Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Casual Lap of the World – San Francisco, Vegas, London, Istanbul

San Francisco

Well my trips have recently been more exotic and so far, I’ve been good to my new year’s resolution and have been making sure I have a good time. To that end, I did what it seems many millions of people in the world have done and bought a copy of The Power of Now to read. And to make sure the now was better than it otherwise might have been, I bookended my work trip with weekends of leisure in San Francisco and Istanbul. Two of my favorite cities.
San Francisco was just a real chill out after a few weeks of intense work. Hanging out in Golden Gate Park mostly and taking in the ex-hippy scene of Haight Street. My hotel was a restored old hotel run by an eighty year old hippy woman named Sami Sunchild. My room was the rainforest room which was decked out beautifully in photographic print wallpaper of giant redwoods, with furniture and fittings of a typical old English hotel. Suitable to its name of the Red Victorian. It was a very comfortable and relaxing place to stay, perfectly located only a 5 minute walk down Haight Street to the park. In what seems to be a customary way for me to overcome the tiredness of a long flight and the jetlag of moving to a different timezone, I went out to a bar and got drunk with whomever I could find that would talk to me. On this night it was a continuous stream of people. A mix of San Franciscan locals and tourists from other parts of the states. I ended up feeling socially fulfilled as I spilled out of the bar and joined the drunken procession at 2am trawling down Haight Street looking for pizza. Predictably the next day started as it always seems to on the first morning in a new country; hungover. I decided to hire a bike and had a relaxing 2 or 3 mile ride through Golden Gate Park to a free concert somebody had told me about the night before. Just what I needed in my delicate state; physical activity, large crowds and extremely loud noise. It was only the entertainment provided by watching the crowd that kept me there for 4 or 5 songs. Smash Mouth were playing and there were a few people going berserk with their screaming and dancing. The band seemed pretty pedestrian to me but I had to admire the energy in the crowd that I wished I had. Eventually the queasiness subsided and I got back on the bike to continue my journey through the park. It is a beautiful park with easy riding bike trails all the way through. It was only when I saw the signs pointing the route to the Golden Gate Bridge that I reached a major decision point. Was I in a state to attempt what promised to be a taxing but potentially rewarding ride? The answer was clearly no, but it took me a ponderous ten minutes just staring across in that vague direction before sense won through and I took the easy option. Armed with my new tools from The Power Of Now I left any feelings of inadequacy on the hill and had a relaxing ride back through the park.

I love San Francisco. That hippy sensibility still resonates strong. Some of my favorite food anywhere. Always interesting things to be done, be it live music, shows to see, individualistically strange people to watch or a good old fashioned protest march to join in. I’m sure that in a parallel life I could be having a totally fulfilled existence living in this city. I would have joined one of the kickball teams; having a beer somewhere beyond first base waiting for the ball to come and reveling in the camaraderie of what seems a fun hybrid of baseball and soccer. I was only there for two days on this trip but it felt like my soul had been cleansed. A true holiday albeit a short one. And so from there, it was back to work and off to a strong nomination for the least soulful place on the planet; Las Vegas.

Las Vegas

The first thing you know about getting to Vegas in mid summer is that it is hot. Seriously hot. Over 100 degrees while waiting in the taxi queue at the airport. Fucking hot. Then the surreal taxi drive past the pyramids, sphinx, Eiffel tower, Empire State building and Roman forum to get to the Mandalay Bay where I was staying. Once inside the hotel, the air conditioning is turned up so high that standing for an hour in the long check in line I felt freezing. Welcome to Vegas honey.

The ITUG conference there is always a bit of a chore and mostly a complete bore. Always great to see Lisa, Sean, Barry and Morne and a random sampling of others that dot the ITUG landscape, but the actual show is a drag. Albeit a more or less essential and compulsory one. Having Ken Dixon there always takes it away from that out of conference hours. What a great guy. Always so confidently himself, at least outwardly. Infectiously amiable and fun. A gentle giant with a huge heart. And always up for a drink and a bit of mischief. As for how much he has helped me in setting up a business in Australia… well that could fill a book on its own. A true friend.

