L.A. — First (second) impressions

Filed in L.A. (Sept 2006), Travel

Six days. That's how long I've been here in L.A. It feels like forever. I can hardly remember getting off the plane at LAX and catching the buses to my motel. Did I say buses? Yep. Three to be exact, but I managed to get to the motel for only US$5.50 instead of US$50 or more if I'd caught a taxi. I'm a student here, and I therefore need to keep my expenses as low as I can although I still occasionally spend a little more for better food.

L.A. is not an attractive city to me personally. I much prefer Hong Kong, or Brisbane (Australia), or the beautiful Blue Mountains (Australia). My home in Hong Kong is surrounded by bush and country. My home in Australia is also surrounded by bush and I grew up in the country so it's only natural that I prefer country to the city. For me, the city is an impersonal place where many people live superficial lives, where what you wear and what you drive (and how large your -silicon- breasts are while the rest of your body remains as skinny as possible) identifies who you are rather than the real person within you, and where people compete nonstop to better each other in financial and status terms. It's not a good way to live.

L.A. is also a city where many of its inhabitants have come here hoping to be tomorrow's superstar, the next big TV celebrity, America's next millionaire. The sad fact is that most people fail and resign themselves to 'ordinary' lives here with 'ordinary' jobs, assuming that they can even find good work at all. What a lot of people don't realise is that more than 5000 people come into L.A. every week hoping to be the next big thing. That's a lot of people. Unfortunately, to get any decent chance of succeeding in the entertainment business, it is essential that you have an agent. However, most of the agents are very full; i.e., no vacancies; and unless you're incredibly special, or very sexy, or can get wonderful inside references, there's very little chance of getting an agent. It's therefore near-on impossible to get anywhere in the business here. Does that mean that people shouldn't try? If I didn't say No, I'd be a hypocrite. How could I, someone who flew on a one-way ticket from Australia to Hong Kong with the dream of becoming a Cantonese pop singer, tell others not to try when success is so remote? How could I, someone who has not given up after 19 years in Hong Kong tell others not to try? I couldn't. The truth however is that it's very difficult to succeed in this business and if you're not ready for hardship, then you shouldn't try.

There are many things I don't like about L.A., but here are some of the things I do like about it.

The public transport system is actually pretty good. Armed with a portable computer and omnipotent access to the internet (in my case via T-Mobile at the Starbucks cafes), you can practically get to any place in the city. Simply log in to www.mta.net, specify your from and to locations and voila, MTA tells you how to get there, and all for a maximum of US$3 per day if you buy a Day Pass.

For me, the blue skies are very special. The horizons are usually brown with pollution but the middle sky is almost always blue and clear of clouds. After living in Hong Kong where the sky is more often than not white or yellow-brown, blue skies are a real treat.

The trees here are magnificent. They're old, huge, wise and majestic. They're wonderful to admire and respect. (The Mexican gardeners here do incredible work with the flora. Their tree trimming skills are truly admirable.)

Wildlife is far more limited in this city but I've already been enchanted by the squirrels and the humming birds. I already have a few (good) squirrel photos. I hope to get photos of the humming birds but just like the Sunbirds back home in Hong Kong, they're small, very quick and rarely stay in one place for more than one or two seconds. They're also not as common as I'd like so it may prove very difficult to get good photographs of them. But the way they fly and hover is hypnotising; absolutely amazing.

I'd like to post one or two of my squirrel photos but my 'clamshell' iBook (mine is Lime running OS X 10.4.7 on a 466MHz G3 processor with 320MB of RAM) is far too slow to process my photographs so you'll all have to wait until I get back to Hong Kong to see them. I'd like to get a new MacBook Pro but I'm waiting until Apple upgrades them to use the new Intel Core 2 Duo chips that they're now using in their iMacs. It'd be a shame to buy a MacBook Pro now only to see Apple release new MacBook Pros in two or three weeks for the same price but 15 to 20% faster.

I'd like to upgrade my Canon EOS 350D camera too. The new 400D is a very nice camera but it unfortunately doesn't offer everything I need. I'm particularly in need of a brighter and larger viewfinder. Much of my bird and animal photography requires manual focussing and the small dark viewfinders of the 350D/400D make it very difficult to focus accurately. Happily, the introduction of the 400D means that Canon will upgrade the 5D soon and when that happens, I'll upgrade. With any luck, the 5D will be upgraded around the beginning of 2007.

More later.

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11 Responses to “L.A. — First (second) impressions”
  1. Anthony says:

    Hi Ho Kwok Wing.

    Please let us know if you manage to make it to a China Town. I would be interested in knowing how the food quality and people differ to Hong Kong. Do Chinese people recognize you in LA?

    Thanks. Anthony.

