Almost the first thing I did when I arrived in Los Angeles was to leave it again.
I’d been lucky enough to be invited to spend Christmas in California with my friend Andy and his family, who live in a gorgeous home in the leafy suburb of San Marino. The day after I arrived, Andy had an appointment with some outlet malls near Palm Springs, so I went along for the ride.
After an evening spent hitting half the mall’s most exclusive clothing stores, we ate the world’s best pork tacos, then drank Sazeracs at the hotel bar while staring at a weird stuffed bear with a stuffed toy wolf perched inexplicably on its head.
Next morning, Andy took pity on my slightly shopped-out state and announced that before we hit the other half of the clothing stores, we’d go and have a quick bite of breakfast with a couple of childhood friends of his. Since we were on a tight schedule, I was worried that it would be rude to spend only half an hour with them. As it turned out, they didn’t mind at all.
Normally it might also be considered rude to take photos of yourself running away from your friends screaming, but it seemed like perfectly normal behaviour at the time.
Admittedly it was behaviour more fitting for young children than grown adults, but we were both spiking on sugar highs brought on by our American diner breakfast.
The diner was the one featured in the classic 80s movie Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, which I have never seen, so the true significance of the unchanged decor, the still-standing telephone booth (from which Pee Wee Herman makes a phone call) and the dinosaurs themselves was perhaps a little lost on me.
I did, however, fully appreciate the wonderful weirdness of it all, and couldn’t resist buying a dinosaur postcard from the souvenir shop. I only just avoided falling for a couple of other brilliant souvenir bargains, which I rather regret now.
After breakfast, I had a go at pumping gas (or, as we South Africans like to say, petrol) for the very first time. It turned out to be pretty easy.
As a parting touch, a couple of tanks pulled in on trucks just as we were leaving. What exactly tanks, diners and dinosaurs have to do with one another, I’m not entirely sure, but you have to admire a place that manages to fit so much into one breakfast.