Monday, February 13, 2006
No Beginning, No End
I never fly into Southern California without wondering why the hell the rest of the country doesn't shoehorn its 300 millions into the Los Angeles Basin. Why not live where the weather's always nice? Why not travel to shitty weather when you need a shitty weather fix, and choose to live where the weather can be counted on not to be a drain on your existence?
One steps out of the airplane and it's suddenly 70° and sunny and the air smells of humidity and living things. There are palm trees. And an ocean. Oh, and it doesn't hurt that L.A. is the hub of American car culture, Detroit with nice weather and rainbow-colored gangs. Everything is about cars, it seems. Old ones and new ones, stock ones and heavily-modified ones. Even the homeless often sleep in their cars, with carlessness being a distinct subclassification of homelessness. I was accosted by three separate beggars who were soliciting from their cars. This is unique to L.A., I think. I damn near gave them gas money.
I wandered around this morning in search of a Diet Coke. Staying next door to the UC Riverside, this is not as easy as it sounds. Everything is alfalfa sprout & free range salmon smoothies and salads lovingly crafted of the finest organic wheat chaff & topsoil. I eventually found a 2 liter of my magic elixir at a supermarket, wedged, embarrassed, on the bottom shelf of a little-used aisle in a dark corner of the place. If I didn't know full well what chemicals made up the stuff, I would fear it was expired. But no worries.
We flew out here last nite via Oakland and Ontario, and then were shunted off to a hotel in Riverside. I'd never been into Oakland before, and was lucky enough (with my particular job description) to actually come in during daylight hours. But there's so much to look at that I had trouble tending to my job duties (in what is, after all, some pretty busy airspace). It seems a city whose identity comes from water, being perched on the edge of the San Francisco Bay and being shot thru with rivers and Lake Merritt. Waterways and bridges are everywhere, and there's an endless variety of boats and ships plying their trade as we descend to very nearly land on the water--the airport is built on a peninsula of land with the largest runway surrounded by water on three sides. It's quite stunningly beautiful, at least flying in.
You can't help making automatic broad-brush assessments of an area when first seen from the air, and my impressions were automatically favorable after four hours of winter and desert-dry. Apart from the water, the terrain is quite hilly--mountainous, even--and everything is lush and green. The preponderance of golf courses and marinas suggest something about the community's general affluence. The freeway systems seem larger and more developed in CA, winding thru the city and on into the distance in several directions, strings of white on one side and red on the other as dusk settles. But mine was to look at the city from a mile above and at only the airport cargo ramp up close.
We left an hour later, in darkness, and went Southeast towards L.A. The San Fernando Valley, the bowl into which the population and its prodigious smog production are funneled, is distinctly visible coming in from the North, though it's a bit surprising to think of there being 15 million people down there. But this incredible density of lights gives off a circus peanut glow for 100 miles out, and the perspective of it all comes more into focus as we descend into Ontario, seeing an unbroken city density of population stretching ahead of us for some 50 miles to the West.