visit to artist’s studio, part one: freeways are scary

Listening to:  Death Cab for Cutie, Black Ghosts 

My friend Joanna — the wondrous one who hath given me leather jackets — and I drove up to Pasadena to visit an artist’s studio.

artist Lia Halloran explains her work to an intrigued onlooker

But first, a note about the freeways.

When I started this journal several years ago I had two things I didn’t want readers to know about (that I’m willing to mention here): the highly privileged lifestyle, which I had something of a complex about and was still incorporating into the way I see myself, and my fear of driving on the freaking freeways.

I had to divulge this to my friend Sam the other night. I was an hour late for dinner. "You are very punctual," Joanna commented to me the other day. And it’s true, I am — for her. Sam isn’t nearly so lucky. Anyone willing to meet with me after business hours has to wait until I wrestle the kids into bed, including a four-year-old who is already proving a particularly tenacious and determined individual compelled by his fierce sense of destiny: "But I don’t want to go to bed…But I’m not tired…"

I started out a little bit late because of the kids, then became ridiculously late when I overshot an exit and took another one, a wrong one, that had me cruising dark and quiet rows of little bungalows set back on patches of property. No streetlights, or any other structure that could get bashed and vandalized. No life. Just the bungalows, the empty roads, the pale outline of sidewalks. The quiet.

I expected Sam to completely bitch me out — which is no reflection on him at all — but when he saw me he threw his arms in the air. "She’s here!"

"I got lost on the freeways."

He tossed his arms around me. "She got lost on the freeways!"

When in doubt, tell the truth. "I just started learning them."

"After years of avoiding them assiduously?"

This is the thing: I am not the only one with this problem. Turns out there are other people who duck into the side streets with a sheepish expression on their faces. It’s the dark little secret that no one wants to talk about. There’s nothing cool or hip about being a driving wuss.

In my case, there was also an element of Pavlovian response. I came to driving late, and made the mistake of allowing my ex-husband to try and teach me. Clearly a disciple of the deep-end school of thought (as in: toss the newbie into it and see what happens next), my ex’s approach was to direct me onto the 405 and yell "ARE YOU TRYING TO GET US FUCKING KILLED?" in my ear every ten seconds. 

I did not find this effective.

Irony being, I’ve discovered I actually like driving the freeways, and the resulting, expanded sense of LA. Which doesn’t mean I know where I’m going. Things move so fast that by the time the silken voice of your GPS tells you to follow the lane now peeling away to your left, you’re sixteen lanes over* on the right. I suspect that learning to drive around LA is a little bit like learning to snowboard. The learning curve is steep — more so for some people than for others — but before you get there you need to just focus on how not to get yourself killed. 

* feels like sixteen


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