  2. Janice says:

    it's interesting when you said that LA's public transport is good, because in my transport planning lectures, all my lecturer told me is how LA is being dominated by highways highways highways and cars, cars, cars. it's good to know something from a normal person perspective! however, bad to know the public transport is so cheap over there! i have to paid more than 6 bucks to travel full day just in zone 1 here in melbourne!

    it's also interesting that you find country a more attractive place, because right now i am working on an assignment about new urbanism. it's mainly about how american planners are trying to make the city more attractive and make the suburbs more self-sufficient so that people will be more attached to their community and hence reduce their travel needs. but yours my friend's comment (who just recently went to LA downtown by themselves, which the comment is 'a filthy crazy place' by the way) , it seems LA planners had to work a lot harder!

    and looking forward to the squirrel pictures! although i am pretty satisfied with all the real possums i can see in the park! (it is really fun watching them curl themselves on top of a tree, isn't it?)

  3. Wally says:

    Hi Greg,

    How are your singing lessons going? Hope it was what you have expected it to be, and I hope you enjoy your stay in L.A.
    I am located in the L.A. area, if you need help with anything, need directions anywhere, nature photo shoot locations, or even recommendations on good places to eat, feel free to contact me. I will be more than happy to help and show you around.

    Looking forward to read more about your experiences in L.A.!

  4. Wunyu says:

    Hi Greg,

    I'm not sure if you're a fan of musuems, but I find the Getty Musuem to be a wonderful experience. Situated on top of a hill near UCLA, they provide a free tram ride to the musuem. Admission is also free. Besides the musuem, once you're up there, you'll get to see most of LA with a bird's eye view.

    http://www.getty.edu/visit/

  5. Gnap says:

    Hey Greg,
    It's refreshing to know that besides being an artist - you're also such a wholesome person, who's also into computers and photography.

    So, when's your singing lesson starting? :)

  6. Pegasus@Taichung says:

    Dear 河生:

    (sorry上次選錯字了 :-P)

    I am also looking forward to the squirrel pictures. ^^

    Please also post some of YOUR recent photos here. Thank you!

  7. Ada says:

    Hi Greg,

    I'm pleasantly surprised to find your blog online (one that an actor actually updates regularly) and to find out that you're a strong advocate of The Mac. I actually started searching for your information online when I heard you singing "Carry On Till Tomorrow" in Healing Hands III, I think this is the first time I hear so much English out of you! You have a pretty good singing voice and I was wondering if you might have any albums out. I'm actually a Jamaican born Chinese, currently living in the US. And ever since I was a nappy wearing kid, I've always been a great fan of the Hong Kong entertainment, culture and lifestyle. And even though I don't know how to read or write the language (only speak), a part of me always wanted to live in Hong Kong. So I applaud you for your bravery in making the moving to HK. If you don't mind me asking, when and how did you learn Cantonese and what made you decide to move to HK 19 years ago?

    Ada

  8. dave says:

    Greg, it looks like the Core2Duo Macbooks will be out before too long:

    http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=240594

  9. pamelasue. <3 says:

    greg. :)

    you were quite amazing today,
    you did a such a great job to end your last week with such a powerful voice.
    i hope you enjoyed your stay here
    and bring some memories back with you.
    btw i'm really encouraging you to write more,
    you have some very interesting thoughts here,
    maybe pursue a career in writing on the side?
    seriously,
    i'm impressed with how you write.
    i barely started writing because nowadays i have so much to say that i can't really express to my friends & family.
    in final thought,
    hope you come back and join class once again in the near future.

    >peace

  10. sam says:

    I read your comment about manual focusing with your 300D. Not sure if you're awareof aftermarket focusing screens that are available. Of course, replacing the focusing screen can be a dangerous and difficult task. If you need the focus manually, a focusing screen with split circle should help. Some of these aftermarket screen actually makes your viewfinder brighter too.

    http://www.katzeyeoptics.com/cat--Canon-DSLRs--cat_canon.html
    http://www.camerahacker.com/Tools/Installing_Haoda_Screen.shtml

    sam

  11. Rennie says:

    I am reading this post about 5 months after you wrote it and wow! I lived here for 23 years and I've taken the bus twice. I think the transportation system is crap compare to Hong Kong or any other major city. I do agree with you on the tree trimmings though. You know the city of LA would shut down if all of the Mexicans decide to disappear one day. There 's a movie about it called "A Day Without A Mexican." Did you have Mexican food? It's fabulous. I hope you didn't go to Chinatown for Chinese food. It's horrible. The standards have gone down since I was a little kid.

    I just wanted you to know that it's really admirable of you to just pack up and move to Hong Kong. I wish I can do the same, but there is just too much stuff here that is holding me back.