It's beautiful, flying into Schiphol on a sunny day. At first, the giant greenhouses tile the ground in eighty shades and patterns of silver. But then you leave them behind and come to the smaller fields, open to the sun. Long, narrow plots of brilliant yellow and somber red-brown sprinkled in between the myriad ideas of green. All straight and perfect. Then here's a town along a road for a kilometer or two, one house deep. Behind, the carefully sinuous canal. Then ruler-straight fields of flowers and vegetables again. A layer further away, and the fields are dotted with cows, or sheep, then open, then cows, then open. Approaching the city the roads get bigger, the trains more frequent, and the flowers again hidden away in their metal and glass cages. Acres and acres of glittering greenhouses. Sorting sheds with trucks all along the edge like ears of corn.
It's almost enough to make me happy for a moment that I am here, seeing this, and not elsewhere, with him.
What a difference flying into Los Angeles. Oh, my. I'd forgotten the thick, grey-brown air they have here, the way it's the same color as the ground and the freeways and you can't see where the sky meets the ground - just lost in the haze. Is that the ocean out there? Did I mention I never have liked LA? You can eat here, any kind of food you want - and we have some plans for that - but other than that, the place is just nasty. In my experience of cities, only Lima was worse.
My arrival is ill-timed. In fact, it was not timed, it's just what was available on two weeks notice. So coming in on a Monday pretty much out of the blue, my friend and generous host Linda naturally has to work. No problem; I will just hang out with a beverage somewhere until she is ready. Linda's place on the west side is not so far from the airport, and in fact you can get there on public transportation with a minimum of luggage-schlepping.
I land at 2:40. Checking my passport at the kiosk shortly after 3 (man, they know everything about you! after all that, why still have a line to see a person, just to stamp the receipt?). Baggage off the carusel at 3:40. The bus, how to catch the bus...? The guys in the orange jackets directing traffic know. They take the bus all the time, and they're happy to see you're not above taking it too. Shuttle to Lot C, and it's the last stop. Green number 6 toward UCLA, get off at Sepulveda & Venice. There's another bus I could transfer to that would get me closer, but I didn't take the time to find out how to do that, and there aren't many maps around (a bus system for those who take it every day: if you're just passing through, good luck). Plus, if you want a transfer, it costs a quarter and you have to ask for it when you get on, and I don't have any change.
But it's only a few blocks. Yeah, a few southern-California blocks, and not quite so few as I recalled (but I was just 30 then, and life has moved on). 84°F and sticky under the dull sun. What is with this humidity? I forgot to dig up the shoulder strap for my luggage, reasoning I wouldn't need it because the thing has wheels. Yes, wheels, but the luggage people have succeeded in damaging the tubes that let the handle slide out to a proper luggage-wheeling length. So I can wheel it only if I play hunchback. Sigh. A bit of this, a bit of that, and I arrive at Linda's apartment building. It's about 5.
Linda was going to see with her friend and neighbor Juanita if J would be home at a reasonable time and would let me in. If this became a plan or not, I don't know. I have not been on line to check anything, and at the moment I'm cellphoneless (plans to fix that tomorrow). With only an hour to change in Amsterdam, I didn't have time to find one of the internet kiosks before needing to go through the gate-side security (thank goodness the Americans have not yet thought of this, at least as far as I know). Then in LA I know there's plenty of stuff to get you online when you're waiting for an outbound flight, but arrivals? there's nothing. Nada. Niente. Not even a fricking information desk to ask where to catch the city bus. So I arrive. And I've forgotten Juanita's last name, if indeed I ever knew it. Fortunately, there's a J. Somebody in an apartment two numbers up from Linda's, where most people don't list their initials. Interphone: Yes, you have reached Jaunita (yes!), she is not in (aw!), please leave a message. It seems pointless to do so, but I do. After all, she may have just gone for a pee, and if I sit here on the steps a while, good things will happen.
Two good things happen. First, I take a load off. Second, a young woman with a stroller comes out, and happens upon another young woman with a stroller going in. They live in the same building, and this is the first time they've met. They compare nights, and teething, and in two minutes they're old friends. Me, I schlepp on down to the Overland Café for that now overdue beverage and to await my savior.
My computer says it's 3:30 in the morning. The diners around me think it's dinnertime. Awfully early, isn't it? 6:30? Restaurants in France wouldn't even be open yet.