It is challenging, if not unwise, to pass Manchester Boulevard off the 405 and Randy's without stopping for their cinnamon crumb cake doughnuts.
Even when I don't, when I scurry by seemingly with a bigger purpose or a more important destination in mind, Randy's calls to me: "You know how good my cinnamon crumbs are. I'm only a five-minute stop. Five minutes. You can see my big doughnut in the sky from the freeway."
I hear the Randy's call every trip and sometimes I heed it, like last week while on my way to LAX for a flight to Blue Hill, Maine.
Maine is one of my mother's favorite places in the world. This was to be a mother/son trip. She's 90 and I'm not in my 20s anymore either so this was the year.
The shop was crowded — as it usually is. Randy's is an L.A. icon but, icon and big doughnut in the sky aside, Randy's delivers. People swear by its bear claws, Long Johns, jellies and they stick to their favorites like maple to a maple stick. I stay faithful to the cinnamon crumbs, a cakey, deeply satisfying affair.
There were six people in front of me but I was in good shape for the flight. I had two hours. I had never missed a plane and no way was I starting now.
The line crawled because several customers were not satisfied with ordering a bag or box of doughnuts — the acceptable order — but had to couple it with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate. It was 11 a.m. — haven't you had coffee already? It's time to start thinking about a noontime beverage.
Twenty minutes later, I left with four cinnamon crumb doughnuts in a bag — two for me after an airport lunch and two that I planned to fly across country like a special envoy for our youngest son, Thomas, who would drive from Gloucester, Mass., where he works, to meet us for a few days. Thomas loves Randy's Donuts because he is sensible, has good taste and would never gum up a line by ordering coffee at 11 a.m.
Fifteen minutes later, I had parked the car in the Marriott parking lot and I was waiting for the airport shuttle. I was fine. I had time and, if I had less than I thought, I have good karma travel, which I have amassed by smiling at people, giving up seats to the old or the uncomfortable and being courteous to the ticket agents whose faces often indicate that their days have not gone well and will probably get worse.
The shuttle stopped when it reached the entrance to LAX. Police cars blocked several lanes. Terminal 3 was closed.
Traffic was stopped and we hadn't even reached Terminal 1. My airline was in Terminal 4.
In addition to possessing excellent travel karma, I also have an almost heroic travel streak if a situation calls for Action Jackson to make a move. When we finally reached Terminal 1, I coolly grabbed my small black suitcase, leapt out of the shuttle and sprinted across LAX, rolling my bag with, backpack on my back and clutching my white paper bag of four Randy's cinnamon crumb doughnuts.
When I reached American Airlines, I was pouring sweat as if I had run the 800-meter in the Olympic trials in Jamaica.
There were 10 people ahead of me in line but I still had 40 minutes. I asked a man wearing an American Airline vest whether I could make it.
"No," he said. "You can't make it through security on time."
No, you don't understand. I can't miss this flight. It would be more humiliating than the Dodgers going into a complete collapse.
He understood. He'd seen my type before. Once on top of the travel mountain now tumbling, tumbling down.
For some reason, I looked down at my phone. I had gotten four phone calls from a 602 area code and then a text message from the same number. I didn't recognize the number or the area code.
The message read, "HELLO, YOU GRABBED THE WRONG BAG!! PLEASE CALL ME!!"
I did. I had. I called the number, retraced my steps across the airport to Terminal 3 where I exchanged bags with a young, curly blond-haired woman, who caught her flight.
Twenty-four hours later, I was in Maine. I handed Thomas the bag of doughnuts minus the two I had eaten in the airport. They were intact and had traveled well.
Sometimes the adventure starts when you miss a flight. Sometimes, it starts at Randy's.