What a difference a week makes.
Having completed my drive to Auckland, and my flight out of New Zealand, I now find myself in very different surroundings. The glitz and glamour of Hollywood is a far cry from the tranquil beauty of New Zealand’s countryside, but that’s what travelling is all about – having different experiences.
LA is a trifle unconventional in that it’s the first location on this leg of my travels that I’ve been to before. In 2007 I lapped America, starting and finishing in New York, and this was one of the destinations on my itinerary. The problem was, I spent all of my six days there either too ill or too engrossed in my newfound love of poker to actually get out of the hotel room and see the city itself.
Eleven years later, I’m finally willing and able to explore this most famous of metropolis’, and I can honestly say it wasn’t worth the wait.
People who think of LA often picture the stars of Hollywood, or the lavishness of Rodeo Drive, or traffic jams. Whilst all three of those things are most certainly present, what you don’t often consider – usually because you don’t appreciate how much of an issue it is – is poverty and homelessness.
In London, people living on the streets is a problem. You don’t often get to walk the corridors of a tube station or the length of a city-centre pavement without crossing paths with at least one person unfortunate enough to not have somewhere to live. In LA, people living on the streets is a defining feature of anywhere in the city that isn’t where the rich people live (and sometimes where they do). Homeless people are everywhere here, and serve as a constant, harrowing reminder of how much poverty lies within this city’s boundaries.
I don’t like LA. Not because so many homeless people exist, but because of the apparent attitude towards them. Not once did I see someone give a homeless person any money, food, or even acknowledged their existence, and believe me there were plenty of opportunities in the four days I spent here.
Hollywood is the worst culprit, a place where rich people congratulate other rich people whilst poor people search the bins for something to survive on, right under their noses. Yes, I’m aware that LA isn’t the only city with a poverty/homeless problem, and yes, there are cities in the world that have far more people with even bigger problems than they do here. But it’s the enormity of the divide between the top and bottom of the ladder here, and the attitude of most of it’s citizens that stinks more than the city itself.
The best part of LA? It marks the starting point of my cross-country adventure, an adventure I’ve been waiting the best part of 25 years to undertake, and an adventure that I’m unfathomably grateful I’m in a position to go on.