Friday, January 13th— the kind of day you should just go back to bed and call it a day, but I no longer believe those so-called unlucky numbers: when I moved to the US, Jon pointed out in the elevator one day that many buildings don’t have a 13th floor, but that’s just bizarre. For a long time, 16 was my favorite number but after 2016, 16 seemed to have become half of the voters’ unlucky number.
Anyway, not daunted by Friday the 13th, Caroline and I were going to drive south in search of sun beams and warmth but the day at home started out with such sparkling sunlight and promise that I almost wanted to bag it and not go at all. But a road trip felt alluring, so off we went…
I’ve made this much more adventurous than it sounds— as if we were just going to drive into the sunset with no direction or goals, but the truth is Caroline wanted to surprise one of her best friends at LMU and, after all the rain and darkness of the season, LA suddenly sounded seductive and sweet. I’ve been coy about it online, because Caroline wanted it to be a surprise and with all the online media and her friends’ lines crossing with mine online, I was sworn to secrecy.
Now that her friend has been surprised (i.e. one of her LMU friends said: “Can you pick something out for so and so to wear,” Caroline’s friend walked to the closet in the dorm room and out jumped Caroline) I can speak more freely. It’s all on video, but of course I won’t post that here. Anyway, mission accomplished.
The drive was incredible. People who have done the I-5 South, from the Bay Area to LA know that it’s the most boring stretch of farmland, although this time it had several homemade signs planted along the way thanking voters for “Making America Great Again.” At Harris Ranch, where we had lunch, Caroline looked around the dining room and we both exchanged a meaningful glance: it seemed like we were surrounded by Trump voters, aside from the two Japanese tourists next to us who ordered Harris Ranch oysters, which they thought were oysters (but they were not– the waitress kindly reminded them these oysters were bull’s testicles– eek!).
During the summer, I-5 is mostly a brown landscape where the sun beats down mercilessly and the only contrast you may see is the black silhouettes of cows against a yellowish-brown background. This time, however, we were in for a surprise. Due to the monster storms (which got the Northern part of California out of the drought), the landscape was lush and green, with water gurgling everywhere.
The expanse of sky above it all was constantly changing with all kinds of clouds flitting by, and sometimes sending targeted sunbeams through the clouds onto the manicured farmland in the distance. A layering of land and sky, like you see in some of the amazing panoramas of 17th-century Dutch painter Philip de Koning. Something like this, and still more dramatic:
I should have gotten out and have taken a picture but on the highway itself there’s really no place to do that and like my father, once I get in the car for a certain destination my foot rests heavily on the gas, although cruise control is a lovely American invention as it allows you to take your foot off the gas and you have a feeling of coasting, sailing through the landscape, rather than driving. Caroline’s music was blasting in the background, in other words, the perfect soundtrack for our little getaway.
Getting to the Airbnb, I wanted to keep my diary discipline up and post but… the internet was out for much of the evening, so I decided to call Jon but no answer… sent him texts… no answer. For a guy who starts staring at his phone the moment he wakes up, this is odd, but I decided not to worry.
Saturday, January 14th– After a quick breakfast with Caroline, I took her to LMU again. Jon still couldn’t be reached and what worried me the most was that my text messages were delivered but not read. By 10:30 AM, I decided to call a friend who lives nearby but he was out of town, too, so then I called my neighbor. He checked on the house and reported back that no one was there. I told him to go back and go into the house at which point, I received a message from Jon, who had been sitting in the hot tub, the first time the neighbor called. Phew. What a relief. Better safe than sorry, I guess. The explanation was that Jon had misplaced his phone, so hence the silence. He seemed surprised I was worried…
After I had my haircut, I had a lovely lunch and an even greater time on the beach. While the rest of the country bundles up in layers, in LA people are already driving about shirtless and wearing shorts. What’s not to like?
I have to say, I love being in LA– yes, I know there’s smog and lots and lots of people, and yes, at times it’s just one big fucking parking lot in rush hour traffic, but the light in LA is different, filtered, dreamy.
Also, since San Francisco has been taken over by techies, the city has lost its original character and diversity. That diversity and a certain authenticity are still part and parcel of LA.
And look! The bougainvillea is already blooming everywhere against white plaster:
People seem quite a bit more relaxed than up north. Plus it’s cheaper. I paid half for my haircut of what I’d normally pay in the Bay Area, lunch was delicisio and cheap, and parking is dirt cheap compared to San Fran.
In the late afternoon, I ambled into the part of Venice where it’s crawling with Asian tourists but you can see why:
Like Disneyland, this manufactured community is an illusional reality but this make-believe world has been so successful that when you look at the below picture:
you might be thinking you’re in Holland somewhere– Giethoorn more specifically (minus the palm trees). This could be an August afternoon in Giethoorn but it’s LA in January, when people are shoveling snow in Tahoe, and folks in Chicago may not want to go out with exposed skin for fear of frostbite.
I soaked up the sun with every fiber of my being and felt giddy. Too giddy. We’re less than a week away from the Trump inauguration. Will the lights go out, the sun be obscured? The earth will keep spinning and people will go about their business in LA, too, and while LA seems a world away from Washington DC and all it stands for right now, I force myself to remember this is one country, with one president. For today, however, the world seemed suspended in serenity with that faux Hollywood aura that Los Angeles has perfected like no place on earth. It’s a good thing, because it will be our entry point for escapism and denial when the going is gonna get tough. Mark my words.