Two days after saying goodbye to Charlie, I flew west to Los Angeles. Landed at 1:30, into the cool and clear weather that has attracted people to California for decades. I was headed to give a keynote speech the next morning at the Inflight Services Association (IFSA) conference in Long Beach. A taxi would run $60, and 40 minutes without traffic. The L.A. Metro proposed $1.50 for a trip of just over an hour. Of course the thrifty Transport Geek chose the latter, hopping on the shuttle from the terminals to the Green Line rail station, then east to the Blue Line, which runs between downtown L.A. and downtown Long Beach — on the same right-of-way that the Pacific Electric line opened in 1902 (and closed in the 1950s and 1960s). Public-transit riders in Los Angeles seem poorer than any other city I visit regularly; a few of them stare, while others try to figure out the old guy with the rolling suitcase. What’s his story?
Downtown Long Beach was immediately attractive. It had the clean, friendly, optimistic ambience of mid-size cities, sort of Omaha with palm trees. I rolled my suitcase several blocks west to the Hilton on Ocean Blvd. For the first time in quite a while, decades perhaps, the desk clerk had no record of my reservation, which IFSA was to have made. After a bit of tracking in my PC, I found the mobile number of the conference organizer, who told me that despite the e-mail that read “Hilton,” I was at the Westin, about eight blocks east. Did I want them to send a car, she asked. No, I replied, it was too nice a day, and I simply rolled down Ocean Blvd.
The IFSA folks had me installed in a very posh room. I washed my face and walked back down Ocean (was getting to know that thoroughfare quite well) to the opening reception at a third hotel. In the big meeting room, I grabbed a California ale and was quickly yakking with a new IFSA attendee, James from Toronto. He was funny and a great storyteller. After some laughs I moved around, saying hello and hugging old pals, including friends from Umbria Lorenzo Fasola and Tina Andreassen. The party ended at 7:30, and folks were going on to more fun, but I was worn out, and headed back to my suite, put my feet up, and read.
Up early Wednesday, suited and necktied, and out the door to the Long Beach Convention Center for a sound check and run-through of my slides. Gave my talk, answered questions, and headed around the corner to the arena, where the IFSA trade show was in full swing. Wandered the floor. At 3:30, Tina offered to walk me to yet another exhibit hall where two related shows were underway, the World Airline Entertainment Association (all the folks that supply hardware and content, and their buyers), and the Aircraft Interiors Expo. There was clearly way more money in those industries – the displays and hoopla were amazing. Champagne flowed freely, tschotschkes dispensed; there were even a few mini-skirted girls hawking stuff. Tina, who has worked for an aircraft-seat manufacturer for several years (in addition to helping Lorenzo with his olive oil and wine business), introduced me to several people who might need my consulting.
At 5:15, I went for a nice walk, further east on Ocean Blvd. to photograph the green-copper roofed Villa Riviera Hotel (1929), now condos.From there, I turned south along the water, past some pleasant and clean parks. In the distance were the cranes of the Port of Los Angeles, in the middle ground the original Queen Mary, and in the foreground tourist shops and restaurants.
On the way back to the hotel, a nice Talking-to-Strangers moment with the owner of Matilda, a cute but shy Australian cattle dog, and her older friend. The two ladies, who lived in a nearby high-rise, were out for their pre-dinner walk. They had moved to Long Beach only recently, from inland, and greatly enjoyed the place – as did I, I told them.
At 6:30, it was time for another party, and I fell in with James, the Canadian from the night before, and Ken Samara, a Dallas food broker. Yakked a bit with some other friends, and headed back to the Westin. Did a bit of work the next morning, hopped back on Metro to LAX, and flew home.