The Taste of Raw Onions (11/11/2008)

This is another oldie from the days when my work used to take me to Los Angeles regularly. The last time I posted something like this was earlier this year.
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“This is K-EARTH 101.1” said the voice of the announcer on the radio. I was in the process of turning my super-efficient Toyota Prius Hybrid car from Century Boulevard on to Aviation Boulevard, just before Century went under the railroad bridge on its way to LAX airport. It was around 7:00 am on a nice sunny Thursday morning, and I was joining the other Angelenos heading off to work. George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” started playing on the radio as I drove out towards the end of the airport runways on Aviation Boulevard. All of a sudden it hit me! This felt like a scene from some movie made in the 70s. I must be dreaming. This cannot be real! What am I doing here?

I worked somewhat late that day in the office in El Segundo and finished around 6:00pm. I decided to treat myself to a good dinner in a decent restaurant, but also decided to order a salad along with my beer so that I would be eating something healthy. My destination was Cozymels Restaurant that evening. The black and white Ahi Tuna salad that was shown on the menu sounded just right. When the food arrived I was in for a shock. The sliced pieces of tuna were all pink. It was basically a lot of raw fish with some kind of decoration of white and black spots on the surface of the tuna – with lettuce, mango pieces, raw pink onions and a few other things. I could not finish the food. The mango pieces were tasteless and I still had the taste of onions in my mouth the next morning. Yuk! This was my great treat during my last night in LA last week.

I also traveled to LA the week before. That was a longer trip that lasted the whole week, and I spent the days in Hollywood at a conference. The area around Hollywood Boulevard is a very strange place. The conference that I went to was in an upscale hotel next to the famous Chinese Theater and the Kodak Auditorium. From an open verandah on the fifth floor just next to the conference rooms one could see the famous Hollywood sign up on the hill, and if you looked down you saw all the high-end stores and restaurants located beside the hotel. But things were different away from the hotel. I took a walk along the street at lunchtime one day and noticed that, outside of where the conference was being held, it was a very rough and tough place. It looked really run down and the buildings looked their age. There were lots of cheap stores around – T-shirts for tourists, cheap electronics, smoke shops, cheap luggage, cheap food, etc.. There was the smell of urine in the air, there were people loitering around on the street that it seemed wise to avoid, and you came across the occasional homeless person sitting on the side-walk talking to himself. One person was looking into all the garbage cans trying to find stuff. It occurred to me that although I was a little uncomfortable during my walk this was home for a lot of people. Would I still have been uncomfortable if circumstances had been different, and I had to spend more time in that place. We develop our comfort zones, and our own limited sense of reality that we can deal with. That may not be the real world.

The trips back from LA the last two times have worn me out. It is not the flights that have done me in, but it is the drive back home from the airport. I leave LA early in the morning, and by the time I get on the highway at Dulles airport to go back home, it is already dark. I join the long lines of red tail-lights of barely moving traffic on the Washington Beltway and one wants to get stop the car, get out, and scream. It is then that one actually feels the complete sense of futility. You know, I have been in a situation for many years where I have wished that I could stop what I was doing, take an extended break, and try to do something more interesting and fulfilling. It looks like I am not going to get there for a number of reasons. But I still persist with what I am doing, and I wonder if there is a choice. Is this a trap? It is only when you are stuck on the highway of life behind the red tail-lights, with little sign of progress, that it all hits you like a ton of bricks.

Well, the trip back from Hollywood ended in a bad way. I was not in a good mood when I arrived at home and I declined to go for the Halloween party at a friend’s place. I stayed at home by myself and went to sleep, and promptly woke up the next day feeling sick. My throat felt like sandpaper and it was on fire. I recovered after a sleepless Saturday night, and a Sunday of high temperatures, only to have to head back to LA once again last Wednesday. Fortunately, this last trip ended in a better manner. I did not fall sick, and I was able to head out to the towpath on Sunday morning to recover.

