Thursday, July 14, 2011

Head Out On That Highway...But Not This Weekend

Get your motor running, head out on the highway,
Looking for adventure in whatever comes our way.


A steel and metal tsunami of cataclysmic enormity rolls our way this weekend. A wave which will be so unstoppable in its ferocity and mindless in its destructive potential that Republican politicians are already chafing at the bit to privatize it and give it its own Caribbean tax shelter. Expect streets clogged with homeless refugees, territorial and tribal warfare, children wailing for food, adults suicidal in their helplessness. We will bear witness to the final breakdown of an already broken down society. The world missed the Rapture last month. Los Angeles can not avoid The Rupture. This weekend could see a body count up there with Antietam.

I’m dressing in camouflage, duck taping the windows, hiding the car in the bushes. My command position will be fortified: I'll be hunkered down with Doritos and beer; filling old vodka bottles with new vodka; setting up the gun turrets; stockpiling the batteries; and opening the ham radio. The local stores have been raided for sunscreen, tuna, and hydrocortisone. I read through my last will and testament and realized the only thing left worth leaving to anyone should I not survive this weekend are the two loads of washed laundry on my bed and some unscratched Boston area lottery tickets.

I’m praying the electrical grind remains intact -- at least until I see the latest episode of "Celebrity Rehab" and the start of Season 4 premiere of "Breaking Bad." After that don’t really care what happens. I’ve made my peace with my Maker. Let HIM deal with the creditors at Bank of America and Citigroup.

This Friday (July 15th), at 10PM, the 405, one of the most traveled freeway systems in the world, closes shop between the 10 and the 101 for 53 hours. Both directions! No access at all! No single lane operational on either side! If these freeway numbers mean nothing to you, then I pity you fools for living anywhere other than Los Angeles. 100s of thousands of cars, trucks, military vehicles, motorcyclists and the occasional fool walking along the shoulder use this route daily to travel from one stretch of paradise to some other Nirvana in Southern California. Sealing off the 405 is like ripping out your aorta and tossing it to a pack of angry beavers. What happened to LA in the film "2012" was quaint in comparison to what will soon occur here.

Los Angelinos do not like outside forces disrupting the chilling flow of normal freeway traffic. Car crashes, overturned semis, mud slides, earthquakes, brush fires, police chases, and even Presidential motorcades during rush hour are tolerated with blind fury because drivers know that body parts will be swept away, vehicles will be turned upright, rains will cease, moving earth will stop, fires will be extinguished, criminals will be caught and beaten into submission before helicopter cameras, and Presidents will finally wave bye bye.

So what gives here? Haven’t we Angelinos suffered enough? The State is bankrupt. We have no action hero for Governor. Tower Records no longer exists on the Strip. The paparazzi run wild in the streets. Many upscale restaurants on Montana Drive have downscaled into disappearance.
According to Caltrans, the agency that puts out orange cones and leaves them there, this 10 mile stretch is the final length of road between the far northern part of the Valley and some magical point somewhere below Patagonia without a diamond lane, that freeway magic carpet ride allowing two or more passengers in a car to flee away from their original destination quicker than single occupancy vehicles.

Southern California has been widening its freeway system since the days of the Spanish Missions. The wider we make our freeways, the more vehicles appear on them. It’s some sort of mathematical principle first elucidated by a Caltech genius named Sidney Moundstreet: for every open freeway space, a vehicle of equal or greater length must occupy that space. A 13 episode story arc on "Doctor Who" based itself around this equation and something involving space vampires. Californians have been known to purchase extra SUVs merely to keep the math correct.

This weekend's disruption is about a bridge. This is either a bridge too far or not far enough. Half of the north side of the Mulholland Drive Bridge will be demolished this weekend. Because of the state's fiscal crisis, California sold MDR to Arizona to mate with its London Bridge. Another stupid, short-sighted decision as such breeding lead only to angry un-American toll roads. This billion dollar exercise in shoveling dirt from one side of the freeway to the other side and beyound means commuters will now be able to move through the
Sepulveda Pass at a snail’s pace rather than at no pace.

We Southern Californians live in our cars especially now with the recession. No one walks in this area of the country because there is nothing of interest that we can walk to. All life is just far enough away for the use of an automobile. Like a Starbucks.

Most Californians use the two person lane because they are stuck with their spouses, or they’re transporting kids to soccer meets, or they happen to be teenagers heading to some motel to check out bed bug infestation. I love driving alone. It might be selfish and egocentric on my part, but I’m in a serene spiritual zone when cruising solo as I yell expletives at the assholes around me.

I rarely use the 405 during the weekends except to go on geographically undesirable dates. It’s quicker to sit home and astral project oneself to a destination. But is that really the point? It’s an American right not to be inconvenienced by anything. If I wanted to have life made difficult for me, I’d join the European Union. Whether I have use for the 405 on any given weekend or not, I demand the opportunity to sit in bumper to bumper traffic, swearing a blue streak, crawling the Sepulveda Pass and wishing I was anywhere else but. As Michele Bachmann has said, “The Founding Fathers wouldn’t have written it in the Constitution with the words "Going Nowhere Fast and Loving It" if they didn’t believe it.”