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Here in L.A., it's important to express your personal freedom. Maybe you don't dance. Maybe you don't play the sax. But practically anyone can drive the freeways fast and late with all the windows open and loud music screaming into the night.
It's a skill easily acquired — but like any skill, you have to keep it up.
Last Thursday, I glanced at the calendar and realized that more than two years had passed since I had adequately expressed my personal freedom. No kidding. The last time was April 12, 2007, when I took a solo drive through Malibu around midnight.
Growing concerned, The Urban Man burned a fresh CD mix, and told his beautiful wife he was heading "out." She nodded with deep understanding...I mean, she's an Angeleno herself. When I said I might return at any hour of morning, she replied, "No problem." She may have thought I was headed to a bar, but actually I planned to launch my '99 Ford Taurus up Highway 5 and out 14 into the high desert. I imagined my windscreen burning with stars. I meant to shout out incoherent lyrics while encountering only limited law enforcement. Fortunately, my Taurus has one of those wing things on the back, and these really wide tires.
I figured I'd need not just lots of gas, but plenty of testosterone. Unfortunately, at the filling station beside the on-ramp, they had only French vanilla cappuchino from a little machine. It would have to do.
I started slow up the 405, playing only bittersweet love songs; then I transitioned to a more insistent beat as I dropped down the Sepulveda Pass, noting how the dark pool of night hung upside down above the glittering lights of the valley. It was a little cold with all the windows open, but I'd remembered to bring a sweatshirt.
I swear I meant to hold back on the really high-energy music, the storms of drums and screams of youth, until I got at least as far as the 118. But lo, just past Victory I found my mind drifting to my career goals and my cash position -- so I went ahead and punched in a whole hurricane of drums from Slumdog Millionaire.
And yes, when I reached the 14, I began to exceed the speed limit. The moon appeared directly ahead, huge and yellow and gibbous. It seemed to be my moon, so I shouted at it.
Hoping to sustain this passion, I turned down the Pearblossom Highway, where I was disappointed to encounter not just stoplights, but whole tedious subdivisions. In frustration, I began driving randomly up little deserted side roads into the desert, where yes, I briefly escaped everything.
At last, around one a.m., I drifted to a stop along a lonely stretch of asphalt that shone like a silver ribbon. Joshua trees brooded darkly, and a cool breeze had sprung up. I cut the engine and the music and went to stand in the middle of this road, where the moon hung, still directly ahead, taunting me.
And the Urban Man said to himself, "If you were truly free, you'd just keep going, wouldn't you? Wouldn't you? Then again, maybe it's enough freedom just to come out here and know you could. I mean, if ever you chose to do so."
With that I thanked the union guys who built my '99 Taurus and the engineers who created all those freeways. As I turned around, I asked David Byrne to sing about the wind in his heart and the dust in his hair. Then I wound my way down out of the high desert by way of the 14 and the 5 and the 405, and all the way back to my home in the restless city, where I crept quietly in beside my wife, and fell asleep, yes...satisfied.
Copyright © 2009 Marc Porter Zasada. All Rights Reserved
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