Friday, December 31, 2010

First Impressions Part 2

This is truly part 2 of First Impressions. The scene is the LA Airport; I was fresh off the boat, at a young 17 and I will never forget it. Below you will find Part1 for your convenience

...I do not remember how the customs officials checked out my story but after about 10 minutes in her office, the nice lady who called me honey let me go. As I walked out the door, I was stunned to find my new friend waiting for me. Not only was he truly concerned but he was going to make sure I got to the right terminal. Are these people for real I thought? As we walked toward the minimal customs gate, there was my mother, a welcome guide into unknown territory.

My friend insisted on taking us to our new terminal. I had never spent much time in airports but the vastness of this one enchanted me. Is anything impossible for these Americans? My friend's mother met him and embraced us with easy charm. She would be glad to take us. Outside, I marveled at the sun, the palm trees (this was Southern California) and the many huge cars (it was also 1971). There was a joyous hustle and bustle: reunited friends and families were piling into their vehicles as we now did. I knew I was a part of all this newness but all I could do was take it in.

It was a large cream colored car with red interior. It just didn't look serious, unlike the European cars I was used to. His mom with her bleach blond hair and cat like sunglasses didn't look very serious either. In the Europe I knew, people who had cars took them very seriously, it was never a joking matter: the way they handled, their performance, all were paramount and you never, ever let anyone drive your car. Never. It would be like loaning your fountain pen, it would ruin it. Someone else would handle the gears differently and zap, it would be the end of your driving experience. No, this one before me now was definitely an amiable giant waiting for its cargo. Perhaps the size added to its playfulness: so many of us could slide down the bench seats, I began to hear a soundtrack to my fantastic adventure: the Beach Boys grooving their way through good, good, good, good vibrations.... I was really in America and in spite of all the unknown, a broad smile broke across my face.

I will never forget the sight of the windshield as I looked up from the middle of my front row seat. It was clean, that wasn't it. It was wide of course, to accommodate the sheer expanse of the car, but that wasn't it either. No, the windshield had a rainbow painted at the top! I thought I had just walked into a fairy tale. Could this be true? I peered intently. Yes, it was painted on alright. The general effect, I noted, was to make it appear a sunny day. Well it was a sunny day but I could imagine not all days would be. So to Americans, I concluded, everyday has to be a sunny day or at least look like one. Pictures from my childhood history books flashed across my mind and emotions, Louis the 11th, the mean one who spied on his people and put them in cages, the Dark Ages, the plague, the hunger, the bleakness, Charles Dickens England. Not here I thought, not now and certainly not with this rainbow tinted window. While I didn't think for a moment that every day could be lovely, I already knew better, or that we could ever live by the pot of gold, I did like the intent, the optimistic view of life. Even more than that, I was enchanted by the childlike simplicity that would think this could work, that anyone would take it seriously. And you know, maybe it does work in a way. I mean, ok, life is not a bed of roses and that painted windshield certainly does not make it so but, then again, it's so delightfully playful, like children making the best of everyday... I had come to a land of hope for a better future. I have loved it ever since.

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