Tuesday, July 19, 2011

how i spent my carmageddon vacation

Carmageddon—a.k.a. the shutting down of a ten-mile stretch of the 405 for two days, allegedly prompting a citywide traffic nightmare in a city that is already a daily traffic nightmare—is now old news to Angelenos, who collectively decided its effects were overhyped. Of course, it was hype that kept people off the roads and prevented what one writer called Sepulvedapocalypse. Never underestimate the power of fear as a motivator. Carmageddon was never exciting news to my four non-L.A. blog readers (shout-out to Tracy, Sizzle, Keely and Claire), but whatever. I’m blogging about how I spent Carmageddon anyway.

My strategy was basically to make people come to me. So arguably I cheated. A nobler carless weekend would have involved finally visiting one of the 75 galleries within a one-mile radius of my house, or taking public transportation. Instead, I:

  • Stayed in Friday night and graded student reading journals while AK and Amy worked on a paper about dental care for poor children and reading literary submissions, respectively. Welcome to the 24-hour mobile workplace. It sucks.
  • Made a dish for book club, which I found by Googling “russian fish soup easy.” All my recipe searches end in “easy.” And it was, despite the fact that it required me to make my own fish stock—stock being one of those foods like marinara sauce and marshmallows, which I forget actually come into the world as a set of unassembled ingredients. The recipe also called for halibut, which is like $90 a pound. Our book was about starving Russians during World War II. They actually only talk about eating fish soup; what they eat is “library candy” made from melted book bindings. Yum. So I went with cod and something called “Icelandic char.” That sounds like one of those deep-water species that lives to be a thousand years old and doesn’t breed till it’s two hundred and is therefore highly unsustainable and used to be called something unappetizing like “the mucous face blorg,” but which has come to market because we ate all the edible, easy-to-catch fish. Anyway, throw in some tomatoes, lemons and capers, and it tastes great.
  • Forced people to brave traffic to come have book club on our newly somewhat-clean back patio. Despite the cleanliness, our canvas patio covering is still in tatters, so it was a little like taking shelter from Nazis in some blown-apart farmhouse. Except that it was 72 degrees out and we had take-out from a Russian restaurant in the South Bay and a keg of Heineken, which we decided we’d pilfered from the Germans. But the beer was slightly flat, so it’s not like we didn’t face hardship.
  • Made Holly and Joel drive over from Pasadena on Sunday (by which time construction had ended and the city was opening the 405 early) for veggie tacos. Also on the patio.
We are a commuting town. The things I pride myself on culturally, like driving to Tarzana for a poetry reading, don’t always make sense ecologically. Or even psychologically, when you consider the effects of sitting in your car for hours: anxiety, depression, ennui, bad books on CD, bad music on the radio, bad reception on my Bluetooth. Sometimes it’s nice to stay close to home, especially when it’s not even being invaded by Nazis.


Holly Hight said...

I love that you tagged this post with the word, "carbs." Yay Carmageddon Carbs! It's your new brand name for veggie tacos?!?

Sizzle said...

When I visit LA I am always amazed by the amount of cars, the traffic and how people drive EVERYWHERE even when the Starbucks is 3 blocks away. They drive. Or at least my friends that I visit do. We don't do that here in Seattle. I mean, we drive, of course but if we can walk there, we do. And then there are all the bicyclists- please don't get me started as they don't seem to follow any laws and annoy the shit out of me.

I will admit I have never taken the bus here in all the 5 years I have lived in Seattle. Shhh!

"But the beer was slightly flat, so it’s not like we didn’t face hardship." Was probably my favorite line of this piece. HA! ;-)

Cheryl said...

H: Que viva los Carmageddon tacos!

S: L.A. has an aggressive car culture AND an emerging aggressive bike culture. It keeps the roads interesting.

I've been known to drive to Starbucks, which is half a mile away. Shhh!

Peter Varvel said...

I agree with Sizzle, that was my favorite line, too!
I like that the term evolved to "schmarmageddon" since the overly paranoid population left almost empty freeways for those of us who had to drive anyway, this past weekend.
Not that I wasn't overly paranoid, as well - I caught a 9:30 am showing of the new Harry Potter that was close to my 1:30 pm appointment (just in case).

Claire said...

"My strategy was basically to make people come to me. So arguably I cheated."

Nah, that's the sign of a brilliant mind at work. :)

When I lived in LA, I did my fair share of driving too even when it wasn't that far. But it was usually hot and I was probably getting groceries.

I found SF far worse in that you could be at your destination in 15-20 minutes but then spend an hour looking for somewhere to park.

Cheryl said...

PV: I'm glad your traffic-avoidance strategy made time for Harry Potter. You've got your priorities straight.

C: One thing I love about my current 'hood is the abundant parking. That might change if all those little galleries ratchet up the rate of gentrification, but for now it's bliss.