Modern technology has made an awful lot of improbable feats possible. For instance, when I woke up this morning it was winter. Not the angry, storming winter of a week ago but winter none-the-less, with a brisk breeze and hazy skies. As I go to bed tonight, it is summer. The skies are clear and the air is warm — a bit balmy even. You might call it magic, but I think it is a bit better. For 6 uncomfortable hours I sat wedged tightly between strangers in a little metal tube, that — for reasons I can’t fully explain — traveled some 2000 miles at 500 mph and 30,000 feet.
I don’t mind flying, really. It’s the claustrophobia and crowds of people I dislike. I dislike, even more, the cost. I flew American Airlines this time which I recommend over Delta any day, but they still try to get away with things. For instance, I’ve been on dozens of flights where they handed out headphones for the in flight entertainment. Not on AA. Here the headphones cost $5, but don’t worry because “they’re yours to keep. Our gift to you.” One day, marketers will have their way and “gift” will be a word that means, “Something you paid too much for but is now yours.”
Forget the flight. I’m staying in Newport Beach tonight, home of the famous Arrested Development Banana Stand. Just 20 miles (about 3 days in traffic) from Disneyland! Seriously though, at 7 pm my phone showed a traffic map where all the roads were magenta. I’ve never seen magenta. I’ve seen green, yellow, and red. Magenta — apparently — designates that the given track of road is a) un-passable and b) hellishly crowded.
All that said, I can see why Steinbeck set his novels in this part of the world. Flying over the area is a strange magic in itself. Flatlands give way to canyons which in turn give way to mountains — dusty, red colored mountains capped in snow despite the desert beneath them. All of that gives way to the man-made oasis of civilization — green lawns and trees, fed by complex waterworks running water from high in the mountains.
It’s a strange kind of beautiful. A kind I’m not familiar with. These aren’t my mountains. They’re not like the badlands. I might describe my mountains as majestic. These mountains are different. Majestic, maybe… But that isn’t the word I want for them. They’re something else — more terrible and lonely perhaps. I’m going to sleep on it and let you know if I come up with anything.