I have a fear of the freeway. I’ve lived in Los Angeles for almost five years now, and I will not drive on the 101 or the 5 or the 10. I fear them. They are hissing snakes of crazy cars – a whirlpool of drivers who go fast – who hate you – who will ride up your ass when you’re going 70 miles an hour. I can drive the New York State Thruway and every Parkway across the New York Trii-State area – but I will not drive the Freeways of California. It’s like taking one’s life in your hand and then smashing it alongside a guard rail.
Oh – I’ll let someone else drive me. But I cannot handle the speed as I take the wheel, the wayward highway to nowhere – the fear of not knowing an exit. A lack of direction. I still can’t find north. My compass has changed since my move from the east coast. It’s direction now spinning, confused. The ocean is on the other side of my brain.
I hate the Freeway. If I have to go to the Valley, I will take the surface streets. I’ll take Cahuenga to Barham. I’ll wait in traffic. I’ll take Laurel Canyon, where the twisting turns of backed up cars leave you unable to see what’s ahead. You are the snake that’s hissing, the long bending road lined with rocks and houses, buildings on stilts and memories of Charles Manson, Mickey Dolenz, Jim Morrison, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Mitchell. If I go up this rock and roll mountain to the flats of the other side, I’ll start off seeing the old Country Store, and think of crystal beads and mobiles, incense and Indica, naked groupies and lone stoners looking for home. Where are those burned out babes and washed out music god wanna be’s today? Pushing a cart down a street? Running a bank? Bouncing a grandchild on their knee? Dead?
I always thought living in Manhattan was a grind. The subway, the dirt, the crush of the morning commute. When I moved to Los Angeles, I wasn’t seeking any fortune or fame. I was looking for Spring, Summer and Fall – no winter. I was looking for a a new way of life, where I could take my car and go anywhere – despite never wanting to drive on the freeway. Now – even the pretty weather is tiring. The heat – relentless. The people – deep, thoughtful- all out of towners like me who just wanted a new life in the sun.
Now, I envy the folks back home, shedding the dreary winter for that wonderful feeling of spring as it stirs. The feeling of warmth breaking through the cold. I’ll take spring after a bad winter any day over a spring after a season of drought and summer-like heat.
Tomorrow, I go to the other side – Sherman Oaks. I’m not used to the valley and the mysterious oasis of the other side – over the mountain. I only know Burbank and Toluca Lake, yet my car is set for whichever way is best along the Google Map warnings and the way I feel. I leave myself a lot of time.
The Freeway isn’t so free. It’s backed up for miles. So maybe the hissing snake will be quiet with the bumper to bumper traffic – but I won’t give in. I’m a New Yorker in Los Angeles and frankly – I want to go home. I love the beautiful weather in the dead of winter, and I want to go home. I love the friends who greet me like nobody does in New York, yet I want to go home. I love the incredible Southern California skies that turn baby blue and pink at twilight, and I want to go home. The stars aren’t as plentiful as in other less dense places, but the ones you can see – they hang like diamonds. The crescent moon is sharp, like the charm on those bracelets I used to wear as a child, the northern star perches nearby – almost like that second earring in your second piercing on your lobe. The Pacific Ocean is blue like heaven, whereas the Atlantic is green like life. I want to go home.
All this lamenting doesn’t mean much. I miss New York, and plan on moving back in a few years. I miss living in a place where I’m from. But I’ll never leave Los Angeles. I’m working on a life where I can live – somehow- in both places. New York – Los Angeles. A little of the milk and honey, dipping into the best of both worlds.
Dreams are like those hissing cars on the 101 – they’re scary. But in pursuing them, I’m not going to take the surface roads. I’ll forge ahead until I’m up the ass of someone going 70, and go around, much like the BMW’s and Mercedes driven by those who don’t know what a left or right hand signal is.