I’m always torn when I hop on a long haul flight whether I’m meant to dress comfy or if I’m meant to dress nice because what if I’m seated next to the most beautiful person alive (aka Zac Efron) and I look like I’ve just spent the last year of my life living on the street? It’s a serious concern of mine. So there I am about to board my flight to Los Angeles dressed to impress and then in the final 5 minutes before boarding I remember I live in Brisbane and Zac Efron wont be on my flight and I don’t need to impress anyone in the next 14 hours so I quickly change into a jumper and sweat pants that I conveniently packed in my carry on and in that moment I was subconsciously ready for what was going to be an emotional 2 and a half weeks.
FACT; I hopped off the plane at LAX with a dream and a cardigan. Except replace the cardigan with a jumper and I’m pretty much circa 2009 Miley Cyrus. My dream was to complete this trip without a broken leg and that may seem like an odd dream to have but lets rewind to 2016 when on my first day in LA I fell off a stage in West Hollywood and ended up in Cedars-Sinai Hospital with a broken leg and giving birth to a moon-boot which was going to be my best friend for the next 3 months. And lets not forget that it wasn’t my fault (I’m not completely clumsy) I was just having a good time dancing on stage at a gay club when some guy came out of nowhere and did a flip and knocked me off the stage (it was like gay tenpin bowling) and just sashayed away like nothing happened. So I really didn’t want that to happen again. That was the ultimate goal, I wasn’t really asking for much.
Los Angeles is such a weird city for many different reasons. But it just has this unique atmosphere that makes it possible for anything to happen in a non cheesy way. Every person I met was like “oh I’m a waitress but I’m studying acting” and it was nice hearing how passionate everyone was and how real the hustle is. After hopping off a 14 hour flight I went straight into interviewing ex Pussycat Doll Jessica Sutta (who now goes by the stage name JSUTTA) and then after a brief lunch at Dave n Busters I found myself in the studio audience of James Corden where I got to witness another ex Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger perform as well as embrace a High School Musical icon Vanessa Hudgens. And if that ain’t life goals right there then I don’t know what is. On the outside it would seem like a successful first day.
Because I had already been to LA quite extensively in the past I didn’t have too much sightseeing I wanted to do so my second day consisted of classing up Rodeo Drive by jumping and spinning on their street signs, relaxing at Santa Monica Beach and then going to see one of my favourite comedians, Jen Kirkman perform.
So after saying “see you soon” to LA I boarded a plane to New York where I touched down to a temperature of 2 degrees and it snowing in the middle of March!!! The expression on my face when I realised it was snowing would’ve been priceless but I couldn’t capture it because I was freezing every little bit of me off. New York is another city with an incredible atmosphere. Everyday we were waking up around midday and going to bed around 4am because the nightlife was something else there. Most people weren’t eating dinner until 10pm so we adapted. The first time I got the subway was an interesting experience. So I’m trying to take everything in and I’m looking around and when I don’t have my glasses on I sometimes have this squint/glare which I don’t mean to have but it happens. Anyways I locked eyes with this guy for a second too long and he flipped. He started yelling expletives at me, calling me a racist and a faggot and I could’ve freaked out and ran or reacted but I didn’t. I just kept walking and pretended nothing had happened because thats what you have to try do in those situations. My friends were in absolute shock and one of them vowed to never catch the subway ever again but that afternoon she was on one again with our encouragement.
We went to a gay club that night called Battle Hymn because I wanted to see the icon that is Amanda Lepore and it quickly became apparent that the New York scene is very different to back home. For starters the music was pretty much one constant never ending instrumental beat that had no lyrics whatsoever. And secondly it was 0 degrees outside so Im being sensible by wearing jeans and a nice jacket but no no the gays of New York are comfortably wearing shorts and t shirt. How they weren’t dying of pneumonia is beyond me. I had a brief encounter on the dance floor with Amanda Lepore but I wasn’t leaving without properly meeting her so I was chatting to these “scene queens” and enlisted their help in sneaking me into VIP. So there I was forging my way with a VIP wristband and walking through the back of the club as if I owned it and walked into Amanda’s VIP booth and I was told to go in and just “kiki”. That is not a term we use in Australia and I was like how the fuck do I kiki?!? So I’m just dancing around these new friends I had made and embarrassing myself with attempting voguing while they were doing it so effortlessly and then the moment came. The queen was sitting there and gestured for me to come over so I walked over an introduced myself and we had some small chat before we got a photo. And some of you reading this will be like “Thomas, who even is she”, but it was a big deal okay.
It was around 3am and we ended up in this 24/7 diner called Cafeteria while being highly intoxicated and all I remember is focusing on sitting on the chair and trying to not fall off it and embarrass myself in front of a room of very attractive people. The next night we were at a comedy club when long behold the roast master himself Jeff Ross turns up as a surprise guest. He started by doing a little monologue and was like “well, should we roast someone?” and asked the crowd to put their hand up if they wanted to volunteer. Me sitting in the front row and being drunk (surprise) decided to wave my hand in the air and as I did that I knocked my cider over and Jeff looks at me and starts laughing and goes “I’ve found one”. So there I am on stage getting roasted so hardcore by Jeff Ross and I am LIVING. They roasted my red cheeks (I go bright red when I’m embarrassed), my height, my job and other things that I forget. But he made a Game Of Thrones joke and I was like “sorry, don’t watch it, not funny” and he just looks at me and starts laughing. So that was an extreme highlight moment. The week continued with running into Kristen Bell, going to Kinky Boots and Waitress on Broadway, getting lost in Central Park and being too drunk to make it to a party that Taylor Momsen was at. Can you sense the re-occuring theme here?
