Episode 3: That Time I Was Obsessed with Beverly Hills 90210

365 Dates of Travel Podcast

365 Dates of Travel Podcast Transcript:

This week’s episode is going to be more about reading from the book. So every second week I will do some readings from the month that we’re talking about. So last week I talked about the background stories behind November. And today I’m going to be reading directly from the book the dates of the 8th, 9th and 10th of November. 

So the 8th is the was the first full day that I was in Los Angeles. So I’d arrived the day before. Had a pretty full day, seeing as arrived so early in the morning. But today or the 8th was the first complete day that I got to explore Los Angeles.

8th November (1992) Los Angeles, California (CA), USA

For $12 a night, you cannot expect luxury. The hostel beds were pieces of plywood stapled together with a couple of thin foam mattresses, complete with lumps, thrown on top. There were no blankets supplied. Having not packed a blanket or sleeping bag, I had trouble sleeping because cold. Combined with jet lag, a sleepless night resulted.

I stayed in bed until 11:30 am. After waiting in line for a shower, I didn’t leave until 1:00 pm.

I sum up the day in my diary:

So I saw downtown LA. WOW! (Sarcastic.) I’m not impressed at all. It also took so long to get there. Tried catching the metro but couldn’t work out where it actually went or how much it cost. There was no one there, only ticket machines. So frustrating.

Bought fries at McDonald’s. Said, “Take away,” but I should have said, “To go”.

Just about got buses worked out. Transfers are a little confusing. I don’t think you have to pay unless you use it again, but I think it may depend on the driver. Some take the transfer off you, or you pay 25 cents, or tonight I kept the transfer and didn’t pay anything. If I was staying till the end of the week, I’d have it all worked out. I’m not sure that I want to, though.

Got off at the wrong stop going to Beverly Hills. Thought driver said Rodeo Drive when it was actually Gale Drive. A lady on the bus was trying to talk to me, but she couldn’t understand my accent. Didn’t find the Beverly Hills sign or anything. It was dark, only about three shops open. Very disappointed. Have to do it properly (tour) later.

Went to a 50s diner like Peach Pit. Absolutely great. Food not the best but still okay. Apple pie and milk. Great atmosphere. Would like a place like that. Good if had friends. Not sure what/how to tip.

Passed a couple of high schools. They look so wonderful. They are just so big. I’ll have to go to one while in Denver.

I’m not in the right frame of mind, so I think I’ll have to go straight to Denver, see Wendy, and then start again.

Not even the cats are friendly. They won’t give me the time of day.

I don’t sound like I was enjoying myself. I remember walking through downtown and feeling scared. It was important to look like I belonged. I did not know where I was going, but I only unfolded the giant paper map when out of sight.

The motivation behind coming to America was my obsession with the Beverly Hills 90210 television show. I wanted to experience everything an American high school offered. Seeing real high schools, going to Beverly Hills and eating at a diner like the Peach Pit in the show, were dreams come true, but reality and expectations were miles apart.

Wendy was an American exchange-student who lived with my family in Australia when I was fourteen. She lived with me as a sister, so I often referred to her as my sister. I missed her after she left and wanted to re-connect with her. Denver, Colorado, was her hometown.

The 9th of November was the date I discovered how tricky it can be to call long distance via a payphone. And also I got to meet or experience my first time on the greyhound busses.

9th November (1992) Los Angeles, CA, USA

From my diary:

Today I realised something. I am totally unorganised. I have no idea what I am doing, where I am going, or anything. The guys in my room really showed me that. It took me nearly the whole day to decide I was going straight to Denver–not via San Fran[cisco] or anything else.

That was the easy part. Then I had to use the phone for the first time and what an experience that was. Ringing Greyhound Bus–a local call–was fairly straightforward, but trying to ring Wendy in Denver was a nightmare. I had to put in about $2.60 for one minute. The operator tells you if you haven’t put enough in, but it’s all a recording, I think. Then I rang Wendy, and of course, the answering machine was on. Being stupid, I hung up as quickly as I could, but the phone took all the money. I was so annoyed. I had to go get more change–$2 worth of dimes. While I was leaving a message, I was told to put more in. Now I don’t know if I was cut off or what. I panicked and I think I stuffed the message up totally. Now I am not even sure if I said bus. I said 8:30 pm tomorrow but don’t know if said I would be getting off the bus.

Had to go through operator to try to get my money back, but all she could do was send it to me. I rang about three numbers until one said, “I’ll put you through to a live operator.” They all sounded live to me. It’s a funny system. I’m telling you that now. But I’m going to master it.

Coinage and one-dollar bills were constantly required in America. Exact change only for buses and you had to continually feed quarters into payphones while calling long distance. Everyone wants change, and no one gives you change. I learnt to get rolls of quarters from banks and hide one-dollar bills in a separate part of my wallet. This became the norm, so when I ordered US dollars via my bank before a trip a few years ago, I specified twenty, one-dollar bills so I would have them on hand whenever necessary. Times have changed, and this is no longer required. Credit cards have almost made cash obsolete. In 1992, without a credit card or even an ATM card, cash was everything—as well as traveller’s cheques.

