The sun rose dirty and yellow through the windows on the far east side of LAX. It was beautiful and yet, at the same time, it spoke of pollution and crime and poverty in a city with too many people inhabiting too few acres. But LA harbors a luster that is unique unto herself, and the draw is irresistible to millions of people every year – drawn to the flame which holds forth fame and fortune and cachet. Wondrous and awful and sad and mighty all in the same width and breadth.
“Why isn’t the plane here? The sun is already up,” I asked and stated simultaneously.
“We missed it,” said Doogie, simply.
I looked around and noticed that the waiting area of the departure concourse in the International Terminal was nearly empty. The previous evening had witnessed a veritable beehive of activity as people sought exodus from this same terminal. Now there were perhaps 20 or 30 people milling around waiting for the same flight to San Salvador that we were.
The flight to Nicaragua – our ultimate destination – stopped first in San Salvador, El Salvador. From there it was a short hop on a twin turboprop to Managua. Five hours total flight time. Then, of course, there was the three hour drive fromManaguato the coast. Theoretically, one could leaveLos Angelesat one in the morning, and be surfing Nicaraguan beach breaks by early the same afternoon.
Seven of us had set out from San Diego on this Nicaraguan surfing sojourn; now there were just two of us waiting for departure. I smelled the sleeve of my jacket and had a minor epiphany as to just exactly why there were only two of us.
“Where’s the rest of the crew?” I probed – knowing full well that they had left on the earlier, correct flight.
Doogie looked at me as if preparing to explain something to a child. “They wouldn’t let you on the plane.”
He shifted slightly and, I think, sighed. “Jonny tried to get you into First Class. He and Jark carried you by your belt up to the boarding gate, but the lady there said that there was no way.”
“At least they agreed to take our boards and shit on that flight. We just need to get ourselves on the next plane.”
He looked like he had spent a long night trying to sleep on uncomfortable furniture, in a cold and noisy environment. Which unfortunately, he had.
“Sorry,” I said. “How did you end up being the caretaker?”
“The lady at the gate called her manager, and he said that either everyone missed the flight, or you did. No one said anything, so I said I would stay with you.”
Doogie was an ER doctor, so it made sense. But it was still a very selfless act, especially for a surfer going on a surf trip with his good friends
“I owe you…big.” I felt terrible – both physically and morally.
The flight to San Salvador was uneventful, though the next leg – from San Salvador to Managua – was extremely turbulent. A strong Pacific storm had blown further north than expected, and was unleashing torrential rains and heavy winds throughout the region. The little turboprop dipped and pitched wildly, eliciting screams from passengers. The woman directly adjacent to us sounded as though she were giving birth or being tortured. Anything that was not stowed properly ended up in the aisles or on laps. It was going to be a holy hell mess to clean up after we deplaned.
And then came the drive from the airport to Mark and Dave’s house at Colorados.
Roberto was waiting for us with his shiny Mercedes fifteen-passenger van. It was one of the nicer vehicles out in front of the airport. But the mode of transport belied the excruciatingly rough ride from the city to the beach: potholes and washouts and mad truck drivers sought to disrupt and destroy our vehicle at every opportunity.