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This is a question My Biggest Disappointment

Often the things we look forward to the most turn out to be a huge let down. As Freddy Woo puts it, "High heels in bed? No fun at all. Porn has a lot to answer for."

Well, Freddy, you are supposed to get someone else to wear them.

What's disappointed you lot?
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(, Thu 26 Jun 2008, 14:15)
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An Internet Dating experience (a long one)
This is a story that was a fully-fledged sub-plot to my epic winter adventure in North America I made on my own 5½ years ago. I had done the Internet Dating thing for some time. I'd already met some truly wonderful women this way, but this was the first time I was meeting someone in the USA.

I apologise in advance for the length. It’s a long one and split into 4 parts. The first part is the answer and the other three are the first replies. There's also an epilogue. It was originally written many years ago, but I've changed it a bit to keep identities secret.

Part 1

Lisa (not her real name) was her name. It was a year and a half since she made initial contact. The e-mail correspondence was going well for a month, but then suddenly disappeared. A month later, I e-mailed her again, and got a reply (she referred to an e-mail she sent that must have got lost). That was the last I heard of her for a year. By then, I had decided I'd be visiting the USA at some time. One day (several months after my account on the Internet dating service had expired), I decided to mail her to say I was going to the USA on the off chance she might reply. It had been nearly a year and it seemed a long shot, but decided to go for it. Then a few weeks later, whilst in a cyber cafe, I got my first e-mail from her for a year where she said she would like to meet me when I come over to Los Angeles (LA, or ‘Lala-Land’ as she called it). This was the day when everyone decided to e-mail me all at once, so I spent ages there answering e-mail and as there were only two PCs there I was contributing to a queue and running up huge Internet costs. I also got another short e-mail from her a month later where she said she had to go to the hospital (didn't say what for), and she'd write more in the weekend. I never did get any more e-mail from her before the trip. It was only once I'd been on my trip to America for 3 weeks when I checked the e-mail at a friend's place in Vancouver that I got an e-mail from her (first since I set off). It just asked me to confirm if I had been getting her other e-mails (which I hadn't).

We both had our Birthdays on the same day (we were both Sagittarians), and I wanted to be in LA for that date just on the off chance she'd all of a sudden respond to me. Now I knew for certain her e-mails to me were getting lost, I became determined to meet her, so I opened the spam-floodgates and kept on mailing her whenever I could find access to the Internet. Up until that point, I hadn't thought about it much, but I realised I was running out of time and between Vancouver and LA, I only stopped off at Portland for half a day (thankfully, I had already done Seattle before Vancouver).

When I was in Portland, I made a pit stop at a cyber cafe. She hadn't responded to any of my e-mails. I told her by e-mail when my train would be arriving at the station in LA, what I was wearing (my latest psychedelic t-shirt and my colourful shoes just to stand out) and where I'd be staying in LA. I used the high-priority setting on my e-mail - something that I do very sparingly. I'd never know if she'd get it, or if she was even available to meet me then, but just in case she could, this was where I'd be. It was a long shot, but it might just work. It was a journey into the unknown. I wouldn't know what to expect when I arrived at LA's Union Station...

On the train to LA (the Coast Starlight), I met a few people going to LA who I shared my story with and hoped they might tell me where to look for someone who was trying to look for me in Union Station. I was thinking that I was telling so many people on the train about it that if we did meet, a huge cheer would erupt from the station in LA. I was getting anxious and a cheer would have been a great accompaniment to having my anxiousness flower into something a lot nicer. This was a train-journey that went on during the night so I had to sleep on the train. I was so much in need of answers that I tried to carefully analyse the dream I had during the night in case it contained any clues (I couldn't find any - I just ended up dreaming about online-banking that night). My anxiousness was growing, but thankfully, I met a few people on the train who kept my mind off things by talking about what it was like being a cow, and what it was like being a farmer (the same as being a cow, but you get to drive a tractor). The train was going through mid-California, which although wasn't as lush as Oregon/Washington - was a lot greener and rainier than I had imagined it to be (I had slept all through Northern California). The train didn't get to the Pacific Ocean until after dark, and apparently, we passed some place where they launched stuff into space (it might have been the Vandenberg base), but my mind was even further away than 'space' at the time...

When I got to LA's Union Station, the train was 40 minutes late (It took me 31 hours to get from Portland, OR to LA, CA). I was getting that nervousness I get when meeting a girl I met off the Internet for the first time, and with a heavy rucksack on your person while wearing a coat in a hot place after having been used to cold places, and in an area who’s 'safe-ness' I didn't trust, it's not a nice feeling! I looked around the station for about half an hour ... no sign of a girl who looked like she was looking for someone (I've only seen one poorly-lit photo of her from a long time ago), so I gave up and got the subway to the hostel.

At the hostel, I asked at reception if anyone had tried to look for me or leave me a message. No. I also asked where people usually go to on their birthdays and was given the names of some nightclubs. I thought about asking where people would go on their birthdays if they were hoping to meet someone who has their birthday on the same day as themselves but doesn't know where they are so is trying to go somewhere where they might guess that they'll end up there. This seemed too confusing a question to ask so I didn’t ask it.

I soon established that this particular hostel didn't have many means for passing messages on to guests, but thankfully they had Internet-access there. I logged on to my Freeserve account still feeling anxious, and - YES, there was an e-mail from Lisa! I immediately clicked on it ... and for the first time she gave me her phone-number - not one, but two phone numbers! At that moment, my anxiousness quickly morphed into a great rush. She also said she couldn't meet me at the station because her car had broken down. Like the last one from earlier that week, it was a short e-mail, but it contained what I needed - phone numbers...

To be continued...
the rest of the story is in the replies
(, Mon 30 Jun 2008, 16:30, 22 replies)
Part 2
It was 23:55 on the eve of our birthdays; I was in the youth hostel, and surging with adrenaline. I decided to wait until just after midnight to call Lisa and wish her a happy birthday. When I tried to call, I got voicemail / answering machines on both numbers. There was no recorded message, just the standard greeting for when there's no recorded message. I thought that either she had gone to bed early or she was celebrating her birthday the night before and was too busy celebrating to answer her phone.

I didn't feel like going to bed just yet, so I decided to go outside and look for something to eat and get some money from an ATM and just generally get a feel for the place. I chose to stay in Hollywood - a suburb of Los Angeles because it is where most of the sights of LA are concentrated (according to my guidebook), and just in case I couldn't find Lisa, I'd be able to see the sights. The hostel was just off Hollywood Boulevard where I decided to explore. Hollywood Boulevard is lined with tall palm-trees. The sidewalk (pavement) is paved with grey marble slabs with a pink-marble star depicting a celebrity's name and an icon showing what they were famous for (record, film, book, etc). This is supposed to be decoration, but in practice, it just makes the ground very slippery when wet (it had just been raining and I was wearing my colourful - yet un-grippy shoes). The boulevard was lively but I didn't feel like I was part of it - I felt like I was in my own little world but was too overcome with relief to care. On the way I met a few characters that ended up talking to me. For some reason, at least half of them were named after characters from the Bible. While looking for an ATM in some chicken-related fast-food place (the Americans have the nice habit of placing ATMs in stores), one of the dudes there saw me and accused me of being on "Crystal Meth" (this was the first time I had ever heard that term used, and I was later to find out that it was similar to what the Americans call the drug called 'speed'). I was looking overly excited and not because of any drug but because I really was overly excited. The experience was getting quite intense. I was tempted to just explain the "I'm the sort of person who gives off misleading-vibes" thing and that usually, it's a "laid-back" kinda vibe I mislead people with, but instead I just told the story with Lisa so far.... that we had been e-mailing each other since a year and a half, it was both our birthdays tomorrow, the e-mails were getting lost, and I had only just gotten her phone-number just minutes before her birthday. He and his girlfriend felt really happy for me and congratulated me. Of course, I still hadn't gotten through to Lisa on the phone. Just before I went to bed, I decided to hang round the hostel bar for a bit and wind down, but I felt too excited to be aware of my surroundings so I just went to bed.

The following morning, it was both of our birthdays. I phoned both numbers again. Just got answering machines.

The sky was clear and the weather was very bright and sunny. It must have been the warmest I had experienced on the trip so far - warm enough to go outside wearing a t-shirt and shorts (if I had wanted to wear my shorts).

I tried calling Lisa a few more times but it was just the voice-mail. They didn't even have a recorded message; they just repeated the number...


