At the Pasadena race track with my new taxi driver friend, I was surprised how he would bet on all the 100 to 1 houses and he was equally surprised I bet on the shortest odds. Needless to say, he wasn’t too happy that he lost all his money. Seeing I made a five dollar profit, he suggested we go out that night and I could celebrate and he could be cheered up. What the hell I thought, I am in America, so we went back to his place to dump the Checker taxi and for him to get changed.
Turned out he lived in Hollywood of all places. This was my second day in the USA and knowing very little, I remember being somewhat surprised that Hollywood was nowhere near the big HOLLYWOOD sign. That’s how naive I was and how exciting it was for me to actually be in Hollywood. The fact that everyone pretty much in the movie business had moved to Burbank years before, did not faze me one little bit.
At his place, we picked up his sisters white convertible 59 Cadillac, otherwise referred to as a boat. That’s a picture of it here, after someone painted it pink. I kid you not.
Off we go into the night, LA style. He was an expert on places, like Joe’s bar which I could never have even heard of unaided. Remember, this was the time before the internet of things. Now everything and everyone is on the internet and I diligently go where google tells me, rightly or wrongly. I miss those old times. My new friendly american taxi driver was telling me the everything, like how he had sold his taxi to a foreigner with poor English and was buying a house out of LA. This was his last week driving a taxi, which as life would have it, was a good move for him because of what happened to us next.
We hadn’t gone far, gliding around back street corners in the boat, when we were pulled over by the police. They asked him to get out of the car, telling me to stay put. OK. A few minutes later, a policeman comes around to my window and asks me to also step out of the car. I see my taxi friend being interrogated some distance away by the other policeman. Then this policeman with me wanted to see my drivers license. I tell him I don’t have an American license. He asks me, “Is this your car ?”. This was not looking good. Two days in America without even making it to work and I’m in trouble with the police already.
I explained my side of the story to the police. He listened for a while, which I appreciated. He then asked for my Australian drivers license, which luckily was in my wallet. He was bemused by the lack of photo and the fact it was renewable every year. He wanted to know if that was normal, well, it was back then. Now of course, we have our photo on licenses and we trust that the associated name is real, despite the fact anyone can change their name on their license at the motor registery department in about 15 minutes by signing a couple of forms. Oh well, here I was with my paper license from Australia and this policeman telling me, “OK, you drive”.
The policeman was friendly and gave me a run down on the local Los Angeles road rules, like don’t drive in suburbs around the airport and if you find yourself there by some chance, don’t bother stopping at a red light. And if someone bangs into the back of your car, don’t stop to talk to them. That was good advice, cause that was exactly what happened to me a week later on Hollywood Bvd when I stopped at a light.
When I had arrived the day before at LAX airport, I had picked up one of those glossy travel mags you still can find there. The magazine had an interesting section on places to see in LA. When my taxi driver friend was out of town one night, I ventured out on my own to discover Los Angeles ( “the city of angels” ) without him. I found this smart looking music bar ( after driving a million miles which was fun too, on those freeways ) and walked in through the nicely painted front door. It was noisy, but suddenly at my presence, much quieter. People looked at me standing inside the doorway. Seemed to me like I was the only white person there. Whoops, maybe that was it. Being from another planet, how would I know. For whatever reason, obvious to me I was not at all welcome. Quiet the opposite actually. Slowly and as quickly as I could, I took a step back and another and I was out the door. Driving away. No one followed.
At the police’s instructions, I hop in the drivers seat of this boat. My friend also gets in. The police go back into their car and wait behind for me to drive off. That’s all very well for them. Here I was, two days in, on the wrong side of the road, sitting on the left side of the car, driving a boat at 5 miles an hour with a police car following along.
My new friend tells me to “just go”. “What happened ?”, I had to ask. Explaining he says “Oh my license has been cancelled, I didn’t know”. The next day I hired a car. A small brown japanese compact, nothing like the boat. That’s how I came to live at my friend’s place, driving him around in Hollywood when needed, and I’d drive to Pasedena each week day for work. I became rather proficient on the freeways.
A few weeks later I drove down to Hurst Castle and found myself again being pulled over by the police. This time I received a ticket for driving a car that had not been registered for months. Funny how I could drive around all day in LA in an unregistered car, but go out of LA and watch out. Nothing I could say about the car being a rental would persuade the officer from giving me personally a fine. On the drive back from Hurst Castle, I was stopped again by another happy policemen. He was rather disappointed though when I showed him I already had a ticket, thanks very much. Apparently, it didn’t make his day.
Back at work, I explained what happened about the rental car and lucky for me, they were able to get my fine rescinded. Subsequently, I received a nice official looking letter from the Court saying it was in the interests of Justice to cancel my fine. Wonderful.
Now, my arriving at work in Pasadena, that’s when the real story started. All this was merely my warm up and introduction to America.
© 2016 – 2017, James Harry Burton. All rights reserved.