Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Unseen, but not unnoticed.

The second in a series.

July, 2005

(1:42 a.m.)...

Lot 7 is quiet. The cue of black Towne Cars that once lined the far wall has been replaced by a shiny strew of Smarte Carts, empty and tossed at odd angles, abandoned. Each one is a lingering reminder of the last cheap, black suit who used it — a three dollar rental dripping with the three dollar stench of salt air and palm sweat and Drakkar Noir.

I park, head in, against the same concrete foundation, a few short steps from the tower of stairs that looms over United Airlines. Inside the Terminal, one last lost parcel waits for me, invisible, even in the face of so many pairs of searching eyes.

I lock my car against the closeness of the moist night air. Against the dark reminder that these walls house more than cars, just as the ground on which they stand is more than just the lines painted upon it. The unmistakable smell — the sweet-hot smell of Type-1 diabetic urine — rising to my nose from the dark patch of soft asphalt underneath my tire, reminds me that I am merely a guest in another man’s home — a tourist, just passing through some unseen someone’s dirty mansion — on my way to somewhere else.

(1:48 a.m.)...

That was easy.

Tucked against the “over-sized” luggage belt was my missing parcel — alone, and obvious, in the empty halls of the Terminal. As I grab my phone to call it in I think,

“How many people didn’t see this here?”

How many...?

Back outside, distant in the quiet of another silent night, a sound — familiar as it echoes in the fog of another graveyard run. The wobbling, scrapping sound of a single shopping cart, fading as it pushes east toward Sepulveda, out of sight — but not out of mind.

I pass through his living room on the way to my car.

Copyright © 2010 Bill Friday

Thursday, January 7, 2010

LAX CONFIDENTIAL: "Fog and Darkness"

Is the future just an echo of your past?

The first in a series.



Fog and darkness arrive together, the setting sun hid by dripping, pale gray air. And with it, the one-way, bump-and-go of ten thousand cars, marks the end of another day. I float the other way, free. Free like a dead fish downstream toward gathering rapids, speeding without thought.

Artesia... Rosecrans... Imperial...

Planes descend before me like giants falling from the sky. My windows down, I turn to face them. Overhead they scream — every day the same.

The city, shut tight against the penetrating shroud of encroaching night. A million souls, and more, wrapped in a cold blanket of hope — all settled till the morning.

Except for me.

At times like these, I feel I’ve done this all my life.
Until the whole landscape of your existence shifts, then crumbles, then sinks out of sight; cherished memories become washed out ghosts, fading in and out, as you make your way along once-familiar paths.

I’m sure I lived another life before the one I’m living now. Far away; a recurring childhood dream that, with the passing of years, no longer controls the night—where time and place sparks a brief remembrance of what once was.

Only to forget.

Whatever I was, I am that no longer. And whatever I’ve become, I know will fade as quick in the minds of those whose eyes catch mine, like the faded markers of a life that’s passed are come and gone.

As they are for me, I will become for them — the shadow of their passage through this place, where memory fades and belief gives way to the certainty of doubt.

397 days earlier...


8:23... The smell of burning diesel is fresh in the air. One car, at war with a yard full of fifty-three foot monsters. Horns blare — monster versus monster — angry voices challenge for their place in the hierarchy of the night. I fly under the radar of give-a-shit, wanting only to be left alone. Just do my job, then quickly fade away.

8:29... Cargo fully loaded. Clock ticking. Deadline now. I weave between the monsters, each one oddly staggered like a meth cook’s teeth, all in a crooked row. Through the rattling iron gate, onto the waiting street.

And green lights, as far as the eye can see.

8:34... One minute to go. Lock-out in 59... 58... 57. No cops. Hard right. Swerve. Roll the stop... down the ramp... pop the lid. Throw, throw, throw — three bags, four bags, five. Stack ’em. One skid, two.

33... 32... 31.

Up the ladder, running.

The office — no line.

12... 11... 10.

The counter.

05... 04... 03... Call it in — POD.


Seventy-two minutes later...


9:47... Terminal 7. I walk beneath the canopy of signs and speakers. Floating above me, the voice of Peter Coyote informs the collective unconscious of weary travelers,
“The white curb is for loading and unloading
of passengers only. No
parking; No waiting.
Unattended vehicles will be sighted and
9:49... I check with United SPD about the status of flight 715 out of Denver.


9:52... I stand just outside the crush of Carousel #1, killing time, waiting for my parcel to drop. Off in the distance, at the bottom of the descending escalator, stands a grove of out-of-work actors in cheap, black suits — now existing as limo drivers with faces in need of more Botox, all still hoping for their one big break. They hold hand-scrawled signs with names drawn awkwardly in Magic Marker — none famous — just another bad tipper with heavy bags and noisy kids.


10:01... All at once, without warning — somewhere between Carousel #1 and the back door — a surprise encounter. It begins with a glance, a one-way flash of recognition, of the famous by the anonymous. And with it, a single, unvarnished truth that transcends all my two-dimensional memories of the 1990’s right in front of me.

Rail thin, with a face too pale to have just gotten off a plane from Maui. Power-walking, acne scarred TV royalty, ten strides ahead of husband, and nanny, and child.

And I am left with only one thought, screaming in my brain,
“Courteney Cox looks like hell!”

To be continued...
Copyright © 2010 Bill Friday