The idea of flying has never perturbed me in the slightest. I’d like to believe it’s the type of mindset you carry onto your first airplane ride that will shape your future, or lack thereof, flight experiences. I can observe the world from a wider vantage point and, in a matter of speaking, find power as an artist and writer through it. Turbulence does not bother me as long as I’m not flying out of my seat and frantically snatching the closest oxygen mask. The couple sitting next to me are napping soundly; the woman’s head is wedged in between the seat and her boyfriend’s hunched over back.
I find it to be adorable but opt not to take a photo capturing the precious moment in time. It is my first time in California and to say I am excited is a bold understatement. My elatedness seeps out through my refusal to sleep or even sit back in my seat for a brief nap, consistently pushing up the window shade to admire the ever changing American landscape below and updating the plane’s exact coordinates on the interface in front of me every ten minutes to answer the never ending same question, “Are we there yet?” As we soar into the southwest, the cabin temperature noticeably increases. I’m close, so close, and within an hour the gentle thumps of a landing done right makes me jolt upright in my seat, alert and ready to shed off an unneeded extra layer of clothing.
My sweetheart in bearded armor, Nathan, greets me at the arrival gate with a coy smile and a bouquet of flowers that a sprite, Asian florist assembled and swore on her ancestors that I would love; she was right. The day I took off from Boston the weather was dreary, as it had been for the past several days: overcast skies with frigid rain showers sprinkled in throughout the day. Enough of that kind of weather erodes the soul. I am thrust into splendid sunlight and dry heat. Palm trees lining the side of expressways and boulevards blot out the sun in rapid succession.
I’ve never seen so many in such close proximity to one another. I’ve witnessed my fair share of palm trees throughout my years vacationing in Florida and the southern states, but not at this multitude. “Today is just a bad day, I guess,” Nathan says, referring to the thick smog hanging over the city. Is it? This is exactly how I imagined Los Angeles to look like, smog in the air and broken dreams littering the star-speckled sidewalks.
I get a better view of the city from the Griffith Observatory atop the Hollywood Hills. Slightly to the north, the white Hollywood sign stands out against the brown backdrop of the hills that separate Hollywood from the San Fernando valley (or just “The Valley” as the locals affectionately refer to it). My vision clouds slightly and I cannot help but to envision my inner five-year-old gazing at the iconic sign slack-jawed and stomping her feet in place, roaring with triumph that she made it to the Hollywood sign. I made it.
The city sprawls out for miles. It’s just so massive that my eyes strain to make out the expanse of concrete jungle that stretches to the horizon. Of course, I indulged myself in a double double and animal style fries at In N’ Out while being lectured on the existence of God by a German filmmaker sitting next to me. I experienced the eclectic atmosphere that is Venice Beach and almost caved into snagging myself a knock off medical marijuana card. I rode the Santa Monica ferris wheel at sunset and I did not feel the need to speak.
It was quiet up there, the bustle of the pier was muted and I watched on silently as the orange sun slowly dipped beyond the mountains to the west. The waves on either side of the pier broke and gently grazed the shoreline. This was the definition of serenity. Nathan’s hand rested over mine and his lips brushed against my temple. We exchanged knowing looks, all that had to be said was screamed in the blissful silence. Everything that I held at the highest beauty was all around me and within arms reach.