The traffic is worse and they are blowing up mountainsides to expand freeways. Four lanes, five lanes, six lanes. People will continue to live here and the roads will cram up again and their “progress” will be rendered obsolete. This makes me angry. A lot about this place makes me angry.
I drive through the Sepulveda Pass, which looks like a head of chopped-up, wilting cabbage and not any sort of natural thing. Concrete walls rise vertically where the chaparral used to grow. Once I saw a deer at the foothills of the Getty Center and I felt badly for it – what a miserable place for an animal. There are red brake lights and people driving badly. Faded yellow machines of industry wait to dig at more things. Steep roads lead to cheap houses that cost a lot of money – million dollar views of the creeping 405.
Blue skies are routinely replaced with a shade of smoke white. Marine layer mixing with smog and other things that probably kill you over time. There aren’t many birds here; I always thought there were more birds. There were definitely more Blue Jays, that much I know. We used to feed them peanuts with the shell still on off of our brick front porch.
When I was younger, though I didn’t drive, there was an open window of time before the traffic hour: between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. you were free to navigate the freeways without concern of gridlock. While I was in high school that window had shortened from about 10:30 to 3:30, and since then it has constricted itself into a tight little ball of time that happens sometime around 12 noon and 1:30 p.m. That’s when you’re free to drive, sometimes. Sometimes the roads never open up.
The drive to Orange County is uneventful save for the idiot in the Pathfinder who nearly runs into me. I honk and swerve and mouth, “What the fuck?!” to express my disdain for him in that moment. I don’t miss this way of life, not really at all. I shut my brain off, flipping between radio stations that aren’t very good and flicking my turn signal. I pass cars, not looking at the people inside. I watch the road.
I pull into a large, expansive mall parking lot filled with too many cars for this early hour in the middle of a workday. I detest these places: malls filled with opportunities to look like everyone else. Small. Medium. Large. You, me, and everyone else we know all wearing the trends from the latest seasons. Lucky us.
There are plenty of spots in the back row. I park there, underneath a tree that’s still green. I don’t understand the people here: how they fight for parking spots close to the entrances but live at gyms. Old ladies are dressed up, wearing Hermes scarves and matching pantsuits. One day I want to move to the middle of nowhere an associate myself with no one except an open ranch and a horse, and then I can pretend that places like this don’t really exist. I would quite like that.
Through the department store doors are racks of clothes that nobody really needs. More shit, more stuff. They circulate tepid air and music by Sade. They offer you perfumes. Models advertise things you can never be. Buy me. Buy me. Buy the life you’re not really living so you forget what that even means.