Los Angeles and New York

After the inspiration and buzz experienced at WWDC in San Francisco, chilling out in Los Angeles and New York was a welcome (and much needed) change! I stayed with my cousins in Beverly Hills in Los Angeles, and was thus exposed to the privileged, the luxurious, and the affluent. I’m not exaggerating when I say that practically every car you see is a Lexus, Mercedes, BMW, Porsche, Ferrari, Maserati, Bentley, Lamborghini, or something equally upmarket, expensive, and very sexy. Even the humble Ben Sherman’s presence in the Beverly Center is quite a bit more styled than what you would find in Sydney. I had a taste of the Ermenegildo Zegna and Prada stores along Rodeo Drive and Beverly Drive, the former of which had a beautiful suede jacket for the mere price of USD$4600. Driving up Coldwater Canyon in Bel Air revealed enormous houses, each of which is at least as majestic as the biggest properties in Rose Bay and Bellevue Hill in Sydney; all of them are replete with lush gardens and fountains that they look like miniature ecosystems from the outside. It’s another world over there.

So, Los Angeles turned out to be a wonderful unreality of luxury, and seeing my cousins and family again after the intense week of San Francisco was great! I did my usual shopping rounds, dropping by Banana Republic, Borders, Barnes and Nobles, Club Monaco, Baby Gap (for my two cute nephews, not me!), Fry’s Electronics, the Apple Store, Best Buy, and more. Thanks to me being in holiday mode, I am now the proud owner of:

… amongst other goodies that I probably shouldn’t reveal in public. (No, nothing from Victoria’s Secret…)

The one thing that struck me on this trip was the sheer amount of stuff the USA offers, from clothes to gadgets to media content. Australia certainly offers a reasonable amount of variety and choice in its shops, but it’s nothing compared to the USA. You are simply overwhelmed the first time you walk into a Borders that occupies the entire building; it’s six floors full of nothing but books. I looked around for a long time in Australia for a book on the history of mathematics and found one or two; in a single Borders or Barnes and Nobles in the USA, I was spoiled for choice, having found no less than a dozen at every store. Fry’s Electronics features more than sixty cash register checkouts; the CDs at Amoeba Music in San Francisco has shelves and shelves of just movie soundtracks, and it’s mind-boggling to browse just the TV Shows section of any large store that sells DVDs and wonder where the section actually ends. Every satellite city in Los Angeles will have a mammoth shopping centre bristling with mini-economies, and every block in New York will be home to one or two major brand label stores, stacked full of Yet More Stuff.

And then, of course, there’s the crazy-go-nuts 24-hour Apple Store in New York, which I visited with Isaac at the excellent time of 1am. The culture that Apple have managed to create at this place is amazing: the store was full at 1am. It wasn’t like a can of sardines, but it was full enough that almost every single iPod, MacBook and iMac stand was being used by someone, and you had to avoid bumping into other people when you were browsing the shelves. I’m sure the live DJ playing reasonable dance music was part of the reason people flocked to the store at 1am, but there were also a ton of people who were just there sitting around just to be there and wanting to be seen there (in somewhat typical New York fashion). The Genius Bar, where people go to for support and service, really is like a bar: people sit down and start chatting up their neighbour, and since there’s no beer in the way, it actually is easier to start conversations with strangers. It’s all a slightly surreal experience if you haven’t been there before. (I was most amazed that I actually left there without buying a single thing…)

Outside of shopping, that week was time well spent indeed: I got to catch up with my cousins in Los Angeles very well (though spending three days there was far from enough), and my time in New York staying with Manuel and Gabi was wonderful: I managed to catch up with them a lot, found some to finish some projects I’ve had in the works for months since I finally had some time to myself, caught up with a few other friends in the two cities, and even babysat for them for the first time ever so they could have a night off. One highlight of the trip was visiting the absolutely spectacular New York City Museum of Natural History, which I highly recommend for any visitors: you could spend more than two days in there, and it’s one of those shrines that has been constructed with such thought and love that it really does inspire you to become a marine biologist, astronaut or geologist. In a time when the world is increasingly perceiving the USA as a country that’s somewhat fallen from grace, the Museum is a smiling reminder that the United States has also contributed so greatly to the advance of science and human civilisation.

As a small aside, I find it quite interesting that all the progressive cities and states tend to reside on the coast of the USA, with the inland states all being conservative (sometimes to a rather scary extent). Apparently the coastal folks like to distinguish between “America” and “Central America”. I dunno, maybe seeing chicks in bikinis swimming at oceanic beaches makes people more progressive or something. That sounds all good to me.

So now I’m back in the land of take-away instead of to-gos; back in a land where you can actually distinguish a $50 from a $5 by its colour (thank God), and back in a land where I can walk into most coffee shops and expect a good coffee instead of hunting around for Illy logos. The R&R in Los Angeles and New York has been wonderful, and a great wind-down to an intense week in San Francisco. I’m looking forward to getting back to reality and normality now that I’ve had my fair share of excessive consumerism and opulence!

(Go to my WWDC 2006 gallery to find all my photos from Los Angeles and New York).

Los Angeles to New York Playlist

  • Zauron: Lovelight
  • Thievery Corporation: Marching The Hate Machines Into The Sun (Featuring The Flaming Lips)
  • Way Out West: Mindcircus
  • Queens Of The Stone Age: No one knows (U.N.K.L.E. reconstruction)
  • Necros: Orchard Street
  • Chuck Biscuits: Outlands
  • Chicane: Overture
  • Tool: Parabol
  • Tool: Parabola
  • Underworld: Pearl’s Girl
  • Cass and Slide: Perception (New Vocal Mix)
  • Layo and Bushwacka!: Ladies & Gentlemen
  • Baby D: Let Me Be Your Fantasy
  • Radiohead: Karma Police
  • Bedrock: Heaven Scent
  • Faithless: God Is A DJ
  • Tool: Forty Six and Two
  • Badmarsh & Shri: Day By Day
  • Sunscreem: Change (Angelic Remix)
  • New Order: Blue Monday (Hardfloor mix edit)
  • The Seatbelts: Butterfly
  • Massive Attack: A Prayer For England
  • Itch-E & Scratch-E: Transit
  • Vision 4/5: Stormtrooper
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