Where I learned to drive. And where I broke in the face of the mega-highways of the Southland (meaning Los Angeles). From the sample chapter of my book proposal:
I first cracked on the road over two college summers in Los Angeles when I faced twice daily the existential crisis of Interstate 405, what seemed like 16 lanes of total gridlock, up a huge hill and then down, leaving me, every day, trying to rip out the steering wheel and beside myself with rage and anxiety.
According to some sources, the term “road rage” was born in the mid to late 1980s in Los Angeles, and, on these commutes in the early 1990s, I could feel aggression bubble in my blood especially in the evening after eight hours of mind-numbing clerical work.
I tried alternate routes – the 10 and the 110 through downtown, for instance – but that was somehow worse. I tried running on the beach to kill time, often through the Baywatch filming set near Santa Monica, but that exhausted me and made me snap more easily in the only slightly faster moving traffic at 7 or 8 at night. I wasn’t even in a rush.
Then you’ve got Michael Lewis writing this wonderful Vanity Fair piece on how California is slipping into the new Third World:
Politicians are elected to get things done and are prevented by the system from doing it, leading the people to grow even more disgusted with them. “The vicious cycle of contempt,” as Mark Paul calls it. California state government was designed mainly to maximize the likelihood that voters will continue to despise the people they elect.
But when you look below the surface, he adds, the system is actually very good at giving Californians what they want. “What all the polls show,” says Paul, “is that people want services and not to pay for them. And that’s exactly what they have now got.”
So where does this lead? Was LA Story with Steve Martin prophetic back in 1991. Back then, the state seemed out of control but because of its character traits, not because of a fundamental bankruptcy. But who knows? Maybe this is the future of the LA freeways?