“…but what can any body’s native air do for them in the months of January, February, and March?”

–Emma. Yes, Jane Austen’s Emma.*


Los Angeles: How I’ve always despised it, disapproved of it, and oh so readily disowned it.

Yet somehow, just when you’re living stoplight to stoplight on Sunset Boulevard, the radio station knows exactly which song to play. Rancorous advertisements are everywhere, and left turns are impossible. Artifice is business is artifice. Above it all are the Bel Air mansions, barely visible, turreted up on those sunwashed done-up dirtpile hillsides, flanked by neon lawns and earbudded, jogging wives. It’s easy to forget that the palm trees are iconic when you see them all the time.

In a rush of lane changes, I’m swept out onto (the) 405 and into the masses. There is a working idleness in it, the mechanics of the drive, propelled by habit and necessity. Although we seem sedate, we’re really sizing each other up like nervous animals without knowing it; relic instincts from more primitive times certainly do not always go underutilized.

Is there a kinship in it? We’re not brushing shoulders, oh no, far from it. Nonetheless, in this sticky suffering, this flow of souls there must be some means of connection. At once I’m searching all over for it, desperately trying to spin some rapturous meaning from my inescapable immobility. It’s proving difficult, considering all I can seem to think about is how, more likely than not, the man in the Bentley next to me has air conditioning. My Isuzu does not. In SoCal it is always warm. Heat must be why our population grows and spreads so magically, I think, like bacteria.

Yes. California. Southern An absolutely improbable reality, like a cactus flower.

And LA, LA is our sprawling, sweating metropolis with no center but instead burning white or brown horizons. Broad and crowded avenues. Palm trees. Heat rising from the cement. Actors and what-have-you. Everything is teeming, crawling, barely moving. And here I am, in the mind-numbing daily motorcade, swimming in thick frustration amidst the throngs of folks who, for the love of Pete, just wanna make it home. Against all precedent, the steering wheel starts to feel good under my hands: As if it somehow fits, belongs there. Or I belong here. Belonging? An empty space opens up in front of me and without thinking, I accelerate a little. Belonging? My stomach drops. Ah, there it was. I found it. My freeway rapture.


*An aside: Is it my fault that I’m finding this book tedious?


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