I picked up Janet in the evening at LAX and drove her to a friend’s house in Altadena. She was a friendly, petite Jewish lady in her 50’s, notably tired from a flight in which she got no sleep. “Normally, I don’t even talk to the driver…”
“But I caught you while you’re… punch drunk?”
“Yes, exactly!” She hadn’t been drinking, but she could probably use a good night’s rest. I found her to be in a chatty mood. Janet grew up in Los Angeles but was splitting time between a permanent residence in the Midwest and here, where her friends and family were.
Her husband came from a long line of ultra-successful overachievers. His siblings were brilliant scientists, researchers, doctors who all graduated from Ivy League colleges. He had started a DVD shipping business and did very well… until DVD sales fell off a cliff. Then he transitioned to warehouse distribution, and again had a successful, thriving business.
Thinking big, he decided to relocate the warehouse from Los Angeles to the Midwest, to a city he’d grown up in. He wanted to come back and open a distribution center where he could provide jobs for people in town and be a savior… but not everybody wants to be saved. He quickly learned that the people in his rural Rust Belt town didn’t have the same drive, ambition, and intelligence as an entrepreneur in a fast-paced city like Los Angeles… and so business suffered.
At this point, our conversation turned to Altadena, the city we were driving to. I confessed I had never been to Altadena, and Janet said, “Yeah, there’s probably not a lot of reasons to come here. We have one fancy restaurant, and that’s it.” Altadena is up in the foothills north of Pasadena.
As we were climbing the winding roads up the mountain, I asked her if you could see the stars from here? “Oh yeah, you can see stars… and much more! I saw a bobcat once!”
“Wait, a bobcat?!”
“Yeah, it was on the front lawn as soon as I opened the front door. When it saw me, it ran to the bushes on the side of the driveway. That’s when I saw it was a baby, and the mom was in the bushes…” Now I’m a city slicker who grew up in LA, and this story of a pair of bobcats chilling on the front lawn is mildly terrifying because it is so far outside of my reality, but for denizens of Altadena, it shouldn’t be a surprise.
When we arrived at the house, I helped Janet by carrying her luggage to the front porch. As I reached down to grab her last bag from the trunk of my car, she said, “See? You can see the stars here…” I looked up and noticed she was right. The stars in the night sky were clearly visible. You could make out constellations, something I wasn’t used to seeing due to all the streetlights in Los Angeles. Then she said, “It was standing right there…”
“The bobcat.” Looking down, I realized it was pitch black and I was inches away from the front lawn to my right. To my left was a driveway lined with bushes. I bid her farewell and hightailed it to my car faster than you could say, “Bobcat!”