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.


Blogger city dweller said...

Get it? He has his own WAY?? Hmm.

4/3/06, 2:55 AM  
Blogger The Domesticator said...

I guess if the women walk around in shoes like that, it'd be impossible to walk any...real...distance (without seriously maiming oneself!)

4/3/06, 7:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ha. You have brought to the light the truth behind the car nation in your usual hilarious way.

I had to crack up about the bag. LOL. And the shoes, dead on? I actually have shoes in my closet that are for "party - sitting only" or "party - stand and sit" - if was to have to walk in either - it would be like Monica on friends with those god awful boots.

4/3/06, 8:14 AM  
Blogger IzzyMom said...

lol...my b-mom and I had the same conversation. In other places, a car is a big purse on wheels. In NY, your cram it all IN to your big old purse.

And dude...I live in L Ron Hubbard LAND. The freakshow Scientology headquarters is here. I win :-)

4/3/06, 8:32 AM  
Blogger Movin Mom said...

I call those shoes limousine shoes and yes I own a couple of pairs.

4/3/06, 8:38 AM  
Blogger zinalasvegas said...

What an excellent bi-coastal assessment. I love it because I am all One Coast and know almost nothing about our sunnier side of the street. It's fascinating to hear about and you recount it so well!

4/3/06, 9:33 AM  
Blogger Redneck Mommy said...

Come on down to Canada. Hubbard and Tommy don't like our clean, cold air. Yet.

Cool shoes, but I didn't realize people actually wore such pretty stuff. All I see are cowboy boots and rubber boots. I prefer your foot wear.

4/3/06, 10:09 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

what a great post to read on this monday morning. it's got to be good if it's got me mulling over the intercultural differences of the two coasts, the ratio of "do- me shoes" to leg usage, and my requirement of authentic mexican food and beverage, like, right *now*(!)

4/3/06, 10:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hehe I am a walker and everyone thinks I am crazy in Southern California. I have even had people pull over and ask if I am lost walking my daughter in her stroller!!!

Those shoes look so dangerous!

4/3/06, 11:39 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

Love your take on the street names as dishes in a Mexican restaurant. The first time I was in LA, I kept mis-pronouncing Sepulveda as Se-pul-VEH-duh, screaming to everyone there that I was from the midwest.

I used to think a long commute would be just the thing for me to unwind from stressful days at work before returning home for more stress.

4/3/06, 11:48 AM  
Blogger Liz said...

I usually despise my long commute (all of 45 minutes) but it can be good and bad. Good because I get to wake up and listen to the morning news on the radio, which "eases" me into my work day. I aso get to unwind after work before I get home. The bad - I get up about an hour earlier than those that live close by, and I rarely eat dinner before 8pm.

4/3/06, 12:07 PM  
Blogger C. H. Green said...

I enjoyed getting a glimpse of the big city life on both coasts. Someday I would love to visit. Tennessee is a completely different world.

4/3/06, 12:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone who quotes "Missing Persons" in a post is my hero. They were my very first live concert. 1981 at the Beacon. I was 12 and thought they rocked! Sad, I know.

4/3/06, 12:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in LA, and I think you have it pegged. Although if you had driven into Brentwood you would have seen the pretty street names. I love to drive through there and wave at the pretty houses. I live about 10 miles from work and it takes me anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half depending on traffic. See and I always thought Sepulveda was a stupid street name.

4/3/06, 1:13 PM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

I've seen plenty of ladies in shoes and boots like that in NYC too. Obviously the young ones still impervious to pain in the search for a look.

4/3/06, 1:46 PM  
Blogger Julie Marsh said...

Thank you for reminding me why I can't take LA seriously. That street sign clinched it.

4/3/06, 2:22 PM  
Blogger Shalee said...

I'm going there at the beginning of May. Thanks for the warning... Now I know to up my thong collection...

4/3/06, 2:49 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

You know what is so funny, as I was reading this I was thinking "Wow, LA. Sounds so much like Ohio." Then, I got to the part about NYC, and thought, "Wow. New York. Sounds so much like Ohio."

