had my first baseball game, my first Halloween, my first Dia de Los Muertos. I have drunk my first Old-Fashioned, eaten my first tamale, done whatever it is you do with your first Jello shots. I have seen people I love and don’t see enough, people I don’t see nearly as much as I want to, because they’re so far away.

I could do this week every day of the year.

 

 

 

 





¹ – correct.


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SIMON SMITHSON is an Australian writer and editor. He is currently based in Melbourne, Australia, but frequently finds himself in Los Angeles and San Francisco. His work has appeared on both sides of the globe in print and online in publications such as BLIP, Every Day Fiction, Beat, The Loop, My Sinking Boat, and more. He has a tumblr at www.simonsmithson.com and he runs a lifestyle experiment at www.selfhelpless.net.

117 responses to “Best Week Ever”

  1. Jessica Blau says:

    Oh god this made me miss California so so so so so much! I’m so glad you got the Halloween of your childhood dreams!

    • Gloria says:

      I agree with Jessica, Simon. This whole thing put a big, happy smile on my face. I generally find that when I get my hopes up about anything, I’m usually profoundly disappointed. Or even just regular disappointed.

      Thank you so much for this recap! Love it.

      Also, I think you’d make a fabulous Lady Gaga.

      • Gloria says:

        Also, I think you technically eat Jello shots. Right?

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Thanks Jessica! I’m so glad too. Technically it was ten days, but still. I’m sorry you miss California; do you ever get back there?

          Gloria, I had a big happy smile on my face as well. I can’t believe how perfectly everything came together on Halloween for me.

          Do you eat Jello shots? Because they’re somewhere between a liquid and a solid. Maybe you just sort of… inhale them.

        • Cheryl says:

          You slurp them, of course!

        • Gloria says:

          So Jello shots are, like, the oysters of beverages?

        • Cheryl says:

          Yes. Little fruit-flavored oysters, filled with liquor, nestled in paper shells. Both are rumored to make one horny; and both carry the danger of being regurgitated later.

        • Gloria says:

          As a matter of fact, the mere thought of it made me vomit in my mouth just now. So, you’re totally right!

          Mmmm…fruit flavored vodka horse hooves snotty raw fish shots. Mmmm….

        • Simon Smithson says:

          I can’t eat oysters anymore. Not because I ever got sick, but because the last time I was eating them, my friend Dean said ‘Hey, don’t think about what’s in your mouth right now!’ and, of course, I started thinking about it. The whole process of eating stopped in its tracks; I was unable to swallow, and I was left with a fleshy ball of snot in my mouth, rolling over my tongue.

          Finally, I choked it down when panic flooded my brain and my instincts took over. And now, there will be no more oysters for me. I can’t. I just can’t.

        • Gloria says:

          I’m going to go ahead and just throw the suggestion that you may never be able to do Jello shots again just right on out there.

          😀

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Inexplicably, I find it much less gross to imagine a mouthful of jello shot than a mouthful of oyster.

          Que mysterioso!

  2. Irene Zion says:

    Simon,

    The airport looked like a set out of “The Twilight Zone!”
    Obviously, Angela brings good luck, because being shat upon by a pigeon is really a good sign.
    I’m glad you had an American Halloween, and it measured up to your expectations.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      It was really strange. I’m used to big, big crowds at airports, even at the Australian ones that are nothing in size compared to LAX and SFO.

      And there was just… no one. It was made stranger by the night outside, I think.

      I had a fantastic Halloween, thank you, Irene! How was yours?

      • Irene Zion says:

        We had planned to go over to watch the circus that Lincoln Road is on South Beach, especially at Halloween, but our house was accosted by wave after wave of little urchins wearing strange apparel and bearing groaning bags of candy.
        We didn’t have the heart to leave them with an empty house.

  3. Hooray for this! You don’t know how depressed I would have been if you’d had to write instead an “I feel completely disillusioned regarding Halloween, am now despondent and empty, and have had the worst week ever” kind of follow-up essay. Truly.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Oh, that would have been awful. Especially as I had raised the bar so high already. But, as it is, I had that pleasant surprise when something exceeds your already-high expectations. Kind of like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

      I feel it’s obligatory to ask what everyone did for Halloween now.

  4. Gloria says:

    Frack. I have an eight year old fully up my ass, desperate to commandeer my computer. And I want to read this!!

