Where the Streets Have Good Names

Saturday afternoon, the first April sun beat away the clouds and warmed the greater Hollywood area to a perfectly lovely seventy degrees Fahrenheit. I took the opportunity to use the old whatsitcalled–oh yeah, legs–and walk the twelve or so blocks from my hotel to the Hertz, so that I could hightail it to LAX for a tearful (on my part) reunion with my daughter and her daddy.

Now remember: Saturday. Sunny. Seventy degrees. Blue sky.

Over the course of those twelve blocks, I passed precisely three people on the street. One was walking from the gym to his car, one was jogging, the other was asleep in a doorway under a cardboard will work for food sign.

Everything Dale Bozio said about Los Angeles is true–nobody walks there. Nobody. It’s all about the wheels.

Your car is your second home in LA. People spend more on their car stereos than they do on their home stereos, which is understandable considering you can easily get through the entire two-cd set of Elvis Costello’s Girls Girls Girls on your half-mile drive home. Especially if you take the 405.

If your car is your home, then your roomates are plentiful: Gym clothes, make-up, extra shoes, several months of LA Magazine, a carton of Zone bars, some home electronics, a six-pack of Arrowhead water, some Emergen-C packets, a full music library, various over-the-counter pharmaceutical remedies, a tennis racket and a spare cell phone charger. To say nothing of actual automobile accesories. I have yet to slide into a passenger seat that didn’t have to be cleared off for me first.

In New York we have a similar thing but we call it a Very Big Bag. My coworkers here say they can tell I’m from the other coast because I trudge around the office carrying everything I own on my left shoulder. “Leave it in the car,” they offer, concerned that the deep welts in my shoulder caused by the bag’s leather handles might be permanent; to say nothing of my posture which now pulls right as much as thirty degrees. But it’s a hard habit to break. In Manhattan you leave something in the car and you face the possibility of never seeing it again.

I have a theory that the car culture is largely responsible for the fashion trends here.

Just open the pages of In Style (or, as I like to think of it, Eyeliners of the Rich and Famous) and witness the absolutely impractical-for-any- other-city fashion finds. Consider the proliferation of do-me shoes, for example. A woman here can get away with the strappy, teetery six-inchers because she only needs to wobble her way from the valet to her seat in the restaurant and back again, with one brief stop along the way to air kiss someone she doesn’t particularly like. Similary, I think the braless look has as much to do with cars as it does silicone. It’s not as if the tatas will be bouncing down the endless staircase of the 5th Avenue E/V station. Just avoid potholes and you’re golden.

On the other hand, I can’t rationalize the popularity of thongs. I would imagine most valet parkers seek out the job on account of all the crotch flashing.

Traffic not withstanding, I really do enjoy my hours in the car when I’m in L.A. In my hometown it’s always gogogogogogo. If you’re walking you’re also Blackberrying. If you’re subwaying you’re also crossword puzzling. New York is a city of multitaskers and to do just one thing at a time is grounds for confiscation of your 212 area code. Driving forces me to slow down. To just sit. To watch. To think. Maybe catch up on the music the kids are listening to these days. (What is this “JZ” of which you speak?) No wonder every man, woman, and busboy in LA has a screenplay to shop–a car actually allots them a few quiet, solitary moments in the day for creativity.

So yesterday morning, Nate, Thalia and I started our day in the car with no map and no plans and best of all, no timetable.

I love cruising from neighborhood to neighborhood, watching how quickly the faces go from all white to all brown and back again. It seems a privilege to be allowed glimpses of strangers’ lives for even just a few seconds. My other favorite pasttime is saying the street names that we pass aloud. Every street here sounds like something you’d order in a Mexican restaurant. Um, yes I’ll have the La Cienega Platter with the Rancho Cucamonga sauce, hold the Pico, plus a bottle of La Tijera. Oh, and two shots of Sepulveda for my friends here. (Isn’t Sepulveda like the best street name ever? Say it with me–Sepulllllveda.) The exception of course is Beverly Hills where I guess dirty immigrant street names are not allowed. Instead, all the 90210 thoroughfares sound like Butlers. Willoughby, fetch me my Sulka robe. Rexford, I told you to use the good china at tea today!

And then we came to a stoplight and saw this:

Only in L.A. Or so we can pray.

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