Monday, March 30, 2009

A Trip to the Left Coast

I spent most of last week in California. I was at a meeting in the middle of the Mohave desert but flew in and out of the Los Angeles area. It was my first trip out to Southern California and honestly, it could be my last for all I care.

I flew into the LA valley where the scenery is two kinds of heartbreaking. The city is full of idiots who get to routinely enjoy the obscene beautiful landscapes. The mountains seem to spring up and tower effortlessly over the urban plain. But on a bad day, you can barely see the mountains through the smog. Coming back into the valley through one of the mountain passes at the end of the trip, I could see the air change color as I approached the valley and things only got worse as I descended into it. I've often heard jokes about the air in LA being yellow. It's true. On the day I left, looking up at the sky made me feel like I was standing at the bottom of a used urinal. The city's general level of cleanliness didn't help matters.

The high desert was better. Cool crisp nights gave way to dry warm days with a pleasant but constant wind. The drive back and forth was over an hour of rocky hills, blooming desert, tiny towns, and power lines stretching back to the hungry Los Angeles Megalopolis. On the trip out it occurred to me that if the car died, I'd be over a day's walk from anyone that would care. I bought a small case of bottled water for the trip back. When my coworker asked me about it, I pointed out that our tiny Yaris had been requesting an oil change since we pulled off the rental lot.

I can't help but wonder if LA doesn't heavily shape media perception of the US as the center of the entertainment industry. The land is beautiful but polluted. Crime is rampant. There is a sharp division between rich and poor. It's poor are very poor and trying to make do however they can. It's most prominent upper class are famous people who make undeserved millions for being professionally photogenic. Isn't that media portrayal of American?

Oh and I hate LAX. Typical of older busy airports, it hasn't adapted well to the heightened security requirements of the post-9/11 era. The security lines were so long that my coworker returned the rental car at a different site, hopped the rental shuttle, went through the faster frequent flier line, and sat at the gate for almost a half hour before I got there. It was also the only time I've had the TSA get surly with me.

And no I didn't see anybody famous there.