Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What Happens When the Smog Lifts in So. Cal?


I was reminded of this very old Cal joke when I flew into LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) this afternoon. Today was so clear that I could see the mountains that ring the Los Angeles basin--and which often trap the smog that then obscures their view.

I always request a window seat on the landward side of the plane when I can. I enjoy watching the landscape below, trying to recognize landmarks from this unfamiliar perspective and determine where I am. And I am always amazed at how much open space there actually is in California.

You wouldn't think so, driving around the greater metropolitan areas near San Francisco or Los Angeles. But much of the center of the state (and much of the north) is farmland or undeveloped. Some of the mountainous regions--and there are several besides the Sierra Nevadas--are unsuitable. Some are protected.

I thought about bringing a camera but didn't want the hassle of having to remove a fourth electronic device from my bag, turning it on, sending it through Security Screening, reclaiming it, turning it off, and repacking it along with putting my shoes back on and repacking my one-quart ziploc bag of toiletries.

And then there was the approach. Rows upon rows of tract homes, as far as I could see. All with generous and green front lawns. Some had swimming pools, but not many in this neighborhood. This neighborhood looked so familiar--and then I realized I had seen it in countless TV shows, though seldom identified as Los Angeles. We came in over parking lots and I wondered what the damage would be if a plane landed short of the runway, on top of all those cars.

The irony of a flight between San Francisco and Los Angeles is that it often takes longer to get from the airport to your destination in the city than the actual flight time. Today was no exception. Because this is a quick business trip, I'm not able to do any sightseeing. Just what I can see from windows as I roll by...