But, Orlando was when it all hit me. I said goodbye to my two best friends in New York and departed to do the rest of the trip on my own. I was dealing with a break up and leading up to this moment I had just suppressed it as much as I could and distracted myself with my friends and activities but now I was on my own and I had to face those thoughts. So on my second day in Orlando I was on one of the buses between Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom at Disney World when it all hit. I was looking around at all these happy couples, families and groups of friends and there I was by myself absolutely miserable so I just broke down. I was hiding my face from the packed bus and tried to pull myself together before I entered the park. I was giving myself some serious self pep talks and was like “you are in America on a dream trip right now, pull yourself together and go straight to the Disney Castle and take a cute photo and start your day fresh”. So I did just that and I was feeling so confident until I was just about to get my photo and the guy in front of me proposed to his girlfriend in front of the castle. I was standing there like this has to be a joke. I was dramatically looking around like “someone is pranking me, Where is Ashton Kutcher?”. But sadly this guy was just in love and wanted to propose to his girlfriend (she said yes if any of you actually care) but I was like this really is ironic and felt very attacked.
The rest of the Orlando trip went a bit smoother but then I got to the airport to fly to San Francisco and out of nowhere I started having a panic attack. A song reminded me of my ex and triggered me with so many emotions overtaking my brain. I really didn’t want to hop on the plane and I was just freaking out. I had no one to talk me down or console me and I knew I just had to let it pass. I was sitting in the bathroom stall just balling my eyes out and trying to think of alternatives instead of hopping on a flight right that second but I knew I had to pull myself together. So I did it. I took deep breaths in, wiped away the tears and got up. And it was honestly one of the hardest and longest days. 2 Flights later and crying almost an ocean full of tears during the flights I was in San Francisco but my day wasn’t over….
I decided after nearly 2 weeks of non stop craziness that I needed a quiet night consisting of a early dinner and a shopping spree. So I headed to North Beach and had one of the best lasagnes of my life at Original Joe’s and then decided to walk 20 minutes to Union Square. Now people had already warned me about walking alone at night in San Francisco but it was dusk and I was like “I’m fine, I can handle myself”. I got to Union Square without any hassles and did the shopping I needed to but the problems arose once I was ready to leave and head back to my hostel. My Uber driver wasn’t answering his phone and wasn’t coming anywhere close to the pick up location so I was stranded and I couldn’t be bothered so I mapped my hostel from the shopping centre and was like “oh its only a 15 min walk….easy!”. So I started walking and didn’t realise that in doing so I crossed into the wrong part of town very quickly. I noticed two men in my peripheral vision start following me and I didn’t want to freak out straight away because they may have just been walking the same direction as me so I crossed the road. But then they crossed the road and I was like “okay, this is happening”. But I was also like, it may just be a coincidence so I crossed back. And guess what? They crossed back too. So by this point I was stressing and already planning out my funeral but I saw a convenient store up ahead so I ducked in there and explained I was being followed and if I could just chill in there while I order a Uber. He agreed and everything was going swell. The guys walked past the store and seemed to stop a couple hundred metres up the road waiting to see what I was gonna do next. And then these random guys come into the store and started talking to the guy behind the register and handed him a ton of cash and the guy gives them some undisclosed substances and I’m like “oh fuck what have I walked myself into” and I’m just staring at my app thinking “can this guy hurry up”. And then one of the guys sees me looking awkward as fuck and goes “what you looking at” and I nervously just go “IM WAITNG FOR AN UBER”. Thankfully the Uber turned up and I just sprinted out and jumped in the car and yelled “go go go” as if I just robbed the place. So safe to say the next night I stayed inside and didn’t leave my hostel as I didn’t completely feel like dying.
San Francisco is a beautiful city otherwise and the locals that didn’t want to mug you were actually really nice. Going to Alcatraz was probably my favourite thing I did on the whole trip as it just had this eerie feeling about it while Fishermans Wharf and Pier 39 were probably a close second. But I hopped back on a plane to Los Angles to wrap up the trip by seeing Ariana Grande and Little Mix live (they were obviously amazing as they are queens) and then it was time to leave and return to the real world.
I will always have a deep love affair with America. I may not agree with some of the politics and agendas but the country always opens their arms wide for me and I love that. Except I do have to comment about why the Americans don’t nickname McDonalds, “Maccas”. Because I politely asked my uber drive to drive through the “Maccas drive through” on the way back from a gig and he looked at me as if I just killed his family. Once I explained what Maccas meant he was a lot calmer and obliged but like what did he think I originally say?! But I’ve made some friends for life and have a million reasons to return. This trip was extremely difficult for many reasons but it was also an incredible one and I’m choosing to focus on the positives and the funny moments than to dwell on the negatives. That is how I cope with things and thats why I write to unleash my emotions and share these experiences because one day you may be in a similar situation and be having a panic attack in the middle of an airport halfway across the world and it’s comforting to know that you’re not alone and that you can tackle anything you put your mind to. I believed in myself in a moment that I had so many reasons to just give up and complain. And I think thats powerful in itself.