April 29, 2008

Home Sweet (And Smoggy) Home

We're home. After twelve hours of nonstop turbulence (seriously) we descended into the thick brown haze that frequently blankets our fair city. I was tired and irritable and very nearly lashed out at two women who were being critical of my home town as we waited in line at customs.

Them: Los Angeles is horrible. Did you see the air? It's awful. I don't know how people live here. And this airport is a nightmare.

Me: (silently, of course) Oh, shut up. I'm sick and tired of people coming down on L.A. for its smog. We happen to have one of the most active ports in the country. Yes, people drive a lot here, but half the goods that come into this country start at our port and get driven by smog-spewing semi trucks to the cities and towns of people that smugly sip coffee in their beautiful (and boring!) smog-free towns all because said coffee entered the country here in Los Angeles. And then, California tries to pass a law enforcing more stringent pollution standards on car makers and the stupid US government refuses to allow it. So zip it, lady!

Then I said to Jerry, "Ugg. I hate this smog. It's awful." But Jerry just put on this radiant smile and said "It might be smoggy, but it's home!" Whenever I complained (did I mention I was tired and irritable?) Jerry just beamed and said, "But we're home!"

Before we left for the airport back in Auckland, Warren took us to the little cafe close to our house in Parnell for some hot chocolate and we talked about what we'd bring back to L.A. from New Zealand, if we could. For Jerry it was his friends (and their entire families), for me it was the blue sky (with Italian hokey pokey ice cream a close second) and Warren wasn't exactly sure what he'd bring back, though he agreed the sky would be nice.

Then we talked about moving to New Zealand and what we'd bring with us from home. The pets, of course, were a given. Jerry would bring his best friend Jackson, and Jackson's family. There were lots of things I'd bring: the L.A. Public Library, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, the internet (it's painfully inadequate in NZ), our next door neighbor, my friend Zefra and her family, my parents, our local DVD rental place, and my favorite bookstore. Warren would want to bring his friends, the Lakers, and probably a few more things he didn't have time to mention because we had a flight to catch.

Our last week in Auckland was spent with the friends we had made. Wednesday we went to Rainbow's End with three of Jerry's friends. Thursday we met Cate and her kids at the bowling alley. Friday we met three families at Mission Bay for a picnic. And Friday night and Saturday (all day!) Jerry hung out with Shell's son. They went swimming in the hotel pool (three times in 24 hours), rearranged the hotel room, jumped on the beds, watched movies and had all kinds of fun.
Saturday night Jerry came down with the stomach flu, so Sunday, our last full day in Auckland, we stayed in the hotel room watching movies--it was kind of nice, actually. On Monday we said good-bye to Warren--he's coming home on Friday. We had a few last moments with Shell and her kids--they saw us off at the airport. And we said farewell to New Zealand. We were both sorry to leave.

Coming home to all that smog didn't help matters. (I later learned the air was so bad because there are fires raging in a city nearby.) So, as we sped down the freeway in a taxi, heading for home, I was feeling kind of ambivalent about being back. But then I stepped out of the car and got a whiff of the jasmine that grows by my neighbors driveway. I saw the explosion of color created by the bougainvillea arching over the entry to our house. I turned the kitchen radio dial back to my favorite NPR station. I saw that the library they've been building down the street from us is starting to take shape. I walked to the grocery store and heard the familiar sound of Spanish being spoken. And at the market I spotted a big pile of watermelon. When I left New Zealand you couldn't get watermelon--it was autumn. But it's nearly summer in Los Angeles. And that means summer fruits. Again. Three more months of summer fruits! Wahoo!!!! It's good to be home.

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