(Continued from December 6th, 2011.)
The merger to continue onto the 10-East looped around the graffitied walls, arid lawns and long dead flowerbeds. With one-eighth of my gas tank, I was speeding and leaving the City — exhausted by traffic, lack of time and money, never-ending construction and unrealistic expectations of its dreamers — behind.
Right around Baldwin Park, the freeway got deceivingly wide: We were free flyin’. All of us! For a couple more zip codes, a few expensive cars would still zoom by me. But as Beemers and Benzes began to vanish like a mirage, I knew I was heading into the Inland Empire. An occasional five- or six-car train would crawl alongside the freeway; but despite some drivers’ strange road manners, I felt grateful for being able to dictate my own speed of moving — and having the wheels with which to escape.
There stood that giant brown Wells Fargo building of some hideous shape unknown in geometry. On the way back, I had learned to notice it every time. Even at night, I see its sign illuminated by the seemingly never ending, moving headlights and the sparking skyline of the City in which I had finally learned to live.
No, not “survive”, like I used to, back on the East Coast — in my more youthful days, when I had better habits for chasing or persevering time. Here, I had actually been living, on my own terms. And the case of my unrealistic expectations from the clocks and the traffic of LA-LA had been getting worse. But then, it was a commonly spread disease anyway.
My chosen radio station was still blasting:
“Ooh, sometimes: I get a good feelin’!”
Montclair’s malls sprawled out for miles. They were the first to signify that I was no longer in my City. I was leaving, chasing the clock; already late. It would be something I had to get used to, from then on: The nearly identical signs, imposed by the same corporations — over and over again! — would begin greeting me in every new city, from the side of the road. Malls, malls, malls: The only mode of entertainment. In Montclair, the modestly covered-up two-tailed mermaid of Starbucks reminded me about my promise to deliver some sugar-coma costing drink to motha. But then, they seemed to appear on my every other exhale, so I had time. I checked my dashboard: Shoulda gotten gas last night!
Mileages for Pomona’s exits began invading every road sign, from the top. That’s always the half-way point. In my old, two-cylinder clunker, climbing over this hill would have been a bitch. So, I would find myself in the slowest two lanes, crammed into the moving wall of white trailer trucks. And they would swing in and out of lane dividers and make my heart skip a beat. But somehow, especially around wintertime, they appeared hideously beautiful. From the furtherest left lane, I looked at the moving, swinging white wall. This route belonged to them. They were the common site of California’s self-sufficiency. And I loved it.
The Forest Lawn Cemetery overlooking our hustle and bustle from up a significant hill had a habit for a serene appearance. Perhaps, it’s because, in six years, I’d never seen a living human on its evenly green surface. The white statues at its gate hung above the otherwise flat surface. On every trip, I kept trying to figure out what they were: Angels? Warriors? The Relieved Deceased?
Motha had always liked cemeteries. This one seemed endless, so I’d better remember to bring her here, for a stroll. Lately, she had been obsessing about transferring her parents’ remains from a vanishing town, in the Far East of Russia.
“Otherwise, they’d disappear,” she’d been saying.
Holding on. That’s perfectly human.
“I wanted love! I NEEDED love! Most of all! Most of all!”
The radio was beginning to struggle with its waves.
Pomona happened with its horse racing tracks and a major attraction for County Fairs. After it, as always, I went blank until I came up on the convoluted exists of the Ontario Airport where I had originally landed, half a dozen years ago. The exits for Rancho Cucamonga would never call the city by its name. Too bad: It was the only truly idillic land for miles to come.
The mountain range that came up on the horizon after the halfway point would be the only other place of peaceful beauty. And it was looking mostly gray these days, with ice caps on top. Below them, in the valley, laid a land where people struggled and survived. But at least, time and traffic would move slower here.
The slightly tilted bridge of the 15-North onramp reminded me of a roller-coaster. I hated those! But there, I went: Whee!
Then, another freeway, recently renovated — and my radio began sounding like shit.
“We found love in a hopeless place…” — it gargled.
Turn that scratchy shit off! Get some gas!
I sped up.
Since the city limit of LA-LA, I hadn’t seen a single cop car, for sixty miles. And motha’s exit was coming up. I couldn’t believe I had pulled it off.
The gas light went on, while I was on the off-ramp negotiating my way behind a clunker of an uncertain make with horrifically smashed-in rear.
What this?! A 7-Eleven gas station? A wolf whistle came from behind me when I stepped one foot out of my car.
“Really?!” I looked back at two Mexican workers sitting on a curb.
“Fuck off!” I barked.
Yep: I had arrived.