La, la, la… LAX

July 23, 2009

Sitting in an airport bar at LAX waiting for my connecting flight to San Diego, where I am headed to cover the 40th International Comic Con.  I have a glass of crazily cheap (tasting, expensive in monetary value – I am in an airport bar) wine.  The bar has WiFi and I am refreshing Facebook and Twitter while listening to someone on CNN talk to pundits of the African American community about Professor Gates‘ bogus arrest last Thursday as the lead-in to President Obama’s prime time news conference in which he’s expected to talking about his healthcare plan.

In that I am not going to miss an important news event, I am glad that I have a two hour layover before my connecting flight leaves for San Diego.  Though I do find it ironic that I am in an airport bar at LAX watching CNN as important news breaks across a television screen.  It occurs to me that pretty much any time that anyone says LAX to me, my stomach drops into my shoes, and a cold sweat begins to form on my face.

You see: I used to live in Los Angeles.  It was a short, ill advised attempt to follow my dreams of being a “working actor” further than just being a “working actor” to being a “working actor in Hollyweird.”

It shouldn’t be shocking that Hollyweird and I didn’t quite mix.

Met a lot of great people when I lived in LA – many of whom I am still in touch with today (hey B. Leigh, hey Brett, hey Erin!)  Had a lot of grand adventures.  But, surely, when my time was over in La-la, I was all but too ready to get the fuck out of Dodge.

Let me ‘splain: The last time I was at LAX was on September 10, 2001.  A few short hours before people in New York were treated to the vision of hell on earth as planes smashed into the sky and budget reports and office supplies mixed with ashes fell to the ground like snow.  A breath of a moment before everyone’s definitions of what could and couldn’t happen in America changed forever and always on a sunny September morning, I was…

Sitting in the parking lot of LAX waiting to pick up my friend Brett.

He arrived on a redeye from Detroit around 2am PST and I drove him home to his apartment in Burbank and then drove myself home to my apartment a few blocks from his.  The next morning my phone exploded in a series of panicked phone calls from the East coast.  The next day I felt as scared and hopeless as a little kid seperated from her parents in an oppressive crowd at a carnival.

I tried to drive out of LA that day — I was hot tailing it to Ohio by way of Vegas on the 15 with all my worldly property in the trunk of my Toyota — I was stopped well before the California border at an imprompteau checkpoint and turned back to LA.  I accepted defeat and stopped at a Sonic on my way back to pick up burgers for myself and B. Leigh.  I camped out for hours on her couch, watching CNN, holding hands – even letting her stinky illegal pets that give me the willies lick my toes.  Sometime before dawn I drove my weary self back to my one room apartment where I tearfully called my Mom in Ohio and told her how scared I was and how much I wanted to come home.

She – being the eternal, tough Mommaship – reminded me that I was fine, everyone we knew was fine (I was to find out that wasn’t true later) and that I should just stick it out in LA, that everything was going to be fine.  I marveled at her ability to be optimistic and strong; and, wished myself more like her before I hung up amongst many “I love you’s.”   A couple months later she confided to me from a hospital bed as I sat next to her watching her recover from surgery (that in of itself scared me more than 9/11, to be honest) that she had not been fine at all and had grappled with the urge to drive to me right away after hearing the fear in my voice — for what, who knows — whatever it is a Mom does best: hold me, tell me everything would be okay, make grilled cheese sandwiches and put bandaids on the boo-boos after scaring the boogey men out of my closet.

The fear didn’t abate, I’m sure I’m not alone there.

A half a month later when my friend Heather came to visit in LA I couldn’t get within five miles of LAX in my car.  I had to meet her at a militaristic outposting somewhere in the Westchester neighborhood of southwestern LA, THEN take a bus back to where I’d parked.

When I left LA it was by car – with Heather in the passenger seat – headed to New Orleans.  I got three speeding tickets and was picked up by a Nevada State Trooper (picked up as in “hit on,” not picked up as in “arrested.”)  We sang show tunes the entire way; and, she tsk-tsk’ed me as I furitively smoked Parliment Lights out the window of my car — smoking a habit I picked up again in the wake of 9/11 — if something stronger had been available to sooth my nerves, I’m sure I would have grabbed for that instead.

I left LA on October 13, 2001.  On December 11, 2001 I’d lived four lives in of themselves since leaving LA.  That date I sat in the New Orleans airport, drinking straight vodka and smoking (oh, those were the days) to numb myself to CNN playing looping footage of 9/11 for the three month anniversary of the tragedy and to delay my dealing with my Mom’s impending surgery a mere six days later.  The entire Fall of 2001 was fucked with stress and tears and fear for me.  The ENTIRE Fall.

(Mom is fine.)

It’s no wonder than that the few times I’ve returned to LA – which I refer to as my own personal 8th layer of Hell (the Fraudulant, if you are not up on your Dante, why I feel like that is fodder for another story) – I’ve avoided flying into LAX.  This airport is permanantly linked with that date, that time, that fear.  Fuck it if Burbank is a haul from West Hollyweird or Ventura – my friends/co-workers can just suck it up and sit in traffic – I’ll pay for the gas.

*drinks wine, orders another*


One Response to “La, la, la… LAX”

  1. Man … when we came out to California on our “fact-finding” mission to see if we could live in San Diego, it was October 2001. Everyone we met, when we told them we were from New York, got this look on their face. I’m sure you know the look I mean. (We’re not from the city, but to non-New Yorkers, everyone from New York is from the city.) Fences and bridges had flags and signs on them about 9/11. While we were out here for that week, the whole anthrax stuff started up, so we were in our hotel watching deadly envelopes turn up and people dying all over the place along the East Coast. We went to Balboa Park not realizing it was in the Lindbergh Field flight path and freaked out when the first airplane went by only a few hundred feet overhead.

    Yeah … 2001 … not such a good year.

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