MaxBarry.com
not as edgy as you'd think

Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Thu 06
Dec
2007

City of Vociferous Angels

Max I knew I was in Los Angeles when I saw the crazy guy on the sidewalk corner, screaming abuse at a security guard. I mean, the 14-hour flight was a tip-off. You don’t go through that and not notice. And US Customs was as cheery and welcoming as always. (“Your daughter… we want her fingerprints.”) But nothing says LA like a 50-year-old guy with thinning hair shrieking, “I hope you feel good about yourself! I hope you feel like you’ve really achieved something here!”

See, he wasn’t actually crazy. In most other parts of the world, somebody completely losing it in public means they have a serious mental illness. But I think this guy was just annoyed. He even looked a bit like Larry David. Yes, I was in LA.

People here are very friendly. Of course, I’m comparing it to the only other American city in which I’ve spent serious time, New York, so I would probably be impressed by anything other than open hostility. And I am in Santa Monica, which is one of the nicer parts of LA. But there is a good feeling. On the road, people give me plenty of room. Maybe this is because I’m not used to driving on the right side and tend to veer over to the left when not concentrating. But I like to think it’s politeness.

I’m here with Jen and Fin because we’re going to England, and it’s on the way. When you’re traveling from Melbourne to London, anywhere is on the way. It’s one of the properties of flying halfway around the world. We’re spending most of the next two months with Jen’s family in Bedford, the mucous membranes of England, and there are some movie things happening (in a possibly-kinda-let’s-see way), so here I am.

The first thing I did upon arrival was pick up a throat infection. Actually, I might have done that on the plane. Either way, it’s been a snotty few days. Now for the big question: Disneyland or Sea World?

P.S. US Customs doesn’t actually fingerprint children upon entry. I just said that because it feels like they might. I asked the Customs guy how old you had to be before they started fingerprinting you, and he said 13. So there you go: the United States is woefully unprepared for attacks from 12-year-olds. I hope you can sleep at night.

Comments

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Machine Man subscriber Devin (#100)

Location: Los Angeles, CA
Quote: ""Toast sweat! It's the scourge of our time!""
Posted: 2450 days ago

Disneyland. Hands down. Seaworld will be a colossal disappointment for all involved. Between the horrendous drive and the general lack of excitement, you'll be happy to head to Anaheim instead. And you're in luck - rain is in the forecast through Sunday, and Disneyland is generally a ghost town when it rains, which is the best time to go. Try to go tomorrow: rain + weekday = park to yourself.

I drive through Santa Monica every day, so If you see a guy in a light green Prius - wave! It's either me or one of the other 27,649 LA area green Prius drivers.

Machine Man subscriber Adam (#24)

Location: Morristown, Indiana
Quote: "Why do I blog? Simple, because Max Barry blogs."
Posted: 2450 days ago

After reading "Springtide", all children frighten me.

 adam

Machine Man subscriber Danni Brennand (#357)

Location: England
Quote: "Eagerly awaiting the European Tour."
Posted: 2450 days ago

You're coming to England again? I am now in the possession of a Disabled Railcard, so travelling to Bedford/London/anywhere is now possible. I wanna get my book signed ;)

lyssabits (#1444)

Location: San Francisco, CA
Quote: ""Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.""
Posted: 2450 days ago

I'd say Seaworld, because it's *excellent* but it's two hours from LA, so quite a drive for a daytrip. Also San Diego is prolly a mess what with the wildfires there recently. Still, I took an out of town guest when I was an adult and had just as good a time as I did when I was a kid. I'm not sure you ever get tired of seeing animals do tricks. Could go to Disneyland, and then the LA zoo to get your quota of cute animals. I hear tell of a new gorilla exhibit.

Narain (#824)

Location: Los Angeles, right between civilization and a desert
Quote: "NI!"
Posted: 2450 days ago

Disney. Sea World is fun, but there isn't nearly as much to do, and it doesn't have the same feeling of corporation making children's wishes come true with the slave labor of magical dwarves that Disney does.

Also, Mickey could totally kick Shamu's ass.

Now if it were a decision between the San Diego Zoo and Disney, it might be a bit different.

thewylddream (#1191)

Location: Montana USA
Quote: ""Always forgive your enemies -- Nothing annoys them so much." ~Oscar Wilde~"
Posted: 2450 days ago

Awww! I was really hoping that they did fingerprint her! I thought, “How terribly thorough of them. So now she could be a little safer in the USA. You know, if she gets snatched from her hotel room and…* Forced to rob a bank the cops can track her down by her fingerprints on the money or some such thing.”


*ridiculous closing added to prevent giving Mommy and Daddy nightmares.

Michael Ricksand (#2212)

Location: Terra
Quote: "You do not have a right to be stupid."
Posted: 2450 days ago

Those 12-year-olds are evil! Whenever I'm at the library or the bus, and I see a bunch of Ze Childrenz, I exclaim "Munchkins!" and get away.

