I spent the majority of the afternoon in my car, today, driving my sons and their visiting friend up to a tennis lesson in Griffith Park and then down the hills into Hollywood. The traffic on Friday afternoons is outrageous generally, and today was no exception. People love to deride Los Angeles, claiming that the smog, the traffic, and the culture all make for an unexceptional city. Even recently someone commented about the smog after one of my glorious spring posts. The fact is that smog is really not a terrible problem in the part of Los Angeles that I live in and has vastly improved since the days when a yellow cloud hung over much of the valley and its environs. I can honestly say that blue skies, very blue skies, with few to no clouds are what I see on the majority of days. As for culture, well, I would stand on the Hollywood sign and yell out the fantastic culture that I have been exposed to and participated in for the dozen or so years that I've lived here. Even after living in New York City for many years, I have never felt a dearth of interesting people, cultures, art, dance, theatre, film, poetry and architecture. The key is taking advantage of what the city brings you and part of that key is the car, which leads me to what I do agree on and that is the ridiculous amount of time spent in one's car and the scary amount of traffic one encounters in certain areas of the city twenty-four/seven. Did I mention that I actually hate driving, too? I hate driving and could care less about cars -- clean cars, dirty cars, fancy cars, beat-up cars, old cars, new cars, luxury cars and outrageously expensive cars -- they're all the same to me and I just could care less.
My sons, though, are quite the opposite. Living in Los Angeles and spending so much time in one's car as a passenger affords a boy who loves cars an opportunity to see cars and know cars that is perhaps just not possible in any other city. Today, when we drove down out of Griffith Park which sits way up above the area where we live, we passed about five or six luxury vehicles -- the kinds whose names I don't know but whose models and features are easily shouted out by my sons.
OOOOO!! There's a Mazerati -- awesome!
Wow! Look there's an Aston Martin and it's got after-market wheels and look at those guys inside! They're so young! They're pulling up beside us. Oh, my go!!!!!
And the car pulls up beside us and I look over to my right and yes, the guys are extremely young. They look to be no more than twenty-five, some sort of Entourage-like age and type with black curly hair and days-old facial hair growth and they're both smoking cigarettes and tapping their hands on the steering wheel and dash. When the light turns green, they roar off, literally and figuratively smokin' and the three boys in the car scream with pleasure about V-8 engines and the noise, the noise!
Mom! Can you believe it? An Aston Martin and they're smoking inside! Isn't that terrible and stupid? To have an Aston Martin and be smoking? And Oliver rolled down his window at the next light and shouted out the window You're stupid to be smoking and because it was a fine, blue-skied and sunny day, their windows were unrolled and they looked over at us and Henry looked straight forward, dying of embarrassment and Oliver quickly rolled up his window, triumphant in eight year old moral outrage and then the light changed again and they were off.
Much later, after stopping at In N Out, truly the world's best hamburger drive-in and one we Californians claim is not really fast food, we snaked our way through Hollywood, and I entertained the boys and their friend with stories of just how stupid I am about cars in general. I told them that for about six months or so I saw what I thought were Bentleys at least three times a day and every time I saw this shiny, black car I'd think man, that's a $150,000 car and so many people in this crazy city can afford one! And then one day, when I pointed one out to The Husband, who is the original Formula One race freak in our household, he said to me in his withering German accented English that car isn't a Bentley, Elizabeth, it's a Chrysler. The boys love this story and laugh every time I tell it.
And later, much later, after we'd finally gotten home and The Husband came home from work and I dashed out, AGAIN, in the car to Whole Foods, to buy some homeopathic cough syrup for Henry, I sat in the crazy, crowded parking lot and stared right into the front window of a small truck with this message emblazoned over the front windshield FOOLS FOR JESUS
Of course I had forgotten my cell phone at home and didn't have my camera with me, so I couldn't take a picture, a picture that was going to be the sole reason for my post tonight about the cars and traffic and craziness and culture that is Los Angeles.