Tag Archives: car

“What the World. Needs Now. Is…”

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!

Yes!

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.

Heading home.

I get off a few exits before mine.  Thinking:  I’m gonna cook at home.

Yes!

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!

“Now: Shut Up And Drive, Drive, Drive!”

It’s the never ending construction of the 405 that can make even a saintly woman lose her mind.  And Lord knows:  I’m not a saintly woman.

Oh, no:  I tread really closely to my insanities — a diameter of a hair away, to be exact — tippy-toeing at the edge of my flaws that are enough to drive a man crazy, as well.

And I like taking a peak at that side of me:  It is permanently fearless.

It reminds me of wild passions in nature, and of other untamed women in my family’s previous generations.  They too drove their men crazy, with their moody hair and contradictory temperaments.  Some of them rode horses; I — straddle the seat of my car.  And since they have never spoken to me in my nightmares, I assume these women communicate to me — in my waking dreams and acts of courage.

And it is not the congestion of traffic, due to the never ending construction, that can make even a saintly woman lose her mind.  It is the aggression of others, always negotiated through acts of sickly cowardice; and it crawls under my clothes and starts nibbling at my capillaries, like an army of fleas I’ve picked up at some brothel in Reno.

There is noting more ridiculous — and nothing more reckless — than a man flipping out behind his wheel, honking and screaming with his crooked, slobbering mouth spraying spit.  He seems to jam his whole body into the joint of his honking arm, as if punching his girlfriend in the jaw.  Or his child.  And then, he speeds around:  first, yanking his car into traffic, then zooming past the cause of his entire life’s unhappiness, as it seems.

“This could be — where you die,” I catch myself thinking, calmly.

But he finally takes off — liberated! — wagging his middle finger in the air to point out yet another injustice in his life.

Or another’s stone face as he pretends not to see me when I attempt to merge onto the freeway, in front of him:  No fucking way!  He stares ahead, hideous in his acting unaware; and I know there is no emotion more cancerous than his glee at getting in my way.  No fucking way!  He would rather I crash and take him with me — than give me room.

No fucking way!

For as long as I have now lived in this city, this freeway has been sitting here as a parking lot of the worst in human behavior.  At first, I would try to comprehend what exactly made these other drivers commit such schizoid acts:  Haven’t they ever been affected by tenderness or humility?  Was there something about this demographic, or the hour of the day?

But that can make even a saintly woman lose her mind — and I’m not a saintly woman!

Still, I would wear these fuckers’ aggressions on my skin, like an army of flees nibbling at my capillaries; and I would walk into meetings and auditions, to my friends’ houses, looking for the closest bathroom, to rinse myself off.  And then, I would wonder why there was no joy left in my art.

Nowadays, I breathe through it.  I watch my aggression trying to rise up and I push it down and out with an exhale.  I sit back, muttering prayers of forgiveness. And if lucky, I lock my eyes with the guy in the midst of his private exorcism, going berserk in traffic:

“This could be — where you die.”

One got to me, the other day, in 110-degree heat that only that side of the 405 can accumulate.  We had all been sitting in the parking lot before the merger, unanimously late to our meetings and auditions, to our friends’ houses.

“Sepulveda,” I thought, suffering from a lapse of judgement.  So, I got off — and there, I got stuck.

Slowly, we were climbing down the hill along the congested boulevard, due to yet another never ending construction related to the 405, when I noticed a white van inching toward my bumper.  That type of a vehicle is always creepy:  with no windows on its long, dented body with chipping paint, it surely must be up to some sketchy contraband.  The red, puffy face of its driver seemed constipated; and he scowled in my rear-view mirror every time I stepped on my breaks, before a red light.

For a least half a mile he would jerk his face into that scowl, inching toward my tail; stepping on his breaks with enough abrasiveness to make that whole thing bounce on its wheels.  And I could see his screaming with that crooked, slobbering mouth.

“What the fuck does he want me to do:  sit in the middle of the intersection?!”  I got caught up, I confess, and I felt my own aggression rise up.

