I took a deep breath and began making my way through the maze of people. LAX is always a zoo. I was on an extended layover en route to Thailand after more than three years since my last visit. Walking toward the baggage claim, construction signs read, “Please be patient. Even the airport needs a facelift.” I laughed at the truth in it. Welcome back to La La Land, I thought.
Outside the terminal, I boarded a Super Shuttle, but there was nothing super about it. The 20-mile trip wasted two hours, and the driver treated his van as though it were a motorbike, zigzagging through traffic only to slam on the brakes seconds later. Just shy of throwing up my airplane peanuts, we finally arrived at my destination – my friend Kalli’s apartment in North Hollywood. Her Italian boyfriend let me in.
“We go get lunch now,” offered Enrico, “but problem is…I have only bike.”
Food and fresh air were just what I needed. I’ve ridden a motorcycle before, but not in the middle of a city. The bike was actually successful at weaving between cars and sneaking to the front at stoplights, unlike the not-so-super shuttle, and the breeze created from cruising down a crowded street at 60mph (in a 35) felt great on a 97-degree October day.
The following morning was forecasted the same. Kalli and I started with brunch at my old favorite café, Toast, and then proceeded to Malibu. In the three years I called L.A. home, I frequented the Village of Plastic Mommies, but in all those times, I never experienced Point Dume. Gorgeous and secluded, this hidden beach cove is surrounded by million dollar mansions and jagged, rocky terrain. I worked on my pre-Thailand tan as we caught up on the three years that had passed since we last saw each other.
Several hours of rush hour traffic later, we were at a Santa Monica restaurant called Raw. Enrico and Kalli have decidedly become vegan and vegetarian, respectively, and therefore I was to eat a meatless, dairy-free and cold dinner for my last meal in the states. Hey, I’m up for an adventure, but I certainly had questions.
How do you prepare the burger? Turns out it’s a veggie patty (cold) between two rice crackers.
And a pizza without bread, cheese or an oven? They use a root base, topped with sauce, veggies, vegan cheese and toppings of choice.
After an hour passed waiting for our food to be prepared, not cooked, we were finally astonished to see the beautiful presentation. Everything was scrumptious and filling. The dinner brought my quick trip full circle. After all, most Angelinos are not only cold, but also attractive, though they probably dealt with a few knives and unnatural ingredients to become that way!
We topped off our ultra-healthy night with a PBR from a bar down the street and then headed for the airport. Back at LAX, the reality of my trip sank in for the first time. There were 710 people waiting to board my plane, and I was already the only foreigner.
My pit stop in La La Land had come to an end, but it was really just an exciting new beginning.