The full moon hung low in the east, rising pale yellow against a shadowed sky. A cluster of lights floated next to it, airplanes lining up for approach to the runway I was driving past. I’d glanced over just as I passed under their flight path.

Above the moon and the lights, a band of pink crossed the sky. Above that, it shaded into blue.

To the west, past a chain link fence, past the tracks being laid down for a rail extension, past the expanse of the runway itself, the sky was orange. Bright yellow clouds, the only clouds in the sky, shone with light from the sun that hadn’t quite set for them yet.

I drove on.

I’ve found my lunchtime patterns fossilizing. Mostly, there aren’t a whole lot of places to eat within walking distance that aren’t hotel restaurants and therefore expensive, and parking is such a chore that it’s not worth driving anywhere. So I end up going to two fast food places and two cafes, over and over again.

The other day, I started to walk to Subway, and realized I just couldn’t bring myself to eat there again. So I did something I’d never done: I kept walking. As it turns out there wasn’t anyplace to eat past it, just two more hotels (neither of which advertised a restaurant) and an abandoned office building. From there I walked along Sepulveda until I reached In-N-Out.

Along the way, though, I spotted some interesting items, like this old warehouse:

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Stranded travelers leaving LAX on foot down a closed Century Blvd.

I work in an office building across the street from Los Angeles’ main airport, LAX. This morning was….interesting.

I was driving to work as usual, and noticed two things:

  1. Just past the next intersection, the street was completely full of stopped cars.
  2. At least five helicopters were hovering in place up ahead.

This is the third time in as many months that I’ve seen helicopters just holding position like that near the airport. Once the choppers were keeping an eye on a damaged airplane making an emergency landing. Once was the ex-TSA agent bomb scare on September 11.

I turned onto a side street and took a back way to the parking structure. The drone of helicopters was stronger when I got out of the car, and police car after police car started racing down the left side of the street, sirens blaring.

The building concierge hadn’t heard what was going on. She just shrugged and said, “L.A.”

Once I got into the office I found out what was going on: There had been a shooting at the airport, an incident still ongoing. There were still airplanes taking off at the time, though we hadn’t noticed anyone landing, and more and more helicopters took up position in the sky down the street.

Information was still spotty at the time, so I sat down to work, but it’s unnerving to listen to the constant drone of helicopters when you know they’re there because something’s wrong, especially when that sound is punctuated every few minutes by yet another siren.

By lunchtime, Century Blvd. had been blocked off by police and the trapped cars had been cleared out, leaving the street eerily empty. A stream of stranded travelers trudged along the sidewalk and in lanes, dragging their luggage away from the airport and toward hotels, offsite parking, or transportation. The cafe downstairs was swamped (though not as full as I’ve seen it during conventions).

What surprised me were the people getting out of cars at the curb just outside of the barricaded area, pulling their suitcases with them and starting the mile-long trek toward the airport. I can only assume they were counting on delays being lifted by the end of the day and their flights actually taking off. Though I’m not sure what the people waiting at the bus stop inside the closed area were planning to do.

It’s about two in the afternoon right now. I’m pretty sure I heard an airplane take off a few minutes ago. Most of the helicopters are gone, and while the street still looks closed, I can see more people walking toward the airport than away from it. It looks like things may be starting to return to normal.

Update 6:00pm: Century Blvd has been re-opened for traffic (though I wouldn’t say it’s moving, and airplanes are taking off again. If you look closely in the picture below, though, you can just see some helicopters still holding position above the airport.

Backed up traffic at sunset

On a completely different note: I’ve decided to try NaBloPoMo and post every day this month. I’ve been getting all the NaNoWriMo emails, and while I don’t have the time or story ideas (and Katie’s covering the “writing a novel” thing), I’m a little nostalgic for a writing challenge.

Update: If you’re looking for photos from Endeavour’s trip through the LA streets in October, I’ve got those too.

And that’s it. The final flight of the space shuttle has come to an end.

The last shuttle landing I saw was Discovery in 1988. My family went out to Edwards Air Force Base to watch it land. I posted a photo essay on the event last summer when the shuttle flights stopped.

The 1988 landing was a normal Shuttle landing. It landed under its own power, from orbit, and it was all business. We civilians camped out all night on a dry lake bed, kept outside a fence so far away from the landing strip we could barely see the shuttle without binoculars.

This time it was being carried by an airplane, from another airport. Safety wasn’t any more of an issue than a normal flight, so they landed at a regular airport. (Though it was escorted by military aircraft.) And since it was the last-ever shuttle flight, there was a bit of showmanship to the flight plan: Continue reading