Wednesday, March 28, 2012

California Dreaming

Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide,
No escape from reality
Open your eyes,
Look up to the skies and see,
I'm just a poor boy, I need no sympathy,
Because I'm easy come, easy go,
Little high, little low,
Any way the wind blows doesn't really matter to me, to me

                                                           Bohemian Rhapsody –Queen

Los Angeles 2012.

It was fantasy.  Perfect weather.  Perfect Palm Trees.  The Perfect Hotel. Perfect food. Perfect mood. It gets bad when even your eleven year old tells you “Mom you’re getting too silly.”

My recent Los Angeles trip with my daughters was sheer bliss. We toured most major sites: the LA zoo, the breathtaking J. Paul Getty museum. We also toured every major movie studio, (Warner Brothers and Universal) including an unofficial tour of Paramount with an old college roommate who is "in the business."  Just to walk through those gates and be welcomed in by security was a dream. 

It was definitely a “yes Mr. Goldwyn” moment.  All I needed were sparkling red shoes since I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.

The week ended with Cirque du Soleil. Those death-defying high wire acts were combined with more movie magic. Ah...seventh heaven.

There nothing like returning on first class to lull you into another fantasy.  The flight attendant was masterful and catered to my modest need for beverages, food and finally peace and quiet.  My girls were catered to too,  so I tucked myself into a reclining chair, a good book and headphones to drown out the ambient noise.

Five hours of uninterrupted bliss. Sell my clothes I'm truly going to heaven.

Well, maybe…whoa...not too fast.

It’s funny what you do notice in all that peace.  I had finished Isaacsons’ Steve Jobs biography and I just sat there not dozing but not fully aware either. Was I finally relaxed?  

The captain came on:

I just turned on the fasten seat belt sign as we are starting our approach into Dulles…The temperature there is a cool 54 and we should expect a great ride in.”

I glanced at the farm fields of Northern Virginia.  Neat rectangles of blossoming spring green.  Small farmhouses.  Beautiful Country.

But suddenly there was a change.

Open your eyes,
Look up to the skies and see,
I'm just a poor boy, I need no sympathy,
Because I'm easy come, easy go,
Little high, little low,

The flight attendant’s once cheery demeanor and body language was not her usual cool, pleasant and overly accommodating self.  She rushed to the front and then to the back of the plane in a hurried walk.  Her facial expression turned from a plastic smile to a wide-eyed frown.  A man from the back  rushed up to the front.  Anyone who flies frequently enough could spot the air marshal from a mile away. Any 30-40 year old man regardless of race who is clean-shaven with a square jaw and a black North Face jacket in a temperature-controlled plane doesn’t need a badge.  

Unusual grinding noises gradually shook the plane. It began to seem like an awfully long time to descend.  More grinding, more familiar ground scenes could be seen from the small windows. More grinding , same ground. We were circling not once, twice, now three times.  

There’s a certain amount of apprehensiveness I have when traveling with my children.  It was worse when they were younger.  The travails of what they are going to eat and whether they are going to sleep well given time changes and strange hotel rooms.  Did I pack enough and the proper clothes?  It’s getting better especially now with teenagers and a preteen.  But a parent never stops worrying. I thought the comfort of first class would allay some of those pesky fears. I was wrong.

Moments like this you worry but have no control. I vetoed telling my kids what was going on with the stuck landing gear.  Think of the Jurrassic Park flume ride at Universal, just close your eyes and Isaac Newton figured out the rest. No, instead I had a visual flashback to the “War of the Worlds” display of a crashed 747 at the Universal Studios Tour. One nervous Nellie in our small group was enough. One was still watching the Muppet Movie, another “Dexter” episodes and the other reading.  

Some I imagine would pray to whatever version of God they believe in at his point.  I called upon my faith in that the gears were just stuck; that the maintenance on VirginAmerica knew what they are doing and worse comes to worse, the crew knew how to land without landing gear. No gremlins on board today.

Spray the foam on the runway, we’re coming home.

The grinding continued for about a full 30 seconds then a jolt of release of both the landing gear and my anxiety. It was the fifth and final circle. This was no Divine Comedy or was it?

“Flight attendants prepare for landing….”.

She came back to her small rear-facing seat. I heard her sigh of relief as she leaned back, relaxed her shoulders and fastened her seatbelt. The air marshal disappeared "like magic".

Not caught in a landslide today nor escape from reality.

Click, Click. There’s no place like home.

Whew. Glad to pull into Gate 34.

Anyway the wind blows, doesn’t really matter to me….

Sure, right.

1 comment:

  1. Glad you're okay and didn't have to "assume the position." I remember as a small kid the same thing happened to us and we "assumed the position". We had no idea what was going on. My parents were trying not to freak out. We came in close so the ground crew could see/visualize the landing gear to see if they were locked in place. Then we landed, and the plane erupted into loud applause. Scary crap. Grab your ankles and kiss you @$$hole goodbye.....Not.