I walked and rode. I traveled around the world before I had a license. When I lived in Europe, I went from my flat in the West of Paris to Estonia and back by foot–bus–metro–train–plane–taxi–bus.
I learned how to drive when I was 22. My best friend taught me in her Volvo station wagon, Dolores, by holding ripe tomatoes in her hands and squeezing them harder as I drove too close to the greenery on the edge of the road. Tomatoes never burst, and I got my license with flying colors. I drove for about six months until I left the states for five years.
Choosing Los Angeles made a driver out of me. I mourned giving up the luxury of being a passenger, and the freedom to observe without responsibility in order to sit behind the wheel. I didn’t listen to the radio for three months when I started driving. And that was after I took a refresher driving class.
I still miss being a passenger, and the joy of everything being an experience that public transportation affords. When you drive, everything is another obstacle. Pedestrians, cyclists, motorcycles, other cars.
But for the observer in me, driving still has its pleasures. Driving down Colorado at one in the morning is a two mile stretch that I’ve nailed. I drive slightly under forty miles per hour, and hit 27 green lights in a row. It never fails to make me smile. Even though the stadium is empty, the stores are closed and there is no one to witness my exploit. I feel like I make it happen.
Once, it was maybe 3 PM on a Saturday afternoon, on Union Street, the one way street that runs parallel to Colorado Blvd, a block north. I slowed for a pedestrian crossing, rolling through as no one was waiting, and saw two dressy men’s shoes in the middle of the street. They were brown and the laces were undone. They were about ten feet apart, one was tilted to the side, it was one of the most strangely beautiful scenes. I think of their owner sometimes. I like to think he was raptured or kidnapped by aliens, and his shoes left behind.
Of course, there is a gym on the block, so he probably forgot his gym back on his roof and the shoes spilled out, but I still hope he is happy in Heaven or on that spaceship.
My friend Stef just moved to LA recently, and he’s an amazing artist. He posted this picture on his blog, and it reminded me of how I saw LA before I got comfortable driving. It’s being out of my comfort zone so much that tied me so much to this city. I’m enjoying the foreigness of the ongoing experience. The driving, the spaghetti freeways, the backroads.