I have been awake since 1:45 A.M., Pacific time and I am currently drinking an Americano with an added shot of espresso (3 doses of caffeine costs $3.92) from a dinky airport Starbucks with plastic chairs, laminated floors, and a 1980s faux-Picasso reproduction mural on the wall. I am sitting at a dirty table overlooking gates 72, 73, and 82-86. The only colors that exist outside of this window are grey, white, black, and blue. The occasional pop of neon makes its way into the picture as an airport laborer zooms by on his baggage-transportation vehicle, wearing a safety vest and kneepads. Why do baggage-transporting airport laborers wear kneepads?
I am still yawning, despite the coffee and despite the fact that I half-slept through most of my flight from CLE to LAX. My hands are also starting to visibly shake from all the caffeine. I do not understand my body sometimes.
As I flew into Los Angeles, I felt the sensation of seeing snow for the first time after living in Southern California my entire life. I, but a simpleton from the North East, experienced desert for the first time in my life. The pilot announced that we would be landing in LA in fifteen minutes. I promptly opened the cover over the window, and gasped at the expanse of beige and greige and no green that made up the desert. A lack of civilization. Draught-caught tributaries winding through the bizarre topographical intermingling of mountain and dune and the kinds of roads that Thelma and Louise drove on, if only Thelma and Louise made their way to California. I believe that I was traversing Death Valley, CA.
But after the desert I encountered the sprawl of the American West. I expected sprawl, because LA has a reputation for ineptitude in urban planning, but I did not expect it to look so desolate and so deserted despite the numerous cars zipping along on the highways. It was a homeland built upon a desert where no homeland should be located. As bland as the desert, the place looked abandoned. There were no America Dream-green lawns, no electric-blue pools in the backyard, not many backyards either. The only green oasis was a clipped and trimmed golf course. Such a landscape dampened my spirits, and made me wonder why the country wanted to move to the harsh and heated Sun Belt when the lush summers of the Rust Belt bloomed around this time of the year. But then a sign of hope emerged: a tall and swaying palm tree grew on the street corners of this bland imagery. Maybe palms trees were the reason people moved.
It is 3:30 P.M. Eastern time and I am still waiting for my hunger pangs to kick in. I have eaten oatmeal with banana (energy, potassium), orange juice (vitamin C), cranberry juice (vitamin C) and the aforementioned coffee (caffeine). At home, I tend to get hungry every two or three hours, but in LA I have yet to yearn for food. I do not understand my body sometimes, but I think it may be excited.
I have to stay awake for 24 hours straight today. My sleep schedule does not even get this overwhelming during finals. The last time I remember staying awake for this long is middle school sleepovers and that one night I got insomnia last year. Hopefully this new sleep schedule will adjust easily to the complete 180º switch I make in Hunan, a 12-hour time difference from Syracuse.
Author's Note, in retrospect: I was wide awake upon my descent to Changsha, Hunan, as elated to be in Hunan as a child in a toy store. The airplane window felt too limiting; I wanted to see and experience everything. My insomnia vanished, my interrupted sleep patterns ignored - my body felt new.