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Full Circle

Day 230: Los Angeles

Michael Palin - Full CircleNot crazy enough this morning it seems.

Around midday he decides to go up anyway and see what he can find.

'Okay... let's cruise for news.'

We've cruised for less than a minute when word comes in of a light plane in trouble approaching Van Nuys airport in the San Fernando Valley. It's run out of fuel and might have to attempt a landing on the freeway. Bob instructs his pilot, talks to his office, his TV company and us whilst at the same time listening to his office, police radio and Van Nuys control tower. He presses a button and a new voice comes over the headset. It's the pilot of the light plane. He confirms he's eight miles out and has no fuel left. He doesn't think he'll make the airport. We race to where he estimates he'll land. It becomes as exciting as any Hollywood drama as we head for the airport from one side and the light plane, slowly sinking, comes in from another. Bob talks swiftly as information comes in. We bank and turn and there below us is the freeway. The light plane has just skimmed down and landed safely on the inside lane. The police have not managed to stop the traffic and the pilot just took his moment to settle between two trucks. It's an extraordinarily lucky escape. Bob gets close-up pictures using his pride and joy, a camera with a 72 to 1 zoom lens. Then, as news-gathering helicopters from two or three other channels arrive, he turns to Craig.

'Let's leave it to the vultures.' And we pull up and away.

Bob likens LA to a theatre. Killings and shootings are plentiful.

'A shooting in Los Angeles is not a big story,' he explains. 'On average, twenty-two people are killed here every weekend.' He pauses, then adds sourly, 'How many decent people are killed in a weekend, that I can't tell you.'

During the rest of the day, between a series of aborted police pursuits, Bob is first to cover a fatal accident on the freeway and a forest fire out in the hills. He seems almost disappointed as he turns low over the Pacific and into Santa Monica one last time.

'An ordinary day,' says Bob. 'Just an ordinary day.'

All of us are exhausted.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 230
  • Country/sea: USA
  • Place: Los Angeles - California
  • Book page no: 299

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