Day 3 and I’m in West Hollywood. There’s a little island of expat Brits who have a regular breakfast subsidised by Air New Zealand. They all meet on Tuesday morning to have bacon and eggs, tiny little pots of baked beans, bottomless tea, and chats about the British things that British people chat about. Traffic, weather, admin, accommodation, family. It’s a big group and has been running for years. I flew Air New Zealand so perhaps the subsidy will offset the flight a little. Getting there involves two buses through rush hour. I’m worried about the expense of an uber. As it happens I travel entirely free. On the first bus I artlessly produce my wodge of twenty dollar bills and ask if there’s change. The driver laughs at me in the way of people who can operate the machine. “I’ve been using it for ages, I know there’s no change, he should know what I know.”
A friendly passenger pities my haplessness and gives me $1.75. She advises that I go to a laundromat and get a load of quarters. I thank her profusely, and walk embarrassed past grinning strangers. 20 stops later I have to get on a connecting bus and there are no laundromats in sight, so still no change. Feeling slightly ashamed of myself I duplicate my behaviour and sure enough it yields the same result. Taking my seat in another grinning bus it occurs to me that I could probably travel for free all month if I could keep the act fresh. Until I get a repeat customer and then I get shot. Best go to the laundromat. But the genial lost Englishman thing evidently has traction.
Breakfast involves a lot of talking and people trying to establish if I’m important. I hate to disappoint so I remain elusive high status and leave abruptly. They ask me to get involved in something called The Toscars, which could be amusing and fits my timing. The details are hazy. I walk lots of hot streets and settle in a coffee shop full of sunglasses and sandals. It’s springtime in Hoxton! It’s ALWAYS springtime in Hoxton here, kids. I organise to meet an old friend. He comes round in his car. For the first time in a while I have a conversation that is not informed by subtext. “This place is weird, it has no centre.” I venture. “That’s because YOU are the centre. It wouldn’t work if there was an actual centre. Wherever YOU are, that’s the centre, for everyone here.” We talk about Trump. “Do you think there’ll be a protest here on inauguration?” “This is Hollywood. There’s no politics.” We cover a lot of ground in a short space of time and he buys me a steak and blue cheese sandwich which almost makes me cry. “The medium food here is the best in the world.” It’s also 16 bucks. Last night I saw a basic loaf of sourdough in a supermarket for 7.50. I’m going to be eating a lot of sardines. My friend drops me back at the coffee shop in time to catch the falling sun. It drops early. I sit listening to people offer to send each other their resumé, meet with someone else and give them mine, and get an uber pools all the way home for $2.50. No idea how that happened. Travel money makes no sense here. There’s a lot that makes no sense. But at least I get the sunset from the uber.