Steve Watson


      Information: Travels: America: Diary








So here I am, in LOS ANGELES


Flew via Taipei, but never got out of the airport. It does seem a very long way to get to LA. No great difficulty in getting from the airport to the hotel. 2 hours in customs and immigration, and had to apply there foe a visa waiver, which I hadn't been told about before leaving. An inconvenience. Missed the shuttle to the metro twice, but the metro itself was easy, though two changes were required. I had to get off at one stop to buy a ticket, and the tickets were sold miles away from the station. An odd arrangement.


Checked in to the hostel on Hollywood Boulevard without drama. It's a dorm room, but that's fine. Lost a day by crossing the Date Line.







Easy trip from LA to BOSTON


Landed at Logan and the luggage, that had been checked through all the way from Brisbane, was there to meet me. From there to the T via shuttlebus, and from my T stop it was just a short walk to the hostel. The place is quite pleasant and comfortable, so I've booked another 3 nights here. Another dorm room.


Lower Boston

My hostel was somewhere near Prudential Center







Being Sunday, there will be many places that are closed, so I decided to spend the day at the Museum of Fine Art. Well worth the $15 ticket price and having to walk through the falling snow and wind to get there. (Walked along Huntingdon, I think, or Fenway. The Museum is the pink area in the bottom left hand corner of the map above.) 


There was a fine small collection of seals from the ED/Akkadian period (and later - bu they're of no interest.) They are surprisingly small: I didn't get that from the pictures I've seen. There was also a head of Gudea. That was good. There was also plenty of Indian, Chinese, and Japanese stuff, but I didn't find this quite so thrilling. Better were the European paintings by Velasquez, Ribera, Poussin, Lorraine, Monet (Haystacks!, possibly the original of the print that I gave to Melissa) Renoir, etc. Also Rodin, but I don't care for his work.


I discover that the chap Jesper, with whom I'm sharing this room, is a Dane who is here for the same conference that I'm here for. We talk about our areas of common interest.







Dinner at the Montien Thai restaurant, Boylston Bay, with Mark Colyvan, J C Beall, Julianne, and a younger fellow called Dave. Good conversation and a bloody enormous meal. I took half of it back home with me.


I'd woken up late this morning so I missed breakfast, but the skies were clear so I went for a walk downtown through Back Bay. Observed people having winter fun on Boston Common, and had a 'small' chicken noodle soup (in a bread plate) in a cosy warm shop just past it. 


Commonwealth Avenue


Boston Common


State House

Just on the north of the Common


King's Chapel Burying Ground


There were a couple of pretty good bookshops, which I browsed for a while. I was strongly tempted to send back Shelby Foot's 3 vol. History of the Civil War. I was impressed by his storytelling in the Ken Burns documentary recently seen.


The city is pretty with its Christmas decorations and the snow under the cold sun, but the wind does make walking about a little bit of a nose-numbing exercise.







Walked about the waterfront downtown, stopping at a very interesting model boat shop. Through Quincy markets which were nothing special. Across the river to see the USS Constitution, which was, of course, closed. Came back home by ferry, from which Boston appears quite the maritime metropolis. Walked to Park street T: and so home. 


Model shop

Somewhere in North End, I think


To Quincy Markets







Spent the day mostly hunting for onward accommodation, getting a credit card number, buying train tickets. 


The afternoon and evening were devoted to conversation in the main dining area with other travellers. Quite a pleasant way to pass the time on a cold day.







Left at 11:40 on the dot on an Amtrak train heading for Washington. Rather expensive ($87) but worth it for the convenience. The trip was a lot of fun actually. The seats were wide and comfortable, and it wasn't at all crowded. For a while I watched the countryside out the windows, and I noticed that there were lots of pretty little towns on the route, and they presented an attractive and well-maintained face to the railway. That's not normal in my experience. 


Fast train

Good train. Good.




