Doing 80 on the 405, at midnight.
The Valley is glistening behind me, at a safe enough distance: It’s pretty, like a flat lake with reflecting stars. Kinda like in the old country. So, naturally: I prefer not finding myself on that side of the hill.
The Mulholland Drive Bridge ahead is a mess. Even in the dark, the demolition site looms like a war zone — or a film set for yet another apocalyptic flick, gratuitous with violence. What it doesn’t resemble, though, is the hopeful vision by LA-LA’s officials that it’s meant to be: For the sake of easing our commute. Oh, but how many delays this vision has cost us already! And how many more to come! (Thanks for looking out there!)
But at least, at nighttime, it’s safe to roll down the windows: The dust of the daytime construction has long settled.
And at midnight — we are all moving. We are trying speeds otherwise impossible, in the daytime.
Yes. We’re moving. We’re going.
Ow! But not so fast! Nearing Sunset, several pairs of standing construction lights give warnings of another mess ahead. I’m in the right lane, at this point, mostly out of habit: On this stretch of the road, I prefer sacrificing a few numbers on my speed dial in the name of changing my mind — and getting the fuck off this fucking freeway, at the very next exit! Here: I prefer to have a choice. So, at least until Wilshire West, I hang to the right. And I slow down.
The truck next to me seems to be having troubles staying in his lane. Its aluminum trailer with no written indications of its product, origin or destination, keeps swaying across the neon line and into my lane. I swear at him, back up and loom just a few meters behind — and to the most right. As soon as this curve in the road straightens out, I’m thinking, I’ll zoom past the wheeled monster whose driver must be delirious with the lack of sleep. Because I keep thinking: Only the most hardened of us take on these jobs. And in their own way — they are the most heroic.
For nearly a mile, I hang back; and when I finally pass him, I watch myself skip a few breaths at the sensation of being way too close to the concrete freeway divider, to my right. But, oh, how trilling it is — to be moving again!
Ow! But not so fast! Soon enough, I notice a yellow construction tank leading the traffic in the left lane.
“What the hell are these things called anyway?” I think of the clunky machinery of that exhausted yellow color, the sight of which on any road in LA-LA usually means bad news: Closed lanes, “Road Work Ahead”; indifferent construction workers, dust clouds; and a cop car with a bored rookie.
And the crawl! Alas, the crawl of traffic! The crawl of time, in LA-LA!
“Fuck it!” I think. “I’ll just call it ‘a tank’.” And this tank is crawling in the left lane, with a flashing yellow arrow threatening us into yielding.
But still: We are all moving, at midnight! We’re going!
The road narrows. We’ve long passed Mulholland. And I can no longer see the glistening Valley behind me. It’s kinda like the old country, but slightly more brutal — in the daytime. So, naturally: I prefer not finding myself, on that side of the hill.
“What could they be possibly constructing at this hour of the night?!” I think.
By now, I’m balancing somewhere in between 60 and 70, but still: I’m moving! We — are moving.
I’m feeling overwhelmingly grateful. And there is no cure for that.
I’m heading home.
It’s been a long day. I’ve hustled, I’ve freelanced. I’ve driven all over this city. I’ve crawled in its traffic, chalking up the wasted time — to an investment in my dreams. And when most civilians have called it a day and taken their place in the crawling drudgery of the 405, heading home, I’ve left to spend my night in the company of artists. For hours, we’ve played, tonight; and we’ve cried.
And we’ve felt ourselves moving. Yes: We’ve found ourselves living!
So, yes: I’m feeling overwhelmingly grateful. And there is no cure for that.
By now, I’m doing 80 on the 405, at midnight.
I get off a few exits before mine. Thinking: I’m gonna cook at home.
Ow! But now so fast! The roads are ridiculous, here: empty at this hour, but always bumpy. I start speeding again. I’m alone, with an exception of other adrenaline addicts, in their German cars. I’m sure they too have had to hustle, today. But now: They are moving.
We — are moving.
The autumnal selection of vegetables at the market snaps me into yet another degree of inspiration: It’s gonna be one of those creamy, hearty soups that can heal a soul, or a broken heart — or to bring back my love. To bring him back home. The day is long gone, but I’m still feeling overwhelmingly grateful. So, I’ll just carry it into the next day.
I load up my car. Speed home. Start up the chopping, the sizzling, the simmering. I substitute. I improvise. I think of my love. I think — of my loves, from earlier in the day.
And for the first time, I slow down. Because it’s already the very next day. And even though, I’ve carried my gratitude into it, I’d much rather start it up slowly.
I’m moving, slowly. And I’m living, well.
Well: I’m living!