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.