I tried calling the numbers from a payphone instead of my mobile just in case the Americans had a certain cell phone (mobile-phone) dialling convention I wasn't aware of. No joy. I even tried calling my own mobile number (a US "cell phone" with a US sim-card) from a payphone. At least that worked, and meant I had given her the right number. But if she gave me hers, then why hadn't she called mine when I gave her mine?

By now, my mobile started to warn me that it was rapidly running out of credits. Each failed call cost +- 50c. I had to recharge credits, so I looked for a place that sold pre-paid phone cards for my mobile.

I must have by then been the furthest away I had ever been from home and the wonderful feeling I had gotten from discovering Lisa's phone-numbers was turning into that feeling of despair and anxiousness which was coming back. Why would she give me two numbers that I couldn't reach her on? How come the e-mails weren't getting through? Had someone forged an e-mail from her and deliberately tried to mislead me? Was she being targeted by a prankster and why? Was it me, and not her that was the victim? I had a gut instinct that Lisa would not do such a thing, but who would?

It was then that I looked over my shoulder and for the first time ever, saw the famous "Hollywood" sign. At this time, I was not in the mood for seeing famous landmarks, but the sign did register in my mind. I had seen it loads of times on TV etc, and now for the first time, it was here in reality.

I soon found a pre-paid card and tried Lisa again. Still the voicemail, but this time, I noticed that one of the phones immediately transferred me to voicemail instead of waiting for a few rings first. Any change of pattern must have meant something ... but what ... I couldn't figure out.

I usually manage to find something to do whenever I'm somewhere on my travels, but if I'm expecting to meet someone, I try and synchronise myself with them and expect them to show me around or something. When I can't find the person, I'm not as good as finding things to do than I would be had I known I was to be by myself for that part of the journey. Whenever I'm stuck somewhere and I'm not really sure what I should do, I like to be as flexible as possible and to make up my own tour of the area and gain my bearings. The best way for me to do that and combine flexibility with mobility is to rent a bike. This would help me take advantage of the nice weather too. I found a bike-rental place and rented a bike. Lisa said she likes to hang out with a bunch of weirdoes on Sunset Strip, so I decided to cycle down there on the remote-chance I might bump into her. It's a long shot, but at least I would have got some exploring and sightseeing out the way. Thank goodness for my loud tie-died psychedelic t-shirt that was meant to attract attention - especially from someone who had been told to look out for someone in a tie-dyed t-shirt. Before I did any serious cycling, I stopped off at a cyber cafe that had better facilities than the Internet access at hostel and it was cheaper. When I finally got moving, I cycled along Sunset Strip - another famous landmark, and from there, into Beverly Hills - yet another famous landmark type thing. At that point, I decided to head back to the Hostel. When I got there, I tried Lisa again. Still no luck. So I decided to put plan B into action - to get drunk and go out with some assorted people from the hostel.

They were serving food at the hostel. I hadn't been thinking much about food so just decided to eat what I was given without concentrating on it, which was just as well as it had mushrooms in it (which I don't like) ... this on my birthday too! I was still hoping I might somehow catch Lisa on her birthday, but was by now very doubtful. I did have some momentary distraction when I observed an Australian and a New-Zealander ask each other where they were from and imagine the awkwardness they must have felt (Australians and New-Zealanders are supposed to have a thing against each other - I've never been able to understand it).

Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse than eating mushrooms on my birthday (a bad sign if ever there was one), it did. The evening was spent in the hostel bar with people from the hostel. I was hoping we'd end up going to Sunset Strip by night, but we just stayed in the hostel. This was one of those hostels where the guests stayed so long they no longer had the urge to go out. There was a small group of people who did go out but didn't bother to bring me along. One thing I leaned from the trip is to avoid hostels where people have been staying for ages as a cliquey atmosphere develops. The evening wasn't going well. I had mentally drifted away from the surroundings and wasn't giving off a "come talk to me" vibe. I also didn't sense the sort of vibe where I could talk freely about not being able to get hold of Lisa. Another attempt was made to contact her before the end of our birthdays without success. The night was just spent floating in and out of the conversation without making much of a contribution. I had come all this way and was hoping to meet one person - why wasn't I interested in the other people in the bar? Overall, it was not an enjoyable night. What a way to spend my birthday!!! AAAAARGHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The next day it was a Sunday. I wondered if she had forgotten to switch on her phones. I wasn't sure if any of the numbers were cell phones or not (unlike UK phones, US phones do not have a characteristic mobile-number). An extra day would surely have given her more time to check the voicemail for messages, or at least give herself more time to answer the phone, but no ... just the standard voice-mail messages again.

She had mentioned that her car had broken down. I just could but not help wonder what would have happened if it hadn't broken down. Would she have come to Union Station on Friday evening to meet me? I was so close to actually meeting her, but then something got in the way and we couldn't get through to each other.

Why would she give me two numbers I couldn't get through to for 2 days? How come the e-mails kept getting lost? I was suspicious. Despair was setting in. I had rushed the West-Coast portion of my journey just so I could be with Lisa on the day of our birthdays, but the birthday had gone and I still hadn't found her. I was now worrying that if she found out that I had been to LA without seeing her, she would feel awful too, and that made me feel worse. I was even starting to panic in my mind. This was a serious bummer. Cool-ness in my mind went flying out the window, and whatsmore, Multiple AAAAARGHHH's times infinity!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The adventure which up until then had been running smoothly had ground to a compete halt. I was getting nowhere and was getting restless. I should have been out enjoying the California sunshine and Hollywood and cycling on my rented bike and not stopping at the Hostel's Internet kiosk and Cyber cafes all the time (even if I did get to indulge in my newly acquired taste for bagels). As I had seen a famous landmark or two while I was there, I was worried that my mind was developing an association so I was going to be reminded of this episode every single time I saw the Hollywood sign. For the first time on the trip, I was starting to feel homesick. I really wanted to be back in Europe. Now I was DETERMINED to meet Lisa - even more so with each setback. I was thankful I had taken a detour to New Orleans two weeks earler as otherwise, there would have been no highlight to prevent this from overshadowing the trip so far, and it gave me somewhere to look forward to that was a lot closer to Europe and directly further down the line on my journey.

The Internet kiosk at the youth hostel had a built-in video camera. I decided to take a picture of myself and e-mail Lisa just so she could see a recent picture of me. Alas, the camera was facing a window where the sun was shining through which was buggering up the contrast of the image. I tried to remedy this by trying to fix my bed sheet to the window. A risky activity to do in a hostel where you don't get your deposit back for losing or damaging your linen. I could not attach the bed sheet by any means and in the process, lost the pin of my Swiss Army Knife. In the end, I just used the kiosk next to the one I had tried to use, and by then, the sun wasn't at such an awkward angle. The picture was taken and e-mailed. This at least gave me a slight feeling of re-assurance, but still no sign of Lisa.

I soon decided to enjoy the California sunshine and Hollywood and cycle on my rented bike. I left a message on Lisa's answering machine saying I'd be back at the hostel at 6:30 pm. This time, I cycled from Hollywood along the Santa Monica Boulevard all the way to the beach at Santa Monica. The bike ride was about two hours where I occasionally stopped off to look at stuff (I passed through Beverly Hills again). When I finally got to the beach, I figured I only had 15 minutes or so to wander around the beach area and then explore the open-air market. I had said I would be back at the hostel at 6:30 and so far still hadn't received any sort of confirmation from Lisa (nor could I get through to her), so after exploring for a bit, set off back to the Hostel. I knew it was unlikely she'd be there when I got back but even so, decided to head off, but decided it was OK to be a bit late. On the way back, I stopped off to investigate a few things. Of course when I got back at 7pm, there was still no sign of Lisa in the hostel or her phone numbers. At least I had made it back in time for me to pick up my sheet I had left in the common room before it was taken away (I would have lost my deposit if it had been), and had had an enjoyable bike ride, but that did not prevent my mind from collapsing.

After spending some time by myself, I decided to pull myself together and go upstairs to the bar. It was comedy night, so I thought that would cheer me up. Before the comedy acts came on, I ended up playing a card game with a few people from the bar. We were playing with Monopoly money, and I quickly lost all of it. I still felt like I had drifted away from the surroundings. It was time for the acts to come along. The guy doing the introductions asked us where we were from and how many of us there were in our groups. I just said I was by myself. He responded by saying that the guy in the tie-died t-shirt was always by himself. I had been wearing tie-died t-shirts for the past 3 days to stand out, but wasn't giving off a very stand-out-ish vibe. I was not in a mood for any heckling, but the comedians did cheer me up a lot.

