Blessed to be a witness

Wednesday, 28th September

No dreams and LAX

Our flight was very long and irritating, and involved a two-hour stop in Tahiti, the airport employees of which country appeared most unfriendly compared to those of the Cook Islands, where by contrast we had been greeted at 4am by a happy looking chap in a Hawaiian shirt playing a ukulele. We slouched around, bored, scratchd our heads about the currency, which was Francs, marked "Republique Francaise", but was Polynesian. We then re-boarded the same plane and took off on the 9-hour journey to LA.

An old friend of my grandfather's from when he worked for NATO in Oslo, has a house in Manhattan Beach in the LA suburbs, in which I'd once stayed when I was a small child. We had been told by my parents that we could use it for our overnight stay there, which would be followed by a very early start to get a plane to Atlanta.

Unfortunately there was some miscommunication problem between me, my parents, and my grandfather's friend, so when we arrived, four hours later than I'd told him by phone, it appeared that rather than merely handing over the key, the gentleman Bob, and his wife Marilyn, respectively in their nineties and eighties, had hauled up from their regular home and moved down to the house to entertain us.

We, however, had rented a car in order to have a quick zoom around LA. When we realised that this charming couple had upped sticks to be with us, and wanted to take us out to dinner, we decided to cancel sightseeing. Unfortunately, Marilyn had twigged that this was our intent, and insisted that we do our sightseeing anyway. It was an excruciating situation about which we felt very guilty, but there was no arguing, so sheepishly we headed off towards Hollywood.

We drove through the famously charmless city and were not disappointed by its lack of charm, ate a quick bite at a Jack-in-the-Box, which I chose for reasons of nostalgia, though the burger was actually really rather nice, merely glimpsed the Hollywood sign on the hills, and headed back in order to catch Bob and Marilyn before they went to bed: if we hadn't, we'd have spent about half an hour with them and then buggered off the next morning at 5am, which would have been extremely mercenary.

We arrived back, just after they returned from dinner, and chatted for about an hour. At one point Bob slumped a little and said, of my grandfather, "I'd known him since 1956. Fifty years. He was my oldest friend. I miss him so much."

We went to bed at 9, and M and I fell asleep immediately and slept absolutely solidly through to 5 the next morning. It was one of the deepest sleeps I've ever experienced, during which I had no dreams, and when I awoke I was in exactly the same position that I'd been in when I drifted off, and there were no wrinkles on the 'comforter' (that's American for duvet), so I suspect it was just total and utter coma.

Marilyn and Bob got up when we did, and she had prepared a breakfast of papaya, raspberries and lime juice, and forced muffins into our hands to take on the plane with us. We left in a flurry of profuse thanks, and went to get our plane to Atlanta. We were touched by their kindness. It's nice to know that, in a largely soulless city, there are pockets of gentility, generosity and charm such as those of Bob and Marilyn.

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