11: The Scenic Route


  The plane pierced the veil of smog clinging to the endless city. If anything, LA was hotter and smoggier than when Dak left. He and Arial were used to it, well, as used as you could get to burning eyes and feeling that you'd really prefer to stop breathing if you possibly could.

The Professor was often in LA and to him the sky was filled with metals of all kind, including arsenic (a highly poisonous metallic element... Atomic number 33, Atomic weight 74.922...). The professor knew the elements and their numbers and weights the way a baseball nut knows batting averages.

Paula had never been to LA before and like most tourists wanted to see two things: Disneyland and movie stars. Cora was just anxious to get home because while she was away things would have become not just dusty, but gritty, too, and she hated that. Her sister, Parka Venue (also a compulsive cleaner) was picking her so they could go directly to Smart and Final Iris for a cleaning supply shopping spree.

Gil Sands was waiting at the airport to pick them up, driving his 1972 Buick Roadhog. It was one of the largest American cars ever made, with so much heavy steel and glass that it was practically bulletproof (so important for L.A. freeway driving). Uninsured motorists could run into you (and did with regularity) and the car would barely dent. That's what Gil liked about it. That and the fact that it could seat eight, comfortably, and it had great air conditioning. It didn't really matter that it only got 6 miles per gallon, because it had a 50 gallon tank.

Gil headed north though Marina Del Rey, a huge, man-made marina built on top of what was rare wetlands, and through Venice without stopping at Dak's house on the canals. A roller skater darted in front of them as they passed 'The Lumberyard," a run down looking place that was actually Roger Corman's B-movie studio (they were simply too cheap to take down the lumberyard sign). They turned onto the newly chic Main Street where, Dak told Paula on the plane, he once almost knocked Barbra Streisand over by accident--and he almost didn't recognize her because she was so tiny--even her nose looked small. Paula looked for Barbara today, but then, she thought to herself, "I probably wouldn't recognize her even if I saw her..."

The professor wanted to stop at Chinsey, chef Woofie's famous Latino-Chinese restaurant decorated not quite as cheaply as Spago by his still frightening wife, but Dak reminded him of the urgency of their mission.

They drove down to the Pacific Coast Highway (locals called it the PCH) and were immediately stuck in traffic caused by yet another landslide. Boulders tumbled down the cliffs onto passing motorists at regular intervals and someday soon the cliffs were going to give out and meet the sea for a little dining and dancing, entombing thousands of motorists in the process. But until then, the road was still packed with people trying to flee the heat and smog and traffic of the city for the heat, smog, traffic and litter of the beach.

They weren't going to the beach for the sand, the surf, or the second rate seafood restaurants. There was a good reason for being stuck in this traffic.

While being held captive by the Nutzi's, the professor was sure he'd figured out the meaning of the codes on the stone but had to take just one more look to be sure.

He also realized that the only museum in the world rich enough to buy the stone illegally, as museums acquire many great antiquities, would be the Glypha. It was established by one of the richest men in the world, a salad oil tycoon, who had left so much money to the museum that they had the opposite problem of every other art museum in the world--They had too much money. They could outbid everyone on the planet, including the Dutch (who, in reality, own a lot more of the US and have a lot more money than the Japanese, they're just quieter about it).

Lately, the museum had acquired a reputation for acquiring imitations. The same shady antiquities dealers that sold these faux treasures occasionally stumbled upon real treasures with faux histories.

The museum snapped these things up, even though they couldn't display them. They figured that in fifty years or so everyone who might recognize the stuff would be dead and they could finally put it all on display.

Chapter 12: Malibu-bu

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