Traveling in California: the futility of comparing places

April 11th, 2014, 11am

A couple of days ago I took a Megabus from San Francisco to LA and back again. It took 7 hours each way, was fairly comfortable and filled with such interesting people it’s possible I’ll do it again, just for them.

For example: at the rest stop, situated in a small town, I found myself trying to cross the street with a motley crew: an effervescently happy dental student, a woman who seemed intent on conveying worldliness in the form of intense boredom and a person who defied gender-based categorization by elegantly combining a feminine figure and posture with a scruffy beard, awkwardly high platform shoes, tight pants and a man’s military jacket. When we got yelled at by a cop for jay walking the person responded defiantly by twirling his (I need another pronoun) hair and challenging the cop to use his municipal funds to build a crosswalk.

Then there were all the people on the bus saying things like: “I am definitely going to hang out with Little Bow Wow, he’s such a Romeooooo.”

I drifted in and out of wakefulness during the ride, a notebook in my lap and pen stuck between my fingers. It’s how I like to travel: I doze, think a bit, write a line, then go back to dozing.

I tried to write about California and all the things that made it different or the same as other places. I tried writing things like: the way people talk here reminds me of Canada, only to end up staring at the page wondering which groups I was actually comparing. Educated, relatively affluent people, I’ve found, sound pretty much the same everywhere.

Then, I wrote: this bus ride reminds me of bus rides I took in South America, only to realize it also reminded me, in general terms of every long bus ride I have taken anywhere in the world. For instance, my experience of Turkey is of a country crossed overland by buses, some taking up to thirty hours. I think of Turkey and I think of buses, which makes me think of other countries I’ve also traveled that way, which makes those countries seem more similar than they actually are.

Authenticity I scribbled, cynically, is traveler code for traveling rough, which is something none of them do back home before dozing off again. I woke up in a more positive mood, inundated with L.A sunshine.

Shu, Paul and Lia said thanks.

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Dani Z

The hardest thing about getting older is realizing that I might, in fact, be a minor character in someone else's story. (I keep changing this bio. I'm not sure I'll ever nail it)

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