Avoiding Los Angeles Traffic, or Random Puppets
As I hate Los Angeles traffic more than life itself (although my Orange County friends laugh whenever they hear me curse at other drivers over the phone), I booked it early to the Valley one Friday afternoon to make it to a night event, deciding to do my freelance work at Panera in North Hollywood to kill time and avoid the crazy drivers.
I left my Westside home at 2:30, which even though it was the right hour still left me stuck on Beverly Glen behind a film crew and a slow Toyota Corolla going 25 miles an hour. The canyon route has beautiful hanging trees and is nice and shady, but for someone who has a slagging silver Saturn to drive, the stop and go of this part of Los Angeles alongside the expensive BMWs can make for a difficult ride.
Traffic is the mortal enemy of everyone here in the city of angels, but as a born and bred Angelino, I knew every back road to get to North Hollywood. And I certainly know how to hustle. So as I finally got to the top of the hill, I turned right and headed down Mulholland Drive’s sensuous curves.
As a curvy girl, Mulholland Drive might as well be my soulmate in this town, because G-d knows I’m having a hard enough time finding a human one on my own. The sun shone down brightly as I kept an eye on the road, the music blaring in my ears and the wind blowing through my hair as I drove on the edge of the mountain. Any road down below in the Valley would have the stop and go and blaring honks that rang too deep in my ears. Up here, it was glorious.
That was until I got to the tour buses. A lot them make their way along Mulholland to show the out-of-towners where their favorite celebrity may live or get a closer view of the Hollywood sign. Traffic here in Los Angeles is often caused by clueless people who are so enamored with the bright lights they forget that there are people trying to live too. It reminded me of one of my favorite videos on YouTube from Glove and Boots, where Johnny T was telling New York tourists how they were jerks.
I wanted to take a quick peek at the city from an overlook, and when I turned in I almost immediately regretted it. I tried to back up, but I was blocked in by the tourists standing in the parking lot oblivious to the cars roaming about, not to mention those obvious tour buses with the roofs cut off. They everywhere, all screaming HOORAY FOR HOLLYWOOD. I laughed under my breath as the music blared; Hollywood, the one place where no Los Angeles resident really wants to go to, where people came with dreams and for every achieved one, there were about 100 that were broken.
It’s because the tourist puppets in front of me were given the Hollywood schpiel throughout their lives: This is the city of movies and entertainment glory. The sun always shines here. The ocean is big, blue and bright. They don’t see the hundreds of failed actors waiting tables, the droughts that come from the lack of rain, or the amount of trash in the Pacific. But my city sure looked beautiful from up here, away from the traffic, despite the wandering puppets who only had illusions of what Los Angeles really means.
I made my way off of Mulholland and turned up Cahuenga towards North Hollywood. Sure, it was the long way around, but sometimes you need to take it. In Los Angeles, it’s worth it. I parked my car down the street from the main drag of the NoHo Arts District and set out on foot, a standard Angelino with white iPhone earplugs in my ears to cut the edge off.
As I journeyed down Lankersheim, the traffic blowing up my hair, I noticed a white ice cream van that I never thought I would ever see. Unlike most vans, the window was covered in red velvet, and out dancing in front of it were two puppets with instruments. I heard the high-pitched voice of a man trying to be cutesy as he was putting on a show.
I began to laugh and had to stop. I had no cash in my pockets, but I couldn’t help but to watch his puppets. He was hustling the best way he knew how: through a creative gift that made people smile or made the universe a little more quirky. I knew that’s how I was getting by now. It’s how we all do it out here if we choose to make Los Angeles our home.
I gave the puppet a little kiss and continued to walk, passing by the people who were struggling to get by with Lou Reed singing in my headphones that I should take a walk on the wild side. He was the patron saint of 1970s New York, but this is Los Angeles of 2014 in all its glory, with the golden sunlight reflecting into my frizzy hair that had been tossed about.
Sure, the reality isn’t pretty here. There are traffic jams and struggles for everyone. But I remembered what the world was like when I was one of the huddled masses who was just chugging along blindly with the illusions, until I took control of my own destiny and lifted the veil from my eyes. That was not a life worth living. Instead of living the existence that everyone told me was right, I chose my road. And I am the puppet master, the controller of my fate. And every day that I live in this city is a day where I feel alive.
Not bad for an Angelino trying to avoid the 405.