I decided to stay in LA another day simply because the bike rental shop was closed on Monday, and it would give me some more time to reach Lisa before I left LA (but of course, I could still come back). I was thinking that because it was Monday, then she'd be at her office and that one of the phone-numbers might have been her office number. I assumed her new job was a Monday to Friday affair as her previous job had been a product manager at some company (she never even told me what her new job was). I was flying blind. I had too little information and was running on what I knew which was like using a jigsaw of a map where most of the pieces are missing. I was navigating by hope but that was wearing down. I tried both numbers again but no - still the voicemail. The day - like the past two days - was spent getting through to the answering machine, but I decided to do some more sightseeing to keep my mind off things. I went on a walking tour of Beverly Hills. I was told that there might be a small chance I'd see a celebrity. But I didn't want to see some stupid celebrity; I wanted to see Lisa.

Before the day was out, I decided to try to cycle to the "Hollywood" sign to see how close I could get. My plan was thwarted by the road leading up to it becoming steep and winding me far away from it. As I cycled along Hollywood Boulevard, I saw a bit of a crowd gather and a security operation outside Mann's Chinese Theatre (the famous cinema where they have the footprints of the celebrities in the paving stones). I discovered that it was the premiere of the latest Star Trek film (Nemesis) and that the cast were going to be there. A thought occurred to me.... This was an event that attracted attention. Maybe it had attracted Lisa (she had given no hints that she was in any way interested in Star Trek). Or maybe she thought I might be there so she'd come to find me there (she had no idea herself whether or not I was interested in Star Trek). I do like the sorts of meetings where you have to work out a puzzle to find the other person, but in the event it's a long lot of miles from home, there HAS to be a backup plan so I am re-assured against not meeting. I had always suspected this, and now I knew for sure. I was starting to think that if I could somehow communicate my predicament to the cast of the Star Trek film who were going to be there, then they could make an announcement and ask if Lisa was somewhere in the crowd. Even if she weren’t, it would generate some publicity, which she might pick up. At least if I didn't find Lisa, they might have let me see the premiere for free. On the other hand, I really did not want this to go public, for it was just something between the two of us and definitely not a spectacle for the masses of residents of LA. This trail of thoughts didn't last long. My stomach gave in, and the Hostel was having it's unfeasibly short dinnertime. I had not been taking care of my stomach lately. For the past few days, I had been missing the free pancake breakfast at the hostel because I was getting up too late, and what with the mushroom incident on Saturday, I was at the mercy of my stomach so I had to retreat to the hostel as the limousines were arriving (I was too far away to actually make out anyone who could have stepped out of them).

After dinner, I had another moment of spending time alone. There was no comedy night, so I'd have to brave the bar without any form of entertainment and hope I might hold out long enough to find some company.

It was a bit later on that evening before I decided to go to the bar that my mobile phone un-expectedly rang. I looked at the colour LCD display - it was Lisa!!! Hallelujah! I answered the phone. For the first time ever, I heard her voice! For some reason, I imagined it to be deep, but it wasn't. She told me that my voice sounded like it's out of breath. I asked her where she had been.

"They just woke me up". She said.

I was like "WTF?!?!?!?!?! – Doubleyou Tee Eff?!?!?!?!?!". I thought to myself "Who does she think she is? Frankenstein's monster?” but did not convey these thoughts over the phone. I just asked "How come?”. It turned out that she was suffering from a bleeding kidney that was triggered off by her friends getting her very drunk the eve before her birthday (Friday) and had to go to the hospital where she'd been unconscious the past few days. This must have been just before I tried to phone her for the first time. I was thinking that perhaps if I had not spent so much time at LA Union station looking for her before heading off to the hostel and going on the Internet there, I may have been able to call before the kidneys went. But to me that didn't matter. We had finally gotten through to each other and that's all that mattered. She said it was sweet that I had tried to meet her on the day of our birthdays. All of a sudden, I no longer felt bad about not having managed to meet her on the birthday.

I asked about what was happening with the e-mails and if she was getting mine. I found out that the e-mail loss was 2 ways (my e-mails to her were getting lost as well). She blamed a broken Internet-router at her workplace, but my knowledge of the way the Internet works gave me a gut feeling that it was a crappy e-mail service she was using. We had both made several attempts to give each other our phone numbers, but it was only on the eve of our birthdays that I finally got hers. She only got mine when she found all those answering-machine messages when she woke up (it may have been some time after she woke up, as she said she couldn't use her mobile in the hospital in case it interfered with the equipment there). I realised that unlike the e-mail, there probably would not have been any answering-machine message loss, and was starting to be worried if I was coming across as a frantic stalker with all those answering-machine messages.

At this point, she kept asking me if there was anything wrong with the reception, as my voice seemed to be echoy. I told her my mobile's reception-o-meter was at only one bar, but I decided not to tell her that I was on the toilet at the time. I told her I'd move to the car park where the reception was better and I'd call back. In the car park, we resumed from where we'd left off. As getting drunk had made her kidney bleed, she told me she did not want to get drunk when I was around. I suggested that when we meet up, we both stay sober and have fun watching everyone else get drunk (this is what's called "People-Watching", best done in UK at 23:30 and in LA at 02:00). The battery on Lisa's phone was running out which put a strain on the conversation.

So we agreed to meet up the following weekend for a spot of People watching in LA. The phone call had completely changed my thoughts and state of mind. I was focused. I was unstuck! I knew for sure I was going to meet her. By now I was fed up of being in LA so decided to explore the rest of California in the meantime. I could leave as soon as the bike rental shop re-opened. At once I started thinking about where I'd be going that week. I at last had something to do so I didn't have to resort to trying to socialise in the bar while hiding how I was really feeling. I launched myself into my travel-guides and timetables and started planning out the week ahead. The result was that I had researched a plan to head off to mid-California for the week and explore some of the places I rushed past on the way down. I decided to visit San Francisco next (a nice city) and Yosemite park (I didn't make it there in the end).

This ongoing cascade of alternating 'Hallelujah' and 'AAAARGH' moments made me feel like a character from Voltaire's book Candide - being on an adventure to find the girl and always having changing fortunes in good luck and bad luck while being philosophical about it as much as possible.

The following day, I at last wore something that wasn't a psychedelic tie-dyed t-shirt (it was a quieter geek-ish t-shirt if you must know). I went out to the nearby cyber cafe to celebrate the joyous occasion with a bagel and a hot chocolate (a newly acquired taste of mine). I then returned my bike just as the shop opened and dashed to Union station. It was all aboard the trip to San Francisco. While on the train, I even established SMS (text-message) contact with Lisa.

The days around my Birthday had been very intense. I was constantly alternating between despair and euphoria. This is what being on an adventure is all about! Or as they say in California - Gnarly!!!

To be continued...
(, Mon 30 Jun 2008, 16:30, closed)
Part 3
It was Friday evening and I had arrived in Los Angeles a day earlier than I had planned (because this happened). Since Monday when I had finally opened a working channel of communication (my cell phone (that's mobile phone)) with Lisa, I also established text-message contact. I was thinking of giving Lisa a call to say I had arrived early, but my latest $25 pre-paid card from a week ago had run out so I had to find yet another one for my mobile (a $50 one as they were out of 25's). When I got one, I told her I had arrived a day early, but we were still meeting on Saturday evening. She told me her car was still broken (but it could do short distances), so our mobility would be drastically reduced. She suggested we meet and go to her place.

We were discussing things like holiday allowances. I learned that she gets only 5 days of holiday allowance per year. She thought I was lucky with my 20, but told her I envied the French and Germans with their 30. She told me she'd never want to work in France. With the poor working conditions, I am surprised the US isn't an industrial colony of Europe. I can just imagine the Europeans out-sourcing their work to the Americans (in the same way as the Americans out-sourcing to the Mexicans) because it costs less.

As I had become familiar with Hollywood, I stayed another night at the same Youth Hostel as last time. In the Youth Hostel - there was a leaving party for someone who was either a long-term resident or a staff member, but I decided to save myself up for Lisa the following night. I had arrived the night the new Star Trek (Nemesis) film opened to the general public, and I managed to get in in the same cinema where it premiered a few days ago. I thought that seeing that I was in Hollywood, I should at least have a film-related experience while I was there.

