Don’t Learn to Drive in LA

Hi, John.

I promised I would think about your piece on driving & provide a thoughtful response. I’m not sure this fulfills that promise on all counts, but I will try. It will be easier to follow than an in-person cafe rant where I would also insert analogies featuring Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, & Dune if I thought I was losing you.

I’m not gonna lie to you: driving in LA does in fact suck. You are in no way wrong about that. I have imagined blowing my own brains out on the 5 more times than a cognitive behavioural therapist would consider prudent. It is this very point on which we agree that I will build my premise that you can be taught to enjoy driving, but I concede it will never happen here. Ever.

I will argue with your 7th graph down (if you count the one liners): trains did not tame the frontier. Neither did four door sedans.

One day, you, me, Sara & the dog should drive to Reno. We’ll act like we’re going to Vegas, so we can stop by this tin roof shack called The Still that serves hamburgers the size of actual steering wheels, & then head up to Reno. You will see the West was never tamed. By anything. Except the Air Force, kinda, if we drive between Vegas & Tonopah at night. Even going 85, we will see a light show & displays of military force for at least two hours out the passenger side.

You will, after Tonopah, be allowed to take the wheel. After we’ve had a meal served to us by a delightful meth addled teenager, taken pics outside the signs for the Clown Inn, & peed, you can have the wheel. I will put in the Dune soundtrack & you can drive the whole length of Walker Lake. I will not make fun of you if you yell “Father? The sleeper has awakened!” I’ll be rather disappointed if you don’t, truth be told.

You will fall in love with driving, unless we get stuck behind a caravan. Wait, you guys don’t call them that. What are they? Campers? RVs? Anyhow, you’ll get bold enough to pass that asshole going 90. Really.

Upon returning to LA, you will hate driving again, but you will have the memory.

I don’t judge you for not learning to drive until you were 38. You’re a New Yorker. At no point did you ever have any reason to operate a vehicle in NYC, just like my mum & I never needed one to get around London. Both of those cities were founded before the advent of cars, so they made do, building along old carriage lines.

LA cannot fathom a time before cars. Sadly, it never really planned for them, either. We’re dumped upon a desert/shoreline/mountain range which scoffs at travelers & mocks our desire to see shows on Sunset when we live in the Valley. “You pathetic bastards! I shall squeeze you into a bottleneck so tight you’ll wish steel had never been tempered & the Mongols had conquered the Earth because then you’d have a horse!” My own beloved church has mountains & Franklin between me & it. No one would wish that upon their worst enemy.

Don’t use the carbon footprint excuse, btw. Half of your friends won’t think you’re doing enough, & the other half will point out that you use an iPhone & a flush toilet, etc.

People do walk in LA. Another reason I hate driving here is the yoga/Pilates people who run across Ventura randomly when I am trying to get to work. It is more accurate to say people jaywalk in LA.

Your sister’s heinous car accident is a completely understandable reason to fear cars, period. I hated being a passenger. My father, a man of many flaws, had as one of them the propensity to truly believe he was the only person on the road. He made left turns on red, did 80 on streets with 40 clearly signposted, & made every freeway experience feel like that scene from Matrix: Reloaded. Yeah, that. How we never died is a mystery. This is partly why I believe in God.

Some of my earliest memories are of my mother gasping & saying “JOHN! We have plenty of time to get there. Oh, Jesus.”

So I have a hard time being a passenger. When I was 15, I relished getting my permit. It meant I didn’t have to be his passenger. It meant I could leave That House. And then I had a driving instructor from hell who made me flip a bitch in the middle of a Nevada highway embankment.

I tried to get my mum to cancel the driving classes. “Why? You were so excited.” Then her brow furrowed. “What did he do?” She called & gave em what for. Eventually she took me out to a dry lake bed & the Sam Boyd Silverdome parking lot to learn the driving basics. That helped a lot. Learning to drive in Nevada is fairly simple. I wish you could go back & have that experience, sans Taylor Swift & racism.

