Tuesday, October 16, 2001 5:58 PM
part 4

Back to the USA.

"Based on a true story" is a strange phrase. It used to mean that most of the known facts were represented, with one or perhaps two scenes altered for dramatic effect. Now an entire story can be said to be based on a true story, even after every scene, and the characters within them, are added, altered, deleted... to the point where this "true" story will close with the disclaimer "all characters are fictitious and any similarity to persons living or dead is coincidental". Is it still the same hammer after one replaces the handle and the head? On the other hand, one could portray a true story, and close with the fiction disclaimer to avoid libel writs. It all depends on your definition of true. "pi equals 3 for small values of pi or large values of 3". It's a funny world.

I experienced my first earthquake in the USA. I don't know how strong it was, but even from the tenth floor, I could feel that the building shook less than during any of my earthquakes in Iceland. That's a good thing. I'd prefer to not be able to write the book on Earthquakes of the World.

There is something about the gold man that no-one else likes. He's still performing, one year later, the same huge grin on his face, looking as happy as he ever did. This time I was with Ling-Li. She got too close and caught his attention. He started to imitate her and she wasn't impressed, so we left. It's all about the attitude - when the gold man started running beside a jogger and imitating her stride, she turned to him and said "Touch me and I'll kill you". He stopped running immediately. Miss Piggy must be her role model.

Venice in California was meant to resemble Venice in Italy, including the canals and waterfront homes. It seems that people valued roads more than water, and most of the canals have been filled in. However, some of them remain, and I'm told that there's a boat parade in December. No gondoliers, though.

I visited JP's home again in the Palos Verdes estates, and there was another new and different food for me to try. Last time it was vanilla bean icecream, which is very nice. This time it was peacock eggs, which taste of not much apart from salt. Now I know. After we'd eaten, we went to a driving range, at which people hit golf balls in the general direction of the holes. JP has a set of fancy golf clubs - titanium head and ultra light graphite shaft. The set probably cost more money than I make in a week. I'm sure that in the correct hands, they can improve someone's driving distance, but mine are not those hands, especially since mine are left, and the clubs' are right. JP is not a patient person, by his own admission. Someone suggested to him that he takes vitamin B to help, but after he took some, he expected immediate results! It's a Catch-22 situation - if one is impatient then one should take vitamin B and be patient while it works, but if one is patient enough to wait for it to work, then one doesn't need vitamin B. Anyway, the result is that we went for a massage instead. No, a real massage. :-) Lots of short Asian women. One of them walked on my back. I don't recommend it.

Even though I'm not much of a food person, I'm happy to go to wherever people invite me to go, even to a place that sells Japanese curry and Japanese cheese cake. The curry was not particularly interesting - some Japanese food with spice, but the cheese cake was different. The problem is that the difference is difficult to describe and the simplest suggestion is to taste one instead. It feels drier, the texture is rougher, and it is less sweet than the cheese cakes with which I am familiar.

In California, cars are allowed to turn right, even if the traffic lights are red. When combined with the comparative rarity of pedestrians, making them almost invisible to the average driver, the result is that crossing the road is a hazardous undertaking, and I've been nearly hit several times. Still, better to be nearly hit than nearly missed.

The hotel in which I am staying this time is closer than the corporate apartment in which I stayed last time. This allows me to walk to and from work in reasonable time. After a couple of days, I noticed something: when I walk to work, from 2nd street to 26th street, it takes me longer than when I walk home. The difference is small, perhaps a couple of minutes, but it exists. One might suspect something psychological involving the increasing and decreasing street numbers, but more likely is the fact that in the morning, I've had breakfast, so I'm not hungry and I'm feeling very relaxed, but in the evening, I'm hungry and tired and desperate to return home. Sometimes the simplest explanations are also the most uninteresting.

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