Tuesday, 1 January 2013

SCHOLARSHIP DAY 124: New Year's Eve in Los Angeles

I type in a city very much in celebration; there's a convoy of fish-net tights making their way down the twilit streets, each bar and club is positively pulsating with the pounding of party-goers, and I've just emptied the contents of my pockets and discovered a ball of party-popper confetti. Ironically though, in such urban restlessness, I'm here in the hostel at 01:31 sipping on a hot chocolate and listening to the delightful Paul Anka.

As I savour my first hot beverage of 2013, I'm taking in, not just chocolately deliciousness, but the overwhelming reality of 2012, especially the last rather exceptional 24 hours. It's been the most phenomenal day, and although slightly atypical to what I'm used to on New Year's Eve, I think I rounded up a fantastic year in fantastic style.

This morning, I rewarded myself by way of a cinema trip; the Guilt Trip on all accounts is well worth the price of the ticket, but unfortunately not (and no film I know ever is) worth the astronomical expense of popcorn. The Guilt Trip denoted in its title, refers to a journey; an exploratory voyage across the United States of America, through states such as Texas, the enchanting panorama of the Grand Canyon and cities such as Las Vegas and San Francisco. Viewing the latter again, in wide screen, was a golden opportunity, not least to behold one of my favourite cities from this scholarship but also to reminisce over the memories that were made in it. I try and restrict myself from cinemas and other movie complexes as they are often timely and slice a rather large chunk out of the day, but I made an exception for the Guilt Trip as such congenial performing is squeezed comfortably in under two hours.

For as long as I can recollect, it's a family custom to spend New Year's Eve hopping; that is, may I explain, hopping between the coverage of London's Thames activity and the more musically inclined Hootenanny. Both fine approaches to ceremonialize the finality of a long year and the premiere of a fresh one. At midnight, the Thames takes precedent, we gaze at a fireworks spectacular and join the country with a rather slurred yet entertaining round of Auld Lang Syne. Today, however, I only managed to achieve just one of these household practises which I thought commendable seeings as I'm more than Thames' length from London. Here in Santa Monica, the district is littered with an enclave of British style shops, restaurants, public houses and I even discovered a tea-room establishment today. The Britannia Pub, specifically, was obligated by nature to celebrate the new year at 4:00pm, which would neatly co-incide with the jubilations in Britain. I arrived at the Britannia about three minutes before the strike of the hour, and was amazed to see through a tinted window that the televisions were showing an American football game! About to make an entry and enquire about this absurdity, I was abruptly blockaded by a rather sizable gentleman, with a plentiful supply of muscle which put to their full potential I expect could cause irreparable catastrophe. "Need ya ID mate" he instructed, with a certain calmness in his authority.  (Why is it that a complete stranger can utter two words and an abbreviation and somehow think this qualifies for him to become your 'mate'.) "I haven't got one," I replied, but went on to plea. "I'm not here to drink; I'm just here to see the fireworks. I'm British!" I had no identification to back my case, though I hoped an exaggerated English accent might convince. It did, and he allowed me to step inside, but to remain in his sight. Almost as immediately as I entered, the televisions turned from soccer to the London firework spectacle, and the music made an immediate transition to the English National Anthem.


No-one sang though, which I felt slightly peculiar, being a British pub. Not one rejoice in Auld Lang Syne and instantly after the fourth or fifth firework exploding discharge, the American football returned and I found myself hurtled back to Santa Monica again.


Having just celebrated the New Year in Britain, walking back to the hostel was an odd experience. I passed those, not in joviality, but if anything, in anticipation for the new year revelry to arrive at California which would be within the next eight hours.

I've been in a state of anticipation myself over the last couple of days, for tonight I was to cherish a couple of hours watching Idina Menzel live in concert, on a speciality performance at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, in downtown L.A. I've got to be honest I haven't religiously shadowed her extensive music career, but I did know her most well attributed song is Defying Gravity. In this respect, I was eager to spectate in this concert, and stretch my musical waistband a touch more.


The Walt Disney Concert Hall, as I described a week ago on a daylight visit here, is unique in having seating encircling the stage, which ultimately suggests that whoever performs is observed at every angle from at least someone. As I had booked considerably late, I settled for a seat behind the orchestra and although this offered a opportunity for some considerable studying of Idina's posterior, she often would turn around to greet us. What strikes me as incredible, even in retrospect, the hall doesn't permit the use of photographic equipment; a fact I was made aware of by a young suited steward who approached me, waggling his index finger in a fashion similar to that of a mother reprimanding her offspring after a transgression. Despite the rule, I sneaked the camera out nearer the end of the performance and achieved a few half-decent shots. Idina put on a comical, yet musically golden performance, including an arrangement which blended the familiar with the virginal, and elegantly fused the classics with the contemporary. Halfway through her act, she pulled a young gentleman from the audience and beside being gobsmacked, he put on a wonderful solo, and may I say accompanied Idina with a exquisite harmony. She concluded the concert with The Best is Yet to Come; a fitting tribute for this consummating segment of the year.