Inching toward Wilshire, melting in my seat, I noticed a middle-aged Middle-Eastern woman, timidly trying to merge into my lane from a side street.  Letting her in would mean missing yet another green light.  But the woman’s face of a basset hound would get stuck with me for days had I ignored her.  I knew that — so I let her it.

“YA FUCKIN’ BITCH!”

I heard that!  The whole of Brentwood heard that!

In my rear-view mirror, the red, puffy face started going berserk:  He was swinging his whale-like body, clutching onto the steering wheel, as if trying to tear it out.

I parked my car.

Pulled out the keys.

Walked over to the white van.

The only thing I could feel was the sweat that had accumulated between my thigh in this 110-degree heat and began crawling from under my miniskirt and down each leg.

The coward’s window was rolled up.  I knocked on it.

“This could be — where you die,” I caught myself thinking, calmly.

He stared at me, stumped for a good while, blinking his bloodshot eyes above the open, crooked mouth.  I knocked again.  He blinked — again.

Who knows what I had in mind:  The coward never opened his window.

And even though I walked away thinking, “This could be — where you die,” I knew that I just rode out the courage inherited from the insane, untamed, wild, passionate women in my family’s previous generations, mad enough to drive a man crazy; and in that mode — I was permanently fearless.

“Hey, Pretty! Don’t You Wanna Take a Ride with Me?”

I had a beautiful girl in my car the other night, and I could’ve driven like that — forever!

‘Cause here is the thing:  I like it when people ask me for help.  Nope, scratch that:  I like it when MY people ask me for help. Because just like me, my people are self-sufficient and competent; so proud, so beautiful — quite the badasses of the human race! — and they act as if they’re permanently alright.  The fact that youth and ambition is still on our side makes that last illusion believable.  We still have that strut of the young, their health, endurance and strength; so even if life serves us up some uncertainty, we lap it up like a juicy, slightly sandy oyster:

“Slurp!  Delicious!”

Some of my people — blossom in uncertainty.  They are the most fearless of the bunch, dwelling in a higher dimension, yet mercifully extending their hand from up there when I am ready to expand yet again, to grow.  But even if I’m not ready — it’s alright, they reassure me.  Really:  It is!  Go at your own pace and don’t try to become anyone else but yourself.  Because there are enough lies in life, so you better be in control of your own fiction.

For others, uncertainty may set off some emotional white noises:  doubt, lack of confidence, and very rarely, a sliver of self-pity.  And I get it:  I ain’t judgin’!  Because my people have had an earful of my own bullshit, yet they have loved — and even worshiped — me despite of it.  So, they bitch and moan for a lil’ bit; and we all go to sleep, eventually, tangled up in each other’s limbs.  Early in the morning though, I wake up next to empty pillows with imprints of their beloved heads — and they will already be onto the next thing:  Gone.  To the next, higher dimension!  They are so self-sufficient and proud, permanently alright; forever beautiful.  Such — are my people!

So, when under the influence of an impulse, one of them suddenly turns and says:

“Hey, V?  Can you give me a lift?”

“FUCK YEAH!” I go.  “I thought you’d never ask.”

And so, they get in.

I don’t often get passengers:  It is the style of this city to be more solitary in larger spaces.  The larger the space — the more solitary you find yourself.  Yet, we demand space around here, get blue in the face when we don’t get it; and Shiva forbid a boundary gets crossed — we foam at our mouths, outraged at such a crime!  But the geography is large enough to accommodate us all (us, our egos, what we think we deserve or have been robbed of — and all that personal space!).

Most, however, are still solitary when driving:  So solitary they forget that the rest of us can see them through the bubbles of their glass walls.  As if invisible, they insist on negotiating with ambiguous gestures:  honking or revving up the engine, or flipping their version of a “fuck you” once they are at a safe distance apart from their often unknowing offender.  And it would all be quite funny, if it weren’t so dangerous.  Because that’s how isolation is — dangerous.  And sad.

