Four Wheels Spinning – Stories from the States #8: We\’ll Be Right Back – Southern California

We’ll Be Right Back
Southern California
October 20-26, 2001

These are the two things you should know if you plan on travelling in California:

  1. You can’t stay in a hostel in L.A. if you’re an American, and
  2. You can’t do anything quickly in Southern California.

Since Brian and I are American and from the East Coast (where everyone is always in a rush) we ran into a few problems during our last week in California.

Brian and Jaws

Brian with “Jaws” at Universal Studios, CA

If you are an American and you want to stay in a L.A. hostel you must have a plane ticket proving that you are, in fact, travelling. From what I understand this cuts down on natives shacking up in hostels long term (this does not, however, stop foreigners from living there for months while they look for apartments and jobs) and helps to create an atmosphere of “travellers” for the mostly foreign guests that populate L.A. hostels. I was informed, by more than one irritating hostel employee, that having New Jersey license plates on my car does not prove that I am traveling, only a plane ticket would do. I’ll have to remember to “travel” next time I go to L.A.

Eventually, the Orbit Hostel in Hollywood bent the same silly rules and allowed us to stay in one of their dorm rooms. Brian and I claimed two empty beds and, without meeting our roommates, headed out for a quick dinner and a beer in the nearby Fairfax neighborhood. We found the Kibbitz Room, a small, casual, bar attached to Cantor’s restaurant, and sat down for a quick round of the house special drink, “The Pussy” (I should have known better, but it was L.A., it threw me off guard) before heading back to the hostel.

Many hours later, Brian and I were both looped and had made friends with most of the regulars. I found out the next day, when one of our new Kibbitz friends called to invite us over for dinner, that this particular bar was infamous for being the most heavy-handed pour in all of L.A.

Unfortunately, our hangovers weren’t the worst part of our “quick” night out. After we had made our way back to the hostel from the Kibbitz Room, Brian and I climbed into our top bunk beds, doing our best not to disturb the two men sleeping below us. I think, up to this point, we were successful in our goal to not be the “ugly Americans”, but it was all downhill, literally, from there.

Just minutes after I drifted off to sleep, I was woken by a huge THUMP. Brian had fallen out of his bed and landed square in the middle of the room. I jumped down from my bed and began untangling Brian from his sheets. Brian, lay there moaning (I had no idea he did such a good Frankenstein impression) while I tried to make small talk with our now wide-awake roommates. The guy that was in the bed below Brian made the astute observation, “I believe he may have miscalculated a bit.”

After getting Brian back in bed I crossed my fingers that we wouldn’t get thrown out of the hostel the next day, after all, we were allowed to stay in the hostel under the agreement that we “be cool.” I wasn’t sure we had held up our end of the bargain.

So, we learned that there is no such thing as going out for a quick drink in L.A. but, we hadn’t quite learned our lesson. When we arrived in San Diego a few days later we still thought we could do things on our time. We decided to head down to Tijuana for an hour or two, just enough time to take a look around and still be back early enough to cook dinner at the hostel (San Diego lets Americans stay at their hostels). We jumped on the Border shuttle and in ten minutes we were on Revolution Avenue, the main tourist drag of the city.

An hour and a Cuban cigar later and we were ready to head back to San Diego. Besides, we didn’t need to stock up on Anthrax antibiotics which seemed to be the hot ticket in Tijuana that week. We got in line for the shuttle and an hour later we were on the bus headed back to the U.S. The shuttle zoomed right up to the border, past the long lines of cars and pedestrians and stopped. We stopped for 3� hours and watched all the pedestrians and cars that we had just passed, cross the border. We got out and had coffee, went to the bathroom and then got back in and waited another hour.

Six hours from the time we got in line at the station and we were back in San Diego. It turns out that since the Sept. 11 attacks the shuttles, once the fastest way to cross the border, are now the slowest. Our bus driver said he used to make up to 10 trips a day and now he could only do two. The Border Patrol guy laughed in my face when we told him we had just come for a quick visit.

I guess he knew you can’t do anything quickly in California.

L.A. Info
The Fairfax district in West Hollywood is home to the famous Farmer’s Market, where you can get great, cheap food and coffee. Right next door is CBS Studios where you can join the crowds trying to get on the “Price is Right” show or you can get free tickets to a television show taping. Keep in mind that a TV show takes 4-7 hours to tape (I told you nothing is quick).

If you’re brave enough to try it, the Kibbitz Room is on Fairfax Ave across the street from Max’s Bar. The Orbit Hostel is on Melrose (famous for the shopping) two blocks down from Fairfax.

Tijuana Info
The Border Shuttle only costs a couple of dollars round trip and is a convenient way to avoid parking in Tijuana but be prepared to wait. Stock up on duty-free items to bring back to the U.S. while you’re there.

San Diego Info
Skip the trendy Gas Lamp District Hostel and stay in the less expensive Point Lomas Hostel. Not only is it cheaper but the staff are friendly, there is on-street parking, and the kitchen and patio are a pleasure. There is a grocery store and Laundromat around the corner.

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