I remember arriving at Los Angeles International with my parents and sister. I remember leaving the Boeing 757, walking down the jetway, and out of that gate, into the airport. I don't remember if we stopped at the luggage carousel, though we probably did, because at Fort Lauderdale International on that late March day in 2003, we had luggage to give at the American Airlines counter. At LAX, I was more in awe of the sheer size of that particular terminal, quite sure that it could be its own civilization. It looked like it.
This piece of a memory came from watching the latest episode of Modern Family last night on the Tivo. I don't watch it often, since I like The Middle more, but because most of it was set at Los Angeles International, and because I am an aviation enthusiast and want to work at an airport in the coming years, I had to see this episode. I was paying attention to Jay's growing displeasure at his family joining him on this trip to Hawaii, and Claire's severe fear of flying, but looking at that airport, the escalator (which I don't think I ever saw), the little shops in between, I also thought about 5 or 6 a.m., 10 days later, when we arrived back on the property to return the car we rented to the small agency nearby, and to be shuttled to our terminal. I think the flight was within the 9 a.m. hour, but it was the first true L.A. darkness I had ever seen. Staying at the Airtel Plaza Hotel in Van Nuys, with its aviation decorations (since it was right next to Van Nuys Executive), and driving to Santa Clarita (a chilly, stinging rain on that day, when we went to Six Flags Magic Mountain), and San Diego (so warm, inviting, and seemingly so relaxed, that I wanted to live there right away, but there was no job for Dad there), and many other locales, there was nighttime, of course, but I had never paid attention to it like I had on that morning. Ok, that's not completely true, because I had stood on the balcony of our two-bedroom hotel room, watching the activity at Van Nuys Executive at about 10 p.m. each evening. But then, the darkness was in relation to the airport, and I was more interested in the airport. I would watch some planes take off against the at-times barely visible outline of the mountain some miles away, and only the plane had my attention.
I think back to comparisons. On the flight to Los Angeles, the movie was Brown Sugar, which had fine actors in Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan, but I thought it would never end. After, there was the pilot episode of Still Standing, and I think an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond. It was a lunchtime flight, and one of the selections was a chicken-and-rice dish that was actually pretty good.
On the flight back, I Spy was shown, and I wanted to jump out of the plane. It was bad enough that breakfast was a soggy something, either waffles or an imitation of them. Cereal cannot be screwed up, and fortunately, that was part of the meal, the only worthwhile part. I didn't care that Eddie Murphy was suddenly paired up with Owen Wilson, I didn't care about the plot, and, at that point, Famke Janssen still hadn't done anything worthwhile since Goldeneye. Here's the thing, though. It's not that I didn't want to go home because California was so great. I was still perplexed by it, trying to understand why Dad insisted on possibly moving there. Apparently, he'd liked it when he went in the '70s, but he couldn't have expected it to remain the same. This is the same man who, when we were evacuated from our home for a day in October 2007 because of a nearby wildfire, said that he didn't think any wildfires could actually be in our valley. Let that not be viewed as a slight against him. I don't mean it that way. It's just that on that trip and the next trip out that he and Mom took, and our eventual move here, he didn't know a whole lot about Southern California. Very little study went into what each area was and what they could have meant for us. He was going to lose his teaching job in Pembroke Pines, Florida, because of then-governor Jeb Bush's edict on expanding the importance of the FCAT exam, to the severe detriment of many electives, including business education, which was to be cut. So we had to go. There was nothing else. And he didn't want to do anything else. He had been a teacher again since 1996 (before that, he worked for Southern Bell, which then became BellSouth, for 19 years; before that, a teacher for a time in the New York public school system), and he wasn't going to let go of it. He's good at it. But California? I didn't feel close to any of its southern regions as closely as I did with nearly all of Florida, my home state. Every part of Florida is manageable. 25 minutes to Fort Lauderdale from Pembroke Pines, no matter the traffic. And downtown there always offered things to see, such as the Museum of Discovery and Science and the main Broward County Library branch. And the art museum.
Southern California has all those things, I know. But it's the split areas I don't like, split by freeways. I may be a resident of Southern California, but I'm only a true resident of Santa Clarita. I'm a tourist in Pasadena, in Burbank, obviously in San Francisco, which I'd expect, but even in downtown Los Angeles, in Palmdale, too.
But I've mentioned all that before in a previous entry. I'm just stunned at how fast these six and a half years have passed. There have been days that I've wanted to hug close, to extend to more than the time I was given. I wanted to wrap myself up in certain hours and disappear into each moment, taking each moment in for half an hour to walk through them. I loved Friday afternoons at College of the Canyons, when the campus was so empty that I felt like I owned it. I remember my graduation from there, sitting in one seat, one row of what must have been 20 rows on the grass in the Honor Grove, bored with the too-long speech by the head of the school, looking up at the windows in one of the buildings, wondering if any professor there was eccentric enough that they were possible sitting cross-legged on the floor, frantically paging through Moby Dick, trying to find a certain word that they remembered the most from it.
There are countless more memories like this, and I'll probably put them here over time. I still miss the apartment in Valencia. There was more to see, more to do, more to know there. But I won't miss this entire valley when we move to Las Vegas. That's where I want to be now, and when I read books on its history, I always feel I can belong to it. That's most important to me.