Pay no attention to an LA horn. They are usually deployed against someone obeying the law & hence preventing them from getting to their mani/pedi only 30 minutes late. The only time I deploy my horn is when someone is texting & fails to see the green light. I swerve around all the other disasters.

I loved driving for a long time. I could blast music & drive circles around town in college & deal with all my very dark feelings. To me the car was just a large, mobile stereo.

Now I have full blown fibromyalgia, & every trip costs me a little something of my life force. Navigating the curves & hills & morons of LA, the stop & go freeway traffic, & the endless search for parking withers me like a fly swatter to a faerie. If I had any money, I’d use BLS, like, all the time.

Maybe we can take turns going to Trader Joe’s. But honestly it’s just better to park at my place & walk. I’m a block from one, & sometimes a dude in the apartment complex next to TJ’s hangs a bag of donuts from a tree. It’s like he’s trying to catch Homer Simpson.

One of You! One of You! Or “How I learned to Stop Worrying & Loathe the Crush”

Yes, you stupid, spiteful, hateful “friends”…I am now playing Candy Crush. You probably sorted this out all on your own after receiving 97 pitiful pleas to help me open Chocolate Mountain or Fudge Ravine or whateverthehell it is.

“You elitist prig!” you laugh/scream like a drunk Wicked Witch of the West. “You said you’d never play. Not in a million years. Not after 4000 Facebook requests, not after every game on Earth had died & gone to Game Purgatory like so much Sega Genesis.” And now you swirl your bourbon in your glass & sneer at me over your smoking jacket or ACDC t-shirt or whatever, because you’re a prick.

Fine, you told me so, I broke down, “One of us,” all that jazz. But why? I imagine you asking, because I’m naive enough to think you care.

I’ve been very sick. As y’all know, I have fibromyalgia…even wrote a meandering journal booky thing about it (which can be purchased here (yes that was totally subtle! You nailed it, KJ!). Weather changes are super bad. October is hard on me & April or May are, too. Coupled with some mild food poisoning that sent me into major flare & I was susceptible to my friend Quan’s Candy Crush invite.

Why Quan? Why Quan, indeed. Probably he is Satan. But also there’s this thing with Quan–a churning competitiveness unmatched by Southern pageant mums or astronauts qualifying for space walks. It’s like if Quan is doing anything, I have to do it better, & I know the reverse is true, isn’t it, Quan?! You are Q to my Picard, Moriarty to my Holmes, Hordak to my She Ra. I must best you!!!


Anyhow I was sick & I started playing.

I imagine we all have the same reaction to The Crush, at first. “THIS IS BEJEWELED. DOES NO ONE ELSE SEE THIS? I FEEL LIKE I’M TAKING CRAZY PILLS!” You are also off put by the old-timey turn-of-the-century salad-days look & electronic soundtrack.

Then that freakin scary voice says “Sweet!” “Tasty.” “DELICIOUS.” I’m pretty sure the MC in Hell sounds like this. Equal parts child molester & Top 40 DJ, this voice sounds whenever you do something that scores a lot of points.

Additionally, the game crashes (at least for me) randomly and then the bastard takes one of your five lives you only get regenerated every 2 hours. If I try to send lives to my FB friends, CRASH. If someone sends me an email during play, CRASH. If a Romanian orphan sneezes in a cave half a mile beneath the earth, CRASH. Lives lost, never to be returned.

Yet an hour later I was still playing, cos I was on a roll.

Hating every minute of it.

Sometimes when I close my eyes, I see hard candies glistening in layer after layer upon fucking jelly. The game never makes me hungry, because I find hard candy repulsive.

But I live for the click.

You know what I mean.

It’s kinda more of a cluck. Cluck.

I’m only writing this cos I’m waiting for lives to regenerate. Also I’m pretty sure it’s preparing us for Chinese communism.

HEY DON’T YOU JUDGE ME. I saw you, back in the day, playing Farmville like farming is fun or something. How is that a game? Farming. Geez.

Anyhow shut up.