And so, they get in — my people — taking over my space.  Willingly, breathlessly, I surrender:  I always have too much of it — this fucking space, in this fucking city!  My people get in, buckle up, adjust their seats.

My boys are always taller than me.  They need more room for those athletic legs I would rather be wearing around my belt line.  So, they shift back and around, get comfortable and buzzy with excitement, like 5-year-olds after a camping trip.  They start opening my compartments and examining into my corners.  And if they ask me too many questions, I laugh and kiss them — on those tense foreheads, or directly on their dry lips.  I dig out my car’s never-studied manual and thump it against their athletic legs:

“Here is a bedtime story for you!  Happy?”

While the girls — those lovely kittens that smell like lavender and honey — they curl up, with their feet tucked under; some even recline and attempt to go to sleep.  Others, the more statuesque or the ones who are freer in their bodies, stretch out, putting their prettily pedicured toes onto my dashboard, and they roll down their windows.   And, oh, how I love when they take their hair down, releasing more lavender and honey into the air!  And it flips and flies around in the wind, like a firebird flapping its magical wings.

So, when the beautiful girl of the other night had climbed inside, I was immediately breathless with attention.  She smelled like a drawer of essential oils and exotic spices.  Being one of those brown types — blunt and beautiful, so strong! — her sex tempted me with myths from a very foreign continent.  Because where she came from, women — survive.  They are capable.  Capable of carrying their men on their backs, across deserts and blistering rocks.  Capable of surviving wars, to live and tell the horrors with their skin.  Capable of outrunning, outdoing, outhunting, outsmarting.  And when they happen to surrender under their men’s care, they merely humor the rules written centuries before them.

And so, she got in:  adjusted her seat, paid a compliment to my space.  (Take it:  All this fucking space, in this fucking city!)  Readily, she began laughing at my flippancy and temper; sighing when finding me poetic or poignant.  A couple of times, she sharply exhaled at my mercurial driving habits.

“Ow!  I didn’t realize we’d be doing this!” she chuckled in that teasing manner that only women from her very foreign continent can do.

So, I started a joke:  Three minutes or five blocks before each turn, I would shoot her a gaze habitual for the women of my own foreign continent and say:

“So…  Um, we’ll be making a right turn — eventually.  Get ready!”

And she would laugh.  Oh, how she would laugh, suddenly getting lighter from having to carry her man on her back, across deserts and blistering rocks; from having to survive!  She would tease me, so quick with her comebacks; and not even know that, in that hour, I too was asking for help.

“So…  Um, we’ll be making a left — eventually.  Are you ready?”

That night, we didn’t need to tell the tales of each other’s suffering.

We could’ve just driven like that, forever:  self-sufficient and competent — so proud, so beautiful, so strong! — and permanently alright. 

Hit the Road, Jack!

A heavy heart.  She believed it to be a condition of the true. 

“Not now…” her girlfriends in bad relationships pleaded, their faces looking like sad dogs or startled babies, right before they howl with grief.  “Maybe tomorrow, you can tell me the truth.  But not now.”

They were hurting, like so many:  An epidemic of the living.  She understood that.  But she always thought it was better to hit the road.

Her losses — there have been many.  Plenty of little defeats.  But maybe it was her father, who as she remembered always stood so very tall; maybe it was he who taught her to get up and hit the road, again and again, even if merely out of habit.

He himself had long been self-discounted to the camp of the defeated:  Those who got through a listless crawl of days that were mundane most of the time — at their best — and chaotic for the rest of the year.  (Once, he confessed that he preferred the chaotic ones; because at least then, he couldn’t ponder his way through them.)

He had stayed behind, in a country that she fled before she too joined the defeated.  Because she wanted so much more than survival.  Because she got sick in the lobbies of its office buildings, hospitals and dorms, all smelling alike — like chlorine and mildew — waiting and waiting for someone to come and get you, only to give you another dose shit.  Daily resignation to injustice just wasn’t enough:  She wanted to strive, to flourish; to chase ideals, like a cat does mirror reflections on the wall.  She wanted the truth; and she had hoped, for the world.  

