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Magnetic North: Return from LaLa Land

Oscar statue
Oscar statue

Finalcut_MagNorth_20100312.mp38.01 MB

Welcome back to Magnetic North, a place I find so hard to leave that only grandchildren and my only child, their mother, could pull me away. Yes, even in March.

This time last week I was in Los Angeles, dreaming huge dreams about Oscar night. My daughter and son-in-law traditionally attend a party. And I - quite UN-traditionally, go too if I am in town.  Lest I mislead you any further, this party is a neighborhood soiree. Were it anywhere but L.A., you’d call it a potluck. Deviled eggs, lasagna, too many cakes, salad and so forth. But instead of chips and pop, foo-foo cheeses and wine.

And of course, a fat kitty of $5 bills for the lucky person who gets the most winners right. My son-in-law won this year. As perhaps the only one there with a direct line to the movie industry - he’s a film editor - there was understandably some carping about unfair insider information from the first runner-up.

Observing these highly unusual events is one of the things I like about trips to L.A. But frankly, without family there to hug and fuss over, I’d rather be just about anywhere else.

But what would you expect from someone who spends hours combing out cashmere goats at midnight in a freezing barn and thanks the good Lord every day for the privilege?

Traveling to L.A., or anywhere for that matter, is nearly as dramatic as anything encountered upon arrival. The weirdness at airports could keep a comedian in material for a lifetime. Take my check-in pat-down at LAX upon departure this week.

Thanks to modern medicine, I am packing metal in both knees, my back and my right shoulder.  So ever since 9/11, I’ve spent at least 15 minutes before getting on any plane being “wanded” and patted down by a female security agent. These gals are humorless and totally averse to chitchat whilst doing their job. And so I was surprised to hear gales of laughter coming from the checkpoint next to mine while I endured what I try to imagine is a free healing touch session.

The bursts of mirth came from a rather portly woman of a certain age who was also at the pat-down part of the ordeal. Trouble was, the poor thing appeared to be excruciatingly ticklish. The arms and legs were bad enough - causing ear-piercing shrieks followed by apologies and spasms of breathless giggling

“Oh, she’s gotta go into a private screening booth,” my guard muttered more to herself than to me. Then, “Please turn the waistband of your blue jeans outward, ma’am,” to me.

But my poor neighbor was going to be publicly tormented, it seemed.

“Oh, geez, I’m so sorry!” she squealed, “I just can’t help it! - Ha, ha, ha, OK, OK, I’m fine now, go ‘head.”

And then, the instant the guard touched her back, the laugh track began anew.

She was still whooping away as I made my way to my departure gate. And off and on I’d catch bits of conversation about her between other passengers. Like, “With my luck she’ll be in the seat next to mine.” Or, “Poor baby, it’s like when you’re in church and you think of something silly and start snickering and can’t stop because you know you’re making a scene, and maybe even getting into big trouble, but that only makes it worse?”

Yep, for the first time since I’d landed in L.A., the people around me were talking about something besides the Oscars. Real life always wins out.

Paul and I sure felt that way when we drove into our mud and ice driveway. Dear old Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz was right, there is no place like home. Now, if only I could find a pair of magic ruby slippers to click together to get me to and from.

Airdate: March 13, 2010