The approach to Los Angeles by air is a long one; ten minutes stretch on like ten hours. Suburb after suburb passes by underneath, kidney-shaped swimming pools twinkling back defiantly in the drought that seems to always be plaguing California the five or so times I’ve visited.
Day or night, whatever time it might be, the weather is predictable, consistently clear if not a bit hazy in the summer, and unlike landing at Calgary, or even Las Vegas, not once have I been jousted by turbulence. The occasional updraft gives the air craft a lolloping canter every now and then, and with clutter of the buildings beneath the porthole window — lending an immediate scale for depth and space — you feel graciously suspended, aloft, more so than on the approach of anywhere else.
Somehow it’s like you can sense the viscosity of the air itself, as if the plane is skimming the surface tension between layers of water atop oil, peeling one from one another, leaving behind cloudy ripples of vapour in the void behind.
By choice, I choose my seat row assignments almost exclusively in the 30s, and whenever possible, adjacent the window (who would choose otherwise, I’ve no idea). I often play a game with myself where I try to spot lakes or geological formations, usually remote, with scattered evidence of human existence, and then later attempt to relocate them on a map. Though to be honest, I have yet to follow through on this.
I’m tired by the time the wings begin to deform, flaps extending, the engines perspiring columns of hot exhaust that warp the image of the city below, lending a diorama like perspective on the office towers clawing into the sky. I can see bodegas, corner stores, tennis courts, all rushing up to see me.
Before long, the rubber of wheel skids onto grooved pavement, we bounce once, but never twice, before we’re grounded once again. The curving arches of the Pan-Am building, abandoned in the middle of the discordant cement Stonehenge called LAX, rushes past the window like a errant traveler late for a departure, as we roll the other way, weaving through the mechanical ballet of other jets on the apron, inbound and out.