What a beautiful day it was last Sunday! The colorful leaves of Autumn have almost all fallen by this time, but some of the sections of the park were still really quite pretty. The woods in the area near Carderock were a strange combination of yellow and orange. Dried leaves covered the towpath in most parts and lay on the waters of the canal like a carpet. Where most of the leaves have fallen off the taller trees, there were still some short trees left behind that were a very bright shade of yellow. Looked great! When the wind blew, you could see the leaves that were left of the trees come loose and fly away over the canal. There was this one large dried leaf that kept floating over the canal and refused to come down. There were beautiful reflections of some of the colorful trees in the waters of the canal. In a certain section, there was a deer that was running along beside me in the woods next to the river, behind the thinned out foliage. It looked like it was keeping me company. It was sunny out there and the temperature was just right. There were many folks enjoying a Sunday morning outing. Kids were on bikes. Kids were in little carriages that were being pushed along by the jogging adults. There was this young couple who were just thrilled about seeing a great blue heron for the first time. The guy had to tell me about it. I just smiled. I am now a veteran. I just kept going, in no hurry to get to the end of this outing. It was the perfect day. But I did tire out at the end….

By the next weekend there will be nothing left to see on the trees. Another cycle of life would have completed. One will have to await the rebirth in Spring.
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The Pleasant Buzz (5/8/2009)

I am sitting in the restaurant at the Hilton Garden Inn in El Segundo and I have pleasant buzz going. It is Happy Hour at the bar. I am partaking of a glass of red wine – ­ for health reasons of course. The place is not crowded. Off to my left, at roughly 10 O’clock, a woman is complaining to her companion about the irresponsibility of somebody else in her workplace, and about how she is dealing with it. At a table right in front of me, a couple of folks are busy snacking, chatting, and consuming beer and vodka. At one point one of the gentlemen goes up the bar and brings back the rest of a half-empty bottle of vodka. It seems that he is not interested in having his drink poured into a glass by a waiter a little bit at a time. Off to my front and right, roughly beyond 1 O’clock, a group of women are having a jolly good time jabbering away loudly amongst themselves. I cannot make out if they are consuming any of the cheaper drinks that are being offered for Happy Hour. At 90 degrees to the direction I am facing, exactly to my right, is another gentleman who, just like me, is looking up at the Flat Panel TV high up on the wall towards a corner of the room. I think this gentleman is here for a free dinner. Along with his wine, he is eating the free oily hors d’oeuvres and the soup that are being offered a a part of Happy Hour. He has made at least a couple of trips to the buffet table for the food. The two of us are watching bits and pieces of the move “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” in High Definition. I see Richard Dreyfuss go cuckoo and start throwing all kinds of things from the garden through his kitchen window into his home. It seems that he wants to build a model of a mountain in his living room. Through the big glass windows of the restaurant right in front of me I can see the coconut trees and a parking lot. Beyond the parking lot is the elevated train station for the Los Angeles Light Rail Commuter train. I wonder if the spot outside the restaurant would be a good location to take a picture of the trees and the train station from, especially when a train arrives at the station and the light of the setting sun hits its side.

I am absorbing all of this while consuming my veggie burger. I am enjoying the French Fries. They are a special treat since I do not eat them often. They are not supposed to be good for me. I will make up for this breakdown in discipline by consuming a plate of fruit salad in the end. All of this probably only makes a difference in my mind.

I am experiencing all of this as if I am observing myself from somewhere outside of myself. Apparently, I am feeling a little detached. I am feeling a little separated from myself. You might think you know what I am doing here, but I am pretty sure I do not. But it is good to have that pleasant buzz anyway. Thanks goodness for Happy Hour.

Cheers!
kuria

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I took the following pictures during my later trips to the city from the proximity on the hotel mentioned above, at the corner of Mariposa and Nash.  Regular trips to Los Angeles were part of my work routine in those days, and I used to stay at this place a lot. I was also still in recovery mode from my heart procedure at that time.

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A Los Angeles light rail train

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Sunrise

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Sunset