San Diego Postcard

The Present Tense

Greetings to all my fellow revolutionaries!

Although I am not supposed to put anything on paper I still feel I must record my progress.

Safe and secure I have arrived at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Eight years have elapsed since I was here last. How the time has changed over the course of my life.

Eight years ago I was met at the airport by my brother Alfred. It is eight years since I arrived in the United States of America with the over riding objective to learn about money.

Today I shall be met by someone who shall remain nameless. My objective is also classified information known only by the chosen few. Not even I know of my immediate plans. Back in New Zealand all I was told was to board a plane bound for Los Angeles. From there I am to travel overland down through the revolutionary centre of the world to Panama City.

Statue By Harbour

But first my objective is to get through customs at the Los Angeles International Airport. It is one of the major transportation hubs of the world and heavily guarded by bureaucracy. I must slip through in disguise, undetected and unmolested.

I wait at the back of a long queue that snakes its way slowly towards the American officers in charge of interrogation. They are staunch, fierce looking creatures who do not smile.

As I move forward my pulse quickens at a diametric opposite pace to that of the queue. Sweat begins to appear on my brow. My disguise of looking natural, calm and collected is starting to appear frail.

There are eight interrogation officers each with their own separate torture chamber. Now close to the front of the queue I try to time my approach so I am questioned by the officer who appears to hate the world, the universe and all its creatures the least. But it is hopeless. They all appear to share a universal anger with an equal fury.

I am summoned to step up to the red line. This is painted on the floor in front of the interrogation officer’s high risen chair. He checks my passport and asks questions of a personal nature such as what my future plans are for my time in the United States of America. This is sensitive, classified information.

Finally he catches me off guard by demanding the more detailed information of where I plan to spend that night. I cannot divulge this location as the revolutionary hierarchy has not yet informed me of my full itinerary. In the interests of the protection of my assignment all I was told was that I would meet someone who shall remain nameless once I had passed through LAX customs.

Balboa Park

The interrogation officer gives me an evil look so I tell him I plan to spend the night in some youth hostel in San Diego. He requires more specific information, locations and names. I tell him I can not divulge this information so he points me to the back of the queue. These interrogators have all sorts of ways of torturing their suspects while staying inside the Geneva Convention. This is torture. Inside I scream in anguish but I am determined to show a brave face and not show any weakness so early in my travels.

An hour later I am back in front of the same interrogator. I grit my teeth and tell him I still can not divulge that night’s rendezvous. For some reason he is more sympathetic and he looks up a list of youth hostels in San Diego so I am able to complete my bureaucratic form.

I am once again a free man. Initially I feel a wave of relief which is subsequently overcome by a strange sense of suspicion. It is not like the security conscious USA to let one of its suspects simply walk away.

They must be on to me.

Why else would they let me beat the bureaucracy of the Los Angeles International Airport security systems? I must keep calm; try and act natural.

Balboa Park

What about the person who shall remain nameless whom I am supposed to meet? I cannot risk the threat of giving his or her identity away. I must make plans to quickly escape the shallow reflection of Western culture, Los Angeles.

They will be following me, watching my every move.

I cannot compromise my organisation or my expedition. I will have to avoid the planned rendezvous and head direct to San Diego.

I make for the airport bus station to catch a lift towards the Greyhound terminal in downtown Los Angeles. I then come across the first error in my meticulously constructed plans. The lowest denomination I have in the United States currency is a $50 note. The buses only take exact change. I have to ask one of locals if he can help me out.

Naturally I am cautious about handing over US$50 without seeing the change first. But the local accuses me of been suspicious because he is black. I tell him I am suspicious because I am a foreigner in a country I have just flown into.

He accepts my explanation and gives me the correct change. I can now catch a bus into town. From there I catch another bus through the slums, just below the centre of the city, to the Greyhound Terminal.

Lower class citizens with a variety of ethnic backgrounds are the staple diet of the Greyhound. I think back to 1994 when I was last in Los Angeles. I am thankful I did not have to catch a Greyhound bus back then. It would have been an experience I would have been totally unprepared for.

It is eight years since I have been to the United States. The same busy, loud, push and shove exists. No time for the wants and needs of the individual when the wheels of progress must spin and roll over all obstacles in their path

San Diego Zoo

I catch the bus to San Diego. The bus passes Disneyland on its way out of Los Angeles. Once again I am visiting Los Angeles and Disneyland is not on the agenda. But I have other more productive plans to conceive.

I am seated near the back of the bus. Suspicious looking characters fill the interior. I can sense them looking at me from the corner of their eyes or from above their camouflaging books. I look out the window trying to avoid contact as the bus continues down the busy freeways to arrive in the centre of San Diego at approximately 9:32 pm.

The town centre feels safe, secure and developed. Pubs and restaurants line the busy streets. I walk to the closest hostel. The hostel has a number of country’s flags over its door and pride of place is the New Zealand flag. It makes the importance of my assignment even more poignant.

But I am a long way from home. I need to get my mind attuned to been out of New Zealand and travelling in another culture without a local support network. In an attempt to get my thoughts ticking over I decide to spend the next day walking around San Diego.


Situated near downtown I visit the Embarcadero where a number of historic sailing vessels are docked for the tourist’s pleasure. I then walk around the Gaslamp Quarter which is a suave up-market area by the harbour. San Diego is opulent, with pleasant architecture for its downtown.

I move away from the commercial heart towards Balboa Park, located above the city centre. This is a horticultural and Spanish architectural splendour. Nearby is the San Diego zoo. I have seen travel programmes on television which rate this as one of the best zoos in the world to visit.

I am tempted and sit outside the gates of the zoo for half an hour contemplating paying an entrance fee. My superiors need never know. If I visit the zoo I will have deviated from my original travel schedule but that schedule is vague at best.

Since I have missed my rendezvous with the person who shall remain nameless I will actually have to spend the best part of tonight planning some sort of itinerary. I have wasted enough time sitting around here already. I must move on.

Tomorrow I shall be entering Spanish America; experiencing new countries, new cultures. I have already been to a zoo back in New Zealand with its occasional monkey, giraffe, cow and pig. I must move on.