Eric Mugendi (#2567)

Location: Nairobi, Kenya
Quote: "“How can you expect a man who's warm to understand one who's cold?” Alexander Solzhenitsyn"
Posted: 2450 days ago

Hope your trip is eventful. Good eventful.

Machine Man subscriber Marleen (#2741)

Location: Berlin, Germany
Quote: "I want more expensive shoes in one place than I've ever seen in my whole life."
Posted: 2450 days ago

Disneyland.

Disneyland.

Disneyland.

Lauri Shaw (#3325)

Location: London, England
Posted: 2450 days ago

At two, she'll probably prefer Disneyland.

I hope you'll be doing some readings this time when you get to England?

Machine Man subscriber Kyle (#3321)

Location: Burnie, Tasmania
Posted: 2450 days ago

So there you go: the United States is woefully unprepared for attacks from 12-year-olds. I hope you can sleep at night.

lol! Go paranoia.

Disneyland go. And woah I have a good friend in Bedford. I have nfi how big it is though.. but it would be rather random if it was the same family. Guess I'll know soon enough. lol.

Linnea1928 (#2654)

Location: Rosemount, MN
Posted: 2450 days ago

Yeah, you should do the Disneyland thing. Seaworld is totally lame. I'm sure in comparison to New York, LA is a breath of fresh air, but you should come to the Midwest. (hint hint for your next book tour).

Machine Man subscriber bex (#3131)

Location: omaha, ne
Quote: "ah, the fantastic wonderment of the atom. "
Posted: 2450 days ago

neither. don't do it, max.

Tim (#3178)

Posted: 2450 days ago

I have to concur with the Disneyland crowd. Unless your ticket provides access to both parks, however, I'd skip Disney's California Adventure. Generally underwhelming. Anyway, a two-year-old is only going to have so much endurance, so the good ol' Magic Kingdom is plenty.

LA can be kind of a drag for a visitor--it feels like everything is so far from everything else and that you spend hours not seeing very much. A visit to Disney will make you feel like you accomplished something for the whole family (although whether or not it was good for Mom and Dad depends entirely on your point of view.)

I notice Universal Studios wasn't even brought up as a choice. On one hand, this saddens me, because I've actually done work for them. On the other hand, uh, yeah, your daughter will like Disney much more.

Speaking of driving, I've lived in both LA and New Jersey, two equally wacky contrasts when it comes to driving. In Jersey, drivers would just as soon rundown a pedestrian. Hey, why not? You're the carless jackass who got in their way. In California, drivers are almost dangerously deferential to pedestrians. "Holy crap! That guy looks like he's considering approaching that crosswalk! I'd better slam on my brakes!" My theory is Los Angeles drivers feel deeply sympathetic to anyone not driving a car.

Tim

Machine Man subscriber Bushra (#36)

Location: Fremont, California
Quote: "www.caffeinatedmuslim.com"
Posted: 2450 days ago

Disneyland has the scariest ride known to man - the "It's a Small World" ride. The song never ends!!!

Machine Man subscriber Max

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "I'm my number one fan!"
Posted: 2450 days ago

Thanks everyone for the advice. I'm leaning toward Sea World because Fin loves animals, especially fish, while being intimidated by large costumed cartoon characters. Being surrounded by gigantic Mickeys and Goofys and fairy princesses might freak her right out.

But then... it is Disneyland. I don't think I could visit that place and not write a short story about it. So it'd be like professional development for me. That'd be worth some psychological damage to my child, wouldn't it?

Tim: excellent insight into LA drivers, I think you're right.

Jenifer (#1868)

Location: Suwon, South Korea
Quote: ""I'll try everything once. If I like it, I'll try it again.""
Posted: 2450 days ago

When I lived in LA, I didn't really think drivers were polite. Perhaps after driving in Australia or New Jersey I would change my mind...


Stephanie (#2098)

Location: United States
Quote: "Going crazy. Care to join me?"
Posted: 2450 days ago

Max, I also have a 2 year old. I could not imagine taking her to Disneyland. You can't pay me enough to take her. It would be a disaster. The cost to get in, the numerous rides she can't go on, the lines, the freakishly large costumes, and the informational exhibits she wouldn't be interested in. Stick with your little girl's interests, everyone will come out happy and sane.

Tim (#3178)

Posted: 2449 days ago

Actually, I have a pair of almost two-year-olds and I also wouldn't want to take them to either park. But I've known people who have taken toddlers to theme parks and seem to feel that it's worth it. But Stephanie's right--there aren't a lot of rides she'll be able to go on. Given that thought, Sea World seems a far better choice--although quite a hike.

About driving in LA, don't get me wrong, I find LA drivers to be aggressive and frequently outright hostile--to other drivers. Suddenly lots of falsely cheerful and obsequious people get to take out all their supressed hostilities thanks to the anonymity of being behind the wheel. As a somewhat reluctant and timid driver, I learned I had to learn to drive more aggressively just to able to change lanes and not forced off the wrong exit of the 405. Jersey drivers can be angry, but they don't drive with the level of heightened fearlessness and craziness I saw in LA.