I lugged my substantial and inappropriate luggage to the bus station on public transport. I cannot remember how much luggage I began my trip with, but I have a vivid memory of dragging two duffle bags, without wheels, across a train station floor and being pained by their weight. There was no backpack as yet.

Prior to leaving Australia, I bought a four day Greyhound Bus Pass for US$75. This was cheaper than buying a one-way ticket from Los Angeles to Denver. I bought the pass for that single purpose. However, the ticket seller forgot to mark the “void after” date. Thanks to this, I used the pass again later on the trip. It proved to be excellent value for money.

Long-distance buses, run by Greyhound, are a world of their own. The bus stations are often in seedy parts of town. You never know what is going to happen or who you are going to meet. Best not to linger outside. Stay inside where there are people around. Experiencing the bus stations made me grateful for my money belt, a going away present, that went around my neck and under my clothes. This held my cash, passport, traveller’s cheques, and plane ticket. You could not re-print a plane ticket or rock up at the airport with ID back then. You had to protect your plane ticket like it was cash. I made sure I could feel the pouch throughout the overnight bus ride.

The girl in line behind me was the first person I met. She asked me where I was going and when I said Denver, she could not understand my accent. I had to repeat myself multiple times and then added Colorado to the end, and that is when she understood. Australians pronounce Denver more like Den-“va” and Americans pronounce the “ver” more drawn out like “verrrr”. To this day, I pronounce Denver as Denverrrrr after being teased about it so much on this trip.

After that was sorted, we talked through the first leg about high school, college, travelling. It was great to pass the time even if I talked too fast for her to understand.

On the next leg, the man boarding after me recognised my Country Road bag and enquired if I was from Australia. This conversation was not as pleasant. He praised America the Great and commented on my ignorance because I was not American. In his belief, everyone outside America was dumb, his word, and did not know how to do anything. The world relied on America for help and would not survive without them. I avoided sitting next to him.

My seat companion from here till Denver was a more pleasant man named Steve. He was thirty-one with long blonde hair, which he flicked from side to side constantly. Annoyingly. Tattoos covered both arms. He was born in England, but his father “pulled some strings” and got him a Green Card so he could live and work in America. According to him, he worked for three months salmon fishing in Alaska, earning $47,000 and travelled around America and the world for nine months. Interesting. He was on his way to Fort Collins, Colorado, to meet friends.

The 10th of November was my arrival into Denver where I finally got to catch up with Wendy and we had a little stopover in Las Vegas along the way. 

10th November (1992) Greyhound Bus to Denver, Colorado (CO), USA

We had a three-hour layover in Las Vegas overnight. I can still picture the lights in the distance as we crossed the California border into Nevada. Three brilliant glows of the border town casino lights, the Las Vegas lights, and lights from another town in the middle of nowhere to the left. In the pitch black, it looked magical.

The bus station was in downtown Las Vegas, which is not on the so called “Strip”, but it has casinos and neon lights. Steve and I walked around together. Being underage by American standards, I was nervous, but Steve said if I was not gambling, it was legal to wander through. We made it as far as the top of the Strip and went inside a casino called Vegas World. The atmosphere was electric. It had a space theme with astronauts, spaceships, planets, and stars hanging from the ceiling. Right up my alley. They pulled this casino down in 1995, building the Stratosphere in its place.

Steve tried to explain the different games to me. We watched roulette, blackjack, poker, and craps. I loved every minute understanding how people were drawn in by the atmosphere. Good thing I was underage.

We walked some distance from the bus station, so took a taxi back to save time. Steve kindly paid for the taxi, bought me a soft drink, and paid for the locker we stored our bags in while exploring. I felt guilty, but he insisted.

My message to Wendy did not convey my arrival by bus, so there was no one waiting for me at the bus station. A quick local phone call sorted that.

My diary describes our meeting:

I saw this girl who seemed to be looking in my direction and smiling and waving. I looked at them but didn’t think it was Wendy, but I felt really agitated. It turned out to be Wendy. I could tell as she got closer, but her hair was straight, whereas it was curly when she left Australia.

I stood up, walked towards her a little and we gave each other a hug and it was wonderful to finally be with her again, but I was so nervous and didn’t know what to say. She took my suitcase, which was quite heavy, but insisted on taking it while I carried my travel bag, pillow, etc.

I will assume my travel bag was the Country Road bag, and the second duffle bag I remember will appear in the future.

It was late in the evening but we stayed awake chatting, catching up.

I hope you enjoyed the readings from the book. I’m still trying to work out how to organise an audiobook for hopefully down the track. It has appeared to be a little bit more complicated than I originally thought, otherwise I would have well and truly have organised an audiobook to come along with the upcoming launch. But watch this space. I’m definitely open to all sorts of recordings and I will keep playing some of the dates here and I will work in the background on making an audio book happen. But please let me know if that is something you really would like. So I know how hard to make it happen, but it’s definitely on the list of things that I’m working on at the moment. 

And that’s the episode for this week. Next week I’ll be talking about the behind the scenes of the December chapter. 

Thanks for listening today. Don’t forget to check out my website for more details about myself and the book “365 Dates of Travel: The first six months”, and various ways in which you can follow me if you would like to. 

And I wish you an interesting day.

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