Taking Off : Departing Los Angeles

This is my 14th time to LAX this summer, but it is the first time I have come to the airport with shoes on. I tossed my flip-flops in the trash right before I left, leaving my staple shoe in California and replacing the void with a loomed dread of loafers to come. I am beginning to think that people at the airport look familiar- it is possible that I have been here so frequently that this is actually the case, but more likely the beautiful (processed) faces of LA are beginning to morph into a few stereotypical molds.

LAX: September 17, 2005

050805_LAX.jpg

The people chat around me about lines, destination and how the airport has become more congested in recent months. New mothers compare notes on flying with children as the smile plastic smiles used to disguise their exhaustion. Couples read books occasionally pausing to share amusing observations or clever facts. I stop past the newsstand, quickly heading to the section where I know there still will be no Economist, but I check anyways. The headlines about hurricane Katrina, “Who’s to Blame?” stick out amongst the glossy covers declaring Angelie and Brads new wedding plans, and Britney’s first baby which was born two days ago at UCLA medical center. The beautiful couples with Starbucks in their hands bicker quietly next to an elderly Indian couple who remain silent as they wait for their flight. This is my 14th time to LAX this summer, but it is my first time I have to the airport with shoes on. I tossed my flip-flops in the trash right before I left, leaving my staple shoe in California and replacing the void with a loomed dread of loafers to come. I am beginning to think that people at the airport look familiar- it is possible that I have been here so frequently that this is actually the case, but more likely the beautiful (processed) faces of LA are beginning to morph into a few stereotypical molds. A beautiful Indian/African American girl has sat down beside me, flipping through the pages of her glossy magazine filled with the faces of LA’s stars- articles about Madonna and Christina Richie, boots and the new fall colors. Her boyfriend stands next to her (not wanting to dirty his cream colored pants by sitting on the floor) chatting on his cell phone he explains to the other line that he usually limits the amount of olive oil he uses on his salads. The rest of his conversation is drowned by the Brazil jazz that begins to waft into my ears from my ipod.

As I finish my frappachino (and begin to get cold from the air conditioning) I notice a gentleman sitting near me looking intently in my direction. I wonder what story he is weaving in his mind about me, as I sit creating life stories out of glances and gestures. He holds his half smile as I look back at his direction. He does not move his eyes from mine. In the last few months in LA I have noticed eye contact more- mainly because I have become less prone to look in the eyes of passers by. I still speak to strangers at coffee shops and in grocery stores, I still chat with the new mother about teething and childproofing homes, but I now see the ground more then the sky. I see my feet rather then the smiles of the people around me. I wonder why we avoid eye contact- I wonder why I avoid eye contact.

All the while, the lines grow and shrink as people board and exit their planes. The plane lands from Phoenix and another leaves for the San Jose. Coming and going. Two nights ago I had tea with my friend Max. He is a kindred-traveling spirit, and as we sat there laughing about Bangkok and Katmandu we discussed life’s journeys. More then time spent in airports- the true and most essential journeys we take are inside ourselves. I reflected that with the ability to be anywhere in 24hours, we have lost the part of the internal journey that happens during the process of migration from one city to another. Max expressed that he enjoys the smack in the face that occurs with the drastic change that can happen with air travel (you can be in LA traffic in the morning and exploring the Andes that evening). I agree that his shock can be helpful in creating change within us- but unfortunately (unlike Max who is self disciplined enough to meditate regularly) I miss the moments to reflect on where I am leaving and where I am going- when this change can happen in five hours, two complimentary beverages and one bag of peanuts.

“Last call for Washington, DC: Calling passenger Fay Johnson, please board at gate 10 for immediate departure…”