Unsurprisingly, the work was completely forgettable. Thank god with this new format combined with the HP Technology Forum that the booth days are short. At least that’s something. As for the night activity, well when in Vegas, the sleazy activities need to be investigated. And with that I found myself one night in “the horse” as the locals called it. The Crazy Horse is a strip and lap dancing club that like all places in Vegas, and all places of its ilk, is very adept at removing your money from your pocket. Expensive drinks. A “dance” costs $20 for one song. Usually with the dance becoming more interesting at the end so that another follow on dance can be solicited. You can’t complain in Vegas that the girls hold back though. Several dances were more like dry rooting at the back of the venue than any dance I’ve ever seen. All very much like Disneyland; Great rides, but very expensive and always too short.

Towards the latter part of the evening a sexy black girl came up to me and said “don’t you know it’s against club rules to be sitting there hiding your man-gina”. I uncrossed my legs, amused but a little taken aback. She sat down on one of them, put her arm around my neck and proceeded to tell me very graphically in my ear what she would like to do to me. “I’d first like to strip off your shirt and slowly rub my hands over your muscular chest. Then I’ll slide your pants down so that I can feel your large cock and rub it against my cheek. Then I’ll pour honey over you and run my tongue down your body licking it off until I take your large erect cock between my soft full lips and gently begin to suck it. But enough about me. Tell me about you.” Well she was such a good story teller that my disbelief was well and truly suspended. I could even believe that my body was muscular, my cock was large and she would want to do all of those things to me if she just saw me out on the street with no hint of money changing hands. I chuckled and told her that I preferred listening to her talk about me so she should continue. At which point, without missing a beat she told me what she would love for me to do to her. Invariably it involved more disrobing, breasts, pussy and tongues. While listening to her talk out a fantasy better than anybody I’ve ever heard before, I was rubbing her back and shoulders. And, I have to admit, arse. Somehow, between the stories and what developed into a sensual massage session, she fell quiet. Comfortable and obviously feeling safe in her spot. Like a kitten curled up in a ball on my lap. A nice place for a break. I guess it was after 45 minutes, probably the last half hour in silence, that she said that it was time to get back to work. She was on stage next. No money changed hands. It was a rare fulfilling time in a place that mostly aims at unfulfilled arousal. Take them close to the point but never get them there. Keep them coming back for more. Therein lies the skill of the profession. I gave her a kiss good bye, wished her well in her dance, and headed back to my hotel feeling good about myself. Still had a wank though.

Now if you’re reading this Tori. I don’t think that I was being unfaithful in any way. Just had a very interesting brief encounter in a far off land. I guess you’ll be the judge, but I didn’t have sex with anybody but myself when it all came down to it.

I left Vegas without spending a nickel on any of the gambling tables or machines.

England (not really London)

Coming back to England is always a mixed experience. Work is in Fleet in Hampshire, about 15 minutes along the M3 from the M25. All my friends are either in Brighton or London, about 80 minutes and 50 minutes commute respectively. That’s when there’s no traffic issues. On the way home that could be 2 hours and 75 minute respectively. Over the last few trips I’d mostly stayed around Olympia in West London so that I could hang out with Andy in the evenings and do the daily commute to Fleet. That worked well on a few trips, but Andy’s left London now, and the idea of staying in London just seemed an inconvenience with no real reward. I had no real time off in the UK to actually take in anything good that London has to offer. I arrived on the Sunday, courtesy of a delayed United flight from LAX to LHR and an unscheduled night in LA. And was then flying out on the Friday afternoon. This time, I thought that I’d do something different and try and find somewhere interesting that was a lot closer to work, and have a different English experience than normal. I told no friends in England that I was coming and searched the net for decent accommodation in the vicinity of Fleet. “Don’t stay in Boring-stoke” a couple of friends offered. “Guilford’s a shit hole” others had said. I already knew I couldn’t stay in Fleet. That’d be like flying across the other side of the world to stay in an overpriced rip off hotel in Preston, but without anywhere like Northcote or Fitzroy nearby. I ended up lucking into a self contained unit in some rich people’s backyard in a little village called Medstead in Hampshire. Beautiful. My own place with separate lounge room, conservatory sun room, comfy bedroom and a full kitchen. Cheaper than a hotel and in surrounds substantially more idyllic than the scene around Shepherds Bush Green; dodging the Tenants special brew guy and the crack dealers amid the traffic fumes of a million frustrated cars and buses not moving anywhere quickly. Instead lush country side, surrounded by woodland and peace and quiet. My drive to work was around 25 minutes each day, but with no traffic, through the English countryside and little villages. A very enjoyable drive in fact.

