The device chirrups at my ear and I click into staring consciousness. It’s 3:30AM. I scrape some marmalade across a slice of toast and park myself and my big red suitcase on the street to wait for the cab. The pre-dawn cacophony of birdsong echoes around the buildings in a symphony of mad whistling. The cab is very late which proves to be the first of the morning’s many calamities. The airport is awash with masked and strained humanity queuing in loosely disciplined lines. In the departure area Glaswegians eat burgers and chips, sip lager and rosé at six in the morning because airport time is out of time and the goddamn holiday starts here. Everything is in motion while the city still sleeps a few miles yonder. There’s a thick fog beyond the windows and I worry a little about delays. The connection at Heathrow to LA is tight but what will be will be. As I sit and wait people wheel their little cases around beside them like blank dogs at heel. They turn and stare up in supplication at the boards hung from the ceiling looking for signs of hope, for direction. Hen parties circulate in their matching T-Shirts and novelty tiaras. I’m unused to flying and am unsettled. I keep peering at my boarding pass convinced I’ve missed the flight. Someone’s phone alarm is bleeping. It’s an enormous, slouching emergency.
So our Glasgow to London flight has gone technical and leaves forty minutes behind schedule. At Heathrow Terminal 5 we bomb onto a bus that takes for ever to get to Terminal 3 by which time, as suspected, we’ve missed our connection to LA. Chaos ensues not helped by the operative in Glasgow having issued two of us with duplicate Glasgow to Heathrow boarding passes instead of LHR to LAX. Things are made even more complicated as our Covid test certification is only valid for the missed flight so we all have to get on our phones and “attest” to being Covid negative. Everything is difficult. After hours of rebooking we finally get new boarding passes for the 12:30 to LA but back at T5 my bag gets pulled at security and sits unexamined in a tray six feet away from me for so long I start to suspect I’ll miss the new flight. When I do just make boarding as the doors are closing I get pulled again to be swabbed for explosive residue. But here we all are, the English and Scots contingents on the same plane. After 11 hours of rushing engines on the Airbus we lower into bright, dry Los Angeles. Now for immigration and customs. What can possibly go wrong now? The line is over an hour long.
As I stand in the interminably snaking queue I notice that the floor, some hard-wearing polymer stuff, is flecked with flakes of gold in an echo of Hollywood Boulevard. It looks like Errol Flynn broke a golden mirror while the pour was setting. The neatly uniformed man at the interview desk gives me an easy ride – no grilling today —and writes an extension into my visa. Three of us get a yellow cab to the hotel, passing the motley towers of downtown as the sun sets and the Hollywood hills sink into the black dream of stardom, success and murderous revenge.