LA is the grandparents' house. House, garden, garage, four to five cars in the driveway. LA is four bedrooms, three bathrooms, two living rooms. LA is eating out, gifts for Lieschen, flying in the granddaughter from England.
LA is a huge suburb. House, garden, garage. House, garden, garage. House, garden... LA is hills, palm trees, multi-lane highways, traffic jams, green valleys to your left, I wish we could stop and take a walk in the fields...
LA is spending hours in the car. LA is taking the car to go to uni, taking the car to go to work, taking the car to visit a friend, taking the car to see your son, taking the car to get the groceries, taking the car to go to the mall, taking the car to get an icecream from the cornershop.
LA is leaving an airconditioned house, getting into an airconditioned car, going to an airconditioned mall before arriving in an airconditioned office.
LA is a tiny city centre, square kilometres of suburbs, endless highways.
LA is the Grandparents' neighbourhood. Doctors, lawyers, teachers. LA is La Puente or Santa Ana. Where per capita income is a third of the one in the Grandparents' city. Where you realise that just because you haven't seen any of the fat Americans everyone talks about in Europe in the city the Grandparents live in, doesn't exist mean they don't exist. They do. Perhaps not in the Grandparents' part of town, but there where it's not four bedrooms, three bathrooms, two living rooms, but a one-storey small house with a flat roof and loads of junk in the front yard and a fence that could really do with some mending.
LA is the mechanic who comes to your house to fix the car. Who is hardly older than you are, works seven hours in the burning afternoon sun and when you get him an icecold coke gives you a big smile revealing the huge gap in his front teeth. LA is the old woman with greyish-blonde hair, a face aged by the sun and rotten teeth who sells you an icecream in Disneyland.
LA is the villa of a US South Asian family in one of the better parts of town you visit, six bedrooms, five bathrooms, three living rooms, where you sit in the midst of golden picture frames of the son who graduated with an-MBA-mashaallah, the parents years ago on their wedding day, the whole family posing and smiling to the camera, thick, fluffy carpets under your feet, where you are being served chilled apple juice, shami kebabs and green apple slices with red chilli sprinkled over them, while the daughter who is mentally handicapped and writes poetry makes chocolate-chip cookies for you.
LA is driving in the car with two young Desi Americans, who have only ever been to South Asia once or twice and discussing with them the differences between here and there, how we see them, how they see us, how others see us and them and everyone, talking about politics and culture and history and food.
LA is the Grandparents' house. Grandma, Grandpa and the uncles you love Lieschen and will miss her when she is going to leave again.