    I’ll come back… Don’t go anywhere…

  5. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    Simon, you should be in L.A. tonight! And Joe’s speaks the truth: his house is rad. You should work that angle next time you hit California for sure.

    Bird shit is good luck 🙂

    • angela says:

      haha, that’s what i told him. he was not pleased.

    • angela says:

      haha, that’s what i told him. did not make his hair any less poopy, however.

    • Angela Tung says:

      crap! didn’t mean for both comments to show. simon, if you could please delete whichever one is less funny that would be great. 🙂

      • Simon Smithson says:

        @Lisa: Oh, how I wish I was in LA tonight. Damn low-rent Pacific situation…

        I have heard the whole thing about bird shit being good luck. And it was certainly a direct hit from Dame Fortune. But I can’t help but think of how George Orwell got shot in the neck during the Spanish Civil War, and one of his friends said ‘George! You’re lucky to be alive!’

        George Orwell replied: ‘It would have been luckier still not to be shot at all.’

        I kinda like them both, Angela…

        • Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

          It was fun to see everybody. We missed you!

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Yes, it was great to see you, Lisa. And I even got to meet Joe Daly. (I won’t mention anything about Simon here, hoping to make him feel bad about his failure to appear.)

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Oh, had you not met Joe before, Duke? Apparently his house is the best place in San Diego.

          I’m so sorry I couldn’t make the reading. This will haunt me forever. I’m glad no one commented on my absence, which would make me feel terrible.

          And now to read the contents of the brackets in Duke’s comment, which I had not read previously.

          Oh, goddamnit.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Having met Joe now, I can understand why his house might well be the best place in San Diego.

          And now to read the latter two paragraphs in Simon’s comment, which I had not read previously.

          Ha!

        • Simon Smithson says:

          HA!

          Well-played, that man.

        • Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

          Duke! Good to see you too.

        • Joe Daly says:

          Simon, I’m just stoked that we were able to clear up the uncertainty surrounding the epicenter of San Diego’s soul. Can’t wait to host you and Z. Lots of fragrant soaps and flavored coffee creamers, too. I don’t think I mentioned that before.

          Meeting Duke was the treat of the night. What a gentleman. Total class act. Seeing him do the reading was a w e s o m e. I was standing with Brad, Lisa Rae, and Lenore, and we were totally enthralled as he dove deeper into the material, and with his voice as the only instrument, he built up a furious momentum that really did the material justice.

          Seeing Lisa Rae and Lenore was, quite typically, delightful. Love catching up with the TNB L.A. crew. Same with Rachel P. Williams, Rich, and Milo. I thought I saw Timothy Murray there, but when I introduced himself to him, it turned out that he was a European guy with a name so far from Timothy Murray that you would need GPS to get from one to the other.

          Fantastic evening. Simon, your absence was conspicuous and horrible. Please don’t let it happen again. Dealio?

        • Zara Potts says:

          Excellent news, Cupcake. I can’t wait.
          Aaaaand as an added bonus, I’ll be bringing my collection of Stevie Winwood records so we can play them all day long.

        • Joe Daly says:

          Oh Pookie, bee-have!

        • Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

          ***the epicenter of San Diego’s soul***
          True dat, Thrashin Joe Daly.
          Zara is not allowed to leave your home without a real and relentless appreciation for Bon Jovi. Call me if you need help converting her. San Diego’s soul might need a hit of Jersey girl to get the job done.
          Simon, you’ll be singing lead.

        • Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

          PS. Duke does a stellar NY gangster accent on the subject of masturbation.

        • Zara Potts says:

          You will never convert me. NEVER.
          NEEEEEVVVVVVVVVAAAAAHHHH.

        • Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

          But Zara, Ohhhh, we’re halfway there. Whoa-oh, livin on a prayer. Take my hand and we’ll make it I swear…

        • Simon Smithson says:

          @JD: Dealio. Also, flavored creamers? Then we must! We must!

          Man. Your house just keeps getting pimpiner.

          @LRC: Lead. Check!

          @Z: I’m afraid you’re wanted.

          Dead or alive.

  6. Quenby Moone says:

    Look, I’m stoked that the United States of Amurika got your footprints all over it again, but you keep neglecting the Northwest so I cannot in good conscience recommend you for citizenship until you make your way here.

