Rainbow Quota – May 17, 2002

I may be one of the few people in the U.S. who left the movies happy tonight. I went to see About a Boy, and it was the best film I’ve seen so far this year. Skip Star Wars and go see this instead. Or go see Star Wars, if you have to, and then go see About a Boy to get the bad taste out of your mouth.

Driving home, there was fog rolling in through the Sepulveda Pass, and I was struck by how gorgeous L.A. can be sometimes. I sped along the highway, following the dashed lines as they curved through the pass between the mountains, watching taillights flash and headlights speed the other way on the far side of the divider. The fog was hard to see in the darkness, but it obscured the mountains on either side of the road.

I remember the most beautiful I’ve ever seen L.A. It was a day that had started out sunny and gradually turned to rain. I had gone whale-watching with friends, and the ocean was incredibly choppy. I was amazed that they didn’t make us put on life vests. The boat would ascend a swell, hover at the top for a moment, then drop through air for a sickening moment before climbing up again. One unlucky man got sick, and I realized for the first time that seasickness would not be an impossible outcome, given the right (read: wrong) weather conditions.

I was feeling a little queasy as we cruised around the Anacapa Islands, so I climbed up to the deck, where I could sit in the open air. It was cold for California, around 50 degrees, and there was a steady breeze as the ship moved forward through the water. Every now and then, when we hit a particularly large wave, we’d all bounce on our seats. I figured out that if I held on to the bench, I felt reasonably secure even when my rear end was six inches in the air. Jarring, but fun in that “this is actually sort of dangerous” way.

The best part was the rainbows. Every time we hit a wave, meaning every 10 seconds or so, a huge spray of water would fly over the boat. As the seawater arced past, a complete rainbow would appear for a couple of seconds, then fade, only to be replaced a few seconds later by another one. I must have seen more than 50 rainbows that day, maybe a hundred. I wonder if I have used up my rainbow quota for life. I really hope not.

On the way home, shivering with the heat on full blast in the┬ácar, we drove past the Santa Monica Mountains. Clouds were blowing in from the west, and the tops of the tree-covered hills were wreathed in mist, invisible. It didn’t look like L.A.; it looked like another world. I thought to myself, “Look at where we live. I can’t believe how lucky we are.”

Days like that help when smog fills the city streets and I’m inching down a traffic-jammed Ventura Boulevard, passing gas stations and tacky strip malls. L.A. may be both the most beautiful and the ugliest place I’ve ever been. It all depends on the day.

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