Throughout the bible, a place called “Gehenna” is mentioned in reference to hell. In Jesus’ time, it was thought that there was an actual Gehenna which was best described as a perpetual burning trash dump – a tire fire in today’s time most likely. It’s where trash, bodies, and whatnot were set afire. No doubt, it sported a putrid smell as well as, of course, fire and smoke. What I was told was that Jesus used the place as an example of the kind of place hell was, a place of untold misery that the vision of an actual burning putrid dump would sear in the local mind as a place not to be stuck for an hour much less eternity.
Of course, newer religions personalize hell. Maybe hell is a place that is replete with an environment similar to our earthly environment but something we find so repugnant that we’ll experience our own personal hell for eternity. If that’s the case I’m in real trouble. I’ll spend eternity driving a wheezy Ford rental, stomach burning from hunger, feet aching, through mile after mile of suburbs with nothing but greasy hamburger and taco stands. For eternity.
|Drive, Drive, Drive to a whole lotta nothing!|
A hell not unlike driving around Long Beach, starving, on a Sunday night after setting up for my class. Even Google maps was doing me wrong – Search “restaurant” on my blackberry and I get page after page of fast food places.
|Drive, Drive the other way|
I won’t bother with the sordid details of the flight. It was American Airlines, and I’ve lost my status. So it left late, I was in the middle seat of a clapped out MD80 for three hours, with a douche-bag in front of me leaned so far back in his seat I could have tilted my head forward and kissed him on the noggin. Enough said.
I may explore Virgin America. They have a new terminal presence at DFW and I’m sick of being kicked in the nuts by American.
My first night in town I passed up the only non fast food restaurant, a wine bar called Delius, that Google coughed up twice. It looked too foo-foo expensive. But after another half hour driving I gave up looking, drove back and went in. All I was looking for was a decent meal and maybe a glass of wine. The wine was out of my comfort zone – the cheapest being like $12 a glass. So I settled for a hefeweizen. It was a good move. The meal was actually stellar and not to expensive. And the floor show couldn’t be beat.
In front of me at the bar were what I figured were barfly regulars. They seemed to know the bartender and menu pretty well. Two couples – one I’d guess 50-something consulting with their geezer astrologist and his wife on turning on, tuning in, and dropping out to the UK to become professional students. The Astrologist agreed the stars had aligned and now was a good time for this middle age crazy notion.The missus was finishing her masters and decided she liked learning rather than working. Her husband didn’t look as if he agreed and was keeping quiet. The geezer astrologist told them they were thinking of moving as well, only to Arizona but didn’t like the politics there. So we have one couple bailing out to the UK, and another to Arizona. More than likely because people like them have made the local area unlivable. Listening to their gaseous conversation I understood why nearly every state around that I’ve visited hated Californian transplants.
I positively loathe Southern California. It’s replete with “type b” personalities. The type that I get stuck behind no matter what I’m doing, while they get their shit together, tapping out my last ounce of patience. Worse yet, there is also a decent size population of “type-a’s” which I’m guessing that having to deal with the “type b’s” so much in their society and on the highway that they are way more ass-holier than I find anywhere else.
And forget about the beach boy song “California girls” It certainly wasn’t written about the girls in Long Beach, which for the most part are chubby, pug faced, and waddle along the road with a look of attitude on their face. The guys are no better. I can’t remember when I’ve seen so many neck tattoos. And that’s on the more ambulatory wino types.
Unlike Portland, where if you Google “brew pub” you get so many hits in walking distance you hardly can decide, in LB it’s a struggle to find grub that can fit any sort of diet. On Tuesday I found myself seeking out an Outback. Something I rarely ever do. Chain restaurants to me are last resorts on my travels. I don’t seek them out unless I’m desperate and my only other option is to eating at the hotel. Here, I have no choice.
Most trips, I avoid the tourist parts of town like the plague. I actually pride myself on avoiding the attractions. But here it looked as if that might be my only option for a decent meal with a low risk of food poisoning. So breaking tradition, I hit the beach. No way. No friggin way. It’s bad enough to seek out touristy chains. It’s worse yet to struggle to get to them and have to pay to park. Downtown Long Beach has a pretty substantial suck factor.
|the beach. The little island to the left is an oil rig.|
However, the one bright spot on the these travels is that I’d spy cars I haven’t seen since I was a kid. And in remarkable shape to boot! I’ve counted half a dozen VW bugs, any of which I’d buy. A 70’s dodge swinger, a 70’s ford Granada. Whoa!
The one cool thing about this state is that it’s kind to cars.
Another thing I have a passion for is aircraft. And the office I’m located is adjacent to the long beach airport, home of the C-17 Globemaster. It’s thrilling to watch one of these behemoths take off. And as kind as California is to cars, it appears to be as much to airplanes as well. I saw a B17, DC3, and a stearman biplane all flying this week. The locals told me there are a few P-51s as well, although I didn’t see them.
|C-17 Tails looming by the tower|
The only bright spot on this trip is discovering that Marriott still loves me. They have a big wide screen here, and a memory foam mattress in my own little compound. Although unlike most cities, where the lobby attendant is gracious and helpful, here the woman stood, arms crossed, glaring at the guests and clucking to a maid. She at least had the sense to stay out of view.
To do anything in this city is a tremendous pain in the ass. It’s such a nanny state. You have to drive forever to get anywhere. When you get there, such as a food store in this case, there’s usually a rent-a-cop keeping the locals under watch. Every retail establishment I went into checked my ID (Show me your papers!). In the bathroom, there was a sign on the mirror “Wash your Hands”, in an astonishing twelve languages. I’m amazed there wasn’t a sign like I had seen all throughout the UK telling me that the hot water was hot.
|Lave Sus Manos!|
Another funny thing, oil wells were more ubiquitous than Starbucks. Nearly everywhere I went I would pass one of these big green monsters, slowly grinding away. It’s funny that I’ve lived in Texas almost a decade, and spent the last two traveling to visit family in Louisiana and saw more oil rigs in Long Beach in a week than I’ve seen in twenty years of traveling through the oil belt in the southwest.
By Friday I was pretty much baked and ready to flee. When I finished packing, I couldn’t find my customer to say goodbye and I was starving. Decision time – Pause for lunch or lam out to the airport and eat there. I chose the latter, wrongly.
I dumped the car off and caught the shuttle to the old and shabby Tom Bradley terminal at LAX, Coughed up another $25 to check my bags, and made it through security with minimum hassle. I say minimum because I’m used to the nimrods that don’t take time to learn the system and proceed to vent their frustration over their self inflicted pain to me, as if I care.
The Bradley terminal appears to be a relic of the Carter years. Narrow aisles, and nine or so grubby gates. There’s two Starbucks, a bakery, a greasy Burger King, an On the Border, and a Chilis. Bad, bad move to wait and eat at the airport. The place was poorly designed, packed ass-to-elbow, and had no access to the rest of the airport unless you exit the secure zone. The only two “sit-down” restaurants (the Brinker twins) were in total disarray. I was told 1/2 hour to score a seat at Chili’s, as a guy started hollering about not being served. At On the Border I was told five minutes. Twenty minutes later, the hostess left for the day as I commiserated with the guy that previously had lost it in the Chilis. In the restaurant, several tables sat open, dirty, and full of dishes. A woman who entered when I first arrived sat at a table alone, no food or drink in front of her.
So I hit Starbucks an settled for a stale sandwich and headed to my gate. There I sat, eating my crummy food, heart full of hate for all things in California, actually eager to get on an American Airlines plane for the three hour flogging on the way home.
|The symbol of Long Beach. Note that it’s “Green”|