    *pouts*

    I’m glad that Halloween met your expectations. I love Halloween and wish I lived in San Francisco for that alone. On the other 364 days of the year I’ll live here, but my heart belongs in the Castro on Halloween.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      I’m chalking up so many places to visit. We’re referring to Portland, right?

      I’ve actually always wanted to go to Portland, and not the least because the Dandys live there, and they are one of my favourite bands of all time.

      All time, Quenby!

      Meet me in SF next year?

  7. Zara Potts says:

    Replaced by a cat??
    You fink!

    Yes, you were very keen to tell me how I’d been replaced by said pussycat -I think that may have been the first thing you told me when you got back!!!

    I’m so glad you had such a wonderful time, brew, after all those years of waiting. And I’m so glad you took pictures.

    I love the way you write things like this. You write it just like you talk. It’s great.

    And next time, we fly together. We can’t have you sitting in the public lounges with all the bogans.. Koru Club all the way, Brew!

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Heh.
      I just love the phrase ‘replaced by a cat’. I like to think that it’s an office environment of some kind.

      I had a great time, brew, although it was very odd being in LA without you. And now I’m fully equipped with my new camera and ready to take more pictures next time around.

      I loved the Koru Club – at last, I was kept in the class I deserve.

  8. Yeah, I miss the cold, clean breeze of that town too. Not only that, but the last year I lived there, the Giants lost the series to the freaking Angels. So my childhood might have included Halloween, but you got to be in SF for a hometown win.

    “…like we just won every war that’s ever been fought,” that’s a great description. Thanks for the chance to live this week vicariously.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      You’re welcome, Nathaniel. I had to go lighter on the details than I wanted or break this up into more than one post, which I didn’t really want to do.

      I’m so please that I got to be in SF for the win. I’ve decided that I’m the lucky charm the Giants need to win the pennant every year. Therefore, they should pay me to be live in Frisco.

      Man.

      It was crazy on the streets.

      Also, awesome.

      But mainly, crazy.

  9. Elizabeth says:

    I love the hell out of this sentence: “Leathery middle-aged women with missing teeth and low-cut pink halter tops over their flat and freckled breasts and entire families resplendent in identical rat-tail mullets and Juicy Couture roam the halls, delighted with the presence of a solitary Krispy Kreme outlet staffed by a lone and defeated Indian man.”

    And I agree with Gloria. You’d make a terrific Lady Gaga.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      It’s true! It’s all true! Brisbane is the hillbilly centre of the north. And that’s just the way it is.

      Thanks, Elizabeth. And it’s true that I do have a good poker face…

  10. Aaron Dietz says:

    That’s easily the best crutch story I’ve ever read.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      It was one of those moments when everyone had to take five minutes to establish that what we suspected had happened had, in fact, happened.

      Who steals a crutch?

      My best hope is that someone thought it was part of a costume and those not essential to Tara being able to walk.

      And later that night we found her car windscreen had a hole put through it.

      Not her night.

      • Aaron Dietz says:

        Yikes. On only a somewhat-related note, I once had my boots stolen while I was at a wading pool. I found them being put on by a homeless man who pretended he didn’t know that those were someone’s shoes and weren’t just sitting there waiting to be used by anyone.

        For some reason, I gave him $20.

  11. Ah, San Francisco. This was cruel, this essay, you know that don’t you Simon? And, I mean, you had to mention Philz coffee? Did you really have to? Where they put free Cardamom in your java if you ask nice (try it, it’s great) and also the DON’T serve lattes. To anyone. Ever.

    And, of course, since I’ve been waiting for the Giants to win a series for well over twenty years, they do it right after I move. And then you come along with this….this….love letter to my former home, with your clever descriptions and genially poised observances, basically radiating the good will of the place like a goddamned Aussie prism. Sigh. It’s going to be a long night here in Seattle.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Sorry, amigo. I didn’t make it to Belvedere, but I figured Bernal was similar enough to what you’d described that you’d forgive me.

      Oh, man, how I love Philz.

      If you want, I’m sure I could get some friends to pick up some Tesora and send it out to you. Or the Greater Alarm, which is one of my favourites.

      Cardamom, you say?

      Heh. Sorry, brother. I love that city. I really do. I can’t wait to get back there full-time.

