I made it here without freaking out on the plane and insisting we turn around. The flight was smooth, and even the six-month old baby in the seat two rows ahead was delightful and only fussed once.
Flying over New Mexico and Arizona, I made a mental note to visit there sometime and see the cavernous terrain up close. Where have these places been all my life?
Southern California is a little like I thought it would be and better. The weather especially is fabulous for winter-weary me. Palm trees, flowers of every color – God, it’s like an explosion of natural energy out here. Everything grows in earnest. That takes a little getting used to after living in nothing but varying shades of gray for the last five months.
The people have been great and so has the traffic. Yes it’s busy, but driving here is less insane than in Memphis or Manhattan.
A little synopsis of yesterday: After we landed, Carlene and I got our luggage and got on the rent-a-car shuttle. It’s only a few miles from LAX to Alamo, but I swear we passed 25 taco joints and a dozen “gentleman’s” clubs.
When I reserved a car online, I chose a compact because it was cheap and I didn’t need a lot of room. I figured I’d get a standard grey Cobalt or Focus, so I was a little more than surprised when waiting for me, freshly washed in the garage, was a metallic blue PT Cruiser! I always thought they were curious looking, like gangsters should ride on the running boards, but they’re actually a lot of fun. It took us a few hours to figure out there was a sunroof, though.
We cranked the stereo (and I kid you not, the Door’s “LA Woman” was playing), hopped on the 405 and drove into the San Fernando Valley. Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” was playing in my head: “It’s a long day, living in Reseda….All the vampires walkin’ through the Valley, move west down Ventura Boulevard….I wanna glide down over Mulholland…” I always knew those places were real, but I never thought I’d be driving past them or on them or through them, especially in a PT Cruiser at age 44.
I wrote to my sister Emily in 2003 – when I was 300 pounds, a social recluse, and afraid of my own shadow – and told her I didn’t love anyone enough to fly to see them, not even her. I felt so liberated when I pulled up in the driveway and hugged her in the portico of her own house, 2000 miles and five years away from the me who wrote that letter.
My only complaint is the time change. I have three free hours and yet my body won’t use them to sleep. I was up at 5 a.m. local time, which, at 8 a.m. eastern time, is considered “sleeping in” for me. By the time I adjust, it will be time to go home and those three hours will want their time back.
So I’m up, writing. I brewed tea and cleaned seedless red grapes in the bathroom so I wouldn’t wake up my daughter and sister. I checked my hometown paper online and the weather. It’s 35 and cloudy in Clarion. A little snow is in the forecast. I don’t know what the temperature is outside my hotel room, but I’m pretty sure it’s not snowing.
We’re tourists today, going to Hollywood. I’m sure we’ll have a great time, but I already know my favorite part about today: I won’t have to wear socks to keep my feet warm.