And In The End…

 

Earlier this month I wrote about saying goodbye to my old Volvo. I told of how the car’s radio, broken for years, had magically sparked to life as I took the old gal out for her last ride.  The song that was playing when the music came through the speakers? “When I Need You” by Leo Sayer. The radio station? 100.3 The Sound.

 

100.3 The Sound

 

Yesterday the FCC made it possible for only a few piggies to have all the pie in the broadcast radio and TV markets of America. I’m simplifying, to be sure, but that’s the way a lot of folks see it, and I’m one of them there folks.

 

Yesterday was also the last day an L.A. radio station served our market. 100.3 The Sound has been around for 10 years and it’s been grand. The station played classic rock, but not like some of the nationally programmed crap we’re fed. The Sound used real-live DJs, and they were responsible for providing listeners with music not found anywhere else on the dial. The DJs had distinct personalities and tastes. That used to be common. I grew up with terrestrial radio like that. But today? Nope. Up and down the dial, it’s nowhere to be found, or it’s so rare as to require a wire hanger and acrobatic maneuvers in order to tune it in.

 

The Sound knew the end was nigh, as it had been sold to one of those aforementioned station-grabbing piggies. The DJs had been preparing us – the listeners – and themselves for the inevitable last song. Along the way, I paid attention to the DJs, to the station’s ads and to the music. One of the spots referenced the fact that a lot of the songs played there may never again be heard on radio. Think about that. Will I happen to hear “Once in a Lifetime” by Talking Heads elsewhere? Sure. But will I hear “Fool to Cry” by The Rolling Stones? Probably not. And I damn sure won’t hear “The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys” by Traffic. Not gonna happen. Not in the Los Angeles market anyway. Not anymore.

 

So as 100.3 The Sound wrapped up their run yesterday, Andy Chanley (the first DJ at the station, a decade ago) said something about “…the last 11 words of this album side…” I immediately started crying. I knew what was coming: side 2 of “Abbey Road” in its entirety. For a few years in my youth, I fell asleep listening to that each and every night. On vinyl, just like they played it on The Sound. Yesterday, as I listened to the masterpiece in the middle of the day, I took care of some bid-ness and earned my keep. All the DJs and staff had gathered for the final farewell. They expressed their gratitude for each other, for the listeners, for the station, for the music. At the close of “Abbey Road,” the format immediately changed to christian pop, whatever the fuck that ungodly mess is. The now former DJs and staff are all likely searching for new jobs.

 

Speaking for the listeners, I can tell you that we are merely searching.

Miles To Go

 

 

The other day I was on the road and I looked down and saw my car’s odometer was about to hit a string of twos. I was in traffic, so not only was I dodging people who think the zombie apocalypse is upon us, but also old lady drivers, kids on skateboards and pedestrians. Basically, driving took my full attention. But I persisted, kept glancing down, and when the last two rolled into place, I pulled over and snapped a pic.

 

For those not playing along at home, the mileage on my old Volvo is not 22,222. It’s 122,222. I feel pretty good about the old gal, if you must know. I mean – she’s 50 years old! Of course, being a Volvo, her miles could very well be in the 200,000 range, which would be terribly impressive. But that’s not the way she rolls. She is what she is and her miles are her miles.

 

I know nothing lasts forever. My old Volvo won’t be mine for all time. At some point, she’ll belong to another and that person will (hopefully) marvel at her milestones. At their milestones. And that’s as it should be.

 

For now, the old gal and I have miles to go. Together. And we’re doing just fine.

 

It’s a Good Day for a Good Day

 

 

It’s Friday, friends, and it’s a good day for a good day.

 

Yesterday, Thursday, was pretty spiffy, too. We got new stop signs on our street, so now our scary intersection has a 4-way stop. That happened bright and early, and I nearly broke into a happy dance on the front lawn.

 

At the grocery store, I saw Elvis. Our paths cross every once in a while, so it wasn’t a complete surprise. But it does make me smile to think that Elvis and I shop at the same Vons.

 

I needed to trim a couple of tree limbs and at first thought I’d tackle the job with a hand saw. Then I remembered the reciprocating saw and pulled that baby out. The task was handled, jiffy-quick and my arm was spared. Bonus.

 

Even though it was 80-something degrees out, I rode my bike to take care of a task (instead of driving). At some point there was a traffic jam that backed up for a couple of miles. I just kept to the bike lane and pedaled right past. I was home in record time.

 

A friend asked me to sing on a piece she’s working on. When someone believes in your abilities like that, it’s a pretty good feeling.

 

Mister and I had a salmon dinner that I’ve been making for decades and it still delivers. I do love good food.

 

When my head hit the pillow, I was tired and ready for sleep. A full, active day will do that for you.

 

It was a good day. And now, I think I’ll have another…

Traffic

 

 

 

Yesterday there were street closures in The Valley for what’s called CicLAvia. When this happens, L.A. streets become wide open for folks on bikes and on foot. Cars are banned  and there’s usually a pretty big turnout. In the past, CicLAvia has taken place on the other side of the hill. This was the first event to cross over into The Valley.

