For me, all roads lead to Los Angeles. Whether it’s for work or play, I think I’ll end up in the city on a permanent basis eventually. This could be years down the line or tomorrow if things don’t pan out with this Redlands writing gig and I find steady work out in LA. This is a little ironic for me since I don’t generally like being in the big city.
Visiting is nice because I get to see places I don’t normally get to see, there’s a lot of people everywhere and my time spent in Los Angeles feels like a mini-adventure. What I don’t enjoy is the actual work of visiting. Since I live in the Inland Empire, getting to where I need to go in LA can take anywhere between 45 minutes to two hours. That’s because I have to take the freeway in and any time you use a route frequented by a lot of people is mostly unpredictable. So driving on Southern California freeways is a lot like gambling: if you do it long enough, you’re going to lose. It’s almost a given that some moron who’s been putting off an oil change for two years will break down a mile ahead of you or some jerk is texting while driving and causes a 10-car pileup. So to guarantee that I’m not late, I have to leave my apartment two hours ahead of my check-in. Usually, this means I’m just sitting around on some side street in LA waiting. Budgeting for possible traffic is as bad as scheduling cable service.
While waiting around for an hour, playing my Nintendo DS does feel like a waste of time, I’d rather be doing that than sitting in traffic. At least I’m entertained. When I get stuck in traffic – and it happens often – the situation is simply atrocious. For one, there are just too many cars on the road. Americans love society, but at our cores we’re all very individualistic, which means carpooling is next to nonexistent. Secondly, if sheer congestion doesn’t cause the traffic then it’s something completely out there, like car fires, an entire biker gang 50 motorcycles strong getting pulled over, some guy’s hood coming unlatched at 75 mph flipping back into his windshield blocking his view and causing him to slam into the median, or two Park and Eat lunch trucks getting into road rage and careening into each other. And these are just the crazy things I’ve seen driving the few stretches of road that I do. Imagine all of the other insane things that the entire Southern California freeway system has to endure, like freeway killers that drop cinderblocks from overpasses and low-speed pursuits of ex-football players.
My last few trips out to LA have churned my bile and reminded me of why I hate driving out there. A couple of weeks ago I rolled out for a screening of the film Gigantic starring Paul Dano and Zooey Deschanel, who looks cute as ever. Anyway, after the screener I went to the hipster diner Fred 62 with a buddy of mine. I had been there before and I parked in relatively the same area as I had on my last visit since the public parking lot looked full. My buddy did the same. After a fine meal I went back to my car to find that the city had left me a nice little parking ticket for parking without a permit. I looked up at the sign next to my car that stated the hours of parking and sure enough they added a third green sign with small print that stated a permit was required. That was definitely a new addition since it had only been a few months since my last visit. On top of that, I had forgotten to affix my car registration sticker to my license plate so the city added another $25 on top of the $53 parking ticket. Eating at Fred 62 was one of the most expensive meals I’d had in a long time. On the upside, Los Angeles makes it easy for you to let the city gouge you by providing a convenient envelope for you to mail in your payment. Alternatively, you can pay online with either a Visa or Mastercard.
Just recently, I had to get over to the swank Four Seasons hotel for a roundtable interview with James Toback whose film Tyson was well-received at Cannes and is going to be released here in the States on April 24. I showed up late because I didn’t stick to my two-hour traffic budget and also because I stopped to get some cash so I could tip valet. Anyway, drive-time there was about an hour and a half. The interview lasted about twenty minutes or so. Then I drove home during rush hour traffic, which took me about two and a half hours. That’s four hours of driving for a twenty minute interview! Now tell me that isn’t dedication.