      • Hey, it’s okay. As long as you hit the scene. And Bernal is actually a great blue collar neighborhood that most visitors don’t ever see, so it was probably perfect, although I’ve never done Halloween there.

        The Tantalizing Turkish was my Philz jones of choice. The kind folks at the 18th St. location would look up from under their fedora brims, see me come in the door, and start brewing the pride of Constantinople. But, I also went for the Anesthesia once in a while just for a gear shift.

        Well, if Greg were a real astrologer he would have predicted the exact date that we’ll both be living there. My guess? March 9th, 2013.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          I really like Bernal. I hear there are some unpleasant elements creeping into the Castro, so maybe Bernal would become my neighbourhood of choice. Although I did catch myself thinking that being on Nob Hill would be a great way to dodge all the homeless, because why would anyone walk up that hill unless they had to?

          And now I sound like a monster.

          Again.

          Wait, you went to the Philz on 18th? Do you know Paulo? Was that when it was on the corner of Sanchez, before it became Urban Bread? I used to live on the corner of Church and 18th. Man. I loved it.

        • Yeah, man, my office was at 18th and Sanchez. Urban Bread had just opened when I got there. Nice folks, no edible or affordable food as far as I could ever tell. Philz was already up the street two blocks sharing a space with that laundromat. I can’t remember if Paulo was his name. You mean the manager, sort of short guy with a young kid that hung around a lot? That’s funny. We were probably in there at the same time eyeballing the mini donuts.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Wait, so you know Tina? From Urban Bread? The owner with the long curly blonde hair and the motorcycle? Because I spend hours every day at Urban Bread.

          Yeah, Sit ‘n’ Spin! And Paulo is the manager, although I never met his kid.

          Damn.

          Small world.

          What was your office?

        • Yeah, Tina. Tall lady with the huge BMW enduro parked on the sidewalk around the corner. Shows up in full body red leathers and then makes you a tiny lil’ sandwich. I had an office at the Sanchez Grotto up the street, a bunch of folks sharing office space, everyone trying to hack out a writer’s gig one way or another. They all live in UB too. Or at least they did. But everyone went to Philz to get their morning crank on.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Damn.

          Didn’t see that coming.

          I wonder if we ever met, by accident?

          I didn’t know about the Sanchez Grotto, either. I wish I had!

  12. The only thing that I don’t love about this post, Simon, is the way it makes me miss California. Man, that place is awesome. San Francisco is my favourite city.

    I spent Halloween in California back in 2007, but didn’t really make the most of it. I think I was out in the mountains, eating pumpkins rather than carving them. Looks like San Francisco is probably about the best place to spend it.

    I don’t miss airports and travel, though… It’s nice to have spent the past three weeks in one place. Just knowing that you’re about to spend the next 24 hrs sitting on your ass, with no legroom, screaming babies, and assholes talking inane bollocks all around, just makes you wonder for a moment whether it’s all worth it… Which, of course, it is. A hundred years ago we’d have to spend months on a ship to get around the world.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Thanks, Divad. And my apologies.

      Yeah. It’s my favourite too.

      We should have a TNB Halloween sometime. I think I’m going to need to get a giant house in SF (money? What is this… money… you speak of?) and invite everyone from TNB to come hang out as and when they please, and we can have a ghost story competition, which you will win.

      I like airports OK when I’m going somewhere. I don’t much care for going back – although maybe that’s because I’m always heading to the States.

      Although, on my way back from LAX, this Australian dude was making a dick of himself and calling one of the officials a stupid bitch, which made me cringe. So maybe it’s not just the direction of the journey, after all.

      It’s the getting away from Australians.

      • That would be awesome. I’d love to own a giant house, too, except, of course, that my one would naturally be haunted… Damn ghosts. Also, it would be useless as house or no house, I’m probably going to spend the rest of my life moving from country to country.

        There’s something very depressing about return journeys… The first time I returned from California was one of the low points in my life. I really, really didn’t want to leave.

        To be fair, although I have met two moronic Australians, and have been told about several, I think you guys are lucky in that Brits and Americans have such a fantastic legacy of douchery that you’ll never be the worst tourists around. Australians have a fairly decent reputation.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          It really would. I think I’d want my giant house to be up on the hill on Castro Street, where the 22 runs past. I used to walk up that hill and back to go the gym in the last week of my first stay in SF; it was such a bitch.

