We landed.

October 20, 2014

Sunday October 19th

Lancaster. Highway 14 North, I am driving an aged Toyota, she’s willing but doesn’t like bumps (no shocks) up and up the mountains we went. The views are gorgeous, the mountains in the distance looking like a photoshopped image with a a soft blur added. I have not driven a car for … almost a year and a half, not that I was driving 4 wheeled vehicles much before that, I was always on a motorcycle. The last time I drove one I was going to the same destination I am heading for today. Lancaster. To Steve and Sunny’s place.

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I left Istanbul Wednesday morning… Arrived in Los Angeles on what I thought was going to be Thursday evening. As we were about to land, I looked outside, the unmistakable landscape of city lights laid out in a grid in the flat desert against the blackness of the Mountains. I felt a whiff of apprehension. Out of the plane, into the airport gangway it was the smell of deep fried chicken that greeted us and somehow that smell sent a chill through me along with a involuntary: “what am I doing here”. I know what I am doing here, it’s clear and it has to be done. But being here brings a clear realization that I am not done with Istanbul, with Turkey. This fact is immensely clear at that very moment.

Contrary to some past experience, the passport check is painless, no questions, and interrogations and fingerprints and all that stuff. They now have automated machines for the declaration form… and the machine stares back at you and takes your picture; biometrics I gather, along with an eye scan. It’s a bit chilly, “welcome to Big Brother” it seems to say. The man at the passport counter asked me only one question:

“What is the purpose of your trip”, to which I answered with

“Visiting my friends.” to which he replied

“Oh, you have friends?” I laughed and was on my way.

Once outside I waited and waited for my ride, yes a ride, Mona was going to come and pick me up on the motorcycle but the hours went by and she didn’t show up. I started to worry that the worst could have happened to her, motorcycles are motorcycles and there is a risk… I didn’t have a phone, or phone numbers for anyone, my phone with the numbers had been stolen Istanbul a year ago. I asked at the information desk about WIFI, so I could message people and imagine that, there is no reliable WIFI at LAX. One of the most traveled airports in the world has no WIFI. But it being America and the nice people from here, she offered me to use her laptop to contact people. I send a few messages then the lady gave me her phone number so Mona could call me if I reached her. I thanked her warmly. Next, I had to wait. So I sat down on the chairs in the waiting area. They purposefully put arm rests between the seats so you can’t lie down. I put my arms in and around my bags and closed my eyes. I sleep a little.

A while later the lady called me to say that they will leave in a few minutes. She lends me her laptop again and I send more messages. This is all at Terminal B which is under renovations, I ask her if there are any Starbucks at the airport as they always have WIFI. In the ext terminal she informs me, number 4. So I go there. Get online… then it comes, Acalya, then Forrest, then Hector, then Mona

“You were supposed to arrive tomorrow?”

“well it is tomorrow… I left yesterday…” I check the calendar and go slightly screwy when I see the date. It’s still the 15th… but I’ve been up for 26 hours at this point… it should be tomorrow… then I realize that the flight made me gain a day… Oh… wow. So sorry guys, this is all my mistake…

We make arrangements, Hector is coming. I am so fried. Crispy fried. I feel the ground wavering under my feet and the inside of my head is crackling with static. I wait. As I look around I feel I am in such a strange place. People look strange. Cars look strange. The moon is in the wrong place. I keep wanting to answer in Turkish, but no one looks right, they all have white, soft faces. Their bodies speak a different language too…

Hector arrives as I was attempting to get back online, the Starbucks WIFI bucking off my attempts to ride it. He’s there, we head for the parking lot, both making apologies, no it’s my fault and that sort of conversation goes on and I try to smile and I cry instead.

“I don’t want to be here!!!” I cry.

I am completely undone. Exhausted. I tell myself to shut up. That is the lack of sleep talking. The nerves and the reactive mind. We get to the car. A guy is backing up an SUV so slowly, it seems the strangest thing to me… you’d never see such a thing in Istanbul…

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I get in the car, we get on the freeway. Am I dreaming? The scent of LA. The lights of LA. We talk about Istanbul. We get to destination, in North Hollywood. The street names are familiar but I have no idea where the cardinal points are located. I walk in a house, Mona is there, we talk… until we fall apart with fatigue…

I wake up to the sound of a lawn mower. Then, an airplane. The house is cold. Desert nights are cold. But outside it is balmy, sunny. And so, so, so, quiet. There is this typical hush of cars on the freeways in the distance but there are no voices… nobody on the sidewalks. Few cars down the street. Birds are chirping. I take a short walk and find a fruit store and a bakery, the fruit store is obviously owned by a middle eastern person, this feels right, even the way the merchandise is laid out. There’s even tahin, dates, this is good. Next door is a Chinese bakery. He tries to sell me Chinese cookies, “with half butter half margarine” he says…. ugh…

Next day we head east. Mona teaches until 11:30 in Monrovia, a few miles from San Dimas, so we organize a meeting with Crystal and Heather. There, nothing has changed. Same smell in the air. It seems I could resume the life I had here before leaving, it is like a dream. Same everything and my bike will appear any moment now in the parking lot and I’ll drive back down the short hill to Asbjorn’s place…

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I meet a lot of people there, Klatch customers I made friends with back then. Again, it’s as if I have never left. But I did leave and my mind, ideas have changed. And the good thing is that I am starting to see the shape of the outline of what I must do. Things are clarifying. So it’s good to be here. But I know I’m not done in Istanbul. There are things to do there and people and music to make.

So now I sit in this Starbucks.. I had sat at this very table two years ago or was it 3? … writing my blog, about desert flowers, about a Suzuki 750 GS that I adored. About the future, oh, how we don’t know anything, and it’s just fine that way.

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2 Responses to “We landed.”

  1. Danielle Liard Says:

    Who would have believed that you would suffer culture shock on returning to L.A. area? 😉

    Welcome back far traveller, looking forward to having coffee with you in November.

    Danielle


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