Whoever said the world is a small place has clearly never set foot in the great State of California. This is the land of opportunity where everything is bigger, better and brighter, especially for two small town South Africans from Cookhouse and Cathcart.Hopped on a plane at OR Tambo with a dream and my cardigan. 25 hours later, Welcome the land of fame excess, I am gonna fit in? Well I had better, I’m gonna be here for longer than Oscar Pistorius will be in jail for.
Ron Burgundy famously said ‘San Diego, I believe it means a whales vagina’. Not quite sure Ronnie my boy, but good banter if that is the case. Immediately I am taken aback by how big the place is and just how Mexican looking it is. Not surprising then that it is likely to be the starting point of Donald’s big wall.
Time waits for no man, no rest for the wicked and YOLO. That basically sums up my first 48 hours in SoCal…or South Cali as I called it before being ridiculed like a nerd with zits at high school.
Purds takes me straight to Pacific Beach for a yeast and some tacos. It’s 11h00 in San Diego, my body clock is so confused it doesn’t know if it’s half past six or Thursday. Plus The last time I had a shower, it was still winter.
Nonetheless what follows is some top class lash banter with the lads. Meet up with some of Purds’ team mates from the San Diego Breakers – Hubert Buydens, Drew Suniuala and Takudzwa Ngwenya. Yes I am spending time with a combined total of over 100 Test caps and several thousand YouTube views (thanks Habana).
Friday night includes a San Diego Chargers vs Arizona Cardinals game live (more in that in another post), several toots at what most Saffas would call a cougar bar and ending with a 03h00 kick off of the All Black Test. Said Test is watched at a the homestead of a Kiwi expat named Willie, who like the Backstreet Boys hit single from their Millennium album, was truly larger than life. We belt out, er mumble, God Defend New Zealand and proceed to watch a masterclass of footy before involuntarily opting to kip next to Willie’s two boxers.
Freddie Mercury then told us what to do, we obeyed and the show went on. Spent Saturday at the Oasis 7s tournament in San Diego, a very social Cape Town 10s like event with an average standard of rugby.
However, don’t judge a book by its cover. I quickly learned a thing or two about footy in this country. It’s a game played by few, but those who play it also run it and they love the code as much as we who consider it a religion back home. The likes of the San Diego Surfers Women’s team are up early in the morning to paint the lines, put up make shift posts and turn a baseball diamond into a rugby turf. It’s passion, dedication…it is rugby football and it’s a game that is gaining traction in a market saturated with many sports. At the end of the day, as they, rugby is the winner. The poles are taken down, the coolers opened and the Buds start flowing the Zambezi over the cliffs of the Zambian and Zimbabwean border.
Saturday was also a humdinger which included some dancing and a 22h00 roller coaster ride on a structure that looks about as secure as a temporary pedestrian bridge on Grayston Drive.
At this point I need to make mention of the way American birds dance. It’s not the classic sokkie, the pissed Colony twist or the standard get in a circle point your hand skyward whilst singing along to Bryan Adams/Dire Straits. Rather, they opt to bump and grind like they auditioning for a spot on Drake’s new music video. It is provocative and it gets the people going, which shakes it up (so to speak) from my relatively conservative norm. Not that I am complaining in the slightest though.
Spent the rest of the time doing a Tour de San Diego. Checked out the Breakers set up at Exos, their training base. An unreal facility that will top most pro rugby setups in the world, so much so that many NFL and MLB players use it to prepare for combines and keep in shape off season. Even bumped into a real friendly guy named Allen Bradford who was a linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons last year and is coming back from injury to try pick up a new contract.
Popped into the Breakers home ground – Torero Stadium at the University of San Diego. Like their training base, it’s a pretty sweet setup and to be honest I don’t think I would want to play anywhere else in the world having been there. The PRO Rugby League is in its infancy, but I have faith in it and if/when it takes off, I think plenty guys are gonna chuck their name in the hat for a Breakers gig.
Then it was onto the City of Angels, the majestic Los Angeles. The single biggest and busiest place I have seen. Buildings, cars and people as far as the eye can see. Did the tourist bit in Hollywood, cruised down Sunset Boulevard, checked out the Walk of Fame, Beverley Hills and the sign. To be honest, it was pretty siff and just packed full of tourists (Self?).
Next stop was the famous Dodger Stadium for the massive Cali Derby between the LA Dodgers and San Francisco Giants (will be more on this along with Chargers game in a separate post).
Spent Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in Purds’ old hunting ground – Santa Monica. Took a sweet tour of Santa Monica and Venice on a bike, which for those who don’t know is Hank Moody’s home turf. Venice in particular is pretty vibey, with some crazy street art and iconic canals. Also there is the world famous Muscle Beach and Gold’s Gym which turned a certain Austrian immigrant into a global superstar. We even did a workout at Muscle Beach whilst hanging like Saddam Hussein. Didn’t shame ourselves, but we didn’t exactly cover ourselves in glory either.
Among other things, went to a comedy evening in Hollywood, smashed a rendition of ‘Can you feel the love tonight’ at a karaoke night and clocked in some hours trawling the Venice boardwalk which is simply put, filled with weirdos and tourists (again, self?).
On the rugby side in LA, Purds organised for me to meet with Dallen Stanford. He’s a pretty big deal in US rugby having played for the national 7s team, managed the Eagles at a World Cup and is now pretty much the number 1 rugby commentator in the country often doing legs of the HSBC World 7s. He’s a Saffa from Cape Town and is the king of one liners in the comm box. Meeting him and hearing his story was killer and something I really appreciated.
Speaking of South Africa, my accent is a pretty unique thing over here. My deep, sultry, Eastern Cape accent turns heads and starts conversations all the time. Most people think I’m Irish or Australian and many struggle to understand me…which has resulted in me changing to my posh private school Queen’s English to help folks understand me! One such occasion was at Dogtown Coffee in Santa Monica when I said to the waitress ‘Hi, how are you?’ What followed was an awkward blank stare followed by ‘Are you asking me how I’m doing?’ Bloody Yanks.
Also, note to self, the words ‘howzit’ and ‘okes’ are not internationally renowned. I mean come on okes, surely you okes know what I mean when I say howzit to you? In case I ever thought otherwise, it turns out I am South African af.
Other than the vocab adjustment, I’ve been treated very well by the locals. I have assimilated into their culture and they seem to have accepted me for my differences.
That’s it from California. The beautiful beaches, people, food and the many craft beers of the Golden State shan’t be forgotten, but now it’s time to start the real part of this road trip as we head for Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. From Cookhouse and Cathcart, we sending Cali all our love.
I’ll send more updates as I go along, this is a first world country so wifi is pretty omnipresent.
I’d advise following me on Snapchat for live banter and a behind the scenes look at our USA road trip. Add me by my username: warwick.austin – or follow me on Instagram @warwick_austin
Part 0 – California here we come: https://killscorner.wordpress.com/2016/08/17/california-here-we-come/