photo by Erik Reichenbach
Recently the both of us (Me and Zoe) were invited to CBS Television City in Los Angeles, California for the 20th season of Survivor Reunion party. It’s pretty unbelievable that the reality show Survivor has been on the air for 10 years and has sent over 300 Americans to starve and vote each other off of a deserted island in some randomly selected tropical locale on the earth. For me it was a great opportunity to meet up with old friends from my season (Survivor: Micronesia) and see the cast and crew which I haven’t seen since filming in 2007. When we got to CBS they handed out special “Heros vs. Villains” Buffs as our entry tickets and we made our way into a studio that had been converted into a jungle paradise including a giant tiki hut with an open bar. There’s nothing worse than an open bar around past Survivor contestants; these are people who have been specifically cast for the program because of their inherent drama, over-the-top personalities, or aggressive competitiveness. The party was in full swing by 9 o’clock and by 1 am we were dead tired from dancing, drinking, chasing Jeff Probst, and mingling with many ridiculous personalities. Some highlights from the night include buying Johnny Fairplay (the notorious villain from Survivor: Pearl Islands) a beer, hearing a rallying celebratory speech from Mark Burnett (executive producer of countless reality shows), and later trying to convince Dalton Ross (an Entertainment Weekly online reporter who covers everything Survivor) into giving me and Zoe a ride home across L.A. to my cousin’s house because we were two broke college kids with no money.
Zoe had never been to Los Angeles before and I had to show her as much as I could in a weekend. L.A. is an incredible place and every time I go there it feels like a separate country from the United States. There is just so much there! It seems to stretch on forever as one massive parking lot intermingled with famous sights, beautiful rockstar people, and palm trees. We went down to Santa Monica Pier and rid the roller coaster over the Pacific waters, hiked to the top of Runyon Canyon, and ended up boozing it up in a few popular nightclubs. Zoe was instantly ready to up-and-move away from our frigid home in lower Michigan.
One thing I tried to impart onto Zoe is that there is kind of a dark societal side to L.A. that you don’t really see in the first couple hours of being there. I may just be a bit biased from living in a rural community my whole life, but I felt that after the superficial magic of the city wears off you start to see that it’s a very strange place. In the park at Santa Monica for example there are dozens of homeless people wandering around or passed out; one man’s head was hidden beneath a vail of tangled hair and it was difficult to know if he was alive or dead. When taking the bus home an older lady sat down across from us with smeared make-up and a strange and shifty demeanour as if she was frantically anxious about something as she babbled to herself (I suppose you could find this woman on any public transit system around the country though). When leaving a popular nightclub on our second night there we encountered a well dressed young guy pushing his “girlfriend” around until she cried. When Cristina Coria (from Survivor Cook Islands) confronted him on pushing this poor girl around he turned into an eight year old boy having a tantrum. “Mind your own f—ing business! Get the hell away! I will get you blacklisted from every nightclub in this town!” When Cristina didn’t back down and began to call the cops the man ran off into a nearby parking garage, wailing like an infant who had his lollipop taken away, and punched elevator doors and the brick walls in frustration. His screams could be heard echoing through the parking garage for the next ten minutes as we left which left an eerie feeling with me for the rest of the night. I still can’t determine if they are reflection of this city’s culture and personality specifically or more of a general reflection of humanity at large that just happens to be gathered together in a big enough population for me to finally see it.