Also, oddly for a town where you would think everybody would be impeturbably jaded, blase, and seen-it-all, LA drivers will seemingly slow down to gape at anything, an overturned traffic cone, a newspaper blowing in the wind, an interesting looking cloud. Explain that to me.

It always seems to me that US drivers are much more uptight. Compared to drivers in other countries--to make a grotesquely sweeping statement--I've been in, we cherish our rules and our space. We get freaked out at how drive-at-your-own risk other places are.

But I've never been to Australia either, so I don't know how it compares.


Sueblimely (#3315)

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "+"
Posted: 2449 days ago

Twelve year olds frighten me - they are about to mutate into teenagers.

I was wondering, if Bedford forms the mucus membranes of England what does that make Yorkshire? By my reckoning it must in the temporal lobe forming a large part of the brain of England. Well, I was clever enough to leave there to live in Australia!

Lottie (#3093)

Location: Sheffield, UK
Posted: 2449 days ago

I dare ya to go to Barnsley. Don't take Fin though. Please.

Machine Man subscriber b3n3llis (#3159)

Location: UK
Posted: 2449 days ago

You leave the Oz summer for the British winter? You're getting seriously mixed up, it's meant to be the other way round. The weather is awful here but I guess you knew that.

The Bedford tourist board advertising department must be performing genius work in the Melbourne area.

Sophie (#891)

Location: Devon
Posted: 2448 days ago

If you do go to Seaworld, you should see the show they do there where they make pets do strange things. Last time I was there I saw a cat tightrope-walking, it was cool.
Although I should warn that Seaworld can be a bit underwhelming overall, and the drive to get there is scary...

And, as a person who lives 20 minutes away from Bedford (my location tag is woefully out of date), I'm mystified by your decision to abandon the Australian summer.

Machine Man subscriber David (#1456)

Location: Sydney, Australia
Quote: "Why are the pretty ones always insane?"
Posted: 2447 days ago

For God's sake don't write anything while you're in LA, what with the scribbler's strike and all... Is "doing lunch" with studio types allowed during the strike?

I'm with shiola on the whole going to a freezing cold and miserable place when home is summer hot thing too. Crazy, man.

Tim Ashwood (#595)

Location: Sydney
Posted: 2447 days ago

A two hour drive to Seaworld?
That's nothing!!
In Australia it can take a half hour just to drive from the garage to the front gate (though that is if you live on a cattle station 6 times the size of Belgium).
Even a drive from Melbourne (Max's home town) to Sydney is as long as Max's flight to LA.
England still takes you 14 hours to get anywhere, but that's because of the gridlock traffic and the fact you can get lost stepping from the front gate to the footpath/sidewalk.

shabooty (#637)

Location: D.C./V.A/M.D.
Quote: "I will shake your foundation. I will shake the f**cking rafters. Nobody'll be the same -Danny Bonaduce ....& go visit my blog @: http://www.shabooty.com"
Posted: 2446 days ago

as far as eats, are you going to the Ivy?
or Pink's hotdogs? (aka the hot dog to the stars!).

Yenzo (#829)

Location: Secret underwater pyramid base in the Pacific
Quote: "In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe (Carl Sagan)"
Posted: 2445 days ago

Dammit, I just returned from England! Another meeting opportunity gone into the bin. Well actually the first meeting opportunity. And not even that, because there isn't an opportunity. Nevermind. What was my point again?

How about a little trip to Germany while you're in the area? Hmmm, Germany. With chocolate and bratwurst and beer. And charming christmas fairs while supplies last.

blab (#1632)

Location: The Sandwich Isles
Quote: "Adventure is just poor planning"
Posted: 2445 days ago

Max, just went to both last year January. The crowds at Disneyland were horrible especially at mealtime and for the more popular rides -- 45 minute waits. If you have a tiny kid she won't be able to ride most of the rides. It's really for people 48" and up. I HATED it and it was a total waste of money from my point of view. However, there are two of you and only one kid so one parent can ride the rides while the other stays with baby on the merry-go-round (a big hit with my 3 year old and the line was bearable but it doesn't seem worth $50 to ride a merry-go-round).

Seaworld on the other hand was perfect for a small kid. She liked Shamu but she absolutely LOVED the dolphins. If you get there early in the morning you can buy food for an outrageous price and feed and "pet" them. However, the drive from LA is killers and I would recommend you stay at some halfway point like Carlsbad.

Now, if you want a charming amusement park specifically for a little kid go to Legoland in Carlsbad. Everything is geared for a small kid but you and the wife might be bored. I liked it because I hate crowds and it wasn't crowed. The lunchtime cuisine is somewhat limited but other than that it was fun.

Other things to do in LA with toddlers: La Brea tarpits (you can actually see the tar trying to create more pits in the place and bubbling up and you can actually take a stick and poke at it) and the Getty Museum (free but you have to call ahead to get reservations).

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