Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

Hidemi’s Rambling No.548

After I landed on Los Angeles, I took a bus to Anaheim from LAX. It was playing outdated rock music on the stereo and running on a patchy freeway that had eternal traffic. Out the window were rows of shabby houses along the freeway. Everything was so familiar that I felt as if I had been here last month, not ten years before. It seemed that I had just awoken from a long dream of ten years in Japan and actually never left here. I thought nothing changed after all, but realized I was all wrong about it afterward during my stay. The biggest change that surprised me most was people. Until ten years ago, I had lived or visited regularly here, and people weren’t nice. At a fancy beauty salon, when a receptionist was about to lead me to a seat, a manager stopped me and asked me to leave. I was told that the seats were full although the salon was apparently empty. At a deli, a salesperson ignored me and wouldn’t take my order. She took an order of a white man who was standing behind me in the line instead. I used to encounter unkind people with horrible attitudes and racism almost every day. For those experiences, I had braced myself for similar bad treatments on this trip. As it turned out, what awaited me was a miracle that I never had them at all during the whole trip this time. Every single person I met was nice and kind. When I took a local bus and was standing, a man offered his seat to me, saying his stop was next. I have a storage unit here and went to open it for the first time in ten years. Because I paid late a couple of years ago, the lock had been changed. I explained the matter at the office and the man with a Southern accent pleasantly came over to my unit. He didn’t mind extra work inflicted by me and cut the lock with a circular saw for free while burning his fingers a little, smiling and laughing all the way. I was wearing a pin of a movie ‘Tomorrowland’ during the trip, and seven or eight people who spotted it talked to me. Everybody was smiling and friendly. I’m not prettier or richer than I was when I lived here. While I remain the same, people’s attitudes toward me have dramatically changed. I wondered where those then-mean people had gone. They might as well have been abducted by aliens who in turn put down new nice people. As the trip went on, I had been getting more and more in high spirits. It had seemed silly that I spent months ahead of the trip worrying so many things. I was elated enough to get a lot of souvenirs. At the checkout, a salesperson, who needless to say was polite, said to me smiling, “It seems your card can’t be processed. Do you have a different card?” Everything in my eyes suddenly went black. My charge card was maxed out, which meant I completely used up my entire budget for the trip. I paid with my emergency-only credit card and my shopping spree came to an abrupt end. A new worry that I would manage to cut and contrive expenses when I returned home grasped at me. I felt an urge to be drunk…

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.547

When I lived in California and flew from Japan to LAX regularly a long time ago, its immigration was like procedure for getting in a prison. Going through it had been tense confrontations with an arrogant authority at a dark place. The immigration at Vancouver Airport is distinctively different from that, which is the main reason I purposely stop over there on the way to LAX. It’s a bright, cheerful space with a waterfall, streams and greenery. It looks like a shopping mall rather than the immigration. Another reason for me to stop over and stay the night in Vancouver is the flight time. It takes ten hours from Japan to Vancouver, which is one hour shorter than to Los Angeles. In my experience, this one hour is decisive for the amount of fatigue. After I got off the plane in Vancouver on my latest trip, I bought food at Tim Hortons in the airport. There was a line at the counter and I joined it watching the menu board above. Because I’m short and my eyesight was blurred from a long flight, I had a difficulty to see the menu. A woman ahead of me in the line noticed and kindly suggested stepping off the line for a moment and getting closer to the menu. As I hesitated, she insisted saying, “That’s okay! Go ahead!” I thought she implied that she would save the position in the line for me. By the time I was getting back to where I had been, more people had joined the line. I was standing in front of the kind woman expecting she would let me cut into the line. She said nothing and ignored me. I looked into her face and she avoided an eye contact by looking around and staring at the ceiling in an awkward way. People in the line behind her looked at me dubiously to see if I would cut in. I felt deceived and went back to the tail of the line. When I was finally handed what I had ordered, two muffins were missing. I told the salesperson and he stared at the register that I had no idea told him what. He grabbed a muffin and gave it to me. Still, one more was missing. The same process was repeated and I got the right order. Kind, but unreliable. That’s Canada I know, all right. As a result of my choice for a cheap hotel, my sleep was disturbed by a loud noise of the air conditioner. I turned it off, and then there were noises of cars running on the street right down the window. I woke up every time a big truck passed by. I got up 3 a.m. next morning, packed and checked out. The hotel boasted its free hot breakfast but my departure was too early for the serving time. Thankfully, there were bags of to-go-breakfast at the front desk and my partner and I grabbed one for each of us. Back at the airport, we checked in and I checked my suitcase. Then I realized we were having the security check right after that. In front of a ‘No liquid, No produce’ sign, I opened the bag of breakfast. It had an apple and a bottled water. I just couldn’t stand to throw them away, but wasn’t allowed to go back to the concourse to have them either. My partner offered our bottled drinks to the airport staff who walked by. They thought about it for a while but declined politely due to the rule. My greed for free breakfast made us gobble them in a hurry in front of the security check. I had never had one apple and 500 ml of water that fast. I got on the plane to Los Angeles and was taking breath in my seat when a flight attendant spilled orange juice all over my partner’s brand-new pants. They were his favorite pants that he would wear all the way to the end of this trip. His face looked both crying and laughing. The plane approached Los Angeles and the familiar sight of brownish, scorched-looking land came into my view. Good and bad memories flooded into my mind. Right before the touchdown, I saw the signature structure of two arches and the control tower of LAX. Totally unexpectedly and suddenly, a surprising feeling seized me. I felt I was home. I felt as if I had returned from a long trip of ten years to my hometown that I had given up coming back again. It was a warm feeling that I had never had before. My eyes were filled with tears. I had never understood those who talked about how wonderful homecoming was. I didn’t know what they were talking about though I was born in Kyoto and have lived away from it. I have never felt anything special every time I go back to Kyoto. I just feel indifferent or rather disgusting. Coming back to Los Angeles, I understood what homecoming is all about for the first time in my life. If I had been traveling alone, I would have cried out loud. I was stunned at the discovery of my hometown. The plane landed and a tear of joy was on my face as I finally came home…

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