          Weirdly, this happened yesterday. I got my hair cut at a place called Notorious, which is up a flight of stairs, right after the main intersection in the Castro. I was writing this piece, I got to the section about the haircut, and then I decided to go get a coffee. The barista saw me and said ‘Oh, you got a haircut!’

          ‘Yeah,’ I said, ‘in San Francisco. I mean, I didn’t go to San Francisco for the haircut.’

          ‘My friend got a haircut in San Francisco,’ she said. ‘In the Castro, while we were there.’

          ‘Ha,’ I said. ‘Was it at Notorious?’

          ‘I don’t know,’ she said. ‘It was at some place where we had to walk up the stairs, it was like, right after the main intersection in the Castro? On that main street?’

          ‘Wait, what did you just say?’ I said.

          Weird.

          I think the problem with Australians is they have no off switch, especially when we’ve been drinking. We’re great fun up to a point, and then we’re obnoxious.

          Yeah, man. Leaving places you don’t want to leave fucking sucks.

        • Wow. That’s an insane coincidence. It could only happen to… who? Who’s that person? Oh wait, yeah, it’s you.

          It is pretty freaky, though. Such a small world.

          It’s also strange that you mention the “off switch.” As you know, I currently work for an Australian university, with a couple of Australian guys. They’re really nice, but… one of them talks and talks and talks… It’s ridiculous. He has no idea, and he repeats himself over and over and over. I mean, he goes on for hours. Literally. That’s not an exaggeration. The thing is, being a nice guy I can’t bring myself to say, “Shut up, please. I was meant to be somewhere about an hour ago!” I just stand there and listen.

          (Sorry, I’m entering rant mode rant now, and, ironically, talking too much.)

          And he doesn’t doesn’t just talk to you. He stands with one shoulder facing you, raises and eyebrow, and sort of squints out of one eye. This pose is so odd that even the students imitate it. He can hold it for hours, just talking and squinting out of the one eye, and sometimes shifting to turn and do it the other way around.

          Yeah, he needs an off switch.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          If Aaron ever writes a piece where we’re all superheroes, I want my power to be bizarre coincidence.

          No wait! Chorus lines! I want my power to be turning life into a musical!

          Yeah. It’s the Australian way. I’ve got one friend who needs maybe half a beer to guarantee he’ll be saying the same thing, over and over and over again, for hours. It’s exhausting.

          I want you to know that I’m trying to do that pose right now, as per the instructions you’ve given me.

  13. Rebecca says:

    You had your FIRST Tamale EVER this trip to SF??? You never came across the tamale lady when you lived here before??

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Correct!

      I have never seen the tamale lady.

      Unless the tamale lady is my friend Emily.

      Who cooked the tamale I ate.

      It was delicious.

  14. D.R. Haney says:

    I just tried to post a comment that got eaten. To attempt to recreate it:

    I think the original joke about the cat, Simon, was that Zara had momentarily taken control of the cat so that she could be present. Somehow that joke was bastardized, leaving Zara, a woodland creature with an affinity with squirrels and chipmunks, to conclude that she’d been replaced by a run-of-the-mill, domesticated feline. For shame.

    (I’m glad you count your trip to Cali such a success. I’ll have to eat a tamale tomorrow in your honor. And October is my favorite month, in part because of the World Series and Halloween (though I do little to celebrate Halloween). The weather, and memories of east-coast autumn foliage, figure prominently as well.)

    • Simon Smithson says:

      I liked our joke that Zara was just in the bathroom for the duration of the meal.

      The idea of people being replaced in any capacity by cats is endlessly delightful to me. Especially if it was the same cat – who takes your job, your girl, your spot on the fantasy football team. There’s a flight of fancy in there that’s going to keep me occupied for hours.

      Something similar to this, probably:

      http://www.sff.net/people/doylemacdonald/l_tober.htm

      Thank you! I had a great time, and was very reminded of why I like it there so much. I like the weather too. What team do you follow in the Series?

      • D.R. Haney says:

        Well, I clicked on your link, only to see that it involved an entire story by Saki, which I’m a bit too intoxicated at the moment to read. But I’ll return to it.

        For the last few years, I’ve been far too consumed with writing matters to follow any team. But I was baptized long ago in the faith of the New York Mets, and, deep down, I remain Met-hearted. It’s a bit like TNB, in a way; I may disappear here and there (and I rarely did so at the beginning), but, despite transient disappearances, I’m loyal to the team.