I suffered jetlag badly in England. I’d done ok really in the states, but this second timezone shift in under a week took its toll. I felt knackered all week really and mostly just cocooned myself away in my little cottage. I did go to the pub with the lady of the manor one night. Had a couple of pints and a good chat with her, while her daughter worked behind the bar. Then there was the night that I went down to Brighton. I guess you have to make the effort to get out and do stuff, but this was difficult. On the Wednesday after work, I took the 90 minute drive to Brighton to see the Boakes clan. Always a worthwhile venture but I felt so dead on my feet before I even left Fleet. By the time I got to Brighton I was at the sickeningly over tired stage. I found a park, pulled up the car beside it, put the seat down and fell into a deep sleep for about 45 minutes. I felt a bit better when I woke up. Just shit instead of completely fucked. I got to Steve’s, hugged and kissed everybody, had the adrenaline fuelled first half hour of seeing close friends who I hadn’t seen for a while, and then crashed in Bibi’s bed for about an hour. Bliss. I actually felt almost refreshed on waking up, and came fully good(ish) after a nice dinner. Then went up to the Railway with Steve and Paul for a couple of pints, by which time I was back in reasonable form, always though with the knowledge, that I had an extremely long drive to end the night with. When I bid a fond farewell to Steve and Paul in Brighton, it was midnight. With no traffic on the roads at all, but in drizzling rain (good ole England!) the drive back to Medstead took me 90 minutes. After 85 minutes of driving, very tired but almost “home” I came around a bend to see a red deer standing in the middle of the road looking back at me. My wildlife road obstacle detection has been pretty well honed over the years, partly by driving home stoned from Bruce’s and having to avoid wombats and kangaroos, so I saw him early, stopped and just stared back at him. A good unexpected wildlife encounter always gives me a lift. And I drove off feeling somewhat revived. About 5 minutes further up the road, a badger ambled across the road ahead of me. Even better. I’d never really seen one clearly in the wild before. Definitely beats the Tenants and crack guys of Shepherds Bush. I reckon I’ll definitely be staying here again.


Istanbul

I flew out of Heathrow on the Friday arvo, bound for Turkey. Andy left his job in London some few months previously to take up a 12 month English teaching post in Istanbul. I had a long weekend to catch up with my great friend and check out the city more through the eyes of a local than on either of my previous trips. That mostly involved sitting inside apartments or bars and drinking beer. A lot of beer. On the first night I didn’t meet Andy in town until after midnight. By the time we got back to his place, dropped my bags off and found an open bar, it was already 2am. We adjourned to the small balcony of his flat some time around 4 and drank beer there until the sun came up, some time around 6. I fell asleep on the lounge sofa bed with Andy still trying to make me listen to Loudon Wainwright. I made it through the Bob Dylan song and was out like a light. I was apparently having an intense conversation in my sleep according to Andy’s flat mate Natalie when she got ready for work only a couple of hours later. I just hoped it wasn’t anything along the lines of the black girl in Vegas.


No comments: