Remember "free" airport WiFi? Also: LAX has always been a trash fire

Remember "free" airport WiFi? Also: LAX has always been a trash fire

I flew though LAX yesterday and forgot how hostile free airport WiFi used to be in the mid-2000s. 

LAX uses Boingo Wireless (aka Earthlink dialup's follow-up venture) which first tries to sell you a $15/mo plan (that used to be adopted by other airports).

To get wifi on my iPad in the terminal this weekend, I had to connect then watch a 30 second ad for Idaho Tourism before I got two buttons, one an option to Click to Hear More and Connect along with a tiny option, in low-contrast dark gray text that said "connect me to the internet".

And with that, I had a blistering 1Mbps connection I later disconnected from and instead used my phone's network connection as a hotspot that was 10x faster.

I'm pretty happy that airports like Portland's PDX bucked the trend 20 years ago, giving you free fast ~100Mbps wifi with just a single click, no ads, no forced waiting, and those mostly won out and became the norm instead.

LAX has always felt like a broken place. You can see evidence everywhere, with sets of stairs in the middle of terminals that make no sense but probably come from decades of past bad decisions, all seemingly held together with rubber bands and glue into a giant blob that barely sort-of works and no matter how much construction is done, it's not only never done, it's barely operable and everyone has to live with it.

Imagine visiting the USA for the first time through LAX and thinking that's how all American airports are?

Speaking of that, I had time to walk around the old LAX floating restaurant/bar area in the iconic Theme building. It's all closed and empty inside, the "Encounter bar" signs still on the walls but mostly it looks like LAX employees use it for storage. The outside gardens were kept up though, which was nice.

The central atrium of the building, which is all USO military rah-rah stuff now
view from the atrium up towards the center windows
I love the crunch of crushed gravel underfoot
The interior courtyard

This a good physical metaphor for LAX.

You have a building that is so iconic of mid-century space age design, but despite getting the city to recognize it as a cultural object 30 years ago, it sits empty and locked from the public. LBJ dedicated the opening of the Theme Building in 1961 when he was still VP, about three months before JFK was shot.

It sits at the center of all the terminals and is a short walk to visit the base of it, but you can't go inside and there's no way to catch a view out of those famous round windows to the surrounding airport and off into that space age future.

Locked doors all around

Look at what the Theme Building once was:

Look How They Massacred My Boy!

The architecture team behind it designed a lot of other iconic things, like the Transamerica Building in San Francisco as well as the first Disneyland Hotel.

Thanks to Andy, he dug up a shaky vertical phone video he shot in 2015, when we visited The Theme Building together on a trip and somehow convinced a security guard there to let us borrow a key that gave us access to the roof (which you can see still has benches on top of it!).