Bridget Hoida on: Happy Birthday Dear Freeway

I adore Garrison Keillor. I’ve been eyeing him, and that $60 red coffee mug he peddles on the sidebar of his Writer’s Almanac for years now. And should I ever magically discover not one, but three, twenty dollar bills in the pocket of my coat–a season after the fact–I’ll buy it, if only to thank him for bringing words to my inbox every night at 11:05 pm.

I suppose if I lived on the east coast, or Barcelona, his poems would arrive on the day they are intended to represent, but because I’m lucky enough to live out West, I get them all an hour early. And truth be told, with only four rare and unusual exceptions, Garrison is always spot on. He’s a narrative soundtrack, if you will, to the just before midnight musings of my actual life.

He reminded me of  The Day Beauty Divorced Meaning, for example, and then, after too many consecutive days of rain, brought me a Starfish from Robert Bly. But by far his best, most precious gift: a small story about inseparable suburban housewives, Anne Sexton & Maxine Kumin who “installed extra phone lines in their houses so that they would never have to hang up on each other, and when either of them wanted to talk about poetry, she would whistle into the phone and the other would hear it and come to listen” (June 6, 2011).

And today, or tonight rather, my phone–the one I always leave off the hook–whistled and on the other line was my inseparable suburban housewife with a cupcake and an invitation to the birth of the Los Angeles freeway.

The Arroyo Seco Parkway turns 72 today and although much everything else in Los Angeles has undergone extensive and gratuitous augmentation, the OneTen–as she is affectionately called–remains relatively unchanged, “even though it wasn’t designed for the speeds that motorists travel today: There are no acceleration and deceleration lanes, and drivers must go from the on-ramp speed of five miles per hour up to the freeway speed of 55 in a short and hair-raising distance.” –The Writer’s Almanac

And it is moments like this, ripe with facts so absurd, so incongruent to modern-day life, that remind me why I love L.A. With freeways built “to carry about 27,000 cars a day” that now see “closer to 122,000,” Los Angeles survives.

Or, as Magdalena said in So L.A.:

Ricky, like most Angelinos, doesn’t believe in the blinker. He maintains that by initiating the blink you actually hinder any small chance you have of actually getting over. The guy on your right, when he sees the click-click of the yellow light, will speed up and close in on the gap. But I disagree. One of the remarkable things about Los Angeles, one of those things that no one seems to talk about, is how we all do manage to get where we’re going. We slide from the fast lane (wave) to the middle lane (wave) to the slow lane (wave) to the exit ramp (blinker off), and we merge. It may not be singularly graceful or without incident, but 99.9 percent of the time we do manage to make our exits, our left turns, our way home.


 

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One thought on “Bridget Hoida on: Happy Birthday Dear Freeway

  1. Yes, those extremely short on-ramps are hair-raising! Glad I don’t visit them often. My great-grandfather helped design and engineer them all those years ago.

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