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(Sept. 26, 2007)
          I got a letter from Senator Barbara Boxer the other day! She likes me, too. She called me “friend,” you know, the way Frankenstein did to the old blind hermit.
          Barbara was writing to me about traffic problems in Los Angeles. That’s about all friends talk about anymore.
          The obvious solution to traffic problems in Los Angeles, of course, would be to confiscate two-thirds of all vehicles for scrap (beginning with SUV’s), tear down the freeways, and turn half of all major thoroughfares into parks. This would decrease traffic, make the place quieter, prettier, and force people to work closer to home. It would reinspire a sense of neighborhood.
          This isn’t going to happen, though, because people seem to prefer driving at ten miles per hour.
          My friend Senator Barbara told me that a study shows that we have the worst traffic in the nation here. They use studies these days almost exclusively for proving things that everyone already knows. This enables lots of “social scientists” and politicians to throw money around and puff up and act authoritative.
          Then they send out millions of letters to people like me and call them, “friend.”
          My friend Barbara also told me that the “average resident” spends “only 72 extra hours” stuck in rush-hour traffic. Being above average, I immediately began wondering what an “extra hour” is. Is this an hour that does not count towards my total hour accumulation? In other words, an hour that is not part of my life?
          Hey, that would be great. That would mean that I get 72 free hours to just sit in traffic, and I don’t die any sooner than I would have anyway! I don’t know how Barbara engineered this one, but it’s okay.
          Barb further explained that the traffic study was released by the Texas Transportation Institute, and I knew then that the letter was authentic because only a politician would be dumb enough tout a Texas study of California traffic.

 The number of L.A. residents who don’t like to drive is exceeded only by the number of hot newscasters that Mayor Villaraigosa would like to fornicate with.

          Well, the study also said that national traffic congestion results in a total of “4.2 billion stuck in traffic” (people, presumably), is roughly equal to 105 million weeks of vacation, and the use of an additional 2.9 billion gallons of fuel at a cost of $78 billion. I don’t know about you, but when I read statistics like these, I hear John Lennon singing “Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall.”
          Soon there will be a study to tell us how much vacation we could save by not manufacturing underpants. Or better yet, by stopping politicians from sending out millions of letters to “friends.”
          Anyhow, my friend Barb also told me that her big study “concludes that there is no one magic solution to America’s congestion problems.”
          There were no statistics or details this time, though, which was frustrating. I mean, how many magic solutions were investigated before deciding that “no one of them” works? And did the study consider that maybe a combination of magic solutions might do the trick? Did they consult David Copperfield, Penn & Teller, Kreskin, or just Harry Anderson?
          I’ll never know.
          But Barb assured me that as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and General Such Hoodoo, she is “working every day to find solutions to our nation’s transportation woes.”
          Every day? Wow. Just think of how much vacation Barb is saving the country! Maybe that balances out some of 105 million weeks lost to traffic congestion. Somebody should break that down into fuel cost savings and other stats. Or wait a second. If she’s working every day, then she might be driving to work every day. Hmm. That’s a lot of fuel expenditure we can ill afford. Well, maybe she car pools or walks. Probably.
          (Incidentally, my friend Barb the Chairman has set back all exponents of “chairperson,” but that doesn’t bother me much. A chairperson sounds like a genetic mutation, anyhow.)
          As for the “nation’s transportation woes,” I wanted to tell Senator Barbara that, as a Californian, I don’t care much about the nation’s transportation woes. I really don’t. What I care about is the fact that everywhere I drive in L.A., people pay as much attention to stop signs and red lights as Dick Cheney does to public opinion.
          What I care about is that drivers’ attitudes are “I’ll stop only if it prevents me from killing someone, preferably myself.”
          What I care about is that when I wait for a break in traffic to make a right turn, the guy behind me gets impatient after ten seconds, backs violently up, pulls violently next to me, then makes a violent right turn right in violent front of me, and in the violent process cuts off oncoming traffic and causes people to slam on their brakes. All the time. (Except for the guy I cut off in return the other day, and nearly drove across the yellow line into oncoming traffic---which made my goddamn day!)
          What I care about is the fact that all the quiet side streets are choked with rats-lost-in-a-maze commuters fleeing paralyzed main boulevards.
          What I care about is the fact that the freeways died decades ago and their rotting hulks can still be found, festering and still, any time of day or night.
          What I care about is that at 5 p.m., it takes over an hour to drive two miles from my place to Westwood.

