Chiswick Mum does LA!
Happy new year – all the way from Los Angeles!
As I write, the sun is beating down outside, reflecting off the cactus that stands guard outside our door. (We've festooned it in a solitary piece of green tinsel in a nod to the festive season!)
We flew here on the 29th December and even though the locals tell us how cold it is for this time of year, to us it's roasting. (Although sadly rain is forecast for next week so we're making the most of the sunshine.)
Today we've been celebrating New Year the American way, by watching the annual Rose Parade, just a stone's throw from the Air BnB rental we're staying in.
It was a real immersion in Americana, reminiscent of the big parade at the beginning of Miracle on 34th Street. Each float is festooned in fresh flowers and petals – painstakingly and individually stuck on.
In between the floats are scores of college bands and cheerleaders, mounties on horse back, and gangs of sheriffs on motorcycles. The biggest cheers were reserved for the uniformed poop sweepers who walk behind each set of horses, meticulously sweeping up any horse dung.
I do love the way that Americans are unashamedly patriotic. No matter what your political persuasion here, there is unified cheering when people hear the national anthem being sung from a float – and American flags are waved happily at every occassion.
In Britain we are so reserved that it seems incredible to see aeroplanes spelling out 'America is Great' in the sky. Having said that, we are the country that has chosen to call itself Great Britain! And we ran a full marketing campaign during the Olympics that played on the fact that 'Britain is great'.
I was most excited about seeing the cheerleaders up close after seeing them in so many American films from childhood to now! And they didn't disappoint. Smiles never wavering, lipstick never smudging, tan tights never laddering, they kept up their flawless dance routines, enthusiasm and marionette twirling for the full five mile march.
Clouds of politics
Used to public parades being so apolitical in Britain, I was amazed to see a fleet of small planes whirling through the sky spelling out in letters – America is Great… Anybody but Trump.
The letters continued forming for long after the parade ended – with the messages getting even more confrontational. 'Trump is a fascist dictator', 'Trump versus the world, this is war', 'Trump bend over'.
It will be interesting to see if this surprising show of politics at a parade ends up dominating the news coverage (the parade is broadcast across America), or even makes it to the UK news.
The planes were apparently paid for by a private benefactor – and it was strange to see a public parade taken over by a display of political opinion… no matter what your political persuasion. I was staggered – but I think I wasn't the only one. Apparently planes usually spell out some advertising slogan at the end of the parade. So whatever you think of the message, it's certainly a lot more fun than 'drink coca cola'.
Although if I had the money I'd love to pay to write 'Surrender Dorothy' in the sky.
But the floats aren't the most amazing thing about the Rose Parade.
Nope. The most amazing thing started to happen at around 5pm the night before, when visitors started to line the streets, to secure the best views for the 8am start of the parade.
We took a ride through the nighttime streets to see the urban phenomenon.
I don't have any photos to do it justice (I felt a bit embarrassed winding down the window and taking photos of people. Plus the traffic was moving really slowly and my brother was hissing at me 'don't wind the window down' and 'don't let them see you gawping'.)
So I will have to try and describe the scenes instead!
Whole families were camped out on the street – toddlers, teens, grannies, and every age in between.
Some merely had fold up seats and gas heaters, wooly hats and jackets.
Some had full on patio heaters and three pieces suites. Some had air matresses. Some had proper beds, complete with duvets and pillows. Some had log burning fires and a supply of logs waiting to see them through the whole night.
Quite a few of them had silly string and plates full of shaving foam to throw at the cars – and yes we were got! And it was great fun.
Entrepreneurs walked up and down selling glow in the dark swords and tiaras, and hot dogs.
Authorities turn blind eyes to this mass camping out. Although our Airbnb landlord told us that this was tame compared to previous years, when teenagers would turn up two days early and it would turn into a lawless street rave. Nowadays people can only turn up the night before.
The parade does seem to have been commercailised a bit. Some companies pay folks to sit on chairs all night and then hand these prime seats over to their favourite clients in the morning.
Other people pay for tiered seating along the route – starting at sixty dollars and going up to hundred dollars and beyond.
We had veteran insider knowledge though and at 7:45am our Airbnb host picked us up and we strolled down and had a perfect view, just as good as the people who had slept out all night. And I think even better than the 95 dollar seats.
For the rest of New Year's Day we headed up the Pacific highway to Malibu for a day at the beach.
What kid doesn't enjoy jumping the waves on a beach? Chiswick Boy had such fun building channels for the Pacific to run into, and gathering stones for his sand castle. And yes we can do all these things on a day trip to the coast in England. But how much more beautiful to be under a blue sky, that turned salmon and then rose pink at dusk.
It's on a 25 mile stretch of beach – just one of the distances in USA that is so difficult to grasp.
Today we're off to explore Hollywood and old Los Angeles… so I'm going to stop my post here, and get us dressed to go out.
Happy 2016 – may all your dreams come true.