ONWARDS AND UPWARDS

I don’t do early mornings. At least I don’t do them very well. I mean, was it 5 a.m. already?
We’d had less than two hours of sleep, and it was time for my friend Evangelina to whisk me to the airport in order for me to catch my 7:50 a.m. flight with Mexicana back to Los Angeles.Having joined a bunch of Evangelina’s friends for some food and drink at a cantina close to Bellas Artes in the Historical Centre of Mexico City the previous night, we hadn’t managed to return to her apartment on Puebla until the very early hours once we’d dropped off a girl from Maastricht who was tirelessly toiling for the Dutch Embassy in the city.
It was with two sets of bleary eyes that Evangelina and I caught the lift down into the parking lot beneath her apartment and crawled into her car. Fortunately, 5 a.m. is one of the best times of day to hit the roads in Mexico City. They are relatively quiet at such a time, but beware: they soon get busy.It was hard to believe that I’d been in Mexico for a month.
As much as I felt reluctant to leave, I was nonetheless chomping at the bit to reacquaint myself with LA.
I’m usually useless when it comes to navigating my way around unfamiliar airports, yet my feet somehow managed to find their own way, and it wasn’t long before I’d located the relevant gate for my departure.It took less than four hours to cover more than 1,500 miles, and the cracking meal and movie combo (which consisted of a scolding hot omelette and the Gary Cole-starring Forever Strong) helped affairs along no end.Mid-flight, whispers began to ricochet around the fuselage. Apparently there was a singer on-board the flight.
Once the girl beside me caught wind of such excitement, she casually glanced over at me, preparing to relay such news, only to shrink back in sudden contemplation.
‘Are YOU the singer that everybody is talking about?’ she wondered aloud.’Er, no,’ I coughed in astonishment.’But you look like Chris Martin,’ she said.

‘So I hear,’ I replied, ‘but I certainly don’t see the resemblance myself.’

As it was, one of The Backstreet Boys was up in First Class, potentially oblivious to the wave of speculation that was sweeping back and forth behind him.
Whilst the act of getting into the US was as straightforward as could be, utter confusion immediately struck once I emerged from the Tom Bradley Terminal at the appropriately vast LAX.Clocking a sign that urged all those folk wishing to travel into the city by public transport to stand beneath it, I dashed over the road, careful not to get mown down by the relentless stream of vehicles picking up new arrivals.Distressingly, no buses stopped where I was patiently waiting, only a non-stop parade of private shuttle services.
Curious as to how much it would cost to take one to Santa Monica, I ambled over to a couple of drivers in order to collect and compare their quotes. It seemed I was in way over my head: the average fare to Santa Monica wheeled in at over $70.My daily budget would weep at such an astronomical outlay. Thus, I momentarily considered attempting to walk from the airport to Santa Monica.
Fortunately, I came to my senses just in time, noticing a blue sign some fifty yards distant. It, too, announced that buses could be caught beneath it.Willing to try anything, I made my way over and soon found myself on a free shuttle bus service which took me around to Parking Lot ‘C’, a convenient point from which a connecting bus could transfer me to Santa Monica via the long drag of Lincoln Boulevard.Incredibly, the fare from the airport parking lot to Santa Monica cost just seventy-five cents.
The bus driver didn’t have the burden of handling cash. Instead of taking and changing money between bursts of acceleration and harsh braking, he customarily instructed all passengers to insert their money into the machine positioned beside where he was sitting.
The lowest denomination of US currency I had to my name was a one-dollar bill, and from that I saw no change whatsoever. I could hardly complain though. I mean, I had, in theory, saved myself approximately $69 by taking the public bus as opposed to one of the private beauties.
Rattling towards the beach, I couldn’t help but smile. Even though it was an insufferably overcast day, I was back in LA: not only THE city of angels, but also a city of miracles.

(Steve Rudd)

If you enjoyed reading the above, you may wish to pick up a Pulse, Steve’s critically acclaimed travelogue published by Valley Press. Click here for more details.

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