        The SF Giants were originally the NY Giants, incidentally, and the Mets came along to fill the gap. Along those lines, here’s a link to the shot heard ’round the world, which is perhaps THE most legendary moment in the history of baseball:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lrI7dVj90zs

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Sounds fair enough to me.

          I know what you mean about the baptism – mine came at the hands of the Giants, and now I can never go back. Unless they move back to NY.

          I love that the clips of people celebrating even seem old-fashioned, like the way people move is somehow connected to the mores of the era. Thanks for the link!

  15. Anthea makings says:

    I’m sorry you’ve lived in Australia for 28 years and never embraced afl, yet you travel to sf and now you’re a baseball fanatic??? I don’t understand how that works…
    So happy you had the best week of your life, just did you do any trick or treating?
    Oh and never had jelly shots before??? That’s almost as bad as the cadbury creme egg revelation.
    My movie reference to the empty airport… Langoliers, a classic Stephen King adaptation!

    • Simon Smithson says:

      It’s probably because baseball is actually good.

      Heh.

      Kidding! Kidding! I’m glad to see you made it over. Hey everyone, this is my friend Anthea!

      I didn’t do any trick or treating per se, but as I was buying some clothes I got given candy by the store owners, who had a big bowl of it. So yes, I got candy on Halloween.

      Yep! Never a jello shot previously. Jello shots and Cadbury Creme Eggs… man. It’s been a big year.

      Ha! You weren’t the first person to make a reference to The Langoliers.

  16. Uche Ogbuji says:

    Yeah, it’s always eerie when you get to an airport early and it’s like 28 Days Later. Maybe everyone was already in SF 🙂 Glad you had such a wicked good week. Catch you next time, I hope.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Entirely possible, with the horde of Giants fans that descended on that place. They threw a parade to celebrate the win and it was pandemonium. On a train carriage below street level, I could still hear the chanting.

      And I hope so too! I have to work out with Z when our next trek across the water will be.

  17. Joe Daly says:

    It’s true- my house is the highlight of San Diego county. There are always plenty of dogs to pet, guitars and drums to play, pounds and pounds of candy and ice cream, plus a guy in the corner doing caricatures, it’s really the place to be.

    Simon and Zara, the only drawback you’ll find is that currently the UN does not recognize my house as an independent sovereignty- my dogs and I are still considered part of the Republic of California, itself once an independent nation. So I will happily stamp your passports, but you may get asked about it on the way home.

    Simon, I’m so stoked that you made it out when you did. I was up in SF the week before the series and it was going OFF. Can’t imagine what kind of party was raging while you were there. For that matter, I hope that the celebrations surrounding your return did not detract too much from World Series publicity.

    Halloween rules and I’m stoked you got to enjoy it in such a rocking city. DDLM is nothing short of creepy, but in a very entertaining way.

    Rock on, brother. We here in the Nation of Joe’s House are looking forward to your visit.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Man. I wish we could do like a mammoth TNB day out. I mean, hanging out and getting drunk and doing readings is all well and good – it really is – but it would be nice to hang out in the sun and watch the river and drink coffee and stuff.

      I can’t believe the UN doesn’t recognise.

      It better recognise.

      It was great, Joe. The whole town went crazy for a week, and I loved being in the thick of it. Gavin Newsom got a bit upset that I drew off so much press from the Giants and his own Lieutenant Governor run, but I bought him a drink and he got over it.

      Can’t wait to visit the Nation of Joe’s House. I’m going to be expecting a passport stamp.

    • Matt says:

      *Achem*

      I am compelled to point out that Joe is not the first TNBer to hail from San Diego. Though I must admit that his house indeed sounds cooler than my single bedroom apartment.

      And shame on that waitress for not being able to remember the Zoo, Balboa Park, Ocean Beach, Noth Park….I could go on and on.

      • Simon Smithson says:

        She was too busy pitching sass.

        I like the waitresses at Greenblatt’s for just that reason. The last one was a Canadian who sang Buck 65 with me.

        The question is, how much flaked-off skin has Joe handed out at his Casa del Pimpin’? If the answer is none, then Apartamento de la Matt is still one ahead!

  18. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    No people in the airport? Sounds like bliss.

    Glad the Halloween experience was a good one.

