So, it’s been 16 years since I last set foot in Los Angeles (and for those who’ve forgotten, it’s known as the ‘City of Angels’). The 'Angelinos' were pretty crazy then – and I don't think much has changed! That is except for the big queues for Lyfts and Ubers at LAX, and the dwindling line for regular taxis.
If you live, or have lived, in the wider USA (as I did for 12 years), maybe you share the view of many Americans – that Los Angeles is an ‘alien nation’. Home of the biggest stronghold for the Democratic Party, a lot of very wacky ideas, politicians and city officials who live in ‘La-La Land’, and the sincere belief that whatever happens in the other 49 states doesn’t really concern them.
I was reminded of Californians’ willing acceptance of ‘alternative lifestyles’, as I checked into the Hilton Hotel at LAX on my final night, before returning to the relative peace and quiet of Australia.
A guy (I think, but who knows?) sprang out of an exhibitor’s booth and thrust a pamphlet in my hand promoting ‘Kundalini’, the existence of strictly female energy which lies coiled at the base of the spine, promising to be 'activated' by a total embrace of ‘Shaktism’, along with complete subjugation to Adi Parashakti, the supreme being in Shaktism.
The entire Hilton Lobby was awash with signs directing to areas devoted to special exhibits, all associated with that weekend’s special expo theme dedicated to ‘Conscious Life’. This included an intriguing space named 'The Rabbit Hole'? What went on down there?
Fortunately, the Hilton Hotel Group has developed a special (no living persons required) check-in app. You fill in your account details on the iPhone App, and it generates a unique digital key. You simply hustle into the elevator - with people wearing highly-coloured garb (or in some cases very little at all), head feathers and carrying incense, or take-out from Uber Eats, then find your suite among the 1,233 well-appointed guest rooms,
You hover your iPhone over the door lock and then, ‘Click’ and pure bliss prevails. I unpacked, logged on to the very fast wi-fi, and hid in my room until it was time to venture downstairs to the still-chaotic lobby for dinner with a very special friend.
Joining me was one of my oldest Aussie mates, Peter Warren, who is also one of the greatest cinematographers I have ever worked with.
He now resides in LA, which explains why he wears a smile of benign acceptance to the noise of a distorted sitar.
Oh, and also a competing blues singer, whose singing coach had apparently completely omitted to teach him anything akin to singing on-key or breathing whilst wailing.
Angelinos, to me, have always been willing to entertain the mysterious, the magical, the mythical, the mesmerzing and the monstrous - how else could Hollywood have survived for decades? However, given the name of the Expo, that could explain the need to explore 'The Conscious Life'.
I know I’ve treated this experience with unadulterated levity, but you have to experience LA to really understand it – and even then, you can’t. I must say Hilton Hotels have gone up several dozen notches on my appreciation scale. My suite was beautifully-decorated, quiet and comfortable. Hilton will be my go-to-choice next time I’m let loose in hotel-land in the USA.
As for LA’s added extras, whatever! It’s a fun, vibrant city with an outstanding and almost unbelievable range of restaurants and cuisines.
And, if you’re a car buff (more on this later), you’ll barely believe your eyes as you creep along the boulevards in your Uber EV, among some of the most eye-wateringly-special cars I’ve ever seen in one city. Like this 1989 Vector outside my hotel, and the two-tone 2005 Veyron in the CVS drugstore lot across the road.