The Other End of Sunset

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Back to the Southland

Spent much of this last week in Santa Monica. Man, I love LA. Yes, I know you have heard that before. But it's still true.

I rode a VROD, instead of renting a car. I know, I talk about motorcycles a lot. On Saturday, I rode up PCH along the water, up to Malibu. {Note to self - it's cold with a summer riding coat in November, along the coast, even when it's sunny and beautiful. OK, shivers. Next topic.} Then I took Malibu Canyon into the mountains. There's this moment where you pass over a ridge, and through a tunnel, and suddenly it's 10 degrees warmer. I found myself saying - out loud, it was creepy - "Man, I love the Valley!"

You see, the San Fernando Valley is a lot warmer than the coast currently. However, it's quite unusual for me to say that I love the Valley - in fact, it's probably odd for anyone to leave the Westside and say they love the Valley. I mean, it's the Valley! Home to Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Valley girls, phrases like "Gag me with a spoon", and virtually all the world's porn production. But whatever - it's warmer, and there was no traffic. It's really nice up there, and it was nice to ride, in the sunshine.

I rode back through an odd route that ended up with me in Venice, riding on a street called "Electric Avenue". I kid you not. There was this guy standing on the corner, with dreads, and I stopped and sang to him - I'm gonna rock down to Electric Avenue, and then we'll take it higher. He looked at me much the same way you are. It's ok, it's not catching. But that was a great song, and the road was fun.

I've had more fun on the bike this week than I have had in a long time. But enough of this.

Part of the reason I was down here was to go to an event put on by the Fulfillment Fund, raising funds for scholarships and mentoring for at risk youth. It was a fun event -- you can see it here -- and a lot of money got raised for a great cause. Feel free to help in any way you can.

Clearly, (I say, stepping onto my soapbox), education is the only way for our society to continue to thrive. There are people in our society - our incredibly rich society - who don't have enough access to education, or the help they may need in order to really benefit from it. Did you know that almost 50% of students in the LA school district do not graduate from high school? College may not be designed for everyone, but shouldn't almost everyone at least graduate from high school? And college, or some other training, might be useful for a larger percentage of folks. But if you grew up in a garage (not a house), where there were drug and alcohol problems, and your friends get shot and killed on their way home from school, what will your dreams be like?* We should fix this, IMNSHO. And we have the wherewithal to do so. Let's get engaged, and do so. Education is a start. Not enough, but a start

(*) These details are from the story of one of the Fulfillment Fund's scholarship recipients. She just graduated from the University of Michigan. I had tears in my eyes while listening to her. It was touching. It also reminded me how incredibly lucky I am - and how much I owe the cosmos in recompense.

Back to the ironic side for a few minutes.

People in airports are funny, and I think I will never exhaust the possibilities for making fun of them - and myself, by extension. I wore my headphones around the airport the other day. For a couple of hours. And didn't use my headset when someone called me on my cell. Man, clearly karma from that posting caught up with me.

I am on Southwest this trip. Cattle Call Airlines, as some term it. It's an odd social situation at boarding. Southwest uses "Boarding by Zone" - either A, B, or C. The A's get the aisles (except for the folks who want windows). And they get most of the overhead space. The B's get what's left. And the C's get to check their baggage and sit in the middle seats. But, within each group, there's an order, based on when you get in line. So, the airports have these signs that say "A", "B", and "C", and people line up under them before boarding starts.

But it's not so simple, because there are social aspects. Of course, nobody wants to be the creepy, obsessed person that is FIRST in line, like an hour and a half before the flight. But nobody wants to be the loser at the back of the line either. So you get these weird flock behaviors where people innocently hang out around the signs, POINTEDLY not standing in line, just NEAR the line. But the second someone aggressively moves towards the line, everyone else follows, like sheep. Violent, snarling sheep, but sheep nonetheless.

It appears that the winning bid is to be SECOND in line. You avoid the anal-retentive label, and get your seat (and the overhead space).

The best part is how none of the folks look at each other. But everyone watches everyone else. It's like the creepiest introvert high school dance you ever went to - man, I'm not looking at her... but she's cute! People are looking at each other, waiting to pounce on the line as soon as possible. But you don't want to get caught looking. Vultures. Horrible.

And I totally do it as well.

I can't resist. It's like the last bite of cake - how can you pass it up? I don't know. You know that you are full, and don't need the extra calories, but you eat it anyway. At the airport, I know that I have only one bag, it's small, and I'll probably get an aisle anyway, but I totally focus on being second. It's really (really) stupid.

In case you are wondering, I was about tenth in line for this flight. I got an aisle. And the middle seat was filled with a guy almost as tall as me, and probably twice my weight. Oh well, he was nice, anyway.

I checked in for my flight home already... I got in the A group... but will I get to be the second in line or not...

I will let you know, Fearless Reader, during my next taxi ride.