So:  She hit the road.

But the heavy heart followed.  (She believed it to be a condition of the true.)

“Truth’s okay,” a wise woman once recommended.  “But you have to say it with a smile.  Otherwise, you’re all sharp edges.”

“Look!  A roach in your salad,” she said; then remembered the woman’s advice — and smiled.  Better?

Every night, when heading home, at the end of all that striving and flourishing — the hour of the heavy heart would rapidly descend.  Because she knew that in between the white walls (which her lease prohibited her from painting), there would be no distractions.  Only pondering.  Only the truth.  (Oh, is that why she always preferred to be in the midst of a love affair:  Because she could reach for the voices of her lovers like others reach for a midnight snack?  But then again, she never knew how to end it.  How to wait for the end.  So, she’d either found herself “in the midst” — or hitting the road.)

Sometimes, she’d take the longest routes home, through the unpredictable neighborhoods of her city that she was beginning to memorize by heart.  Her sometimes heavy heart.   

“How do you not get lost around here?” her mother, always the passenger, asked her every single time.

“I’d rather be fucking lost, trust me!” she responded; then remembered the woman’s advice — and smiled.

Some nights though, she just couldn’t bear it.  After all of her failed attempts to get lost, she’d return to the white walls; leave the bags in the kitchen, then turn right around and leave.  Oh how she wished to live in a city with tolerance for pedestrians!  Still:  She hit the road.

And so, she would drive through her city, over and over —  through it, around — hoping to discover a new street.  To get fucking lost.  She hated those “Dead End” signs — always so brutal and non-negotiable! — and preferred one-way streets.  Those ditches on the road — she kind of liked them:  They always jolted her to an awareness and justified a complaint.  She liked shortcuts, through alleys and parking lots, especially when it was unclear if she was heading the wrong way.  The poorly lit streets of immigrant neighborhoods thrilled her and she rolled down her windows:  to get a whiff of their contented survival.

She studied other drivers, most of whom always seemed unaware of their living behind the glass walls.  She hated being stuck behind trucks and buses, even though most forewarned her of making frequent stops and wide turns.  So she’d zoom around them.  Prii — always brought bad news.  (She liked calling them “Priuses” anyway.)  So, she’d go around those too, while shaking her head and avoiding eye contact with the owners.

When following police cars, she never knew if she was allowed to go faster than them; because truth be told, she rarely knew the speed limit.

“WATCH THE ROAD” their stickers recommended.  Not:  “WATCH THE SPEED”.

So, she’d speed around those as well.

“Ooh, gurl,” one night, a driver of a bus she had just passed, attempted to talk to her through his cracked window.  She looked over.  Very much the jolly type, he probably never suffered from a heavy heart.  He was grinning:  A happy wanderer.

“Come wit me?” he said with some sort of a mishmash of Caribbean accent and street talk.

“Okay,” she responded, surprising herself with the sudden lightness of her own heart.

“Meh say:  Come WIT me!”  The man was in the midst of a sermon.

“OKAY,” she laughed.  “Where are we going?”

“Whedeva ya want, gurl!”

She considered:  “India?”

“Let’s — go!”

“Now?”

“Yeh, gurl.”

“Don’t you have passengers?”  She looked back at the monstrosity she’d zoomed around:  No wonder it makes wide turns.

“Ya make me wanna pull dis ting ova’!”  He grinned at her, with not a hint of creepiness, just joy and admiration.

“Well.  Then, let’s hit the road,” she said.

Of course, at the green eye of the traffic light, she’d sped past him, and past the orange monstrosity he was lugging around town, with seeming contentment.  Straight home she went, for the white walls of her apartment which she was prohibited to paint.  And when she stood in the midst of her kitchen — alone with her heavy heart — she thought:

“This isn’t so bad,” — and reached for the fridge, at midnight.