Took the very clean and organized metro from Union Station to the Metro Center stop and walked to the hostel. No trouble getting a room there, but the first thing I had to do was claim a locker in the room. It's a dorm with 8 beds and 8 lockers and someone was using mine for a cupboard. Bit cheeky, I reckon.


After settling in a bit, I walked about town a bit, and tried to see the White House. However, I failed. Got back about 10:30, quite ready for bed.



The hostel is a HI place, on 11th St just north of K street. On this map you'll find it just north of the Convention Centre on New York Avenue running north east of the White House.







Breakfast was a muffin and an orange juice. Not impressed. 


Walked to the Capitol and along the Mall. I stopped at the American Indian Museum, hoping to see a lot of interesting stuff. I have an interest in them. I could not have been more disappointed. Yes, there was a lot of material in the museum, but it was arranged aesthetically. One can learn nothing from the exhibits. It seemed to be completely unhistorical too; as if all Indians (culturally, demographically, geographically, technologically, ecologically) were static throughout time. There was no story told at all.


Tried the National Gallery. That was better, although I did think it was a bit too heavy on the later French and British stuff. 


To the Natural History Museum. Also good, though the collection didn't seem to be as large as I would have thought. Maybe I just missed it. On the other hand, there was a lot of information to be had. That's what I like to see. I also ike to see dinosaurs! And some early megafauna and other mammals. There were also some interesting exhibits dealing with early man and some treatment too of his early states. (cuneiform seals and so on.)


Of course, the most interesting one for me was the Air and Space Museum. I was particularly impressed by the model of the Hubble telescope: it's huge; about the size of a bus. And just think, it's a precision instrument that has been thrown a couple of hundred miles into space. That's quite an achievement - and those like my former workmates, who think that it is mockable because it needed some adjustments when it first went up, might try doing better themselves.


Found a Subway near Chinatown for dinner.


Supreme Court building


The Capitol


Smithsonian Air and Space Museum








To the Lincoln Memorial, beside the reflecting pool and the circular monument (whatever that's called.) Then on to Arlington cemetery. That's rather too restrained for my taste: I prefer the wilderness walks that you get in Waikumete, but I suppose the two places have very different functions.


Constitution Gardens

A view to the Lincoln Memorial




Arlington National Cemetery


In the evening I went to see the Christmas (yes, dammit, 'Christmas' lights on the national tree and the White House lawn and so on. It was very nice, but my camera could get no reasonable picture at all..







By Amtrak to  NEW YORK


Another good train trip. It started well when the girls at the counter very kindly gave me a discount from $96 to $67. The higher price is because it's high season, of course. And the highlight of it was a long conversation that I had with Mike, the chief conductor, in the cafe car where I was having a coffee and a snack. We talked about the Civil War, Roosevelt, and the OSS. He and I would disagree about most everything, but he was pretty well clued up. He's writing a biography about an Italian lady who was involved in some pretty hairy escapades in Italy in WWII.


Phoned the hostel for some instructions. Catch the 1 or 9 train uptown from Grand Central to the 103rd street stop, and the hostel is on 103rd and Amsterdam.


New York, Lower Manhattan

The hostel is a couple of blocks west of the northern corner of Central Park.

Please excuse the image of the twin towers: the map is just a little too old to note their destruction


New York, Lower Manhattan

The metro was actually a lot easier to use than this makes it look.


I met the Asian lady whom I had met previously in Boston here. She trapped me into an interminable, free-associating, one-sided 'conversation' about 'tolerance' (I think, but who the hell knows.) She was wearing night clothes in the main social area. I think she just might be a bit odd.







Walked about Central Park for several hours. Looked at the Guggenheim and noted that it's looking a bit the worse for wear. I wonder if this is typical of the way that Wright's buildings age. I think I've heard something to that effect somewhere.


