and Loathing in Lovina
are you from?" my new acquaintance asks as he plops down next
to me on the black sand beach in Lovina, a tiny town on the north
coast of Bali.
"America! Where in America?"
"California?! Californication! I love the Red Hot Chili Feppers!"
For many reasons. His enthusiasm. His air guitaring. The fact that
he can pronounce the middle "p's" in "Peppers"
but not the first one. He tells me his name -- Giday -- and I'm
reminded of the four Australian girls I began my trip with, and
how glad I am that I decided to leave them behind and travel alone.
it all sounded good on paper. In June, my friend Selina, who lives
in Sydney, told me she was planning a trip to Bali. Perfect! I love
traveling. Then she said she was going with three of her girlfriends.
Perfect! I love fucking.
backstory on Selina. We met at a party two years ago in L.A. She
was crying. And it wasn't even an industry function. Turns out the
friend she was visiting ditched her -- classy -- so she was alone
and miserable and wanted to go home. My friend Scott and I convinced
her to stay, and the rest of that week, we showed her all sorts
of cool L.A. sites. Actually, we ran out of cool stuff on day one,
so after that we just hung out at Smart n' Final. Hey, this was
pre-L.A.'s Grove, people! Selina is kind and funny, and wonderful.
And ridiculously hot. Which brings me back to the fucking. Not that
I'd ever hook up with Selina -- she's like a sister to me. But her
three Aussie mates -- well, they're more like step sisters -- or
third cousins. Fair game. And I am a firm believer in the "hot
girls have hot friends" theory -- first put forth by Socrates,
and later confirmed by every guy who logs onto Friendster.
Unfortunately, when I get to Bali, I quickly discover another, equally
powerful theory: Cool girls do not necessarily have cool friends.
Louise, and Peta. Ahh, just the sound of their names brings the
vomit to the back of my throat. To be fair, only one of them is
really worthy of such loathing: Peta -- spelled like the animal
welfare group, not the Falafel bread -- and pronounced incidentally,
the same way she says "Peter" which I learn is the name
of her verbally abusive boyfriend. "Pet-a and Pet-a."
Could be a sitcom. Except it sounds really not funny. So it could
be a sitcom.
is the second most horrible person I've ever met. And I only say
"second most" because I used to work for Larry King. Think
Veruca Salt in the Willie Wonka movie, except way more condescending
to Balinese people. Plus she complains. About everything. "I
don't want to go the Balinese market -- it smells!" "My
fried rice is awwwwful. It's too fried."
the worst, but the other girls aren't much better, and cool Selina
turns very not cool in their presence. As a foursome, they are intolerable.
"Oh my God, you're really brown. You're so much browner than
yesterday, you're so brown" is a conversation I hear way too
many times. "Maybe we should skip the Uluwatu Temple -- we
might not get back before the fake Prada store closes" is another
I hear only once, but that's plenty. One night, they drag me to
a super cheesy club. I sit alone at the bar. They make out with
random guys and haggle with a drug dealer over the price of his
realize that we're in Bali for different reasons. For me, this trip
is about exploring. About connecting with locals, and having unique,
cultural, once in a lifetime experiences. For them it's an episode
of Wild On. Except even less informative.
So I start to freak out. This is a big trip for me -- the biggest
I've ever taken -- and I need it. Need to get away from L.A. and
the business. I never plan trips like this. How can I? What if I
miss a job? Or a meeting? Or an installment of The Daily Candy?
But for once in my life, I say "fuck it," and I book the
trip, and now I'm here, and everywhere I look, there's culture and
foreignness, and adventure just waiting for me to reach out and
grab it by the Balinese balls. Instead I spend my days listening
to Peta yell at cab drivers because their "air con isn't cold
one problem. I've never traveled alone before. And the thought of
it makes me nervous. It's not like I'm any stranger to loneliness
-- I live by myself. I'm a writer. I'm on J-date. I know from loneliness.
But this is different. This is
Bali. There are no friends
here to call, no Amoeba Records to escape to, no soothing voice
of Garth Trinidad to lull me to sleep at night. It'll be just me,
by myself, 24-7.
top of that, you have to understand a little about my childhood.
I was raised in a house of fear. Local news and prime time tabloids
convinced my mom that once you set foot outside, you were sending
out an open invitation to people who wanted to kill you or rob you
or kidnap you or tie you up and stick things in your ass. Nobody
in my family traveled alone. We weren't even allowed to go to the
mall alone. Up until I graduated from high school I had to call
my mom whenever I was out to let her know where I was. One night
some friends and I wanted to grab a bite to eat, so I called my
mom and told her I'd be at Denny's.
his number?" she asked. "And are his parents home?"
version for easy reading
material is copyrighted and cannot be reproduced without permission|