The following day (Saturday), I headed for a cyber cafe and browsed my saved copy of Lisa's profile. It was the first time I had looked at it since the trip begun. I thought to myself:


After a good start, my e-mail correspondence with Lisa disappeared, and made the odd re-appearance. Being in the USA was no different. I only got her phone numbers on the eve of our birthdays (the previous Saturday), which I couldn't get through to for another 3 days. Before that, I got from her one other e-mail that hinted that messages were being lost. There had been times I thought I was so close to meeting with her and then unexpectedly not getting through. But this time was different. We had established voice-contact and could call each others’ cell phones, and we were going to meet! People often go to Hollywood because it is the land of films where adventures happen, but I was having an adventure of my own right here in Hollywood and not spearing a thought to any of the adventures that are created there.

The Youth Hostel was organising a walking tour to a nearby canyon in the Afternoon. I managed to speak to Lisa on the phone just before I set off on the walking-tour. We were discussing how to get to her place. She told me she used to live in Hollywood, as it was where the hot spot for the nightlife was. She had only recently (in the last year or two) moved into a very far out suburb in the North West of LA, as it was close to her new job. Her car was still falling apart so could not come to pick me up from the hostel. Even though Hollywood is also Northwest of downtown, it was still far away. She had very little idea about the bus-services in the area, so it was up to me to plan a route. She threw around some names of nearby streets and districts. I felt it was a pity she didn't have the means to show me around Hollywood but she could have at least made some effort to think about how I could get myself over to her place. I told her I wasn't sure what time the last bus back would leave, but she told me I could stay the night. Considering she'd never met me, letting me stay the night was placing a lot of trust in me. I thought it was a good thing and convenient (as I didn't have to catch a 'last bus' or anything), but somehow, this trust she placed in me somehow made me feel slightly un-easy. I also asked if I should get something to eat before I arrived, but she told me we'd eat once I got there.

After the walking tour to Runyan canyon (where I had a good but far off view of the "Hollywood" sign), I did some research using the transportation-map of LA that was conveniently posted in the Youth-Hostel's common room along with some web-browsing on one of the hostel's "Internet-kiosks". I had thought earlier about renting another bike and cycling there, but as Los Angeles is one huge motherfucker of a city, cycling was out of the question (I estimate 4 hours from Hollywood by bike), so I chose the bus. I had briefly mentioned the idea of cycling to Lisa on the phone but she discouraged me from cycling to her place. It was the early evening and getting dark. After wrestling with the bus-routes, I found a direct route that took me from very close to where I was staying in Hollywood to somewhere 3 miles south of her place.

On the way to the bus stop, I phoned her up on my mobile and told her the intersection where the bus would stop (Americans have this thing about intersections). She said that was close enough and that I should call once I got there. The bus journey took 1h30m. Most of the other passengers on the bus didn't stay on long. When I got on, I overheard a few people talking about filming some pop video or other (hey, this is Hollywood). They left pretty early. Further down, I must have passed through a Hispanic area as just about everyone on the bus was speaking Spanish. There were also the odd stray group of people going for a night out. But nobody was on the bus anywhere nearly as long as me. I had no idea what the places looked like, but thanks to a very warped bus-route map and some assistance from the bus-driver, I knew which streets we were passing. Darkness had fallen even before I had left the hostel so that made things worse.

Eventually, I got off the bus. By now, I was very far off the beaten tourist-path. The area around me looked very anonymous. I was on an intersection of two main roads in a very thinly populated suburban area best described as a suburban wasteland. There was some traffic on one of the roads, but not much, and even less on the other. I don't think there were any pedestrians. By now, it was completely dark. The thought hadn't occurred to me before, but hanging out on this intersection might just be a bit unsafe. I phoned Lisa. I told her where I was, and asked if I wanted to be picked up - a bit of a pointless question seeing that I was still 3 miles from her place and had no idea exactly where it was. I was asked to describe the street corner I was waiting on. There was something that looked like a used car dealers (or scrap car dealers). I also mentioned there was a branch of KFC on the opposite corner, but unlike the chicken, didn't feel like wanting to go to the other side so I didn't cross the road. She told me to wait while she picked me up. I was within her car's holding-together radius so was assured it wouldn't break down. After the phone call, I noticed the KFC had an enormous KFC bucket outside the store. I wondered if I should have told Lisa to meet me there instead. A neon oversized fast food bucket sign is not a good place to meet a girl for first time - but then again, nor is Los Angeles. To add to my feeling of not having suggested we meet under the bucket, it started to rain, and then it stopped raining.

After a while of watching the traffic, I noticed a white convertible turn round across the intersection, and then saw it again heading towards me and slow down on the kerb. It was Lisa! Up to now, I had only seen one poorly lit photo of her that I had received more than a year before. She looked slightly larger than I had thought, but she was still the person on the photo. She was smoking a cigarette. She opened the door on the passenger's side and asked me to get inside. I can't remember exactly what we said when we first met, but I think it might have been about me getting from the hostel and how I found out how to get to the interaction. She soon asked me if I wanted to go out to eat somewhere or go back to her place and make a mess. I chose the latter option. Bzzzt! - wrong answer! - as I was to find out later...

We drove over to a supermarket where we were to get supplies for the evening. Lisa also took this opportunity to do her shopping as well. I have this thing about going to supermarkets with someone else - not really sure what to suggest getting so I just let her get along with her shopping. At this time, I could no longer think of anything to say to her anymore - may have been triggered by this effect supermarkets have on me. The conversation looked like it had fizzled out.

"Shall we get some chips - or what you call crisps"? She said.

I had been in the country a month by then and knew that they were called 'chips' over there, and that the Americans liked them as much as they liked cheese.

We soon reached the drinks section, and she asked me what I wanted to get. Choosing drinks is not one of my strong points either. I was tempted to say my usual line - "the cheapest and alcoholicest drink" but the novelty of saying that had worn off ages ago, so I just let her choose for me. She ended up helping me select a bottle of Chardonnay. She got Vodka for herself, and two bottles of Champagne for us both. Two days earlier when I was in San Francisco, I tried to re-assure her that not being able to drink is not the handicap on life that it's made out to be. Of course, having an all-day hangover makes it so much easier to explain that not being able to drink isn't the end of the world, and having kidney failure must make it so much easier to listen. So I was a bit surprised that we were even getting any alcohol. I asked her if this drink would risk having her kidneys bleed (or whatever it was they did). She told me that last week, her friends had gotten her so drunk that she was approaching the limits to what is possible to drink and this caused her kidneys to bleed / explode (or whatever it was they did) (and that's her idea of friends?). So it seems that I wasn't the only one who had an awful birthday - at least I was conscious. She said that just in case her kidneys do go off again, her medical records were in the cupboard. I wondered if I should have told her that there was no need to risk her kidneys just for me (I think I might have told her that but couldn't remember).

As well as getting things to eat for the night, Lisa did her own shopping as well. We got out and headed to her car. It only had one row of seats (could only seat two), so getting both of us and all the shopping in proved to be problematic, but we managed it, albeit uncomfortably.

We at last got to her flat. As I got inside, I was greeted by a cat. I like cats so I ended up stoking it. I noticed another cat further down the living room, and then another one. In total, there were four cats there. I looked even further and noticed a really huge massive great big television. Lisa was unpacking her shopping. It had reached one of those awkward moments where I couldn't think of anything to say and Lisa didn't say anything either. I just ended up standing where I had stopped while continuing to stroke the first cat so as not to feel ill at ease (that didn't work).

We soon moved over to the couch. The couch faced the end of the room with the window, and the TV was in the corner. The couch divided the living room into two (the half behind the couch was mostly the bit that was next to the kitchen (there were no walls partitioning the living-room and the kitchen)). In front of it was a small table laid out with things from the supermarket like crisps and some chicken and the drinks. Before we could establish that there wasn't a smooth flow of conversation or if either one of us was feeling awkward, the TV went on without any prior warning. Lisa told me that she had subscribed to a digital network and there were 1000 channels available. After flicking through the channels for a bit, we ended up watching Southpark. After that was a programme called "The Man Show" - a program that is best described by us Europeans as "the latest mind-rotting crap to come from America" - the sort of thing that you think would melt your morals if you watch it but once you let yourself go, you just sit back and enjoy it (a bit like Southpark).

The Television was dominating not only the room but also our time together. There was very little flow of conversation. She kept switching the TV over between Comedy Central and various cartoon channels, and occasionally, watching other channels such as Fox.

