At the weekend, I was in Los Angeles, having arrived there with nine hours scheduled, but due to heavy security checks at Frankfurt, we didn’t take off until at least an hour after the original time. I would have had seven hours, tops, and by the time I got into the Air New Zealand lounge in one of the least logically laid out airports in the world (that’s LAX) I had about six left. Still, I was in a good mood because of the courteous, but still professional, treatment given to me by Frazer of the DHS’s passport control. These Californians can be nice.
What is odd about LAX is how poor the design is, at least the terminals I had to use. Did the airport authority never sample other airports? I remembered it being far better before, but for some reason, nothing clicked this time. There is, from what I can tell, one elevator at the Air New Zealand–Virgin terminal to get thousands of passengers between ﬂoors. It had one speed: dead slow. If you were in a wheelchair, then this airport was saying, ‘F*** you.’
The décor is crap and nothing like what we saw on the Heather Locklear–Blair Underwood TV series on a year or two ago, which actually made LAX look modern. Instead, we are treated to a terminal which even the Air New Zealand check-in counter girl said was dull: at LAX, ‘There’s nothing to do.’
The Air New Zealand lounge, therefore, seemed like utopia—if you could ﬁnd your way there.
Still, with six hours to go, I could go and see Casino Royale weeks before it premièred in New Zealand, and decided to go into Manhattan Beach. Barbara and Thierry at the lounge told me that there was indeed a cinema at Manhattan Village. Thierry was, by my guess, a French Canadian, so here we have a Yank, a Canadian, and a Chinese guy all knowing about Manhattan Beach. Sadly, that did not mean that Mr Hughes, the cabbie, had any clue.
With his football game volume turned up to maximum, he proceeded to ask me the address. I said I did not know after I got him to repeat his question four times: surely Manhattan Village would be obvious to someone who operated in the area? At least Manhattan Beach? No clue. He asked if I had a phone. I could not see the relevance of that, nor could I understand whom I should call. Nine one one?
Instead, Mr Hughes dropped me two miles away from the cinema, since I knew we were getting nowhere fast, and I had to ask locals how to get there. A normal cabbie would have asked himself, or even driven around, but no, he would rather look thick.
Speaking of thick, I had to walk the two miles back, in what the Californians call fog. I am sorry, chaps, but that ain’t fog. I have seen fog in three other continents, and have walked through it, and whatever that disgusting mist was there on Saturday was closer to foul air from hell that surfaced with the last episode of Angel and the ﬁrst episode of Bones. I could feel the carbon monoxide levels rise in my bloodstream as I walked the two miles, not a cab in sight, not that I would be dumb enough to let lightning strike twice on this journey.
What I experienced in those two miles was a sterility that America can do so well, a characterless neighbourhood with folks peering at you from beyond the poison air, or from the air-conditioned comfort of their Bugatti Veyron (yes, I did see one). You see, you need a ﬂash car in America because if you didn’t have one, you would die of boredom.
I got to the cinema, called the Paciﬁc Theatre (yes, they do spell it correctly) and paid my US$8 for my fare. The ﬁlm, as mentioned in my last post, was very good. It was nice to see a Bond that wasn’t predictable, even if I had read the book countless times. The screenwriters, which included friend-of-a-friend Paul Haggis, kept the Bond–Vesper Lynd affair at the end, a nice change from decades of scripts that demolished Fleming novels far worse than what Dean Martin ever did as Matt Helm. Let’s face it: Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery was closer to Thunderball than Never Say Never Again. And the abandonment of the ﬂashing dot title sequence (while retaining a very different gun barrel) worked: this was Bond Begins, as Daniel Craig sought to discover a character that the audience already knew. That element worked far better because it was the core of the story, quite unlike when Ben Afﬂeck took over from Harrison Ford as Jack R. Yan, I mean, Jack Ryan, in The Sum of All Fears.
On exiting the cinema, I realized: this is California. People do not hail cabs after a movie in California. Crap. A Crown Vic went by and that was the last cab in Manhattan Beach.
I asked a local where the nearest ‘taxi stand or cab rank’ was—I still do not know which term is correct for these parts. Basically, Jay, the Californian, said, ‘Good luck.’ But there was a nearby hotel, 400 yd away, which he could drop me off at once he located his 13-year-old son, who had also gone to see Casino Royale.
I was quite prepared to walk it, but Jay insisted that he give me a lift. We went off in his CNG-powered Honda Civic. For all the poison fumes that I had sampled three hours before, I knew Jay was not responsible. He loathed the inconvenience of ﬁnding a CNG station; I tried not to be too smug when thinking that CNG was in New Zealand a long time ago, at virtually every petrol station in the country, and that it was abandoned for the most part in 1996. Still, at least Jay was one of the conscientious Californians, and I applauded him—this was a guy helping out a total stranger and tried to give a sense of down-home American hospitality.
The hotel staff were charming, too, and one chatted to me about the availability of Nissan Skylines in New Zealand; while my Indian cab driver was the antithesis of Mr Hughes, offering clever conversation, and why he was putting himself through college.
I got back to the lounge to shower, drink and eat, though an apple caused me serious indigestion. Was there fertilizer in the apple, made out of Californian poison air?
So we had one Yank who was less than smart. Only one. You ﬁnd that in any country. I encountered heaps of folks prepared to extend a hand of friendship. They might not apologize for the quality of their air, but they sure as heck make up for it by having the same, universal human values. When a stranger is in need, you give him a hand. Thank you, California: you did your state proud.
In the words of the Governor, ‘You people, you are the true action heroes. I’ll be back.’
Del.icio.us tags: California LAX humour Posted by Jack Yan, 05:41
Re: the Californian 'fog' - I asked a taxi-driver what it was, and he said it was a 'marine layer,' although, he was smirking as he said it. I wonder if 'marine layer' is what they tell the tourists... "Fetid Carcinogenic Effluvium" may lack a certain appeal.
Jack: I loved this post. You had me missing California for the first time in months!Post a Comment
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