The Expo Line will indeed allow a lot of access to Culver City, which is a lot like increasing access to Greenland.

          But I know that my friend Barbara is working every day to find solutions, and let me tell you, that gives me just as much confidence as Condoleezza Rice gives me that she is finding peace in Iraq. Well, I shouldn’t be so cynical. After all, Barb wrote that “one of the ways to help ease Los Angeles’ traffic congestion is to make alternatives to single car travel more feasible.” (Here’s a way: lobotomy.)
          What a brilliant, canny, incisive statement she makes here. Imagine: one way to solve automobile congestion is to create alternatives to. . .automobiles. Re-elect Senator Boxer!
          But here is the most startling and magical statement in the Senatrix’s entire letter, one that is so astounding, so kidney-flushingly shocking, that I can only print it verbatim, then step back and admire:
          “Progress is being made in Los Angeles.”
          Now let’s assume, from context, that she refers to traffic progress, and not Mayor Villaraigosa’s efforts to convince the public that chasing a little hot news, so to speak, should not impact his baffling popularity. Yes, progress in Los Angeles. Progress! And what, pray tell, is this progress, Barb?
          Just this, and I quote:
          “The Gold Line East Side Extension will bring service to East Los Angeles. I secured a federal appropriation of $70 million in the Senate funding bill to help this construction effort. The Expo Line construction that is now underway will extend service from USC and the Crenshaw area to Culver City.
          ”And in the long term, I am very excited that it may be possible to extend the Red Line from Union Station, along Wilshire Boulevard, all the way to the ocean.”
          I’m glad the Senatrix is excited. I’m excited, too. I always get excited around elected officials who say they are “very excited.” I get so excited that I want to go visit them and show them how excited I am. But let me share my excitement here:
          The Gold Line to East L.A. will be very nice, yes---for East L.A. people who don’t have cars or don’t like to drive---and that, incidentally, describes the majority of riders of all public transit in L.A.. The number of L.A. residents who don’t like to drive is exceeded only by the number of newscasters that Mayor Villaraigosa would like to fornicate with.
          The Expo Line will indeed allow a lot of access to Culver City, which is a lot like increasing access to Greenland.
          The mythical Red Line holds out real promise---for spending countless billions of dollars that no one has, turning Wilshire Boulevard into Baghdad for ten years, and in the end, allowing all those students, Starbucks employees, and Salvadorean maids to stop riding “Rapid Buses” that sometimes go as fast as 25 mph. For those who point to the $300-million-per-mile subway (1980’s dollars) from downtown to North Hollywood, and claim it has reduced traffic, I offer two words: grid, and lock. On the Hollywood Freeway.
          So you see, I am excited. So excited I want to shout all this at my friend Barbara. But then the Homeland Security would show up and I’d be dragged off, yelling “Don’t tase me, bro!”
          Well, the Senatrix capped off her friendly letter with nothing less than a command. (These ladies in power really take to it.) Here it is:
          “Think of the cars that will be taken off the freeways when all of these projects are complete.”
          Because I really, really respect powerful women---maybe even more than powerful men---I took my friend Barbara’s order seriously. I thought, and I thought.
          And here is my thinking, which is the same thinking, by the way, that I hear from waitresses, post office workers, Borders clerks, the occasional homeless hustler, and smart dogs and cats:
          No cars will be taken off freeways when these projects are completed, even if they are completed by David Copperfield and a bunch of half-naked women assistants in the next five minutes.
          The problem cannot be solved anymore, my friend Barbara. L.A. City and County governments have greased the way for developers for so long that the density is permanently beyond capacity. Filthy rich robberbarons like Alan Casden, hailed by the likes of the L.A. Times for jamming this place with tens of thousands of condos and apartments, should be brought up on charges of mayhem.
          There are simply too many people and too many cars, Barbara, my friend. I think you know it, but if you didn’t write letters about “progress” and how “excited” you are, then you couldn’t justify being paid to think about solutions that don’t exist.
          Just take the freeways out. Put in light rail. Confiscate two-thirds of the cars, starting with SUV’s, and replace them with Smart Cars.
          Then we can talk about being friends.

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