A set of pictures from the weekend - a small subset of the 508 she took (!) are here on flickr The girl I met in NYC came out for a week - she wanted to see LA and other SoCal sites before moving back to Russia, and I've been frightfully deficient in seeing the sites myself. She was extremely excited about the whole thing- in her whole life she's been in her town in Tatarstan, and Brooklyn, and nowhere else. I picked her up Monday after work, and we drove to the Promenade at Santa Monica to walk around, see the various weirdos and performers, and get dinner. She was instantly enchanted, especially by palm trees. We stopped to take a picture with almost every palm tree we saw - something that ended up being a theme for the week. She was simply agog at every little thing, which was awfully fun to watch. And since she's very smarty and powerfully funny, her observations on things had me in stitches almost the entire week. She was also very disappointed to find out that there aren't monkeys in the palm trees in Los Angeles. This seemed a great injustice to her - and I couldn't help but agree. A phrase that was oft-repeated over the week was "I want to see monkeys!" (both of us uttered this, of course)
Tuesday, after breakfast at More Than Waffles, we went to the Getty, which I'm ashamed to admit I hadn't seen yet. it was sort of hard to play the worldly tour-guide when I myself was pretty much amazed. There was an exhibition of Rubens and Brueghel that I found particularly interesting. I was unaware that the masters of the time cooperated so often and so closely - with paintings done by both collaboratively. The exhibition was excellent, of course - but it's always a plus to learn something new. There were quite a few palm trees, and we got pictures of most of them. She had a cute way of letting me know it was time to take a picture - her English is limited so she'd just turn on her camera, look at what she wanted a picture of, and look at me out of the corner of her eye and smile. Most of her mannerisms are cute, actually.
After the Getty - and we by no means saw everything there was to see, so I'll have to go back sometime soon - we went to Venice Beach. She really wanted to spend some time on the beach, and I figured Venice was the most emblematic of the whole Los Angeles experience - natural beauty, weirdos, hucksters, and beautiful people all by the sea. That's LA, baby! Many palm trees were photographed. Every single time I left her alone, some guy swooped in to hit on her. This was more amusing than anything, since we were communicating via a mash of English, Russian, funny faces and gestures anyway. The frustration evident on the unsuccessful attempts to seduce Elly almost always resulted in the guy in question saying, "She's much better looking than you." Why that phrase, I don't know? Whatever - we stayed at the beach then drove up the PCH to Topanga and out. We went home, got changed, and headed out to the Standard. She was boggled by that - a pool, at a nightclub! On top of a gigantic building! With beds! "What beds for?" I had no answer. We strolled on Hollywood Boulevard (and photographed palm trees) before heading home.
Wed morning we got up and packed for Vegas. She insisted on more waffles. "More waffles at More Waffles?" I gladly complied. Driving out to Vegas she was completely blown away by the desert - she'd never seen one and we stopped to take pictures. (No palm trees) Along the way we talked quite a bit (as we'd been all along, of course) and her English was getting steadier and my Russian a little more expansive than "Yes, I understand" or "No, I don't understand." Both of us were mutually impressed at our ability to hear the other speak a word, and repeat it largely without accent. Her English is good, if she knows the words, she sounds like a very natural speaker, albeit, slow. Once her vocabulary improves, she'll be quite fluent. We stopped for a bit to eat at Baker (I couldn't convince her to risk The Mad Greek) and when she was utterly flummoxed by getting an empty soda cup with lunch, I told her it was like she was from the moon. This made her shoot coca-cola out of her nose, and became a running joke for the week. "You don't have altoids on the moon?" "What is altoids?" I gave her a ginger altoid and she was apalled. "No, nothing like this on moon!"
When we arrived at Vegas, we pulled right up to the Luxor without getting a view of the strip. She told me that she had imagined Vegas as much bigger, and not in the middle of the desert. She seemed let down - though the interior of the Luxor completely blew her mind. I got us a suite, too - and after we checked in she was totally amazed. I tried to convince her that we just couldn't see much of Vegas from where we were, but she didn't believe me. All along, I'd been using one of the only Russian phrases I know "Skaziti pajaouste, gde Krasnaya Ploushiitz?" (Tell me please, where is Red Square). So we were both in hysterics when we discovered the restaraunt Red Square at the Mandalay Bay. Without missing a beat, I said, "Skaziti pajaouste, gde Krasnaya Ploushiitz?" With an enthusiastic smile, and perfect sincerity she said, "Zdi! Zdi!"
We explored the Shark Reef and spent a little time at the slot machines in the Luxor, and went back to the room to get changed for a night out on the town. The suite has a jacuzzi right under the incline of the pyramid of the Luxor, and I must confess, soaking in a hot tub while looking out on the strip with a nice cold bottle of white close to hand is a luxury I would love to be more commonplace. When we finally got out on the strip at night, she was absolutely, totally boggled. She had convinced herself that the two or three hotels we could see from our window was all of Vegas - and by the day, they're somewhat drab, anyway. But at night, the full, ridiculous, overweening, crass, glorious splendor of Vegas was revealed - so bright it seems like day, as crowded and chaotic as Bedlam, and everywhere blinking, flashing, shining, spinning, blazing. She was floored. She confessed this also was not what she thought Vegas would be like ... but so much more! Seriously, watching her be amazed by all this stuff, and answering all of her questions about all the things that I would have taken as mundane - I saw it all through new eyes, too. It was exciting! Just walking on the strip, seeing the various things around Vegas like the Volcano, the trams, the ... you know, pretty much everything required some kind of explanation. Especially the way you have to go through a casino to cross the street, most of the time.
By the time we actually got to Tao, where we were going to go dancing - she was so overwhelmed, she just couldn't take it anymore. When we stopped to take pictures, she couldn't even smile anymore. She has an amazing talent at striking some cute pose for every picture...but by that time, she would just stand there, not smiling, like for a DMV photo. She said, "I am all out of smile. I want to go home." We called it a night.
I'll finish the rest of the trip later - More Vegas, Disneyland, WorldCon, California Adventure, Hollywood, and Santa Barbara.