Guess that's why they call it 'The Heart of it All'. We are a blend of everywhere else.

That street sign... whoa...

4/3/06, 2:56 PM  
Blogger Stacy said...

That sign is great. Oh and the shoes, so not for a mom!

4/3/06, 3:25 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

The key to working Serious Heels in The City is to tuck them into your Very Big Bag and wear hip-but-all-purpose flats (preferably black and pointy; find a knee-high boot version for winter) for trekking. Slip on the teetering Heels of Death at destination. Or take cabs.

All of which becomes moot when baby arrives because shoe real estate in bag is taken up by diapers and other baby paraphernalia. And further mooted by the fact that even the most accomplished Choo-wearer couldn't manage a baby, even in a still standing position, in skyscraper heels.

I don't really have a point here. I guess that I'm still working through my issues around giving up pretty shoes post-natally for sensible ones.

Sad, isn't it? Maybe Scientology could help me.

4/3/06, 4:13 PM  
Blogger Mel said...

I can never hear that guy's name without hearing a paraphrased Leadbelly song:
His woman went a-running
Down the street
In her L. Ron Hubbard
And her stocking feet

I know, I am odd. Sorry. Ahem.

4/3/06, 5:35 PM  
Blogger MrsFortune said...

Wait, scientologists pray? Sweet, I thought they just sued people and acted like lunatics.

The thong: invented by hemorrhoid doctors? To keep them in business? (Is there even such a thing as a "hemorrhoid" doctor) ...

And was that JZ thing a Seinfeld reference, cuz if it was I now love you more than most of my own family.

4/3/06, 6:55 PM  
Blogger Blog Antagonist said...

As you already know, I am fascinated by cultural and geographical differences, so I enjoyed your post.

Atlanta is very much a car town too. Even in the burbs, you just can't walk anywhere, because you know...if you have a grocery store on the same block as your house, your property value will go right into the shitter and then you won't be able to sell your McMansion to the next poor sap who hasn't yet realized that it costs more than the mortgage to cool the damn thing in the summer.

Were it not for my flintstone feet, I could easily get away with shoes like that if I had somewhere to go other than PTA meetings, baseball games and the never ending fundraisers. We have a name for women who show up at those events with shoes like that. ;?)

They *are* gawgeous though.

4/3/06, 7:31 PM  
Blogger Antique Mommy said...

There's a street in the Bay Area called Sneath Ave. and Antique Daddy and I crack our dorky selves up pretending it was named after a guy named Heath Sneath which we think is a hysterical name. Right after happy hour it's even funnier. Aaaah. We should get out more or watch less PBS. Something.

4/3/06, 8:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greetings from The Land O' Thongs!

There's a saying here that everyone eventually gets a street in L.A. named after them.

That said, I am expecting to park my car one day soon and look up to see that I am standing on Saddam Hussein Parkway.

4/3/06, 8:38 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Katie will be having her "silent birth" right under that sign

And in Upper New England, we also live in our cars....but only cause everything is so far away. And cold. And there are Moose.

I actually commute 42 miles round trip to and from work. Takes me about an hour to get there. And that isn't a bad commute.
Sun? What does that feel like?

4/3/06, 8:44 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Ok. That IS scarey. I don't think I'd find that sign anywhere in Missouri... And that suddenly makes me love Missouri. Just a teeny bit.

4/3/06, 8:44 PM  
Blogger the stefanie formerly known as stefanierj said...

Oh, hee hee. I missed you while I was away. This reminds me why in technicolor.

4/3/06, 8:51 PM  
Blogger Mel said...

If there were any kind of natural disater, the best place for me to be would be my car. There is enough crap in there to sustain a small village.
I leave to go home to CA to visit in 48 hours. I am completely lacking any do-me shoes. Damn.

4/3/06, 9:19 PM  
Blogger Builder Mama said...

(What is this "JZ" of which you speak?)

