Penelope loves being a tourist in her own town. Today, she is touring the OUE, the tallest building in DTLA (Downtown LA.) Its height exceeds any other building between Chicago and Singapore at 73 stories. Roundish and all glass to give people on each level the illusion there is openness around them, the building lulls them into forgetting there never is nor will be any breeze of fresh air pouring in.
Penelope walks into the elevator car, a Milky Way of white lights between bands of mirrors which distorts her body into ribbons. Penelope presses the button for the restaurant and is suddenly pushed backward against the sparkling elevator walls like a magnet against a refrigerator door. She is propelled into the heavens. The distortion of light and mirror and the speed zoom her back in time to that horrible carnival ride when she was ten-years-old which slammed her against the circular red steel frame and spun her around with such centrifugal force her heart pushed outward against the skin of her chest.
At this very moment, she is hurling, yes, she is hurling in this silvery capsule to another planet never to see Mother Earth again. She can not breathe. Is this what a heart attack feels like? Is this an out-of-body experience? The twinkle lights make depressions in her back and her cheeks are wet with tears. The ride is endless, the speed incomprehensible. Penelope makes fervent pleas with the Omnipotent One to make this faux space shuttle stop. What if she’s never missed? What if she never does all the things she meant to do or visit all the places on her bucket list? Is this IT?
Without the slightest movement, the elevator reaches its destination and the doors open without a whisper. Wary of her release, she holds the doors open with both hands outstretched as if she was Samson holding off the pillars of fate. She breathes in, out, in again. Her strength returns.
A hostess greets her with an unctuous, “Welcome to Top Of the World,” hardly hiding the amusement of seeing Penelope shaken, stirred, and as white as a Pina Colada. Nodding an equally insincere response, Penelope walks around the restaurant on skyscraper legs, wobbly and weak yet they manage to move around the circular room from bar to restaurant offering panoramic views of the city. The clear skies show every gargoyle and sculpture in all their glory on the older buildings and reveal all newer towering corporate edifices in their frigid faceless sleekness.
Penelope’s awe dissipates as she anticipates her return: walk 73 flights down or hurl again at 100 mph in 38 seconds? She calculates the time to walk 73 stairways, then makes the obvious decision. The ride down is the same 38 seconds but without the centrifugal anomaly or did she pass out from fatigue?
Penelope walks up Grand Avenue to the park, an only-in-L.A. carpet of hunter green dotted with hot pink metal chairs, tables, and free book drops where she chills out with a book her distracted mind chooses her hand to select. Sitting still, the book still on her lap, her mind and body finally relax from her outer space venture. She picks up the book only to laugh out loud, it’s a well-worn pocket version, with maps!, of FODOR’S GUIDE LOS ANGELES. She thumbs through it, contemplating the next destination on her L.A. Tourist Agenda. So many wonderful things to see and do. She concludes, however, that next time, terra firma only.