CHRIS BATTAGLIA

Thoughts

Maine Woods to California Beaches

On the 18th of February, 2016, I left Portland in Maine for Los Angeles and the beaches of California, by way of automobile and airplane, intending to accompany two friends of mine engaged to be married in Santa Monica, as afar as a church on Sunset Boulevard in Brentwood, to the eastern bluff above the Pacific, in which property they were interested.

(The above paragraph mimics directly the structure of the opening phrase in Thoreau's Maine Woods. I felt it fitting.)

The light began escaping from the late afternoon. At the right angle, tiny little flies dance in place - hung carefully in the aether. They buzz in a frenetic unison. All are huddled along an invisible an invisible column, as if they know something about this parcel of air that we don’t. At this exact moment, I think about the nature of flies. How the nature of flies may reflect a lot of truth to the nature of human beings. Because it is now I think that LA has become one swarm of beings, gathered, innocuously around nothing. Allow me to attempt to resolve this thought by diving into the past weekend in Los Angeles, wherein I worked and celebrated a wedding, met interesting people on planes, and several things in between.

Adjacent to me onboard the flight to connect in Atlanta, GA, was a very large woman. We both listened to Spotify on our telephones. Ne’er the two of us spoke, though, although I grew curious of her musical choices. I mention her stature merely to note that hers was the torso which escapes the personal space allotment of a middle seat in Coach, and into both surrounding chairs. Yet, contrary to my preconceived judgement, I never felt uncomfortable or resentful, as I envision most are compelled. It was a pleasant trip.

From Atlanta, the massive plane boards its passengers, and I had my double carry-on baggage with me. Tripod and Monopod are affixed to the front of a full-sized camera backpack. This part is the most cumbersome for life in the overhead compartment. Following down my shoulder is a laptop-stuffed messenger bag. This never walks easily down those aisles without gracing someone else’s seat-back or shoulder.

Making my way down the teens and twenties, I dislodge my bags, but not so easily. For fear of hold-up, I apologize to the person behind. To whom I turn around to a kind response washing over me from the young brunette carting similarly sized backpack and tote combination. And she has dangling elements attached to the outside of her fully-packed Jansport as well. I should note she has a characteristically memorable beauty mark on the lower right cheek, below the corner of her mouth.

She excuses my time spent removing my bags, acknowledging that she is also the last person to be frustrated, given her assorted incidentals hanging from her tiny fame. She looks familiar, but I couldn’t place it. Anyway, off to LA.

Landing at LAX may always be akin to arriving at the zoo. Alongside the baggage claim carousel, retrieving her bag is the olive-skinned gall who sat a few seats behind me on the plane. She is joined, surprisingly, by a lanky and tall limousine driver, who immediately snatches her bags. All 4-5 of the checked pieces make their way onto a Smart Carte.

And then I am instantly reminded that I am in Los Angeles. Land of the luxuries, Hollywood. Where it is possible a young person like this might be making enough money to be met by a driver who takes her luggage. I suspect she is an actor, but I can only speculate so much. Yet as she exits frame, she hikes up her pants. She grabs the waistline of the pants from both hips, modestly shimmying them up higher towards her navel, at which point the full and complete frame of her lower back is bouncing back and forth more clearly than before. She held them there as she walked away from the terminal. This is the move that highlights her shapely figure in such a way that seems to show every texture and feature below its jersey cotton: slightly self-indulgent, whilst very attractive.

So this girl and this moment illustrates a finer point, more than just an overly observant and detailed account of an attractive stranger. It is that I am simultaneously repelled to and attracted to LA, as represented by this young woman. I am transfixed by her and these pants in this moment, in spite of myself. Despite already having prejudged her for having a driver who carried her bags, I was curious to know more. To know why she felt so familiar and alluring.

Later this evening, after an afternoon of traffic, conversations about traffic, and watching the American Crime Story about OJ Simpson, a commercial came on. It was the Subaru Crosstrek, and in it: the familiar faced, beauty-marked plane stranger. As the internet allows, I search for “girl in subaru crosstrek commercial” and find out within a minute that this young actress has found a successful career on-screen, and all I could think was good for you Cyrina, good for you. (Anyone in the industry should probably hire her here).

The rest of the LA weekend was spent at a wedding in the Palisades, overlooking the Pacific Ocean during sunset. We were caught in traffic on Sunset Boulevard, and the groom with half the bridal party delayed the ceremony by 30 minutes because of a five care accident. Classic. The elements of the landscape, though, propelled the most classy affair, whose elements may only be described as “no stone left unturned.” It was a damn good wedding, celebrating families and friends from 10 years old, and others from high school years. 

Following the full wedding day,  spent the afternoon picnicking and drinking wine at a vineyard in Malibu. For anyone intrigued, I recommend joining the Rosenthal Wine Club and enjoying live jazz guitar while sitting poolside. Unlimited pours and a package of four wines to go home with. This happens every three months and although very on-the-nose Los Angeles, it proves a way to appreciate the landscape and its fruits, the great weather, and sunk cost of annual wine expense, and the great weather.

As the weekend culminated with a 13-hour journey over three planes to Maine, and a home-cooked fish taco meal with our neighbor, I will now press Play on the album Book of Strange Positions (punk rock covers arranged for violin), from a husband-wife violin duo - String Noise - out of New York. Half of the duo was my seat-mate Pauline, traveling only from LaGuardia to PWM. We shared wonderful conversation on that tiny WestJet puddle-jumper, before departing and embarking on the Musical Direction of the latest dance performance from Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane, taking place this evening in downtown Portland.

Below are some images from Nick and Erin’s wedding that are from the upcoming trailer video.