It started with a text:
“Bring warm clothes. It is f…ing COLD outside and inside.”
No more excuses could be fabricated for my resistance to visit her part of Cali; and unlike most children, I hadn’t fantasized about “getting out of LA” — for my sanity’s sake — and going “home”, since… well, never. Home had to be wherever the fuck I landed, for at least two decades of my life now. I hadn’t even let myself the martyrdom shtick since 1994. It’s just the way our family’s shit sorted itself out. So be it, eh?
Besides, each on their own, my old folks were kinda rad: funny and very specific. And as far as their parental duties were concerned, they had already done one hell of a job considering my Motha’land’s continuous turmoil.
This year, though, after missing all the major holidays in the last six months AND with my plans to avoid my daughterly obligations to visit for Christmas, motha’s birthday could NOT be missed. Well… Actually, it could. And it was. I had delayed my visit by nearly a week, but bargained that, on my visit, I would deliver a few make-up gifts. And take her out to dinner. And bring Starbucks.
So, there I was: Waking up early, after pulling my chronic, city-livin’ all-nighter, and immediately checking my iPhone for work emails. Anything to delay the reality of having to get out of bed and getting my ass rolling on the 10-East. Not once, not twice, but half a dozen times I touched base with my boss, in the morning. Look at me: All diligent and nearly altruistic, just mere weeks before bloody Christmas! While washing up — thirty minutes before my originally scheduled departure time — I missed a call from motha:
“Verra! Call me vhen you starrt drrivingg.”
Okay, motha. Will do.
But you know what I hadn’t done today yet? Yoga! I’d have to do that before I leave, because my centered self drove much better through every clusterfuck related to other people’s season of hysterical shopping. So, I did that.
Ooh, and you know what else? I’d better wash my car too.
In the bathroom of the carwash, another missed phone call from motha lit up my phone screen.
“I’m on my way,” I lied via a text: My ride wasn’t even getting soaped yet. “I can be there anywhere between 1:30 and 2:00.” (Had I noticed: The case of my unrealistic expectations from the clocks and the traffic of LA-LA had been getting worse?!)
In another thirty minutes, I finally climbed up — then down — onto 10 East.
“DOWNTOWN 12 MINUTES” — the first sign promised.
“I suppose I could still make it by my promised deadline,” a glimpse of hope inspired me to turn on some Christmas music. “Hey, this ain’t so bad!” I thought and attempted to whistle along. (I don’t know how to whistle, actually, so I was more like hissing along. Yeah. I hissed along.)
Culver and Century City zipped by me. (Or was it in the opposite order? I had always confused the two.) Downtown came up on me, in all of its newly built glory, in ten minutes. Gorgeous! Completely white and silver, it glistened in the sun. I checked my car’s thermometer. Sixty six degrees? Really? ‘Cause inside the greenhouse underneath my sunroof, it’s feeling closer to seventy two. And, as instructed, I was now carrying only sweaters in my suitcase.
I rolled down the windows. No, wait! Too much wind. I just washed my hair and it was doing its Medusa-in-a-Horrid-Mood routine. With just the passenger window down, though, the car began sounding like a jet plane in the midst of a turbulent take-off. Plus the smell of dust and endless construction smacked me out of my mood. With one whack of my fist, I turned off the jolly tune on the radio station.
Too early for Christmas, after all! Christmas was for other people, and their children heading “home”.
But I — was a busy working girl, wedging in some premature festivities into her life, and mostly out of guilt.
The orange diamonds of construction signs were sure to come up in a few minutes and right around the dodgy part of LA-LA, I noticed I was low on gas.
“Shit. Shoulda done that last night!”
It’s the worst habit of mine: Procrastinating with gas by thinking that there would be more hours in the next day of LA-LA. I examined the eroded walls of abandoned warehouses on the side of the freeway and chipping road signs, mostly in Spanish, and decided to see how long my tank would last.
The traffic wasn’t really crawling yet, but I could see a corridor of break lights for at least quarter of a mile ahead of me. Might be a while, but as we say in the Motha’land, “Whoever doesn’t risk — doesn’t get to drink champagne!”
The itch of my badass-ness needed some background music, so I smacked the radio again.
“Blame it on the ah, ah-ah-ah, ah-alcohol,” the new station blasted. That’ll do for now.
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.