Los Angeles, Day Six

I left Pasadena just before 2 am, and made the drive back to my hotel in Hawthorne in less than forty five minutes. The drive there took nearly an hour and a half. That’s LA traffic in a nutshell. All big-city traffic, really.

I packed my bags, leaving a single change of clothes out for the next day and attempted to go to bed. I did not sleep well. Perhaps it was apprehension about the flight, or just a sense of the area still tugging on me. I went to LA intending to do a number of things. I accomplished most of them. I met up with friends. I took in the sights. I experienced new things. I came to realize that, yes, Los Angeles is a place I could be happy living. I did not decide whether it was somewhere I would move right away, though. That one lingering thing continues to gnaw at me.

Where do I go from here? I don’t have the answer yet.

I woke up way too early and could not find my way back to sleep, so I gave everything in my room a once-over and then watched Sunday’s episode of Cosmos. Of course, I immediately fell asleep, waking just moments before I’d set my alarm in the first place. I showered, loaded my luggage into the rental car, and checked out of the hotel, the last of many firsts for me on the trip.

Returning my car was a lot faster than picking it up. I was checked out in short order. The shuttle to LAX left just as I was approaching the door, but another one pulled up minutes later. The bus quickly loaded with other travelers, and we made our way to the airport. The only stand-out passenger on the ride was a very serious businesswoman who spent the whole trip talking to her subordinates on a bluetooth headset. It was impressive; she jumped from subject to subject without skipping a beat, each time recalling volumes of very specific information without ever referencing a notebook or mobile device.

I arrived at LAX far too early, with three hours to kill. I made my way though security relatively quickly. The only hang-up was a woman who kept setting off the metal detector as she walked through it. After finding my gate, I looked for a place to grab a bite to eat. Inside a nearby food court was a Real Food Daily. I got a Breakfast Sammie, which I did not care for. Either the avocado or the veganaise just didn’t suit my palate. I ate a few bites of it just to be sure I wasn’t being a total wuss before giving up on it.

I got a phone call from the person who would be picking me up at the airport as I was leaving the food court. I verified my plans with her as I walked to the gate. I sat down and read a screenplay to pass the time.

My seat on the flight back was far better than the one I had on the way in. I was seated beside a window, and the the seat to my right was blocked, allowing all the space I could hope for in economy. An older religious man sat in the aisle seat. He spent most of the flight reading from and taking notes in a book on scripture as he munched on a snack mix.

As the plane banked over the ocean, before heading east, there was a moment where I could see nothing but water. It was as if the entire world had disappeared. Even from our height, with clouds between us and the expanse of the Pacific, it seemed so close. My seat was right beside the port wing, so I could not get an unobstructed view of the land beneath me, but the occasional peek at the world beneath us was still beautiful. The mountains we passed over still filled my view, revealing both our elevation and their grand majesty.

As we reached cruising altitude, I finished reading a television pilot sent to me by a friend and worked on a story of my own. As I wrote, the person in front of me leaned their chair back, revealing in no uncertain terms that a 15-inch Macbook Pro is just barely too large to use comfortably in economy. With the wrist rest pressed firmly against my stomach, I was able to tilt the screen just enough to make it visible when I looked down at it. I pressed on, determined to make the most of my four hours in the sky. American Airlines helped by playing Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit as our inflight entertainment.

I completed another section of my interactive story and made a writing schedule for the foreseeable future.  In total, I wrote over 7,000 words during the trip. 1,200 words a day is far more than my usual average. I was proud, but knew I could to do better. I found myself wondering if I could do 2,000 a day while still working full time? What if I could do more?

O’Hare was busy when we landed; outbound planes were rushing to leave before heavy rains set in. We still got off the plane early. All in all, my return flight was far more pleasant than my departing one. I made sure to chew gum during takeoff and landing, significantly reducing the pain in my ears during major altitude changes.

My ride from the airport arrived more quickly than expected, so we stopped by Pita Inn for a late dinner before she dropped me off at home. One thing has changed about me since the trip: I didn’t ask them to nix the tomatoes or tahini this time around.

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