Thursday, December 21, 2006

Winter Solstice

Flying to Los Angeles on the shortest day of the year. Since when did they stop feeding you on domestic flights? And with the airline security restrictions, it's hit or miss as to what you can take onto the flight. No liquids, so a thermos of soup is out. A sandwich is fine, but a jar of mayo is not. An orange is okay if you can consume it before you land in California. Poi is out, according to the United ground staff tagging our luggage, and so if Jell-O and yogurt, according to the sign just outside security screening.

We had just gone flying the day before with N, who has a commercial glider license, at Dillingham Airfield, way up at the north end of Oahu. I had never done it before and wondered how you got up high enough to catch the currents. You get towed up by a tow-plane! But, of course.

"Deputy Dawg" was the tow plane for our "Bird of Paradise" glider. Gliders are extremely efficient things. The body is a sleek little pencil of a thing with long sleek wings. I guess it's sort of like a longboard for the skies! In only a few hundred meters, we were airborne, but the tow-plane kept taking us higher and higher until we were up at the top of the cliffs and then, giving the tow-line a bit of slack, we disconnected and were on our own. There's quite a bit of wind rushing into the glider, so it's not a silent, weightless world by any means, but without an engine, it really feels like you are gliding on air.

The United flight back to LA was not like that at all. (Though, I must say that out of all the American carriers, I think they are the most professional. And I'm not just saying that because I just happened to be one of the handful that got a free glass of wine from the first class cabin.)

Big Dog was packing a Satsuma orange, an almost empty jar of almond butter, a small pack of peanuts and a plastic triangle of a sandwich he bought at a newsstand.

"Do you want any?" He was already into the sandwich before we even took off. I was still full from the pancake breakfast we had two hours ago.
"Not for me. What's that squealing sound?" I asked.
"How should I know. It's not my plane."
When he got out of his seat, I realized it was coming from the headphone plug on his armrest. Someone had cranked up the volume so much the audio was squealing out of the tiny holes!

By the time we got to LAX, I really was hungry and so was Big Dog. We both get mean when we're hungry, but after the chaos at the airport, the throngs, the piled up traffic, the sudden cold, the long wait for a shuttle bus and then the walk to the taxi stand when we finally gave up and decided to take a cab, I knew enough to give him plenty of space. The cab driver made the mistake of asking him to repeat our destination and Big Dog almost bit his hand off.

So when we got to our condo, we threw our bag in the door and rushed out to Benito's, our favorite fast food Mexican joint a few blocks away on Santa Monica Boulevard.

Most American Mexican food is too goopy with melted cheese and too much sauce, but Benito's is more like what you'd get in Mexico, and as I munched down my carnitas taco and taquitos, I realized that this was what I liked about LA. I like it's multiethnicity. It's a mini United Nations at our local supermarket. Right behind Benito's is our favorite Persian bakery where the Iranian immigrant family makes everything from scratch and it's awesomely good and inexpensive. In front of Benito's is a restaurant specializing in Oaxacan cuisine, a California roll place, a more traditional Japanese restaurant, a 50's themed diner… Can you imagine how BORING a place this size would be if it were only filled with people of European descent?

"I can't believe we're back in California. Winter's just started and it's the shortest day of the year," Big Dog grumbled. (Still hungry? Have another taco.) I was already feeling better, however.
"Yes, but from tomorrow, the days start getting longer and longer!"

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