Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Rick and I arrived in LA on the 28th. Tedra was already here--she'd been living with Rick's nephew and niece, Glenn and Jen for the month--and Josh arrived from his Summer Discovery program in Ann Arbor the next day with Michael. Jen was so kind to drive me to Michael's hotel early the next morning and we picked him up and took him back to their house. After we readjusted everyone's suitcases trying to make them lighter for the very stringent airline requirements, under 50 pounds, we took Michael to see Hollywood. This was mainly a car trip because of his knee injury. We drove to the this mall where you can get a direct view of the Hollywood sign and we stood on the street with clumps of other tourists taking pictures of all of us standing in front of it, including Jen's children, Olivia and Aidan. It was especially poignant to watch Michael and Aidan interact in lieu of Michael's reunion journey because Aidan is only six years old--close to the age Michael was the last time he saw his mother. Although as Michael pointed out, his cultural upbringing was so different than an American's upbringing that although he was only five years old when he began his 1200 mile trek he was much more prepared and mature. As a Dinka, he walked miles every day to follow his uncles to the cattle camp outside their village. He was already an apprentice learning how to hunt and to use a spear. Try as I might I can't imagine little Aidan even carrying a spear without hurting himself-- or someone else!
After we took those pictures in front of the Hollywood sign we walked down to the Chinese Theater and stepped in the footprints of the stars. That was fun and also daunting to find out that the icons I grew up, such as John Wayne and Marilyn Monroe are already losing their glimmer. Neither Michael nor Josh knew who John Wayne was and I think the only reason Josh knew who Shirley Temple was is because my Dad used to subject him to endless marathons and to Little Rascals.
But the more important reason for driving out to Hollywood was to go the Army/Navy store on Century Blvd. to buy Michael a new suitcase. Anastasia had taken him suitcase shopping before he left, and although the big nylon bag with wheels that she helped him find fit the magnificence of gifts for his family and extended family, when Josh picked it up to move closer to the door in preparation for our taxi ride to the airport it tore in half. Panicked, we thought we'd have to spring for another large bag, when Jen had the great idea of buying a cloth duffle at a Army/Navy store. It turned out that the closest one was in Hollywood, so while Michael, Rick, Teddi, Olivia, and Aiden waited for us on the Sidewalk of the Stars, Jen and I rushed the four blocks down Century to buy the bag. We saw exactly what we needed--a big kahki regulation duffle for only $20.00. It fit all of Michael's gifts with room to go! And it even fell within the airline's baggage requirement and Michael wasn't charged any extra money for it as he was on the way to CA.
Teddi's Michigan friends who live in LA--Lara and Brett--came for dinner at Jen and Glenn's and gave us a send off, with one freak misfortune: Lara hit the brick wall of Jen and Glenn's neighbor pulling out. Her car wasn't even scratched and she was fine, but the wall did get pretty damaged--that and the news the day before about the Quantas explosion on a plane en route from London to Australia, made us only slightly a little bit jittery.