I must just catapult this narrative back to pre-performance, when I entered the Walt Disney Concert Hall to confront a foyer of gentlemen with extremely dapper bow ties, well groomed and gelled hair styles, and for the ladies, opulent sequined dresses clothing figures exhibiting every fragrance and perfume available. Once again, and as is slowly becoming more frequently the case on this trip, I felt out of place with my arresting chequered jumper and jeans I've worn practically everyday since September. I brushed past several goddesses and found I was entering the food hall, which had a deletable menu on offer. If anything was going to augment my class, it would be an order of 'Pan seared Chicken Breast with Red Pepper Coulis served with Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Braised Kale and Red Swiss Chard'. If anything has come close to such an ambrosial dish on this trip, I've forgotten it. Delightfully odoriferous, and remarkably delish to the taste buds, for 15 minutes I had launched myself into the finest of cuisine, and I entered the concert hall to propel myself into just under two hours of the finest music.


The street scene when I left the concert was remarkably quiet for one of the most prolific cities in the world, but I must admit, I think I admire Los Angeles' Downtown more at night. I took a stroll towards the bus stop, and stopped to take in a set of chromatic fountains. Just a mere few fountains has dramatically improved my opinion of the area, and this I think speaks considerably my opinion of downtown.


I was lucky to grab a seat on what was a popular bus ride back to the hostel. Those sporting the most contemporary fashion would board, be shuttled a couple of blocks down the road, and they would then depart to join just one of the hundred of celebrating parties. Others simply took a ride to take advantage of the 'free' bus ride; a privilege offered by the Metro company to ensure everyone gets to wherever they need to be safely, although I'm still unsure how a lack of admission would prevent a possible future on board tackling. On the way, I greeted a few party-goers; Veronica- a girl from Russia- and her male accompaniment with a name that now escapes me. They offered me a chance to party through the night with them, and I must say it seemed an alluring proposal. However, with a rucksack and not particularly dressed for the occasion, I turned the chance down to regret it later.

When I returned to Santa Monica, and departed the bus, I entered into a vibe of merriment and festivity. The clubs weren't just open, they were alive in a way that is so seldom seen throughout the rest of the year. (I suggest this though, as I don't actually know for certain what life is like in these parts; I'm not one for adventuring through the vessels of the city during the twilit hours.) I suppose it's partly the uncertainty opposing the certainty; here in the hostel, I have the certainty of a safe haven to reside in throughout the night. Outside the door though, is the unknown; a territory sometimes infested unfortunately with those wishing a night of transgression. But for some eerie reason tonight, I didn't feel intimidated at all, and I put this considerably down to the fact that nearly everyone was out rather than in. Drunkenness and other behaviours similarly not adhering to a composed street scene didn't appear bewildering tonight, and so I didn't retreat in a hurry back to the hostel, but took an exploratory walk through Santa Monica, before finally heading to the pier.


I trekked in the most solitary of ambles across the beach; the moonlight leading my passage towards the water's edge. Standing beside the bubbling foam drifting in from a restless ocean, the pier looked magical in its illuminations, but the scene on it was perhaps not magical but rather vivacious.


Pacific Park- the theme park keeping a modest selection of adventurous rides- was highly spirited with a crowd scintillating to the Latin rhythms provided complimentary by a resident DJ, and by now the countdown to midnight had began. With 15 minutes to go, I slipped in a small thrill by boarding a roller coaster and allowing it to take me on my last bout of exhilaration for 2012. Two circuits of the track, and I disembarked adorning a rather skewed fringe. Back at the party, party poppers were already been prematurely set off at 11:55pm. The action began to get more frolicsome; I found a convenient spot sandwiched in between two jumping guys, and joined in the countdown to zero.


At zero, as I had expected, two party-poppers were set off, a loud cheer erupted, and then it was life back to normality. Well, possibly not normality, but the novelty of a new year certainly had concluded. Several turned and headed off the pier, whilst others I noticed continued to party vibrantly; perhaps they hadn't heard the countdown in their self-absorbed celebrations. I spotted a couple remove their footwear and take a momentarily dip into the ocean, whilst others strolled along the waterline, hand in hand, or maybe in a moment of embrace. I scanned the horizon, and as fore casted, not one firework in sight. I concluded my night with another electrifying ride, the Pirate Ship, and suitably re-stocked on adrenaline, I left the pier and made my way to the hostel.

Since I started writing, a man has been violently sick in the ladies' toilet, a fight has nearly broke out here in the dining area, and I've been handed a 'Happy New Year' hat and a balloon.


Happy New Year to all of my readers and best wishes for 2013!

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