    Like Lisa Rae said, bird shit is supposed to be good luck. One doesn’t feel the vibe at the time. My junior year of high school, a bird crapped on me as I got on the school bus. (Remember I told you my neighborhood was full of trees?!!!) I didn’t realize what happened until the bus was moving. I had to call my mom to bring me a new shirt. My friend Scott let me borrow his jacket until I could change. He single-handedly spared me great shame.

    May you get that wish for 2011.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      It was pretty great, actually. I’ve been caught in some horrible lines, including one in Sydney Airport last year when I’d had a pretty bad week for a number of reasons, and standing there in transit purgatory, in a line of people that was in the hundreds (there was a holdup with my airline), I could actually feel myself slipping down the sides of the abyss of insanity, which had walls like polished glass.

      The Halloween experience was a great one.

      Oh, man. Crap in high school is ten times worse. Did you experience anything particularly lucky later that day?

      Thanks, Ronlyn! I hope all your wishes for 2011 come true too.

      • Ronlyn Domingue says:

        I hate crowds, and ones confined to highly-charged spaces are even worse.

        Lucky that day? No. But that school year, I met a cute boy. (Not the one I mentioned.) But nothing came of it except nostalgic memories.

        2011 wish: complete and sell #2.

        XOXO

  19. Hope you had a wonderful time, Simon. Sure looks like you did, my friend. Sorry I didn’t get to see you when you were here in L.A.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Right back to you, amigo. I blew in and out very very quickly – I really need to be more organised when it comes to my LA tours. Next time, I promise!

      (and yes, I did have a wonderful time – thank you!)

  20. Andrew Nonadetti says:

    I am thoroughly distracted by Brian Wilson’s pic. I just keep hearing, “This is Sparta!!” Let me clear my head a bit and keep reading.

    Okay, better. Snorted aloud in my office at “He is wearing jeans so tight I worry for his future children’s IQ.” Nice one. However, you may have been taken in by the guile of the crutch thief. The boot may have been a meaningless prop. Next time, stomp on her foot for verification.

    Now, can we all lay claim to different dates on this American Year calendar of yours? Is it like an office pool or is it a straight-out purchase? Do you pro-rate for crappy-weather months? Are there blackout dates? How does this work?

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Fear the Beard!

      Seriously, I don’t get that whole hipster thing. How can one be individual if one wears exactly the same thing as everyone else? Ugh. Hipsters. I’d feel better about it if I knew they were going to get some comeuppance someday. As it is, I have to mollify my deep, deep upset over the whole movement by telling myself that someday the ghost of irony will return from the grave and come for them all.

      You know, I haven’t considered any of this. I’m very glad you’re bringing it to the table now, while we’ve still got time. Let’s get Zara on board and pencil in some dates.

      • Andrew Nonadetti says:

        I’ll place first bid on, say, early- to mid-May so we can put you to work planting. If unavailable, let’s try for late September so I can take you hunting with me, though you’ll be required to boganize your accent, wear a stereotypical Aussie slouch hat and allow me to refer to you as “my rifle-bearer, Bruce”.

      • Gloria says:

        I am always in Portland. Except I just happen to be going to Austin in January, but that’s super rare.

  21. jmblaine says:

    I too have this thing
    about empty places
    usually populated
    by lots of people.

    & Halloween.
    I think this was really the
    year that Halloween
    eclipsed all the other
    holidays as America’s
    favorite.
    All fun, no pressure.

    Before Halloween was my favorite
    part & loved the smashed
    jack-0-lantern shot.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      I like the idea of no pressure, all fun. That’s an idea that rings very true to me.

      Glad to hear you liked it, JMB – my friend Erinn’s comment on the photo was ‘Why, Gourd, Why?’

  22. Erika Rae says:

    “He is wearing jeans so tight I worry for his future children’s IQ.”

    “I hate all of the children. Their bright and shining faces remind me that this could have – should have – been mine, and it never was.”

    Such good lines! And there were plenty of others.

    Thank you for letting us live your very first Halloween with you. It was such a treat. I thought of you often throughout Halloween, as a matter of fact – knowing you were on this side of the waters and fretting over you would remember to get a caramel apple.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Thanks Erika Rae!

      Thank you for contributing the caramel apple knowledge. I did have one, and it was delicious. Although memories of the time I lost a baby tooth in a toffee apple over here did come flooding back and I almost started crying on Market Street.

