Marsha and I were so excited about our anticipated tax cut that we decided to blow all of it, and then some, on a trip to sunny and warm California.
As the day of our departure drew near, I came down with my usual case of reservation remorse whereby the initial excitement of travel wanes and the fear of getting to the airport, passing through security, getting bags checked and picked up, renting a car and checking into the hotel morphs into a Donner Party experience.
Marsha talked me down and off we went. The flight was fairly uneventful. Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but wonder whether anyone likes to fly. As I sit in my tiny little seat in my tiny little capsule hurtling through space, it seems to me that no one on board — pilots, passenger attendants, or passengers — is having much fun. Yet it is the only way to go a long distance in a relatively short time. You just have to do it. Like a colonoscopy. Maybe this Elon Musk genius, instead of building spaceships, could spend some time building a plane that goes faster with 5 more inches of leg room. Although I hear he’s working on a Hyperloop train similar to the old vacuum tube system except for people.
We used Santa Monica as our base of operations. If you want to see what Oak Park will be like in the future, go to Santa Monica. It is bigger, more expensive, better restaurants, hipper, greener, more diverse, more liberal, more ethnic, more crowded — and dirtier.
It also has a lot more homeless people. They were everywhere, hanging out in the parks, malls and fast food joints. Surprisingly, the homeless and the homeful seemed to get along in a kind of harmony. The homeless did not ask for money or go crazy for the most part, and the homeful let them sleep and hang out in selected areas. There was hardly any interaction. It was almost like we were living in parallel universes, and perhaps we are.
I am ambivalent about the homeless. I feel sorry for them, but they make me feel guilty about my good fortune. After eating lobster and drinking a $15 glass of wine at a fancy restaurant on the pier at Santa Monica, I walked back to the hotel, mingling with those whose lives have not been nearly so fortunate. How should a person aspiring to be good feel about this disparity? Even more importantly, what should he do?
Joshua Tree National Park is three hours by car from Santa Monica, but it feels like three million years. The plight of the homeless and the gaping disparity of wealth in the world are nothing here. Desert, giant boulders, and ancient cacti shift your thoughts to the origins of this little speck of dust in the cosmos. How did it all begin? How did it come to this? Can something come from nothing? How will it all end? Will anyone remember me in a thousand years, or even a hundred?
Well, time to leave for the airport. How long will it take to get to LAX? Will the plane leave on time? What’s the weather in Chicago? Will I be seated near a colicky infant? What days are we grandparenting this week?
Perhaps we are defined by the questions we ask ourselves.