LOS ANGELES, CA
I drove from my Grandfather's to a shipping business in Brentwood to ship my computer, recording equipment, and sundry other articles I wouldn't be needing in Norway. I sent them to Dan's house in Maryland, where I'd imagine I'd need to stay for a few days upon returning to the states. I would need to leave for the airport in a few hours and was looking to make the transaction go as rapidly as possible.
The store was empty but for its proprietor, a formidable looking character standing behind the counter. During the course of preparing my belongings to be shipped he told me he was from Greece and remained in business to help people, not to make money. He told me he drove for uber at night and worked here at the store twelve hours a day. He slept very little. The cost of doing business in Los Angeles was extremely high. He barely got by. He walked from the scale back behind the counter to the computer and showed me some tricks on how he processed the package that saved me a lot of money.
I asked him how he managed to be so alert and energetic on so little sleep. He told me he was a black belt in Kung Fu and had once badly injured someone attempting a robbery at the store and felt remorseful about it. He was charismatic and fast talking. I was a little skeptical on his bold claims at first. Then, while standing next to him behind the counter helping to verify my intended shipping address, he inquired after my story.
I told him I used to be a teacher and now was focusing on being a musician, more or less because I've come to conclusion that life's short. He agreed strongly, and lifted a traditional greek instrument from a hook on the wall and handed it to me. I plucked at it awkwardly for a few moments, trying to keep up a conversation with him, feeling like a charlatan. He asked to see the instrument and began playing it so well that I immediately believed the bits about him being a Kung Fu master who didn't require sleep. The song he played was really sad and pretty, and the athletic playing he was doing was a very difficult technique. It stirred emotion in me and made the day feel auspicious.
He told me he used to play professionally in Greece as a very young man. He asked me why I was going to Norway, which was so expensive. Why not the Greek Isles? I didn't have a good answer and shrugged. He said it didn't matter, the important thing was that I enjoyed each moment and was kind to the people I met. Always. I said I would do that. One more favor he asked, would I raise a glass to him when I got my first beer in Norway. I told him I would. He gave me a strong hand shake and a fierce, knowing look. I said good bye, walking out of the glass door which sounded a bell that was swallowed by the laconic street noise of early afternoon.
I drove back to my Grandfather's house and hastily finished my laundry and packed my bags. Linda and Taicito helped me. Grandfather told me to be careful and tell him when I'd arrived in Norway. I said I would, and took my ride service to LAX. I was nervous about the trip and whether I'd have enough money or physical energy for that matter. I'd been living rough for a long time now, and the past few weeks in particular had taken a toll.
The ride to the airport was relatively smooth and light on traffic though. My driver was cheerful and the afternoon was quintessentially bright and sunny in the way that Los Angeles can be. The passage through security and the wait to board the plane went by easily as well. I watched the red sun slowly setting out of the window while waiting to board my plane.
I took my seat upon boarding next to a couple who traveled the world while working. They did coding for a tech company. I told them what I told the Greek man about my current lack of a career. They said I could live cheaply in Southeast Asia and make money teaching english. The man showed me some pictures of Thailand on his phone. They'd been there prior to their current journey which would take them around the Mediterranean Sea. I think they sensed my vulnerability, and kept a conversational distance, which I respected. I ate the Norwegian Air's surprisingly good dinner and watched the movie The Grand Budapest Hotel. It was comforting. After that I fell asleep. When I woke up, we were nearly all the way to Oslo.