Jakarta Twilight

Still life, with PTSD
Still life, with PTSD

I work the closing shift, which means I get to drive over the 405 in the middle of the afternoon, and return to the Valley at 10:30 pm. On a good day, Brentwood to Van Nuys in under 12 minutes, if I hit all the lights. I’m one of the few people in LA who loves his commute.  Like an idiot, I’ve tempted fate by saying this aloud.

Yesterday, I had to go to work early, which means I left early, which means I joined the tail end of the normal commuter flow, with everybody else.  How bad could it be?

Lets put it this way: at seven thirty, I was on Barrington,  four cars away from Sunset Blvd, looking out the window at this beautiful vintage gas station framed in milky twilight, and in a very civil mood. Off early! I could go to the gym!  Perhaps Mrs. UpintheValley was still awake and could be had for the price of a foot rub!  No tired lion, me. All possibilities were on the table.

At eight o’clock, darkness had fallen, and I was still next to the same gas station, on the Sunset side, and I was plotting revenge against everyone who ever wronged me.

The stoplight would cycle through, and nobody would move.  This didn’t dissuade anyone entering from side streets inserting the nose of their car into the scrum.  Unhappy honkings all around…random, pointless, like steer lowing in a slaughterhouse pen.

I thought of Joe Gillis evading the repo men in the opening sequence of Sunset Boulevard, and how comically unrealistic that would play now.  When much of LA was laid out, traffic signals looked like this:



Gas stations looked like movie palaces and Westwood Village looked like this.


K-Town looked like this. That’s Oasis Church on the right.  It is now one of the shorter buildings on Wilshire Blvd.  Add three million people to this picture and take away the Pacific Electric Red Car.  That’s where we find ourselves today, scurrying to rebuild the public transportation we once had.    A bus and rail line for the working poor, slumped over in their seats, ear buds on, locked into their own podcasts, dreaming of the day they’ll be able to afford a car of their own.  And a house in Van Nuys.

It took me an hour to reach the freeway. That’s .25 mph.  Point two-five! The full Jakarta…


When I entered Macleod, they were playing traditional Irish songs and ballads.  iPads were used in place of sheet music,  I couldn’t help noticing. Here, two centuries were working to shared advantage.  I ordered a Better Days ale. Beer has rarely tasted so good.

10 thoughts on “Jakarta Twilight”

  1. I’m very keen to visit this MacLeod’s the next time i’m in LA. Soon-ish I hope. I’ll buy you a cold one.

    BTW, have you ever read Sandra Tsing Loh’s, “If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home By Now” or “A Year In Van Nuys”?

  2. I used to drive from UCLA to Tarzana for a 3P shift at the hospital. It could be fast or slow but I always loved heading down the 405 into the valley, all laid out in front of me. Now I find it terrifying.
    Last time I was in LA, I did the Woodcliff/Roscomare 405 alternative. When the eff did they put up all the stop signs?
    I don’t know about Jakarta traffic but my in-laws are in Bangkok and the traffic lights actually show you how many seconds until the light changes. My fave intersection is 276 seconds long. People keep pee pee bottles in their cars, just in case.

  3. We lived in the Valley / Westside for years. Moved, came back for a visit a few years later. I needed to go from Santa Monica Place to Wilshire and Washington at 5 PM and figured I’d just take my sneaky shortcuts.

    The shortcuts had turned into parking lots. And this was several years ago.

      1. I have a short cut from Van Nuys to Lake Balboa that involves driving through a parking lot (Sepulveda Orange Line stop). I have noticed in the past few years more people take the same short cut and I have to wait at the light to turn onto Victory for a few cycles. rats!

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