The couch itself felt comfy, but I wasn't feeling comfy. I had not yet gotten to the stage where I felt comfy with Lisa (we were getting along, but I hadn't yet passed that point where you feel comfy with someone). When I feel uncomfortable with someone, I tend not to notice my uncomfortable seating position, so I did not make any effort to make myself sit down more comfortably. As a result, I think I kept sitting in an awkward position and if someone had looked at me, I would not have looked very comfortable. Also, I wasn't sure if I should remove my shoes. There were a lot of cushions (and even a duvet) on the couch. I think there may have been too many cushions separating me and Lisa. Every so often, a cat would come near me and I'd stroke it. Lisa told me that she had had one of the cats for 17 years and wasn't sure how long it would last.

By then, the feeling of awkwardness had set in. I wasn't sure if the TV was distracting us from our awkwardness with each other or from our conversation. Most of the time, we both just sat there quietly watching the TV. Every so often, we'd exchange a silly idea or two, but that somehow didn't seem like we were having a conversation - more like one of us was making a remark at the other one of us. Something on the telly prompted her to talk about "extreme funerals" and some of the strangest funerals she had heard about. I took it as an opportunity to bring up my idea of wanting to form a super-corpse out of me and my dead friends (a bit like the "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" character "Modulok"). That thread of conversation quickly disappeared into nothing. The evening had several moments like that.

We also briefly talked about our travels. Lisa told me she'd once taken an in-between job break herself and travelled round Europe, but not extensively as me. She told me her heart was in England. I could tell this as she kept mentioning in her e-mails etc. how wonderful England was, and her flat had a few decorations in medieval style (even if they looked plastic). She was also a huge fan of Italian food the way it was made and served in Italy.

One thing I did get to find out was a confirmation of the rumour I had heard many years ago that Americans really do like to watch UK politicians in parliament for entertainment value alone. I told her that it was the most fun between 1989 (when the houses of commons were first filmed), and 1990 (when Mrs. Thatcher resigned). We then moved on to American politics and briefly discussed the farce of the 2000 election. I mentioned that I thought that Ralph Nader should have won that election, which did not go down too well. And so we hastily retreated back into the TV.

During my trip, I had a few chances to watch some American TV. It's an experience to say the least, but I was having an overdose of it. Even though I was enjoying some of the TV, that was nowhere near enough to drown out the self-consciousness I was feeling which was blocking any free-flowing conversation. The annoying part of the TV was the adverts. I recon a half-hour program could have had up to five commercial breaks. The adverts became repetitive very quickly. I wondered if their aim was to get people to buy their products, or if the advertisers were trying to numb the public into a trance-like state of not being able to think for themselves by overwhelming them with too many contradictory non-reasons for consuming. Either that or there's a mass amnesia epidemic amongst the American population. One of the things being advertised was "Girls Gone Wild" videos. It made me think to myself "Is this really the sort of stuff we as a nervous boy-meeting-girl should watch together?". There were several more adverts along those lines.

By then, it was nearly 2am and for reasons unknown to myself we both moved to the floor. We were watching a cartoon channel but I could sense tiredness creeping up so the cartoons looked like nothing more than a bunch of bright and colourful flashing lights.

It was 2am and I was watching the TV on the floor, and then, the next thing I remember, it was 7am and I was on the floor. I had fallen asleep on the floor! Lisa also must have fallen asleep on the floor too. And so did the cats. I think the TV must have been on all night (it was still on when I woke up). Lisa appeared to have woken up around the same time I did.

I also think one of the cats might have scratched me in my sleep as I saw some scratch-marks on my arm, but couldn't remember it happening. I decided not to let that incident harm my opinion of the cats and didn't mention it to Lisa.

I stayed where I was on the floor for a while watching the TV. It was on a cartoon channel. Lisa had moved back onto the couch and was lying down on it leaving no room on the couch for me. Thank goodness for carpets! And the cushions and duvet that had appeared near me! At least I was enjoying the cartoons so I didn't really mind.

I soon got up to go to the bathroom. As I made my way round the flat to her bathroom, I saw her flat in daylight for the first time. I saw into her bedroom. There was another TV there next to the bed (but not as big). Considering how comfy the sofa was, I wondered if a compromise could be reached to save on resources - an even more comfortable sofa and a medium sized TV perhaps? I also wondered how often she makes it to her bed before she falls asleep in front of the TV. In the bathroom, there was a caricature of Lisa on the wall - presumably done by someone who makes a living offering to draw caricatures at some street-market. Whoever drew it put the date on it. It was exactly the same year I had my caricature drawn in a street market in Paris. But hers was in colour and mine wasn't.

I also took this opportunity to call the Youth Hostel with my mobile phone to tell them I'd be staying another night. I had to tell them so they wouldn't move my things away that I had left in the hostel. At first, they insisted I had to be at the hostel to extend my stay, but I told them I was way out in the Los Angeles outback, so they let me stay another night. If I had checked out of the hostel and taken all my belongings with me, it would have been OK for me to just not reserve myself a place until I had returned, but was afraid all my things would get moved so I had to have told them. I decided before I set off that I should just bring myself along and leave my stuff at the hostel. Of course, I could have saved myself paying for the previous night if I had known Lisa would have let me stay the night, but as I did not want to put myself through asking her if I could stay (we hadn't even met), I booked myself the previous night in the hostel anyway - it makes me more flexible that way. She didn't suggest I stay over at hers until well after it was checkout time on the Saturday, so it would have been too late for me to cancel my stay at the hostel the previous night.

The drinks etcetera was still where it had been left last night, along with my unfinished glass of champagne. Lisa lay on the couch a bit longer but soon got up to let me sit down.

The day was spent doing more of the same - watching cartoons (mostly Nickelodeon) and Comedy Central, being quiet and occasionally making a remark at each other. An advert for a mattress that came with an owner's manual did briefly inspire us to have a silly discussion with me coming up with a possible troubleshooting guide for a mattress. The discussion didn't last long.

Lisa was sitting there occasionally drinking a mixture Vodka and purple soda, and infrequently lighting up a cigarette. At around mid-day, one of her friends called her. One of the first few things Lisa said on the phone was:

"Oh Nothing."

"Grrr!" I thought to myself. Was that what my visit had amounted to?

After listening to Lisa's end of the conversation for a bit, I was able to establish that she was talking to someone in the UK.

Once the phone call had finished, she went back to being quiet and watching the TV again. I didn't say anything either. I think Lisa must have felt like she had forgotten I was there at times. Every so often, one of her cats would come by and she'd talk to it. Sometimes, I ended up thinking that the cats were nearly as much of a distraction as the TV. In fact, I think she may have spent more time talking to her cats than she did talking to me, but to be fair, there were four cats and only one me.

Despite there being some amusing programs on the TV, extreme boredom was beginning to set in. I had had very little to eat and was starting to get hungry too. Lisa never seemed to ask if I'd like something to eat. The occasional crisp (presumably left over from last night) didn't help much. Soon, something prompted me to say I had never seen the first Lord of the Rings movie (I think it was something on the TV). Lisa asked me if I wanted to see it. She could use her digital TV to order the film from the service-provider and play it instantly on her mammoth-TV. I felt too awkward to say we should actually do something or talk, so I just said "yes". Why did I do that? Shouldn't I have jump-started the conversation somehow? Now I was doomed to spend yet more time feeling bored. To make things worse, I chose to watch the un-cut version that was even longer. The whole film was due to last nearly four hours. At this time, I had given up all hope of us going out "people watching", or for that matter, being shown round the area. It felt like ages since she offered over the e-mail to send me some sand from Malibu Beach.

My attention span had suffered from the non-activity of the situation. During the film, my mind would drift away only to return to find I had missed part of the film, but the film didn't captivate my mind so I'd drift off again. While watching the film, we continued as normal - being quiet and me stroking a cat whenever one came along. The cats had long nails and I was wearing a thin t-shirt - not a good combination, so if a cat crawled on me, it hurt a bit. At one stage, Lisa asked me if I felt an earthquake. It was the first time on this trip the awareness of being in an earthquake-area had crossed my mind. I didn't notice it. Had I become too bored and anxious to even notice an earthquake?

After an eternity, the film ended. When it finally did, she asked me if I was about to fall asleep as I looked that way. Despite my inactivity, I was feeling tired. Perhaps sleeping on a carpet isn't all it's cracked up to be. I felt too tongue-tied to bring up the subject of me leaving. Lisa did decide to go onto the Internet to look up the bus-times so we could decide when I was leaving. Somewhere along the line, she all of a sudden said:

"But we didn't do anything!".

