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July 09, 2003: Rumor has it there's a beach there too

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I got up far too early this morning and drove to the airport while it was still dark, to catch a plane to Los Angeles and from there, a taxi to Santa Monica.

It was muggy in Santa Monica today; in fact it was extremely muggy. But I didn'tt mind it so much if only because at least it is cooler than Sacramento is right now so at least I have that for relief. The taxi driver who took me from airport to office did not ask me any questions other than to confirm the address, for which I was grateful since by this point I was starting to suffer from the combination of waking up far too early, and a lack of caffeine. Outside the office building the weekly farmer's market was just starting to set up as the taxi pulled up beside the curb. A few minutes later, after I'd been upstairs and given the quick tour and pointed in the right direction, I headed back outside in search of coffee. The office is right next to some kind of shopping promenade, with stores lining the street on either side (pedestrians only) and a movie theater on the corner. I found coffee in the form of a latte, and could not resist the oddly shaped, intriguingly named espresso chocolate chunk scone.

Walking back to the office – this time with a borrowed pass so I wouldn't have to rely on the kindness of strange men washing down the sidewalk to let me in – I eyed the produce and plants set out in crates and boxes alongside vans as the market sellers set up their tables. Huge tomatoes, boxes of apricots mounded high, buckets crammed with all manner of plants that might tempt me into making a purchase save for the fact that there really is no way I could bring it home with me on the plane tonight.

There is a dentist's office in this same building, and as I walked by I did a double-take. The lobby is like something out of Arabian nights – overstuffed plush and heavy tapestries tucked into every corner amid tall potted trees. There was a little hallway inside with video games (to entertain the older kids, I imagine), and a brightly pink room to one corner with giant crayons on the wall for the younger ones. Somehow I managed to stop my jaw from dropping onto the floor. This is nothing like any dentist office I've ever seen. I am used to stark, boring lobbies done in every shade of beige, with the requisite pile of magazines on a table in the corner where the most recent edition was published back when I was in college or earlier. I wonder if all those trips to the dentist and the orthodontist for the braces and the headgear and the extractions (I have thin enamel, a jaw too small for all my teeth, etc., etc.) would have been more anticipated if there had a sultan's tent, or giant crayons, or a Ms Pacman game to keep me occupied until it was my turn.

The Santa Monica office was originally designed for a now failed dot com. This is the explanation I was given for why, scattered here and there like misplaced drains in an otherwise normally carpeted floor, there are golf 'holes'. Apparently the now-failed dot com employees were welcome to relieve a bit of stress by grabbing a club and doing their best to hit a few holes-in-one in lieu of a coffee break. The love of office-floor golf does not, however, explain why it is that the failed dot com felt the need to decorate the entire office in some kind of bizarre hybridization between the 70's and the type of 'modern' dιcor that usually equates to minimalism, lots of metal, and far too much emphasis on frosted glass panels. There is a little glass-walled conference room in the back of the office, in a relatively unpopulated corner, and it is there that I spent most of my day, with the architect and the intern, pouring over an ever-growing pile of information as we try to track down often-elusive equations for buildings.

We went to Wolfgang Puck's for lunch. I had a roasted vegetable pizza (although I had to pick off the eggplant because it is just too slimy to eat). We found great amusement in the drink dispenser, where the regular lemonade contained a label indicated 0% juice. The diet version, however, proudly declared that it was made with real lemons. As the same vendor and brand made both of these, it did make us wonder just what the 0% juice regular version uses instead of lemons (and why the vendor felt the need to use a lemon substitute).

By about 2pm the architect and I were both fading fast. My excuse was the plane flight down; hers was that her youngest – from all accounts a typically exuberant toddler – came bounding into her room at about the same time I was smacking my alarm clock and getting out of bed much further north, and once that started there was no going back to sleep for her either. A previously planned conference call kept us somehow hanging on to some semblance of normal brain function for another hour or two, but by shortly before 4pm the architect had had it, the intern was starting to get nervous about the fact that she is supposed to fly to another continent tomorrow and had not yet begun to pack, and as for me, the sheer fact that I could no longer pronounce simple words like "irrigation" and "calculate" indicated that my brain was slowly going numb from overload. So we all emerged from our little glass-walled chamber of work and headed our separate ways.

The taxi driver who took me from office to airport wanted to chat but by then I was too worn out to manage more than a few simple sentences in reply. He was the type of driver that makes me incredibly nervous – speeding up to tail other cars on the freeway, slamming on his brakes at stoplights. If I paid attention to the traffic around me – and to what he was doing – it only made me tense in anticipation with every sudden swerve and screeching halt. So instead I focused my attention on the scenery, finding great amusement in the trees that lined the side of the road. In some areas they had grown so huge that the sidewalk had become a gentle roller coaster of ups and downs, shoved out of place at regular intervals by the slow and steady force of the spreading roots.

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