The Rip Post                                Riposte Archive


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Oct. 4, 2007

I was watching a PBS program recently about Rastafarians who have returned to Ethiopia to live, and one of the people interviewed was a self-described poet---from the USA. Asked what prompted his move, he said (quoting from memory here), “Have you been to L.A.?”
          A new description of this “city” occurred to me the other day: Assholes in Cars. You’ll pardon my vulgarity (or not.) That’s what it is. That’s what it has become. Anytime you go out, day or night, any time of the week. . .Assholes in Cars.
          Where do you live? Assholes in Cars, California. What’s your home like? Assholes in Cars. What did you see when you visited Los Angeles? Assholes in Cars. What was the view from your hotel? Assholes in Cars. What did you wake up to this morning? Assholes in Cars. What did you do after work? Assholes in Cars. Sleep well? Assholes in Cars.
          City of the Angels? City of Assholes in Cars.
          In quainter times, you could grouse about would-be screenwriters, actor-waiters, actress-waitresses, gangs, crackheads, obnoxious rich kids, do-nothing overpaid mayors, do-nothing priapic mayors, embezzling supervisors, Valley dudes, Valley girls, Huell Hauser, the L.A. Times, no rain, and of course, traffic. You could bitch about Santa Ana winds and fires and floods and beach crowds and all that stuff to your heart’s content. Now:
          Assholes In Cars.
          It’s all you see. Nothing else comes close. Not even Assholes on Cell Phones. The streets---all the streets---are always full of them. Sometimes it feels like science-fiction. The Assholes in Cars are always driving. That’s all they do. They have no jobs, no home life, no one calling them “Honey” and asking them to take out the trash. They have evolved and adapted to do nothing but drive like an Asshole in Los Angeles. 24 hours a day.
          And you know how they drive. Many of you know because you drive that way, too. You tailgate. You make right turns in front of cars waiting to make right turns. You make left turns from the lane next to the left turn lane. You barge through stop signs and red lights into intersections with the assumption that you will not have to stop, and you stop only to avoid death (or worse, scratching your $150-detail-job.) If there are two car lengths between cars, you cut in. If someone honks at you, you give them the finger, or a smartass wave, or slam on the brakes, or you stop, get out the car, and threaten to kill them.
          You put make-up on, looking in the rear-view mirror, while you drive with your knees, because your other hand has the lighted cigarette. You keep an eye on the road every chance you get between pushing buttons on your cell phone. You dart between pedestrians in crosswalks because there is plenty of room and they’re so slow anyway. Okay, so you didn’t see the light change because you were looking at that guy’s/girl’s ass and you nearly caused a multi-car collision but so what get over it!You signaled right and turned left but gimme a break I was on the phone can’t you see my ear clip? You double-parked in the middle of the block (with no emergency flashers) in order to: finish your cell phone conversation/pick up a friend/listen to 50 Cent at a volume that (I hope) will make you deaf.
          This is you. An Asshole in a Car. You are the seminal L.A. experience. They should put up a statue. Next to the Caffeinated Starbucks Asshole.
          It’s sort of like this. A singer starts singing a particular song because maybe he or she finds some truth in it. After singing it for 20, 30, 50 years, the song becomes the truth itself, rather than a description of it.
          After singing of traffic and Assholes in Cars for 20, 30, 50 years, L.A. has become that truth itself.
          All the streets are full of it, all the time. If you wish to enjoy any of the fabled attractions of this town, you must first spend a lot of time dealing with Assholes in Cars. This requires psychological preparation and an expenditure of energy that will likely leave you frazzled, tapped out, possibly murderous by the time you reach the fabled attraction. Of course, the fabled attractions now are so expensive and crowded with Assholes out of Cars (still behaving like Assholes in Cars), that they are hardly worth visiting anymore.
          You can grumble, and dismiss this with your favorite words for these sorts of commentaries: cranky, rant, screed, etc. But you know I have a point. You know things have gone too far. You know that L.A. has seriously changed, and fairly recently. Wasn’t it bad enough in the early 80’s? Early 90’s? Evidently not. Mayors and city councils have done absolutely nothing to stop rampant overdevelopment, or to hasten citywide light-rail (should have been installed 40 years ago.) Nothing.
          So we have what Gov. Schwarzenegger calls “growing pains.” I do not jest. Growing pains. This is his term for what has happened. Two hours to travel two miles? One hour to drive to work when it took you 20 minutes 20 years ago? Growing pains. Quiet residential streets frantic with panicked, deranged commuters trying to keep moving? Growing pains. Tailgated while doing 85 in the diamond lane on the 405? Growing pains.
          Schwarzenegger’s proposed solutions for the growing pains are two: tax incentives for people to live in the city instead of far away where housing prices are cheaper, and (gasp, cough, choke-on-puke, flush kidneys) double-deck the freeways.
          I wonder, Mein Governor, where those places are that housing prices are cheaper. Homes in Riverside cost the same as West L.A.. Maybe. . .Tijuana?
          As for double-decking the freeways, this is like Hollywood trying to up film attendance by making “Me and Dupree II.” Well, that’s an inadequate simile. It’s more like curing brain cancer through decapitation. Like telling a morbidly obese guy to solve his hunger problems by eating more. Yes, let’s fix the trouble by doubling it. Let’s cure noise and air pollution by doubling it. Anyone who imagines this proposal will increase traffic flow is wallpapering without glue. There are enough cars here to build a second planet. And its moon.
          Double-deck the freeways? That’s more insane than electing a dumbass Austrian immigrant weightlifter as governor. You get what you pay for.
          But then, Schwarzenegger is an Asshole in a Car (Humvee.) He understands Assholes in Cars, and that Assholes in Cars like the idea of double-decking the freeways. They like everything reprioritized to accommodate them and their vehicles. The last experience they want in life is to have to sit in their cars with another Asshole---no, that’s the second-to-last. The last is that they would have to ride light-rail with a lot of common, sweaty Assholes. The kinds of people that Gov. Pumping Ironboy would term “losers.”
          The fix is in, and it has been in for decades. The various $300 million-per-mile (‘80’s dollars---must be double that now) subways are for people who cannot afford to be Assholes in Cars. The Red Line, Gold Line, Chartreuse Line, Polka-dotted line will do nothing to reduce the number of Assholes in Cars. Why?
          Because every sweet, unassuming house or vintage 40’s/50’s/60’s apartment building is targeted for demolition by amoral developers who will replace them with million-dollar-per-unit condo hives for a hundred or a thousand more Assholes in Cars.
          But most of all, because everyone---okay, nearly everyone---aspires to be an Asshole in a Car. It’s the ultimate. Assholes are more interested in acquiring cars than they are in vaginal moisture. Every second commercial on the tube holds automobiles out as beatific epiphanal quasi-religious wonderment. Get this Acura and your skin clears up, your orgasms go off the scale, your Irritable Bowel Syndrome slacks off, and best of all, you can drive like an Asshole.
          In a sorry time when humans have been superbly trained by the corporate media to define their “individuality” by conforming to popular product acquisition, why shouldn’t they want to become an Asshole in a Car?
          Once you are an Asshole in a Car, surrounded by other Assholes in Cars, you have made it, and you can be happy in Assholes in Cars world.
          Formerly Los Angeles.

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