As an irregular traveller to the US – we were doing this trip after 23 years (in Behram’s case) and 14 years (in mine) – I fail to understand how frequent visitors enjoy the long hours of flight to this vast continent spread across 5 time zones.
We have flown so many times to Europe and never really felt any jet lag. But coming here, the 10 ½ hours’ time difference with our systems. We gained a day, not that it made any but the worst difference. Our body clocks went absolutely haywire and for the first 10 days we were unable to sleep for more than 2 to 3 hours the whole night. We would be so full of sleep, so tired, but would drop off only around 11 pm, only to wake up at about 2 or 3 o’clock and be quite unable to get back to sleep after that. I mean, you have lost more than an entire week of having a good time. It hurts even now the think of that first Tuesday, 3 days after our arrival, when we were invited to a barbecue, and instead crashed out at 4 in the evening and came to only at midnight, and then, we couldn’t go back to sleep.
At first we thought this strange insomnia may have something to do with our advanced years, but then our friend’s daughter, who had also returned from Hyd around the same time as we did, and is at least 20 years younger to me, besides having lived in the US since she married 27 years ago, had herself taken more than a week to revert to normal.
My husband’s two siblings were our hosts in Los Angeles which was our base. They drove us around most of the city of LA, itself a megapolis with a 100 cities within the county of Los Angeles. We drove through Hollywood and Beverley Hills and past the mansions of Bel Air; we photographed ourselves on Sunset Blvd, traced the hand and footprints of famous film personalities outside Grauman’s theatre. We drove along the scenic Pacific Coast Highway, past Malibu, looked up at Jean Paul Getty’s mansion atop a hill, coasted through the pretty towns of Santa Barbara and Solvang, the latter a Dutch prototype village complete with windmill and a European look about the streets. There were lots more to cover in LA which we put off for later.
We spent our first weekend with friends of my brother-in-law in their beautiful lakefront desert home on the fringes of the Mojave desert. The lake was man-made but filled with water from an underground river, the Mojave, which once upon a time flowed overground. To reach this place we took the historic Route 66, which was used in the early 20th century to escape the Dust Bowl of Central America during the Great Depression to the land of promise that was California. Today the road is unimpressive and resembles any of our run-of-the-mill state highways, complete with potholes, and runs for a major part beside railway tracks on which rolled goods trains pulled by 2-3 engines and more than a 100 wagons.
The weekend was a lovely way to begin our vacation especially because Chuck and Mary Alice were wonderful hosts who cosseted us, fed us delicious meals and regaled us with stimulating conversations and easy banter.
Some real shopping was done, and a lot of window shopping, skimming by clothing and other goodies. Not that most of what we saw couldn’t be bought back home, but one tends to balk at the Dollar equivalent that has to be shelled out. Of course, there are designs that one would not find here and that was the USP I kept looking for. Behram found some very good quality and reasonably priced shirts but left them reluctantly because they were made in Pakistan and he wasn’t going to help their ISI fund terrorists with his money.
Our desert sojourn, before that our exploration of the city of LA and its outlying inner cities, while at the same time trying to recover from the awfullest jet lag ever, accounted for the first 10 days of our 45 days’ holiday in the US.
The next 10 days took us to the other side of the country: New York, Delaware and Atlanta in the south-east. New York is an experience in itself, not to be missed for its multiple ethnicities, its vibrancy, its public transport (which is practically non-existent in most parts of the country including and especially LA), and the fact that this city never sleeps.
New York offered us what we had come to see and more, except that we could not cover a show on Broadway and the Niagara Falls. But the Museum of Natural History was a marvel. Then there was Ground Zero and its environs, including the 200 year old church in close proximity to the destroyed twin towers which had remained intact, the ferry crossing to and from Staten Island, Times Square in all its neon colours, lights and vibrancy, Central Park equally vibrant in the glorious colours of fall – from yellow to orange to russet and bronze, to deep reds and maroons. Committed foodies that we are, we savoured the New York hot dog the city is famous for, missed eating at the Wok and Roll but enjoyed an awesome Chinese dinner in China Town, and a sumptuous Brazilian feast with succulent meats of every kind brought on skewers to your table and slices carved out before you just as you would wish. One of these wonderful evenings ended with stein upon stein of beer served in McSorley’s Ale House, estb 1854, loud and noisy as only an Irish pub can be, its walls decorated with historic memorabilia and plastered with newspapers reporting important events of days gone by, including the sinking of the Titanic.
But best of all was the way we were looked after by our hosts, the son of a very close childhood friend of my husband and his lovely Brazilian wife. They were planning to relocate to San Francisco by the end of the month and Jaivanth had quit his job, but the time which he should have spent in packing and winding up he used up taking us around despite our insistence that we could manage on our own .And because of him and his wife and his brother we got to see things and places that we would not have known about, the old Ale House for example.
During the week we also undertook a 2 hour bus ride to Delaware to attend the 13th day ceremony of an old relative who had passed away in her daughter’s home. From NY we flew to Atlanta to attend a African-American wedding. The bride, Yyanisha, was marrying the father of her 4 year old son. She was beautiful and tall at 6’1”. Her husband Anthony was 6’8” and her son Brock at 4 years was already 4’ tall! The 3 bridesmaids matched the bride in height, all of them having been models earlier. Behram was completely bowled over by Nisha’s beauty but was cautious enough to realise that thirteen feet of father (6’) and husband could pulverize him into nothing.
The next leg of our holiday was to explore as much of California as we could. Meanwhile Behram has begun to sound very smug and annoying saying that he had taken me to a funeral and a wedding in the US, what more could anyone want.