Observing Los Angeles

A traveler who actually appreciates LAX

Elson Trinidad, who writes columns for KCET, is self-desribed as a "Filipino kid who grew up listening to black music in an Armenian neighborhood where people spoke Spanish and ate Thai food." He relates to Los Angeles International Airport as an Ellis Island of the Pacific where his father first set foot on American soil in 1969, and where he and his friends and relatives come and go between the West Coast and Asia. For those connected to Asia LAX is their emotional gateway, he writes.

Even when I'm not traveling, I still visit LAX's Tom Bradley International Terminal several times a year, whether dropping off a family member off and wishing them a bon voyage or greeting them in the arrivals concourse, fresh from customs, yet weary and jetlagged after a long flight.

Depending on the day, time of day and air traffic conditions, it can take a little more than an hour for a passenger to emerge from customs after their plane has landed. Sometimes I plan accordingly and leave the house to match up with my family member's arrival, sometimes flights get delayed and I end up waiting a while longer.

As I wait, many times I'd play a personal people-watching game, observing the procession of passengers coming up the ramp onto the Bradley Terminal's arrivals area, and guess which flight and point of origin the emerging passengers came on, using both the language they speak and what kind of luggage they're hauling as clues: Business travelers from China tend to travel light, Korean travelers seem to have the most stylish baggage, passengers arriving from the Philippines invariably lug their bulky balikbayan boxes. The flight codes on their luggage tags verify my guesses. The passengers come in waves, generally from the same plane, but many times there will be a mix of travelers from various flights.

But I also enjoy observing my fellow homebound greeters react to the sight of their arriving loved ones: Children running in excitement to greet their visiting grandmother, a woman embracing her returning husband after a business trip, two sisters tearfully reunited after countless years, a man and his family greeting his immigrant nephew, ready to help him adjust to his new life in this country. The long walk up the ramp seems kind of ceremonious. It's like a queue of graduates having just received their diploma during their culmination, or even the bevy of celebrities walking down the red carpet on Oscar night. They certainly are Hollywood stars in their loved ones' eyes.

A different take. Here's the whole thing.

More Tom Bradley International Terminal: When LAX gave reporters and photographers a preview of the newly remodeled terminal in June, Los Angeles film editor Vashi Nedomansky captured a nice gallery of shots. Here are his photos.


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