"Oh how very observant of her" I thought.

I thought about pointing the finger at her and telling her that because I was on her turf, she should have come up with what we were doing once I got there (after all, she knows what's around and I'm just a traveller from a far off land), and had just decided to let her do her own thing. But instead, I tried to be diplomatic. I said that I was exhausted from all that travelling/cycling and the day-long hangover I had in San Francisco, and I appreciated the chance to just chill out. Finally, the conversation was gaining momentum, but we were watching the Simpsons on Fox, which I found distracting for me so the conversation died out. At least now I didn't feel so awkward. We discussed how to reach each other by various Internet chat services. She only had MSN Messenger installed, and she said she hardly uses it and hadn't used it for a while. I also suggested sending each other postcards, which she thought would be a good idea. We exchanged pieces of notepaper with our postal addresses, phone numbers, and ICQ/MSN contact details. I asked her if she was doing anything else that evening. All she said was that she was doing her laundry.

As it was approaching the time a bus would come along. We decided to head to the bus stop. Lisa drove me there. As we were heading there (by then, it was around 7:30 in the evening and dark), we ended up talking more than at any time. This time, it seemed like the conversation was flowing freely. Without the TV, we got on better, and we both agreed that the TV was too much of a distraction and we should have done something besides watch TV. I even told her that I have the habit of feeling shy and uneasy at first, and it takes some time for that to lift. I did however appreciate slowing down the fast pace of my hectic travels and just chilling out for a day and I told her that. She told me she appreciated me coming over and was glad I had faith that she would respond. We waited for the bus to arrive before we parted company. The conversation was flowing all the way through and I found it a pity I had to leave when the bus came.

From some of the things she said, I got the impression she felt bad about me not having had an exciting time. I told her not to worry about it and said I was glad to have met her and would like to see her again.

I mentioned to Lisa that the following weekend, I might be in LA again on my way to San Diego / Tijuana after having visited Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. Lisa said that if I passed through, she might find the time to fit me in, but had her office party the following Friday. I said that we should get out and about and avoid the TV. Lisa hoped her car would have been fixed so we would be able to go somewhere (hey, LA is huge, unlike the cities of Europe where you can get around by bike/bus). She also said she was coming to the UK in the summer, and she's keen to see me there. I now know it's her e-mail system that's losing the e-mails and I even told her there was a one-year gap that involved me not getting any e-mails from her. She also told me that she was having problems with her kidneys for around five months.

The bus had arrived. As I was about to set of, she suggested I give her a hug and a kiss, which I did, and then got out the car and got on the bus. I left feeling hungry and tired. I had not been fed very well and was starving. It was another hour and a half to the Youth Hostel in Hollywood and I couldn't get any grub until I got off the bus.

It was Comedy night at the Youth Hostel so didn't have time to find anywhere to eat so just got a snack from the snack-machine at the hostel. During the comedy night, I kept getting tired but each time an act ended, I felt compelled to see the next act. I managed to stay till the end (about midnight) and finally headed off to my bed for a well-deserved sleep.

(, Mon 30 Jun 2008, 16:31, closed)
Part 3b (coz it's too long for a single reply)
So to sum up: Oh what an anti-climax...

The meeting went OK, but not spectacularly well. It did sort of feel a bit anti-climatic thanks to us not doing anything apart from watch TV, but I was glad to have finally met Lisa. Overall, we got on but there was one major distraction - the TV. By American standards, the hospitality wasn't too great; but for LA standards, it was reasonable.

It was nice to have chilled out, but I was a bit disappointed in the lack of excitement considering I had travelled from half way round the world. I might even go as far as to say that I think it was our e-mail correspondence that might have sparked off me thinking about the trip which started off as a two week trip round the corners of the USA by plane and over time blossomed into an epic two month trip by train. I did appreciate the chance to recharge my batteries instead of exhausting myself sightseeing and travelling around.

I was very laid back throughout meeting. Had she met me at Union Station, I would have been very excitable and she would have seen a very different side to me. I was disappointed in that I had hoped to have been shown round LA. I did manage to show myself around the week before but felt it should have been a shared experience between the both of us.

I decided to try and fit in another meeting with her to give her another chance and also so she wouldn’t feel so bad about me having travelled all this way and not done much when I got there. This would also give me an excuse to travel further along the Californian coast and see San Diego and possibly Tijuana as well.

Of all the things we talked about whenever we did say things to each other, never once was the conversation about the web site on the Internet where we first met. In fact, the Internet rarely featured in our conversations at all.

Perhaps I should have given her my usual warning by e-mail that I usually give out in such situations - saying that I'm shy and that once we feel more comfortable, we'll find it easier to talk. Considering the e-mail problems we had been experiencing, I decided not to send it off just in case it didn't get through.

I also realised she wasn't worth falling apart over, but thought there was still some good potential. At least now that we'd at last met, keeping in touch should have been easier if she were ever to visit the UK.

To be continued...
(, Mon 30 Jun 2008, 16:33, closed)
Part 4
The meeting when it had finally happened was somewhat of a disappointment/anticlimax. It wasn't just that Lisa turned out different from how she came across as over the e-mail, but also how I must have come across as to her well. Rather than face up to overcoming our awkwardness with each other, we withdrew into the realm of the TV. I had a gut instinct she really was the intriguing person she made out to be, and I had hoped that she might just come alive. To be fair, her car wasn't in too good shape and thanks to LA's low-density population; there was nothing worth doing in the area (that I knew of). However, on the way to the bus stop, the conversation did spark up and I thought it was a pity I had to go.

I came to the conclusion that both of us had been overcome by our shyness. We had agreed that if we could manage it I could try and see her again. I suggested that we go out and do something and not get stuck in front of the TV. I thought that being away from her sanctuary might prevent us from becoming too laid back about getting to know each other. Who knows? This just might have been the breakthrough we needed to kick things off. Even if it was not to search for the spark, it was something not just as a mark of courtesy, but also my indomitable spirit. I thought this was a good occasion to show her this.

The day after the meeting (Monday), I headed off to Las Vegas. On the bus to Las Vegas, I researched the possibility of another meeting with Lisa. After diving into the Amtrak schedules, I discovered an itinerary that would take me to Las Vegas and the surroundings and the Grand Canyon before arriving back in LA on the Saturday morning of the coming weekend. This route was also convenient as returning to LA enabled me to then Visit San Diego and possibly Tijuana (in Mexico) as well, and if I was daring enough, I'd take the plunge and experience a Greyhound bus-journey that would take me from San Diego to Palm Springs where I could see the town and the nearby Joshua Tree National Park before I made the journey back East again on the eve of Christmas Day. If I decided not to risk Greyhound, I could always do a similar journey via LA but not have enough time to stop at Palm Springs. To make things even handier, I discovered that the train to San Diego also stopped at the nearest station to Lisa's place.

In Las Vegas, I mailed her to tell her about the route. It was one of those rare e-mails that got through and generated a response - even if it just said "Call me when you get into town". She had told me earlier that she was going to her office's Christmas party (on the Friday before the weekend) and may need some time to recover. As it got closer to the weekend, I tried phoning her about a day before the office party. Both numbers had no response but the answering machine. My text messages also weren't getting a response.

On Friday during the day, I was at the Grand Canyon where my phone was out of range of a transmitter. By the time I finally got back to the nearest station (within transmitter range), she would have been at the party.

On Saturday morning, I arrived back in LA as planned. I decided to give her some time to recover from her company's Xmas do/party but still, left a message on her answering machine. Not being sure if she'd accommodate me for the night, I decided to postpone booking myself a place in the Hostel. I spent some time in a Cyber cafe in Hollywood to pass the time and catch up on the write-ups of my travels (at that time, I had only written as far as Memphis, TN), plan the rest of the trip, and just generally browse other websites. I looked at how the field of work where I worked was doing. It was a complete mess - the usual cynicism was out and about, only this time, the cynics had much more to be right about than they usually did.

At about one o'clock, I tried to phone again. No response. I also tried again after I had given up cyber cafe-ing at three thirty. This time she answered. She told me she wasn't feeling well, but could perhaps manage the next day. She hadn't even bothered to respond to my answering-machine messages - it had been up to me to call her again. At least I knew I had to stay in the Youth Hostel again. I decided to do a bit of shopping before I got there, but it turned out to be a mistake, as by the time I got to the hostel, it was full. Thankfully, I called another Youth Hostel in the area and they had a place for me, but it meant I had a bus-journey of two busses to take (by LA standards, a two-bus bus-journey is "in the area"). This hostel was located in the Melrose District (in Hollywood).

