Monday, 18 August 2008

California Dreamin'

Hello and welcome to Charles’ Blog, Episode One. Always good to be in at the beginning of something, I feel.

This opening gambit is being written 38,000 feet up, on a flight back to London from California. I've been there for a couple of weeks and it’s all come to an end a touch too soon for my liking.

I started my American sojourn on a work footing, with a trip to Los Angeles for an international Voice-over convention. Yes, it did just what it says on the tin: a convention of voice-over artists, from all over the world (though mostly from all over the US), gathered together in a hotel in the aspirationally named Avenue of the Stars, in LA’s Century City. For four fun-packed days, the voice community spoke, and listened, learned and discussed. It was great to put faces to names, kick around ideas on business strategy and discover how many of the challenges are common to all our markets. Such a relief to discover that voice artists everywhere occasionally struggle to find the desired interpretation from such gems of direction as: “Could you do that faster, but slower?” and “that’s a good read, but I’d like it less peach and maybe a touch more raspberry…”.

Curious place, Los Angeles. It is, famously, a city wedded to the car. On the way in from the airport, you can drive for many blocks without seeing a single pedestrian. It’s also, at least in the movies & showbiz districts, a place of some physical extremes. All around you are the skeletally thin, the bleached, the lipo’d, the nipped and tucked and the botoxed. Every so often you see someone who’s dodged the net of manufactured perfection and flies the flag for obesity. But where are the “ordinary” body shapes? They sure as heck aren’t in the Century Plaza Shopping Mall. I know. I lurked there for hours, in the name of scientific research! Security are probably still sweeping the area for the dodgy-looking Limey in the sun hat…

I love California. The sunshine, the breeze, the accents, the attitude, the welcome. I’ve always liked the experience of hiring a car in the US, too. Somehow, car hire in Britain seems rather difficult. It’s expensive, and you come away smothered in extra insurances you weren’t expecting and with the definite impression that the rental company is doing you a big favour by allowing you to borrow one of their precious offspring. I’ve always had better, cheaper, smoother experiences in America, and the pickup in LA was no exception. Things got off to a good start when, slightly overdressed for a Californian summer day, in my I’ve-been-to-a-business-convention jacket, I was greeted by the young lady at the counter with “Hello Sir, you look hot!”. I thanked her warmly for bolstering my faith in my often under-appreciated beefcake rating. She blushed to her roots.

I’d booked a convertible, for the full sunshine experience. I was grateful for the wise words of my friend and colleague Alex Lester, who’d told me to expect a Chrysler Sebring. A fine vehicle, but with a boot (trunk, for US readers!) big enough to accommodate the grand total of a paperback book and a pocket handkerchief once the amazing folding roof gizmo has done its thing. Behold, ladies and gentlemen, the stylish convertible with two cool cats cutting quite a dash on the Californian highway…. And three layers of luggage stacked up on the back seats!

After work in LA, onward to San Francisco for a proper break. More on this in our next, thrilling episode.

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