In Central Park


Loeb Boathouse


The Guggenheim Museum

Architecture by Frank Lloyd Wright







Down to the Port Authority to start with, to buy a bus ticket north ($20.) Then walked around for ages. Visited the NY State Library where I took the opportunity to look up a few things (eg. Mi'raj) in their copy of the EI. Then up the Empire State Building for a view. That's just something one has to do on the first visit to NY. Got a bit fed up with the rat's maze that they made us run through to get up there. Not something I'd wish to repeat. No view is worth that irritation. Then back t the Grand Central Station. Spectacular, but with the world's most unhelpful information desk. Finally, returning to the hostel on the crowded peak hour trains.


Lower Manhattan

From the Empire State Building


The Chrysler Building







Took the (I) to Chambers St. Walked past City Hall and across Brooklyn bridge and back. Browsed 'Strand Books'. Bought cough drops at CV's in Fulton St. Went through the Smithsonian Indian Museum in the old Custons House. Again, not impressive. They consistently fail to provide context for the exhibits, and lump together artefacts representing tribes from the Tlingit to the Ute without discrimination. 


Near City Hall


Brooklyn Bridge


In Battery Park


Wall Street Bull







Shaved using the electric razor my parents gave me as a Christmas present. Pretty good. Checked out of the hostel. However, I've got a while before the bus so I left my bags in a locker and headed out again.


This time I went to see the big hole at ground zero of the 9/11 attacks, but there wasn't much you could see. It's all enclosed and it's a construction site. 


Took a ride on the Staten Island ferry, which didn't give me very good views because of the weather.


Back to Strand books for more browsing.


After a Subway dinner, I picked up my bags from the hostel and went out to the Port Authority where I was going to catch a Greyhound back to Boston. This really was an unpleasant place to be stuck waiting for a late night bus. Talk about your 'wretched refuse.'







Picked up the bus at 12:30 at night. It was an interesting night drive into the snowy north, and we arrived in BOSTON about 4 am. The subway station was inaccessible and the guard couldn't understand that I was asking him when it would be open. I gave up and just walked to South Station, where it would be more comfortable to wait for subway trains to start running. There I had a couple of (not great) coffees before I went on to the airport. At the airport we went through the ridiculously repetitive security theatre before we got on the plane, which was then delayed 40 minutes anyway. 


Eventually, however, I arrived back in LOS ANGELES


After waiting for an hour for the bags, I had a bit of a struggle trying to call the hostel: there were phone cards, a hunt for change, missed buses, accidental tours of the airport carpark, etc. All very tedious. I did, though, eventually get to the corner of Hollywood and Highland, from where a map would show me how to get to the hostel, just 4 blocks away. Where I walked in at just on 4 pm.


Too easy.


Hot dog and chips for dinner and lay back watching a few movies with other guests. 







Despairing of anything better to do - because the weather continues filthy - I went into LA's downtown to see the sights. There were none so it didn't really take very long. Had lunch in a big undercover market that was extraordinarily downmarket. Most of the downtown area seems to be given over to hispanic merchants with trinket stores and kiosks. It doesn't seem very American really. Union Station is a nice friendly building though: by far the best station I've seen here.


In a bookshop on Hollywood Blvd I found Rohde's "Psyche' vol. 1, which I'd been hunting for a long time. Only $5.60. I'm very pleased about that. I'm also reading Stamps 'The Peculiar Institution' which I picked up from the hostel library.


The Corner of Hollywood and Vine


Union Station


Disney Hall







Did nothing. I stayed in the hostel while it rained cold and heavy. I did not visit Venice Beach or the coastal roads.


I only left the hostel unwillingly to get dinner and coffee.







More or less the same as yesterday, but today there's no LA Times or internet.


Met and chatted to a couple of French girls from Rennes, Brittany, who'd been in Australia for 8 months. Sanda and Delphine. Of the two, Sanda was the more lively and we had a decent chat. I also met and talked to a Korean guy trying to find work in the US. We talked about the different development paths of Korea and Oz.







Home via Taiwan.