Accepted for publication in the the Fall 2021 issue of Westwind!
Every time I merged on the 110 I was convinced it would be my last. After trawling around the sleepy side streets of Northeast Los Angeles, I’d pause at a stop sign placed unfortunately at the freeway entrance, squint hopelessly into my rearview mirror, take a deep breath, and floor it. I’d pray that no one would come hurtling around the curve behind me while my trusty Honda Civic leapt toward 55 mph. And before I got too comfortable, I’d grit my teeth and scoot over a lane– on this winding stretch of the 110, I always suspected I’d ram into someone orchestrating their own hesitant merge around the corner.
Architectural critic Reyner Banham described the LA freeway system as “a single comprehensible place, a coherent state of mind, a complete way of life.” The freeway was truly the essence of Los Angeles to me, and I would let myself settle into it every day when I merged onto the 110. Palm-studded hills would hover around me as I whipped through the bends of the road, and the high rises downtown would loom hazily ahead. I’d feel as if I could die at any minute, yet be strangely lulled by the rhythm of the road. Driving on an L.A. freeway was, again as Banham put it, “a special way of being alive”– it required a certain heightened awareness and reliance on one’s own God-given reflexes to avoid a nasty crash. Is there any other activity that is so mundane, yet so deadly?
Find the rest in the Fall 2021 issue of Westwind!