October 27, 2003


Travelling - safe in California, in a part of the state that is not burning, thankfully.

The flight was jam packed - maybe two empty seats. I sat between two gentlemen, all three of us plugging away on our laptops. All three of us taller than the average human (well, I'm probably the average man's height, but that still doesn't make for airline comfort).

A three-hour flight is actually a good, productive length. The one-hour flights basically leave you room to read an article or two or three chapters in a book. I like to watch take-off and landing...and basically anything else I can see out of a plane.

I retrieved my luggage, following the Heather rule that every other woman should heed. Do not pack your luggage to be heavier than what you can lift and carry by yourself. This is actually a newer rule, and possibly nothing has changed but my strength. I digress. (What was the point of that paragraph? I think I'll leave it anyway).

And so it came to pass that I found a cab to take me to the hotel. The driver was a Russian immigrant. I didn't pick up on that until he spoke. He asked me what my accent was. Funny, I have an accent? I guess so. A mix if Michigan and Missouri. Perhaps "ten" comes out a little less like tehhhhn and more like tihhhn. I hope not, but it's possible.

And so I asked him where he was from, and he said "Russia, sad to say." I asked how long he had been in the US, and he said 33 months. You or I, we would've probably said, oh, about a year and a half. Or just over a year. This man knew to the month and told me so.

Then, the obvious question: "How do you like California?" He said, "California is like heaven." And he said, "Were you born in the US?" I said, "yes." He said, "Lucky." And then he reiterated, "I'm from Russia, sad to say."

Unfortunately, at this point we were on the freeway, and talking wasn't much of an option. My hearing isn't so great when there's lots of background noise, and he was concentrating on the road and the cell phone that would occasionally ring and into which he would occasionally respond in Russian (I'm guessing).

I met a grateful man today. I've given it some thought. He loves this country. I do, too.

No matter where I travel in America, it's still America. I've seen about half of the states, and while there are some obvious differences, there are more similarities. Such was illustrated again in slow motion to me when I took an afternoon walk from the hotel out into a residential area.

It started as a quest to find the eventual dinner restaurant, which I was never able to do. I was just itching for a bike because the roads are perfect for cycling. Wide enough to share with the cars. The weather, too. But, alas, no bike. Just Heather and her tennis shoes and a time limit because of the midday California sun.

I put in about 2 1/2 miles in just over a half an hour, I'd guess. I passed Electronic Arts and Oracle, and then I found myself in a completely residential neighborhood complete with a child in a green shirt piloting a skateboard. It seemed like Florida because that's something I can compare it to, but there were no palm trees. And then it just seemed like another day in another city that is still America.

And so few of us notice it, sad to say.


Posted by hln at October 27, 2003 07:13 PM | Anecdote | TrackBack

Hi darlin! Sorry I missed you in SF! But I go through there (roughly) once a quarter, if you know of a time when you will be there, perhaps we can meet up!

Posted by: Helen at October 28, 2003 05:30 AM

3 hours is about my tolerance limit for travel: On the train to Chicago from Carbondale, I always get that same feeling. 3 hours of "Wow! The cornfields go on forever! This is the most amazing state in the US!" Right about at Urbana-Champaign though.... "Wow. The cornfields go on forever. For-fucking-ever. Is this almost over?"

Posted by: Aaron at October 31, 2003 07:28 PM