Live from Los Angeles
Diary entry number one
By KEN WIWA
Saturday, May 18, 2002
Why Los Angeles airport is known as LAX is anyone's guess but as I meandered around this sprawling airport, it struck me that LAX is an apt alliteration. LAX sounds like some kind of nightmarish sci-fi movie, a concrete jungle of man-made structures, gleaming cars cruising the terminals that spew out sewers of people from all corners of the world most of them en route, like me, to somewhere else.
Pico Iyer once described the modern airport as "an anthology of generic spaces - the shopping mall, the food court, the hotel lobby - which bear the same relation to life, perhaps, that Muzak does to music." The score to LAX would probably be some kind of rap, rock and chanting Monks fused with a melody of Japanese pop beats.
LAX is a convenient starter point on this journey, a journey that will take me from one end of the world to the other. At this end of the world, LAX feels like the end product of the consumer society. It is tempting to picture life in concrete bubbles after we've stripped away all the forests, polluted all the rivers and poisoned the air. I'm told it is possible to live in LAX without ever setting foot on natural ground or breathing the air outside. You can eat shower, go to movies, restaurants or go clubbing - all within the confines of the eight terminals. I am only here for two hours but in 72-hours time I will be at the other end of the world, deep in the Amazon negotiating whirlpools, trekking through the jungle and fishing with the Kayapo Indians - sampling some kind of escapist fantasy.
Forty-eight hours ago, I flew from Toronto to British Columbia where I was on discussion panels at the Victoria Literary Arts festival joining the likes of Pico Iyer and Rohinton Mistry. Much of the conversation was centred around the notion of finding the soul of this global culture in a world where multicultural dreams are disappearing up cultural-de-sacs.
I flew out of Victoria at 6.00 a.m. this morning, disorientated by time lag, hounded by drowsiness and anxieties of having to negotiate tight connections in Vancouver, LAX and Miami en route to Rio de Janeiro.
I'm already feeling the alienation of modern man, with this zipping back and forth across time zones, between continents. My body and my emotions have surrendered to man's promethean leaps of faith against nature.
On the flight down to LAX, I tried to pacify my rebelling body with the in-flight entertainment on offer. Flitting skittishly between the music channels I settled on some ambient jazz-funk fusion channel described as Chilled Out Grooves. As I slid into the inexplicable melancholy I always feel on planes, I wandered over to the Retro Room to hear Bryan Ferry singing "More Than This". Haunted by the haunting sadness of that tune I checked out the Global Village, lured by the promise of melodic and refreshing "Music from the Coffee Lands".
As Latin American music filled my ears, I tried to forget that I was still 72 hours, 3 flights and 5 connections away from the Amazon. I don't think I have ever spent an entire weekend on a plane before but the thought of a week in the Amazon becomes more and more appealing as every passing second speeds me towards the jungle.
Next diary entry: May 19