      I really want to make my own next Halloween.

      • Zara Potts says:

        You lost a tooth in a toffee apple???
        Jinkers.

        I remember tying string to my baby teeth and tying the loose end around the door handle and then my uncle would slam the door. Ping! went my teeth! That was so much fun.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Yep. I can remember losing a tooth in a toffee apple, and one in the skin of a baked chicken drumstick.

          Oh my God! Your uncle actually did that? I thought that was just a myth!

        • Zara Potts says:

          No! It’s real! It’s awesome. I think I did it with two teeth.. they have to be really loose though. But that moment of anticipation before the door slams.. well, it’s kind of terrifying actually. But hilarious once the tooth goes flying.

    • Rodent says:

      Loved this, Simon! So many marvelous laffs, deeply satisfying responses of yours to our USAmerican Kid-Happy day! Only wish you could’ve had them as a kid, as well.

      Me echoing brill and adorable Erika Rae on your HOOTful descrip of the hipster:

      “He is wearing jeans so tight I worry for his future children’s IQ.”

      From the middle of the street in front of my son’s house in LA you can see the HOLLYWOOD sign. awesome. He’s about to join me and dear Rodent and his wife and kiddies here in London before next week’s wedding of Judy and Rodent. We’re pretty stoked and totally exhausted, having moved house this week. I’ll do a TNB post on the Big Matrimonial Event.

      Y OH Y are you not living in the USA, Simon?!

      • Rodent says:

        Oops, little xplanation needed. This is Judy on Rodent’s netbook at the hotel; hence previous comment’s “Rodent” name and blank gravatar.

  23. Matt says:

    Zara could never, ever be replaced, least of all by some mangy, doubtless disease-ridden stray cat. Who probably just that morning made a meal of a poor squirrel. Tsk, tsk.

    Certain issues pretty much sidelined me from participating much in Dia de Los Muertos this year (though I did make my own sugar skull), so I’m glad to be able to vicariously experience it through your eyes. And this also made me flash back to all the nifty Halloween costumes I had as a child: He-Man, a Pteranodon, a Ghostbuster, a ninja, the Grim Reaper, a werewolf…so many wonderful nights. And all the candy I would haul in….

    Glad your trip turned out so well. Here’s hoping my eventual (but inevitable) journey down under goes off so well. I’ll have to time it so as to experience a comparable holiday…ANZAC day, perhaps?

    • Zara Potts says:

      Thanks Matt! You hear that, Simon Smithson? “Zara could never ever be replaced, especially with a cat.”

      • Simon Smithson says:

        ANZAC Day is more like Veteran’s Day – I’m not sure there’s really a comparable holiday. We’re so… bureaucratic. Even Australia Day isn’t much like the 4th of July.

        Hmmm. When are we all going to be in LA again? I miss that town now. I want to hang out at Greenblatt’s for hours and go to the observatory. We should do that soon.

        You were a pteranadon???

        Damn.

  24. Richard Cox says:

    One of the first things that occurred to me while reading this, Simon, is how you rarely see interesting airport decor in the U.S. like that in your second embedded photo. And how so many things in the USA are depressingly utilitarian and devoid of inspiration.

    Then I read the entire post, and I’m ashamed at how easy it too see the ugliness about a place, anyplace…anything really, instead of noticing the beauty.

    Thanks for sharing your unabashedly wonderful experience here in the States, Simon. The Dark Side of the Force is totally overrated.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      I really like Auckland Airport, actually – maybe it’s just a case of the grass being greener, amigo. I like SFO and the high white ceilings; it’s so… clean. There’s something sophisticated about it. Whereas LAX isn’t really somewhere I remember as being anything but functional.

      But you know, some stuff’s just ugly, man. Don’t feel bad. Snoop Dogg, for instance. Not an attractive man. Gary, Indiana. Butterfly faces. Mickey Rourke.

      I’m sure there are those who don’t care for San Francisco, Halloween, or Dia de Los Muertos. I was having a discussion about the US flag on Facebook the other day with a friend about the separate meanings it has for both of us. I love SF, I love Halloween, I love DdLM. Their beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.

      As does the ugliness of Gary Busey.

      You’re welcome.

      A little Dark Side is always handy to have around though.

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