My visa arrived. New Zealand is letting me in! Thank you. However, despite notifying NZ immigration of my new mailing address, my mother-in-law’s house, my passport and visa were mailed to our old address, the house we had just sold. Fortunately the new owner called me and I hurriedly picked it up, cutting short the conversation with him lest he point out any more surprises he had discovered about his new purchase.
It’s kind of sad to see your old house and see what the new owners have done to it. The built-in bookshelves are filled with grotesque wooden carvings of bears, wolves and other animals. The new owner, a car mechanic, plans to build a carport in the backyard alongside the garage to store the collector cars he’s working on. I’m sure the neighbors will like that. And I don’t really like the gaggle of ceramic sculpture his wife has displayed in the front yard. But I have places to go. I immediately bought a ticket for Tauranga, New Zealand to depart in two days.
Then I drove up to a giant shipping facility in Denver to ship our six boxes. From there our stuff would go by truck to Los Angeles then board a container ship destined for Tauranga.
I was the only car amidst the giant semis loading and unloading. I was directed to pull up my tiny car up to one of the ramps. Inside the giant warehouse, twenty or thirty forklifts driven by mad drivers spun around on screeching wheels barely missing each other loading and unloading the trucks. Labels were slapped onto my boxes. One of the forklift operators reeled to a stop alongside my boxes, placed them on a pallet and then whirled off with them. Would I ever see them again?
Finally, I made my last visit to our storage unit in Colorado Springs which had become like a second home. If anyone ever came back, they could deal with the mess I figured.
I feasted on fast-food just for the hell of it and as some sort of last hurrah, and two days later boarded a plane from Colorado Springs to Los Angeles.
Now if you ever had any last minute doubts about leaving the US, even on a short trip, just go hang out in LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) for awhile. The airport is designed to get rid of any last minute jitters you might have about leaving. It implores you to leave; it belches at you, “You gotta get out of here.” You might not be sure where you’re travelling to, but you know you got to get out of that airport. Maybe even go back from where you just came from but you got to go. It crawls over your skin; it’s noisy, rude, frenetic and just plain ugly. Waiting there for only a few minutes, you feel like you need a shower. Wait three hours and you need to be totally disinfected with some industrial-strength chemical. Wait five hours and you do need a vacation
But somehow it all functions, but seemingly always just on the edge. People barely making their planes. Piles and piles of baggage somehow finding their way to their rightful owners (most of the time). Planes somehow departing roughly on time. Everything on the edge seeming ready to implode in the next instant but somehow not. All the airport workers looking beaten-down and broken like jaded blackjack dealers in Vegas. Everything dirty and in need of a thorough scrubbing. And the passengers, everybody hustling to get somewhere else while texting and talking on phones. And outside the terminal, the traffic adding to the general mayhem: taxis, buses, cars, piles of luggage, cops, gang members, SWAT teams!
It is a gateway of coming to America and leaving.
I get off the plane in LAX and make my way through a tired angry crowd of people outside the gate. They are waiting for some flight delayed for five hours because of a snowstorm in Chicago. People are yelling at a dis-interested gate attendant about having their rights and wanting something to be done. The gate attendant, a woman, could care less. She stares blankly ahead at a poster that says “Fly United” and has a photo of a South Sea island.
I go down the stairs and outside to the blue bus stop, “LAX Shuttle Airline Connections,” and take the ‘A’ bus to Terminal 2 (Air Canada, Air China . . . and Air New Zealand).
After passing through security and waiting three hours in another cramped gate area with a restless, hungry, tired crowd who grow more restless, hungry and tired as the hours pass, we are finally let on the plane. Once on the plane, everyone emits a sigh of relief. I pass the First Class Section. Travelers are already semi-reclined stretched out each in their own large individual plastic cocoons smothered in blankets sipping drinks and watching movies on their private screens. Then there is Business Economy, then Advanced First Class Business then Economy Special. Oh, I don’t know what the names of the various classes are, but the quarters get less luxurious and more cramped as you go farther back on the plane. Eventually you pass through a curtain and see your area—Economy—where the passengers are pressed into identical row after row like some scene from Brave New World. These are your people.
But finally after months and months of effort, I think this was the first time I relaxed. I let out a giant sigh of relief and settled into my seat. I could finally relax and had a smile on my face. I was going to New Zealand.
After twelve hours, two meals, one viewing of the movie Anchorman 2 starring Will Ferrell and half of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and about seven hours of generally restful sleep, we touched down in Auckland. Sometime while I slept we flew over the International Date Line and I magically lost one whole day of my life. The International Date Line—it always sounds like some phone number service you’d call if you want to meet chicks from other countries, doesn’t it? After arriving in Auckland and waiting a few hours I flew on a smaller plane to Tauranga, thinking ‘what am I getting into’, and finally arrived at my new home.
Rebecca and I were gleefully reunited and she took me on a brief tour of our new home. We stopped and had fish and chips downtown watching the sun set over the harbor. Our adventure was about to begin.
United Airlines however did lose my bags in Los Angeles. I imagined them, two suitcases and a bicycle in a cardboard box, lost somewhere deep in the bowels of LAX. Maybe behind one of those metal doors and down one of those grimy hallways that seem to slink off in every direction just off the main walkways. Eventually the baggage claim tags would dry up and fall off and be whisked away by some inattentive janitor. And my bags would be lost forever.
But eventually five days later, my luggage did find their way to me; I guess my bags reconsidered and decided to join me on the adventure.