It was Sunday morning. I left the door of the youth hostel and still had not decided what I was going to do next. I phoned Lisa and got through. She was still not feeling well, but told me I could come over on Christmas (mid-week). I didn't quite catch if she wanted me over on the eve or the day. The phone call had given me enough information to make me decisively take the bus into Downtown LA and get a train to San Diego. Had I known I couldn't visit that weekend, I would have gone straight to San Diego and gained an extra day and a few hours. But still, I got to surf the big '@' and see the Melrose Avenue area, even if it wasn't exactly a highlight. This meant that I was going back via LA and was no longer going to ride a Greyhound to Palm-Springs.

San Diego was a blast. It was one of the highlights of the trip, and I was having a whale of a time. At first, I just concentrated on enjoying, but as it got closer to Xmas, my need to get through to Lisa was increasing. Not only did I want to know if I should be there on the Eve or Day of Xmas, but I wanted to be sure whether or not she still felt like I should come over. During the middle of my stay, the pace of events at the Hostel slowed down and still I couldn't get through. However, after the last meeting, I realised that I should just do what I was doing right now, and not chase after something else, so I decided to stay at the Hostel on Christmas Eve as well (my 3rd night there). After spending the day of Xmas Eve at the San Diego Zoo, I got back to the hostel and called Lisa again. I got through. She had had to go to hospital again. I told her I was still in San Diego and was staying the night there. Despite not having responded to my answering-machine messages, she thought I might be in LA that eve (wasn't quite sure if she was disappointed), but we agreed I could come for a few hours before my train outta here was due. Even if I could have come on that evening, things had been picking up at the Hostel, and was glad I was spending X-mas eve there.

Following an exciting night which I think involved me getting a death-threat from one of the receptionists there, I had a breakfast and got the bus to San Diego station, and from there, the train to Lisa's place. Once there, I called Lisa to pick me up. Even though the train-tracks intercepted the street near her flat close to where I was, explaining how to get to the Station proved harder than it seemed (although in hindsight, I discovered that the tracks were halfway through a north-south wiggle at the point of the station). It was Christmas day, so the station building was closed and I couldn't find anyone who was likely to know additional directions for driving there.

For a fairly long time, I just waited there. I looked around me. The immediate surroundings were mostly flat with a mixture of wasteland and low-density suburbs. In the distance, I could see mountains in at least two directions. Eventually, Lisa finally arrived. She told me she wasn't feeling well, and was still having trouble getting her car repaired, so she just told me we were going to her place. Lisa only had a small car with just two seats and there was nowhere for my rucksack to go. Getting the two of us in the car involved an exercise in different ways to fit my rucksack in the car. The final solution had my rucksack (with it's sleeping-bag detached and placed on my knees) placed between the two of us. For a while, I was even worried if the squashed rucksack would burst through the windshield. Not only would it add a broken windshield to her car-troubles, but then it would really make us feel awkward. It was a big rucksack that blocked any line of sight between the two of us, and acted as a barrier between our communication. Perhaps it was metaphor - a physical manifestation of the mental barrier that was preventing free-flowing communication between us. And so began the awkwardness again.

After a silent car-ride interspersed with the occasional bit of commentary from Lisa about the state of her car, we got to her flat. For the first time, I saw it from the outside in daylight. She also told me a bit more about her not-feeling-well-ness. She said she had suffered a panic attack and had to spend another day in hospital. All I could think of saying to her was that she didn't look very well, and wished her a recovery. I couldn't help wonder if my frenzied attempts to meet up with her and how neither of us came across as being the people we made ourselves out to be the previous time combined with her recent kidney-problems and car-problems helped contribute to this.

When the door to her flat was opened, I noticed that this time, it smelled stuffy with cigarette-smoke thrown in - like I expect it would smell if someone lies on the couch all day. The last time I was there, I did not notice any smells, so I just suspect there was no ventilation. Once inside her flat, Lisa told me once again as she wasn't feeling well, and would have to lie down on the couch, meaning there was no room for me, so I had to lie down on the floor along with the cats. Just before we settled into our inevitable routine of silence, I asked her if she would feel well enough to drop me off at the station. I tried to do it without sounding like I was desperate to leave, but had I missed that train; I would have missed the train to Texas, which would not run again for another two days. She assured me she'd be able to drop me off. Lisa apologised for not being livelier or being able to show me around the area a bit more. I told her it was all right, as I had had quite an exhausting 3 days in San Diego previously. I decided not to zealously force out the best in me but just be relaxed and chill out.

And so, the gargantuan television that had dominated the previous encounter sprang to life. The TV content was the same, except that they were showing Christmas versions of all the programs. And so began the long silence. I felt surprisingly comfy on the floor, which helped me relax, but I still felt a bit too ill at ease to say much.

Soon, I was asked if I wanted to order some Pizza. I was glad that I was not going to starve myself, and agreed to pay for both our pizzas (she told me her hospital visit had drained her pizza-funds). Ordering the pizza did not turn out to be the straightforward experience I would have assumed it to be, and after the phone went down, she muttered that the person at the other end was a jerk. At one point while waiting for the pizza, both of us heard a knocking at the door and she asked me to check the door. Nobody was there. Lisa told me that the medication she was taking for the panic attacks sometimes made her trip out and imagine things, but I assured her that I had heard the knocking too. Soon afterwards, there was a knock on the door and I answered it. This time, it was a real pizza deliveryman with real pizzas. I paid for the pizzas and took them inside. Both of us ordered the same pizza - pepperoni with peppers, but for some reason, the peppers came as a side dish instead of being baked on the pizza. Perhaps this was in some way connected to the not-so-straightforward ordering experience that Lisa had had when ordering.

The afternoon and early evening were mostly spent in silence. Even though the TV was on, the silence between me and Lisa overcame the volume of the TV. Every so often, there was a small sprinkling of discussion-lettes. Sometimes, she'd start one, and sometimes, I'd start one. There was something on the TV that made her tell me that she had trouble sitting on toilet after jogging. I can't remember what made her say that, but I suspect it was an advert. At one point, I was lying flat on my back and one of her cats rested itself on my chest. Lisa asked if this was bothering me. I like cats and I liked having the company of the cat, but because I was just wearing a thin t-shirt, it's claws penetrated the t-shirt and I could feel them dig into my stomach. I found it hard to answer, as I liked the cat's company, but did not like it's claws. The cat then moved off solving my mini-dilemma of answering Lisa's question.

Once again, it was time to leave. By then, it was already pretty dark outside, but there were still some hints of daylight. The rucksack was stuffed between the two of us, and we drove off to the station. Like the previous time, we were more chatty on the way back. I don't know what causes this. Perhaps it's when we're leaving that we realise that we won't be seeing each other for a while, and that gives us some urgency to talk to each other. We talked about where I would be off to next, which was Austin, Texas. Lisa seemed to have an irrational dislike of Texas. I also told her that I was thinking of either visiting Savannah, Georgia or Charleston, South Carolina, but was unsure of which of the two to go to. All the guidebooks gave praise to Savannah, but like all the real-people I had spoken to, Lisa recommended Charleston, so I decided to go there after Florida.

The conversation lasted until well after we arrived at the station. As the train was approaching, like the previous time, she suggested I give her a hug and a kiss which I did. For most of the second meeting, I had been thinking about doing that without her asking, but as the conversation was lingering and about to end, she asked me before I could do it myself. I thanked her for making the effort to see me despite being sick. I had consciously remembered to say that since I got to her place. I told her she was welcome to meet up with me in the UK, and that I would make sure we'd be going out and about, and not stay in front of the TV. She told me she was feeling too sick even to come to the UK in the summer. I wished her a recovery and once again told her how I appreciated us meeting. The train was here so we had to depart.

The Train took me to Union Station in Downtown LA, and after an hour's wait, got on to the Texas Eagle which finally took me well away from the west coast ending a chapter in the trip leaving me feeling ready to take in whatever the epic two-day train-journey to Austin, Texas had to offer.

