No Ped Xing
No Ped Xing
say the signs along the Howard Hughes parkway, as Dr Strangename and I head to LAX this morning. We take a Culver CityBus, even though the Culver CityBus is green and therefore beyond the remit of this blog. Inching south, its passengers a Venn diagram of the aged, deranged and down-at-heel, the 6 passes through a dilapidated series of Americana. It's like being on an abandoned Disney ride, lacking only mechanical hookers waving from the windows of the pastel motels.
Over here, disheveled beauty parlors offer Fine Hair Imports and Symple Grooming. Restaurant names come in three grades: classic (Johnnie's French Dip and Pastrami; Tito's Tacos; Dinah's Diner), unappetizing (Grinders, Sizzlers, Shakers) and inexplicable (the Edelweis Chalet). After dinner you can choose between being robbed and beaten at the Tattle Tale Cocktail Lounge, or beaten and robbed at the Scarlet Lady Saloon.
While I wonder why an EZ Lube and a Jiffy Lube would set up shop within a block of each other, and which sounds ruder, Dr Strangename vacillates over the talk he must give in San Francisco and makes ill-advisedly loud comments about the welfare of his wife being alone in the city for three days. The man in front of us wakes, coughs onto the window, and folds up again. The bus runs a giddying set of circlets at the Culver City Bus Terminal, where the driver kicks down the access ramp and helps on a patron in a wheelchair, remarking
- Ain't nothing change but the date, Kenny.
Kenny laughs and laughs and laughs, and waves at the hard-luck Debbie Reynolds boarding behind him. Outside, a man dressed as the Statue of Liberty and holding a sandwich board advertising tax services walks by. You can tell we're near the airport when jumbo jets begin slaloming a hundred feet overhead.
- El Lay Eggs,
sings the driver, making Kenny laugh again, and drops us off in a dirty parking lot. The duller the city, the nicer the airport; hence, Düsseldorf airport is cold steel, white lines and has a Skytrain, and the LAX transit hub smells like piss and hobos. Blank-windowed Radisson, Sheraton and Marriots stand by it like well-dressed strangers ignoring a streetcrime. We take a shuttle to the terminal. LAX itself feels more edgy than a civilized Western airport should; perpetually lit by the slow amber tones of 1970s cop drama, its stained concrete and palm trees lend it the air of a South American dictatorship run to ruin.
Dr Strangename checks in. I go back to catch the bus home. This is the fifth time I've been to the airport since Christmas, without having once left LA; there was the Texan arrival and departure of my good friend Rodeo Girl, and then Dr Strangename had to go to France. The moment I realized that my husband's career had taken him to the Other Side -- the side where all the successful people are, networking and drinking freely from the minibar -- was when he said, with a straight face, that although it sounded like fun, it was work, and he wouldn't see much of Paris beyond hotel and conference rooms.
(His being right about this makes no real difference.)
I catch exactly the same bus for the return trip. Same seat; same sleeping man; same driver, who asks
- Didn't I just see you?
and I nod.
- Ain't nothing change but the date,
he says. Quite.