7:38- My eardrum is paralyzed once again, but I jump out of bed anyway and move stiffly to the hall. Halfway, I pause and walk back to check the message. 'Sounds good to me,' it read. 'Talk to you later.' Well confirmation is a prize in itself; it allows me to continue to the shower with a smile on my face and spring in my step.
8:45- I'm ready to depart. I bid adieu to my mom and dog, grab my carry-on and suitcase, and head to the car with my dad. 45 minutes later, after a trip to Wally World for some last minute supplies, we arrive at Birmingham airport. Winding through the parking deck, we frantically (well maybe not so frantically) search for an open space. 5th level, row 2: success.
9:42- I'm checking my bags in. Eighty-three minutes until boarding, my stomach growls as my head swirls with excitement and my heart pounds with anticipation. We start looking for the Mickey D's located about 500 feet away from check-in. As we near its supposed location, we quickly discover that it no longer holds a spot in the terminal. Instead "Charley's" has replaced it. My stomach growls ferociously once again, so I settle for a steak hoagie and coffee; the former is most excellent, the latter, not so much.
11:02- My dad and I exchange farewells as I go through security. I walk into Terminal B, gate 2 and sit by the window. I watch planes take off until they call my row.
11:30- The plane departs and I'm in seat 11A, a window seat all by myself. I actually get the paradox of both window and aisle seat, a sign that this trip is starting off well. I organize a playlist of The Shins and Matt Costa on my Ipod and begin my borrowed copy of Through Painted Deserts by Donald Miller, which I highly recommend to each and every one of you, especially during travel.
2:06- I've made it to Houston and immediately head towards my gate in Terminal C. I pass by a statue of George Bush, but fail to take more than a cell phone snapshot; I'm pretty sure it will still be in tact when I make my return trip.
I have to ride one of those trams, where standing must be accompanied by gripping the suspended bar until your knuckles turn white to keep from tumbling all over the car. Most, like myself, remain quiet and stare straight ahead; a bit diagonally if staring straight would mean eye contact with the man or woman across from them. However, I overhear a few conversations in Spanish, though the speed of their dialogue prevents my mind from successfully translating.
2:15- I find my gate. Now I need something to eat that's not too heavy. I transverse the terminal shops, observing a variety of fast food and sit down restaurants, bookstores, and the occasional Fossil Watch shop. I settle to purchase a pineapple smoothie from Smoothie King, which is quite satisfying. I proceed to check out several bookstores. However, the 8 novels in my carry-on prevent me from making a purchase; maybe next time.
3:20- I board the 737 plane that will deliver me to my final destination, the famed LAX. This time I'm in 20D, part of a row of 3 seats. I still reclaim an aisle seat, Hoohah. Fifteen minutes later, I sacrifice my seat for family of three so the son can sit with his parents. Though I must now be in the middle seat of another row, the stewardess rewards at first with the promise of alcohol had I been 21, but then supplies with a pair of free headphones that I could use to watch the in-flight movie. When I discover that the film is the remake of The Earth Stood Still, I opt to use the phones to listen to my Ipod while I finish Donald Miller, a wise decision on my part. For this trip, I choose Death Cab for Cutie, Fleet Foxes, Wild Sweet Orange, Johnny Cash, and the Triceratops to saturate my auditory canals. I thoroughly enjoy the journey with Miller, as he himself is taking a cross-country trip, meeting a plethora of unique people. Though I do not hold the advantage of road travel, I feel the trip that I am taking will serve as a chance for reconnection, rejuvenation, and hopefully, spiritual reconciliation.
5:41 P.M. (Pacific Time)- After spending 4 hours in the air, I am quite ready for a few days on solid ground. I walk into the juggernaut LAX and begin my ascent into the great unknown, with a quick trip to baggage claim. After contacting Josh, one of the two Bruner twins with whom I will be residing for the next 6 days, he advises me to find the FlyAway Bus stop and take the Westwood shuttle. I obey and fortunately discover the post a mere 47 feet from my terminal. Unfortunately, my wait for the shuttle is almost 60 minutes. When it finally arrives, the driver alerts me that no seats remain and I can either stand or wait for the next shuttle. After contemplating about my chances of seeing another FlyAway in the next 20 minutes, I decide that for both my time and health, standing wouldn't be so detrimental.
7:30- The bus ride through LA is fantastic. Though darkness keeps me from seeing a large portion of the city, the journey itself remains captivating. I've never seen this many palm trees in Florida. Near the end, I catch a glimpse of UCLA and its surrounding structures.
8:00- I arrive at Westwood and immediately contact Josh to pick me up. He gets to the stop in a matter of moments and takes me to his work, a local Italian delivery spot. Inside, his brother Will is typing on his Mac and eating a slice of pizza. We exchange greetings in the manner of old friends, with a hug and "Great to see you friend!" We pile into their Honda and Josh drives us back to their Brentwood apartment; he will return at 9:45. When he returns, we spend the rest of the night catching up and anticipating the week's events. A few of their friends stop by, Brian Algeo, a Penn State grad who works mainly in post-production, and Danny Zucker, a producer and director, who shows us an interesting short film. After several hours of conversation, I crash on the couch around 1 A.M. It's only the beginning but what a day.