*Snort* I have been laughing about this all day. Great post, and having been in LA and NYC I can say you nailed it!

4/3/06, 10:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finally! Someone understands the not-understanding-the-thong thing! And yes, I have a pair of those heels which i trotted out this weekend only to be reminded of why they should never be worn for more than 43 consecutive minutes...

4/3/06, 10:34 PM  
Blogger Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

Go here to see just how comfortable some people make themselves on the road. And then consider: How many sminky just-fiddled-with-my-willy hands have opened the gas-station door before you reach out your own hand to grasp the door-handle and then grip it and then ... bleeeeeeeeeee! Bleugh, bleugh, bleugh!

I'm a Jonny Carson fan despite being too young and too Scottish to be able to remember him much, first time around. He had this thing he used to say about a man going to the Slauson Cutoff and cutting off his slauson. We pass that self-same cutoff of lore
every time we go to LAX and, while I might smile gently, my husband's knuckles become almost imperceptibly whiter, just for a second. we never speak of it, (I'm not the ball-breaking type of SoCal housewife, I'm one of the other 6 sorts) but I feel that,
in his mind, there is an indelible image of some unnatural bloodied stump of a sliproad lurking just beyond the highway bollards (no pun intened) which curdles his blood and causes his manhood to retreat, running for his hills. (I'm sure he'd prefer me to say
that his manhood goes running for his mountains, but he has even less idea of metaphorical propriety, than I do of comment-box propriety, it seems.)

In LA there are, of course, many bloodied stumps which usually take 2-3 weeks to heal after the surgery, but this is the only road story I know about LA and I thought it seemed apropos here.

Sepulvedah (and reminds me of some sort of biblical pestle and mortar for ritually important herbs or something, that you may perhaps have to set fire to too - I don't
know, being holy is a funny old business) is indeed a fab name but, in my 'umble, comes
in just a nose behind Topanga Canyon. Beautiful - sounds just like sunsets and strong
beverages with umbrellas in.

4/3/06, 11:01 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

As always Sam, you leave me laughing out loud with a comment that makes the original post pale in comparison.

Dawn, that goes for you too. Katie's silent birth? Snort. Snort again. If only it were under Sweatpants Mom's Sadaam Hussein Highway sign...now THAT is something I'd trot out the stilletos and thong for.

4/3/06, 11:24 PM  
Blogger Cristina said...

If it weren't for LA traffic there are a couple of friends who I would have probably lost touch with. They moved to LA and live quite busy lives, but due to the need to pass time in their vehicles, I actually get a phone call from them here and there.

4/3/06, 11:43 PM  
Blogger Jess Riley said...

Say, I have a Very Big Bag! In the midwest, we've got the best of both worlds: long enough commutes to listen to an installment of The Kite Runner or a solid hour of Bob and Tom, plus good old-fashioned common sense when it comes to dressing for (and taking) long walks. If you can stand iceberg lettuce in every salad you order, the summertime aroma of cow manure, and local culture consisting of 2 original members of REO Speedwagon coming to the county fair, midwest livin' is where it's at, baby!

(Your trip sounds AWESOME, by the way. :)

4/3/06, 11:47 PM  
Blogger Refinnej said...

A true representation of LaLa Land.

4/4/06, 12:40 AM  
Blogger tracey clark said...

i love getting an inside view of the land in which i live from your fresh (and funny) perspective.
who doesn't love a bottle of La Tijera with their meal?
you crack my LA ass up!

4/4/06, 6:26 PM  
Blogger The Histrionics of a Fat Housewife said...

In Seoul we use the subway to catch up on sleep. It is our bed away from home, really. And our streets have no names. We use landmarks, like "Turn left at the dog soup restaurant. Go straight through the First Bank intersection and you'll see a Face Shop on the right. There's a silkworm pupa stand on the corner you can't miss. Right next to it is a fish alley. If you don't see it, just follow the smell. I'll wait for you by the right hand sewer grate."

4/7/06, 10:40 PM  

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