It seems worthwhile to add a brief note about Couchsurfing before I eventually bore you with some stories of my recent traveling/migration. This site I have spent many an hour on in a combination of frustration and desperation, for I frequently didn’t get responses to my desperate requests, and frequently had to dig through some of the most pretentious trash I’ve ever read to try and find ‘normal’ people to share with (the worst thing I read by far? Don’t count every breath but count every breath that leaves you breathless. True garbage of the highest order, in my eyes.)
As a young 22 year old trying to save a buck here and there, I first experienced Couchsurfing in an outer suburb of Paris. Eventually, when I am ready to relive the memories of that trip, I will explain the awkward debacle that occurred in Paris in all it’s cringe-worthy detail.
Couchsurfing can indeed be fun though, and more importantly work. My accommodation for the whole time in LA was an apartment just 5 minutes from central Hollywood. The idea of staying in a hostel with bright green plastic straight from IKEA didn’t appeal to me right away. This place had little plastic in sight, instead…it had a lot of porn. Yes, the place I was staying was advertised as a porn palace, but something the tenant did not involve himself in. The owner was a reviewer of pornography and was even a featured writer on the subject. Yes, true story – amazingly. My host was very accommodating providing wine once I had whisked myself from the airport to the apartment. Once I finally get round to a computer with a slot for my picture card, I can show you the organised clutter which dominated the walls. Everywhere had a lot of kitsch photos from the 70s, 80s and 90s, you can desire what you make of it from the one image I sneakily took of the household.
Only on our final night was there a hint of faux-drama. I was at a bar with my host going slowly on the sauce, whilst my host was going crazy for cocktails. We had previously suggested seeing a film, which I admitted I wasn’t overly keen on because of my short concentration span. We then got into a debate about what makes a movie, especially from a literary adaptation. American people get impassioned quickly, I discovered this right away. Perhaps it’s because I find debating/arguing – call it what you will – therapeutic. My host obviously didn’t stating that he didn’t mean to be arrogant but he had sublime taste in movies and music, having been consulted by a range of artists and studios for his input, and if they had listened, would have been hugely successful in their chosen fields. After all he stated assertively that we should end the conversation because I was frankly wrong. I was outraged, stopping me before there was a natural end. From there, to make the night a bit more lucid, I suggested the Itbox machine equivalent, well I discovered another American trademark: competitiveness. I think English people prefer to lose and be liked than to win and be unpopular, I certainly follow that rule. Amazingly though I won every game. My host was not happy in the slightest. Still, he could effectively blame it on the alcohol, and I was still a huge fan for his never-ending stories based on celebrity culture (the star that snorted cocaine off the bonnet of a car, the director neighbour), I even didn’t mind when he affectionately called me a dork (which turned out not to the last time I was called this in America).
Finally, I discovered through a Couchsurfer another American quality: health and fitness. Meeting up with a college student in Rialto Beach, I was stunned to discover American phones charge you to receive calls and texts, which made meeting up with more than one person frankly impossible on such a ridiculous tariff plan. Leaving the awfully grim Venice Beach, this Couchsurfer took me to an Irish restaurant where American football was being watched by some avid, vocal fans. To team with the theme, I decided to get the most bitter Martini in the history of my drinking life. Derrik throughout the meal gave me plenty of food for thought, quite literally. His knowledge of weight-loss was almost never ending. His meal, 600 calories, his weight, 45 pounds over the recommended, my weight, guessed accurately within ten seconds. The temptation to make plenty of weight-related puns were staggering…but I resisted, wisely no doubt. Once Derrik finished his own verbal version of his diet plan, we discussed American health plans, tourists dying in Death Valley and Couchsurfing tiffs. Pretty worthy entertainment overall actually…
Venturing in Freaky Francisco on that first day, I was stunned by the unbelievably cold temperatures. My host I was meeting in the evening, so I spent another day knowing my dreaded suitcase would be with me for company in the evening. The rain come fast that evening in San Fran and, due to my lack of internet and failure to take a mobile number to meet CS host #2, I experienced a ‘what am I doing with my life # 367 moment.’ I ended up in the most abysmal Oriental restaurant catering only to locals whilst I tried to get a grip and find accommodation toot sweet. Due to being in the furthest reach of the city, I knew another commute was necessary in. Feeling weak I got a chicken pesto dish which even I could have microwaved better. The garlic bread alone only just avoided the trades description act by having a hint of cheese and oil. But let’s get back to the point. My 15kg suitcase in tow and my act back on track, I decided to check in to the (overpriced) Tenderloin area. Famous for crackheads only. In fact, one woman said to me just before I asked her for directions, “do NOT go to the tenderloin area.” Indeed it was like a Dickens montage – beggars materialised through the alleys like flies to garbage. And the suitcase was weighing me down whilst I trudged through the rain. The temptation to gift my yellow 80s GMTV jacket was very tempting, in fact it would no doubt have added a spark to the people whose clothing smelt rancid from days of potential bodily discharge. Anyway, the next day I met host #2. Older again, politically keen on the Occupy movement (not my thing), and keen to talk cannabis and cats, I discovered he had hosted 352 out of 365 nights in one year alone, a personal record for Couchsurfing, surely?! By this point though, I felt that I needed to mix up the SF experience. I had yet to meet and judge the hipsters hanging all over the Bay. Plus I was kind of shocked by the fact this guy was using his cat to fuel his dreams of being a YouTube sensation (the cat was being tossed like an aeroplane propeller, which, amazing people watch on Youtube).
Moving away from the far end of SF to Chinatown (a tricky, exhausting journey with the suitcase once again back with me), I stayed with another elder CSer. His room in Chinatown was ridiculously small, which made hosting two people rather impressive. Ted actually took me to some of the sights in SF, so he did well as a host! By this point though, as I was soon to be heading out of America for New Zealand, I finally checked in to a hostel-come-hotel. The Couchsurfing journey had run its course. For New Zealand, I accepted the plastic tabletop surfaces, bunk beds and no longer being a guess to people’s homes. Now I’ve told you about the Couchsurfing times, I can move on to talking about the places I saw…