Disclaimer: Okay. So I went to America with two close buddies in 2001. It was a month after September 11 and people told us we were crazy to travel at such a crossroads in modern humanity, or something. Something about terrorism and such. We went anyway. We were pretty rock ‘n’ roll back then, my friends and I. Or at least, we thought we were. I kept a journal of our experiences, and I present it verbatim. No editing, no backtracking. Just the facts, ma’am. Please try not to judge. I was young and stupid, and infatuated with semi-colons; apparently. I blame Bret Easton Ellis. I was into him back then. Now I’m old and stupid, so there are no more excuses for my foibles these days, no matter how hard I try. Enjoy without prejudice if possible. I got over semi-colons, in case you were worried.
The longest day of my relatively short life was today. Ivan, Rufus and myself got to Perth International Airport at about 10pm to check in. The airport itself wasn’t very busy; we checked in our shit in decent time. We eventually got on the plane and were heading to Singapore at 1am. A man that resembled Kojak boarded with us. Fortunately there were no Afghanistan looking people on hand. That would’ve made us nervous.
The flight itself was okay; I slept sporadically. I played some Nintendo. We got into Singapore at about 6.30am and killed four of the longest hours of our lives. From there it was on to Seoul. I digress when I say that Singapore Airport was quite spectacular. To call it huge would be a massive understatement. Seoul was strange. Asian women started to look fuckable to me [2014 Me interjection: what the fuck am I talking about?]. I think cabin fever had set in. [2014 Me interjection: make it stop]. I didn’t sleep much from Singapore to Seoul but from Seoul to San Francisco I slept for about seven hours.
All in all we were in the air for about 21 hours; add in a four hour stopover in Singapore and one hour in Seoul and you have 26 hours of travel time.
Security in San Francisco was pretty low-key; we were very surprised at how easy it was to get through customs. Singapore had security tighter than a duck’s ass. Stone faced guards carried assault rifles. All the customs officers asked at San Francisco was whether we had food on our possession or not. They didn’t check our hand luggage or anything. It was a bit disappointing. We wanted tight security in the US, simply for our own peace of mind.
Heading from the transit bus to the city was interesting. I noticed a lot of Latinos – scary, gang-member looking ones driving next to us. Coming over a hill I saw an amazing sight – the San Francisco skyline. What an awesome sight [2014 Me interjection: way to evoke some imagery there, Bub]. Coming into the downtown area was a completely different story. It was horrible and decrepid [2014 Me interjection: I spelled decrepit wrong] looking. We stayed at a place called Hotel Renoir [2014 update: the tripadvisor.com reviews for this hotel suggest that they haven’t done much to improve things since we stayed there. As I write this, it has a 29% approval rating and is ranked 183rd of all hotels in San Fran. I shudder to think of the establishments ranked below it], which is in the Tenderloin. The Tenderloin is a genuinely scary place. There is every kind of desperate bum and the black folks are really ominous [2014 Me interjection: sorry, me again. I really must apologize. I don’t know why I thought like this back then, let alone expressed it]. Real-life homies are fucking frightening and I didn’t realize they were so prevalent in Frisco. The hotel is a dive but it’s a bed and that’s all that matters.
We took a walk and it really shocked Dave and I. Ivan seemed a bit thrown, but not to the degree that we were. Many Latinos and many black folk. We got asked for money at least three or four times on our journey. We went to a Virgin Megastore; which is huge. People drive on the opposite side to us, which is fucked up [2014 Me interjection: notice how I went with describing the situation as “fucked up”. I could’ve just said “it’s a bit different” and be done with it]. It’s hard to get used to [2014 Me interjection: yeah, it really isn’t. We drive on the left in Australia. They drive on the right in America. It’s not complicated].
We walked down to Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s like Sorrento Quay on steroids. I got a burger meal for US $7, which equates to $14 Australian. A mighty good burger. The bacon tastes different. The coke also tastes different. We caught a taxi back. Our hotel room had two beds instead of three. We ordered and paid for a triple share. They bought in a fold out bed for us. The room was awful.
My first impressions of San Francisco were not good ones [2014 Me interjection: I’ve wanted to go back to SF from pretty much the moment I landed back in Perth in 2001, so I don’t know what I mean here]. We wanted to go out tonight but didn’t, for two reasons: we were tired, and we were too scared to go out into the streets.
So we had an early night.