While a bit disappointed in the lack of spark that occurred between me and Lisa, I was glad to have met her. The aim at this stage was just to 'get on with each other', or click. Both of us either felt too awkward, or too laid back to reach the critical mass required for stimulating and riveting conversation. There was not much hospitality on the part of Lisa, but being sick, suffering from exploding kidneys, panic attacks, and broken cars does not lead to much room for hospitality. I'm just worried if my frantic attempts to over-come her flaky e-mail system and her perceived lack of response from me on the e-mail helped contribute to her panicked state - not to mention that she failed to come across as the person she wanted to be, and that she might have worried that I was thinking I had wasted my time seeing her (I had not). She seemed to be going through a phase of low self-esteem. It was as if there was a cloud hanging over her, which was not part of the personality, but I did get the impression she was going downhill. I just hope I did not contribute to her downhill slide. I hope I've also not scared her with my enthusiasm to meet her or make her think I'm stalking her. I tried to be as non-pushy as possible, and this might have contributed to me being quiet when we met. I might have appeared over-eager, but this was the only chance I'd get to visit that area - it's just a pity I met her during a 'down', but all of us have our 'down's. When we first exchanged e-mails one and a half years previously, she seemed like a fellow merry prankster (or as she put it, an office clown), and felt glad to have met a kindred spirit. I recon she just needs to be placed in an environment where she can be herself.

As for the future, we decided to still keep in touch, but what would happen next would be up to her - The ball was in her court.

The end.
(, Mon 30 Jun 2008, 16:34, closed)
The final meeting in LA was the last I heard of her for the rest of the trip. I received no e-mails, and my text-messages were not answered. On my last night in Washington DC, I tried to call, but just got the answering machine. At least this time, it said her name in her voice, but her voice did not sound very well. I left a message wishing all the best.

When I got back, after a few days, I sent an e-mail, and then some weeks later, a collected bundle of all our correspondence to date (e-mails plus our profiles on the web-site on the Internet where we first met). No response. I also forwarded the write-ups I had written about the rest of my trip - also with no response.

I tried the MSN Messenger address she had given me earlier. At first, there was no response, but then, found out it had been hi-jacked by another individual of the same name.

When I last met Lisa, I had promised to send a post-card. I was hoping to leave it until I finished the web site of my trip to America, but ended up not sending one until several months after I returned. This prompted Lisa to send an e-mail - the first communication I had from her since the trip. She seemed to be recovering and was thinking of a career change. I replied to the e-mail, but her mailbox was full, so I kept trying for about two weeks before I did not get a "mailbox full" warning.

That was the only post-trip e-mail I had had from her at all. I sent a birthday greeting the following birthday. It was one of those fancy e-cards and it would give me an indication to whether or not she had received it. I never did get any confirmation of that.

A few months after that, I sent round an e-mail to everyone on my address-book telling what my new e-mail address was, and it bounced with a message saying that the e-mail address no longer existed. I also sent another postcard but it was returned to my address.

As for the two-month trip to North America itself, it was truly awesome and still ranks as the best trip I ever made - truly an adventure! Incidentally, I think LA was the only place on the trip where I felt home sick.

The episode in question may have been a disappointment, but I will say this: Do give Internet dating a try. If you've had a bad experience, don't be put off. Be persistent (that is, be persistent in searching profiles, not in stalking someone).

I do apologise profusely for length.
(, Mon 30 Jun 2008, 16:35, closed)
That gets a click just for sheer length of the story.
Haven't read it all yet- I'm at work, after all- but it looks to be quite epic.

Hooray! Now I have some lunchtime reading!
(, Mon 30 Jun 2008, 16:49, closed)
I shall browse this at my leisure this evening, good Sir.
(, Mon 30 Jun 2008, 16:51, closed)
Top stuff, sir.
(, Mon 30 Jun 2008, 17:06, closed)
Good grief that's long!
Well done for keeping such a detailed diary of your trip.

I'd loved to have read more about Lisa - what she looked like, her personality, her age....

Epic stuff!
(, Mon 30 Jun 2008, 19:16, closed)
That is the longest story anyone has ever written about practically nothing happening.

Still *clicks* for the mammoth effort.
(, Mon 30 Jun 2008, 19:44, closed)
Bloody hell chap.
I may have to print this out and read it in bed one night.
(, Mon 30 Jun 2008, 20:02, closed)
The rest of the trip
This story is just a subplot of the North-America trip. If anyone's interested, I can Gaz them a not-so-detailed write-up of the rest of the two-month trip (minus the last two weeks).

I wrote this from memory in the weeks after the trip (although I didn't write the last bit until much later).

I deleted a few bits of the original to remove any hints that could identify either of us in the real world.

She was precisely 3 years older than me (she was 32 at the time we met), she had long blonde hair, and both of us failed to come across as the people we were in our profiles (both of us described ourselves as cartoon-characters or merry pranksters). Perhaps it was just shyness and too many distractions. Perhaps we might have even had something in common in that respect. My first Internet Dating experience was more positive - both of us turned out in real life to be exactly the same people we were online.

But I did - twice.
(, Mon 30 Jun 2008, 21:18, closed)
And this is why
we say no to tv.

*clicks for length, bredth and everything else*
(, Mon 30 Jun 2008, 21:39, closed)
an apology (not for length)
mistaspakkman, oops sorry so you did.
(, Mon 30 Jun 2008, 21:43, closed)
This is going to take me a good evening to read.
(, Mon 30 Jun 2008, 23:48, closed)
Oooh sorry, managed about 1/2
this before the ADD kicked in and . . . skip to the punchline

Just wanted to say, I think I stayed at the same hostel as you in Hollywood (not the same time, unless this is May 03), if it was the same, I found it really sociable but didn't notice any longtermers, was there about 4-5 days.

Not the best, not the worst.
(, Tue 1 Jul 2008, 2:22, closed)
I will never get that 20 minutes back
surely when you write a story there is a punchline ? or failing that a point ?

Merry Prankster my arse.
(, Tue 1 Jul 2008, 5:09, closed)
A great story
One I can relate to as well - I've dabbled in internet dating in the past, some results were good, others not so good (that'd be the weird Scottish woman...)

Have a *click*
(, Tue 1 Jul 2008, 9:55, closed)
I feel almost as much a sucker for punishment as you for reading all that...

To summarise:

You met someone on the internet
You went to the US for months trying to meet them.
They repeatedly bullshitted you.
You finally met but realised she was fat and had zero personality.
You silently watched TV on the floor while a cat scratched you.
You paid for pizza.
Internet dating is great.
(, Tue 1 Jul 2008, 10:07, closed)
Some daft cunts
don't realise that sometimes, the point of the story is the telling of it. Go back to your brainless movies and NUTS magazine.

Mr S, very nicely written. I took it with me on the bus, on the tube and even to bed.
(, Tue 1 Jul 2008, 11:32, closed)
just for helping pass the time in a nice way...
...that's earned a click! Although for the longest time I was wondering if there'd be a shit pun right at the end! I don't think I could've survived the disappointment if there had been.
(, Tue 1 Jul 2008, 14:03, closed)
Was this hostel the Hollywood branch of "USA Hostels"? You would have stayed there just a few months after my visit.

surely when you write a story there is a punchline ? or failing that a point ?

But the point was disappointment (anti-climax). That's what this week’s QOTW is all about.

"(that'd be the weird Scottish woman...)"

My favourite Internet Dating experience so far was with a weird Scottish woman.

"You went to the US for months trying to meet them."

The meeting was just a sub-plot. The trip was me doing a massive train-based tour of the USA. I like travelling and going on adventures. I enjoyed most of the trip and got to visit many cities and landmarks all over the USA (and in Canada too) and had some truly fantastic experiences. I also met up with other friends too (In fact, the New York part of this story happened on the same trip).

"They repeatedly bullshitted you."

I'd say it was more lack of effort than bullshit. I admit she could have made more of an effort. I just picked a very bad time for visiting.

"You finally met but realised she was fat and had zero personality."

I have absolutely nothing against 'fuller figured' women. I will admit that she was fatter than her profile picture, but to be fair, I got the picture 1½ years before we met, and quite frankly had zero disappointment when I saw her for the first time. As for the 'zero personality' bit - I'd just say that shyness and awkwardness must have gotten in the way.

"Internet dating is great."

I've met several women this way. Some were fantastic, and some were - how shall we say - not fantastic. The best ones more than made up for the rest, and the others were a learning experience for me. I just think it's a pity when someone has just one bad experience and gives up. It's been many years since I last had a profile up, but I still have MSN-chats with one of them and also had a brief e-mail exchange with another last year. One important factor in getting to know people is that as well as knowing them at their best; you should also know them at their worst too.
(, Wed 2 Jul 2008, 10:43, closed)

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