I run out the door to join John, my housemate, in his little grey Audi A4, practical and responsible – a complete contrast to the ’67 convertible Lincoln with suicide doors we have in the driveway next to my ’78 convertible blue MGB, not to mention the Cougar hiked up on lifts near the garage.Today is not a Lincoln day however. He drives me to LAX to catch a plane back to my hometown of Tacoma, Washington, a small city of around a million people. Not small by some standards, but after living in Los Angeles for 13 years, everything is small by comparison.You might say, New York! That’s not small! And true that, but New York is tall. It’s compacted into an island with some boroughs on the outside. Los Angeles goes on for miles and miles in every direction, like some sort of cancerous growth on the skin of Mother Earth. But I digress…
Tacoma, Washington. It’s green, lush, and beautiful in many ways and sits under the watchful eye of the dormant (not extinct) volcano that is Mt. Rainer. I grew up here for 25 years of my life, and left it without batting an eye or shedding a tear to pursue a treacherous dream of making movies.I mean, there shouldn’t be any competition, right?Who wants to make movies, or be in movies?
Driving down Lincoln Blvd toward LAX (maybe we should have driven the Lincoln for irony sake), projects are discussed, ideas hashed out.Both John and I do the same thing.We create art and visual effects for film, plus we have ideas of making films of our own.So, we can jive off one other with synergistic creativity. He’s on the cell phone, on speaker, slid into the vent of the A/C because he hasn’t purchased the hands-free Borg ear implant since the law changed, making it illegal to talk and drive at the same time (which just means, in my mind, that more people will be driving and texting.Obviously safer). The guy on the phone can hear us fine, but we can’t hear him.The conversation has something to do with rights infringement on a trademarked name or something.Regardless, someone was going to make money and someone was going to lose money.It’s the same as in any industry.But the unique slant on the film and entertainment industry is that it’s being made with “art” as the commodity.A strange thing really.Usually the artist stands against consumerism, capitalism, and any other trendy –ism to stand against.But the artists thrive because of the –isms they deplore.
Again…I digress from the story.And I, as your faithful narrator, apologize.
John drops me off at the airport at the terminal for Virgin America –.I hadn’t even heard of Virgin America.I assume it’s some branch belonging to richguy Richard Branson, but it wasn’t worth it to investigate the details.They had the best deal, so that’s what I’m goin with.Bags checked, I motor on to get through the security checkpoint.The line is held up by a woman carrying a chocolate cake.The geniuses at the x-ray machine may not have seen chocolate cake before.Or maybe they had never seen one through an x-ray machine.I suspect that it wasn’t very interesting.Regardless, chaos ensues.Confusion abounds.Three people have to investigate the image and run it through the gamma radiation multiple times, incurring at least $15 to the taxpayers of Los Angeles county.
I grab my laptop and shoes and move on.
There’s about 45 minutes before Virgin America boards its virgin passengers.I spend my valuable time cleaning off duplicate MP3s off my laptop.The attendant stands up to the mike and makes an announcement:
“MHUM FRUSH MELON ON VERG MA HAIR WE MHIL BE BREADING SHRTLAY”
I turn and look around me to see if anyone else was as confused as I was.People glance at one another, wondering the same thing. I lock eyes with a black woman with long blond dreads and a body that probably inspired Sir Mix-A-Lot.I raise a questioning eyebrow, and we both smile and started laughing.I mention that the attendant either used to work at McDonald’s or she was Charlie Brown’s teacher.She laughed hard and loud.
At least my brain was still running on all cylinders and I managed to be witty despite having no sleep in the previous 48 hours.Or maybe that helped it.I can’t say for sure.
We slowly board the plane after a couple more indecipherable announcements.But we’re veteran passengers.We know the gig.Handicapped, elderly, and children first.And if you’re a handicapped elderly child, you get to be first of the first.Then first class.Then “business” class, which I guess is a more politically correct term than Coach, or maybe Second Class, or Working Class.Someone must have gotten all bent out of shape and cried, hence creating Business Class.
Black lights line the inside of the cabin.I feel I’m missing out because I didn’t bring any ecstasy and house music isn’t throbbing through the aisles.However, everyone’s eyes glow like some bad vampire flick.I take my seat, get comfy, and immediately start fiddling with the interactive screen on the headrest of the dude in front of me, offering movies, music, tv shows, books.I see a button with food on it.I’m hoping that if you press it, a meal will come out of the seat.I decide that I’ll try it later.I browse through the films, which is actually quite an array of both good and bad ones.However, if I’m going to watch a movie for 12 bucks, I’ll go see it on the theater screen, and not on a postage stamp.Anyway, I’m gonna be asleep before we’re over the Pacific.No use in wasting hard earned duckettes on dreams that are free.
After landing, disembarking, and waiting for baggage at the carousel behind a 14-year old girl who is having a fit because her bag hadn’t arrived yet, I call my ride, whom I know affectionately as Mom.She lets me know that she is on her way, and was running a little behind. “Uh,” I quip, “where are you now?”She pauses “In Lakewood…”For those of you readers who may not be familiar with the general topography and cartography of the Greater Seattle Tacoma area….Lakewood is approximately 45 minutes away from my current position. But, I love Mom, so I say nothing and smile and know that I’ll see her soon.
I find a place to sit, which, as it happens, is right next to the blond Nubian princess.She starts laughing again from our previous, brief conversation.I learn that her name is Almond. I raise an eyebrow and smile a crooked smile, but don’t question that that is her real name.I figure it’s a stage name.For what stage?I’m not quite sure. Could be stripper, porn, or model – you just never know. She’s up in Seattle for a Rough Rider’s convention, which is a bunch of bikers.She’s a model (gasp!) for their group, and proudly shows me one of her photos on her cell phone which is of her crouching like a cat in a bikini on top of her pink HondaCBR.I nod in approval.She goes on and on about the biker group, and how they go all over the US, and how they’re gonna have a picnic on Saturday, and drive all around Seattle. And it’ll be a blast.I briefly consider the possibility of running off and joining the Rough Riders for the weekend.Maybe get a black leather jacket and a Harley.Drive from town to town.I picture myself walking into the group, or strutting, rather.Almond at my side.I’d blend alright.Blond-haired, blue-eyed kid who looks like he just started shaving. Yeah, my first impression probably wouldn’t impress.It was a fleeting dream that left as soon as it came.
We chat over this and that.I probably learn more about her than her about me.I have a tendency to do that.People feel comfortable talking to me – about really weird and personal stuff.Maybe this stuff will show up in later stories.But not here.
My mom shows up.I’m glad it’s her and not her husband.I didn’t really feel like being interrogated about why I was chatting with a buxom, black, bodacious beauty with blond dreadlocks.He grew up in California – but in Fresno, not Los Angeles…a little less cosmopolitan.
I’ll spare you the details of the rest of the night and most of the following day…simply because it was uneventful.But Friday was the day of the first part of the reason why I was traveling all this way.The Class Reunion.Not only the Class Reunion, but the 20th year class reunion.The reunion between the 10th year where most people have just found out what their lives are going to be like… starting families, just getting a career in order, yet still young and impulsive…and the 30th year where fellow students’ kids have had kids and the wear and tear of history has begun to take its toll.Maybe the 20th is deemed so important because it is at that time where you’ve figured out who you are.You’ve matured into the person that you are meant to be.On the other hand, its about that time for a mid-life crisis and the guys go out and trade the Saab for an ’84 Camero and the gals go out and trade their husband for Juan, the tennis instructor they met in Cabo during the “girl’s vacation”.I’m not making any presumptions here, I’m just saying its gonna be unpredictable.And that’s what’s unnerving.