 

I was out and about, running errands, when I found myself at a red light. About a jillion riders crossed in front of me, making their way to the closed-to-cars streets. I was laughing at some of the garb and managed to grab my camera and snap a pic.

 

I didn’t head over to Ventura Boulevard, where the thousands of bikers roamed free. But I did battle tremendous traffic, as all those cars had to fit somewhere. And y’all – it wasn’t nearly as pretty as that dude’s hair.

Hollywood Nights

 

 

The other night I was driving through Holly-weird and I saw the dangedest thang. An SUV was cruising along with a cup of coffee sitting on its back bumper. That in itself isn’t odd, but the fact that the cup stayed on the bumper for over 3 friggin’ miles was a freak-show.

 

When I turned to head home, that cup was still planted on the bumper. For all I know that coffee is still cruising somewhere in Los Angeles.

Just Be Cool

 

 

Because I live in Los Angeles, driving is part of my reality. And while I do my best to maintain a certain level of calmness while behind the wheel, I have been known to cuss till the angels blush from time to time.

 

Well, this brand-new summer has found me trying something different. I’m endeavoring to chill out a little more when driving. I still get frustrated, mind you, but now I’m saying something else to the other drivers who can’t hear me, no matter how loud I may be. My new mantra is “Just be cool, fool.” It began with me calling everyone “fool.” (Actually, it began with me calling everyone “Dummy,” a la Fred G. Sanford. It then evolved.) So far, I’m staying calmer. I guess it’s working.

 

I can’t fight driving. It’s a necessary evil. And I can’t control bad drivers in the world. But I can control my reactions to them.

 

Hopefully.

The Universe is Conspiring in Your Favor

 

“Oh, God, if I’m anything by a clinical name, I’m a kind of paranoiac in reverse. I suspect people of plotting to make me happy.”

Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters

J.D. Salinger

(1919 – 2010)

 

When the email arrived, explaining the evening’s events, I considered deleting it. But I didn’t. Yes, part of me wanted to hide away, doing my best rendition of a recluse. But another part of me – a much quieter part – wanted to go. That part of me thought the night sounded like fun. And fun has been sorely lacking. So I didn’t delete the email. In fact, a day after receiving it I decided to purchase a ticket online. I knew that if I didn’t get an advance ticket, I would definitely crawl under a rock that night, pretending no one was home. I also knew that if I did get an advance ticket, I would definitely go to the danged event. I’m too frugal to spend money on something and not attend. I didn’t just meet me. So I committed. Ticket for one, please.

 

 

By the time the appointed day arrived, I realized some company would be nice. (Duh.) So I texted my pals Betro and Baker Jen. Turned out Betro was indeed planning to attend, but had to arrive early to take care of some set-up duties. Baker Jen was on the fence. She was sort of planning her own recluse performance and besides, there would be traffic and it was a school night. I told her I’d wait for her after work, and that if she made it to my house I’d be more than happy to drive us both. She was this close to bailing, I could tell, but she didn’t. By the time she made it to the house, we were both ready to hunker down in the car for the cross-town journey. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.

 

 

Los Angeles traffic simply is. Anyone who battles it with an air of non-acceptance will always lose. (Road rage, anyone?) Those of us who acknowledge it and move on, well, do move on. I’ve often wished I had a Powerful Mach 5, so that I could push a steering wheel button and launch myself high overhead, avoiding the traffic and snarls of L.A. roads, but my ’66 Volvo doesn’t begin to resemble Speed Racer’s hoopty, so there you go. On that evening, Baker Jen and I accepted the situation and slowly rolled into the dark L.A. night.

 

 

As we followed red tail lights, Baker Jen shared some of her life with me. I replied in kind. Neither of us was in a socializing mode, but we knew enough to at least try to lift our own spirits. (Friends, that job will always fall squarely on our own shoulders, no matter how much we may wish for others to fill the role of Joy Dealers. End of sermon.) So there in the car, my friend and I talked about life, exactly as it is, not as we wish it to be. We talked about our feelings and disappointments. We talked about stress and our fears of what harm that dastardly villain might be doing. Baker Jen told me about a Wanda Sykes routine in which she jokes about her infant daughter’s inability to just be content. Baker Jen paraphrased by saying, “If you can’t handle Baby, life is gonna kick your ass!” From that point on, our running joke of the night became I can’t handle Baby! Life is kicking my ass! Before we knew it, we were both laughing. Honestly.

 

 

When we arrived at the Bootleg Theater, we didn’t know what to expect. All we’d been told was that the evening was a benefit for Rock Camp. We had absolutely no idea what Ladies Arm Wrestling was about (besides the obvious assumptions). We did not know there would be such theater involved. We didn’t know how magnificent the production would be. We didn’t anticipate the supportive crowd (mostly male, by the way). We didn’t know the bar would be selling 22-ounce beers.

 

 

As we looked around, we spotted more and more of our Rock Camp friends. It didn’t take long for those smiling faces to induce smiles from us. We laughed loudly. We hugged heartily. Memories of traffic were fading. Life’s stress stepped aside long enough for us to enjoy the night.

 

 

By the time the championship match was being decided, I was hoarse from screaming for my fave competitor of the night, “Less Slim More Shady.” When she won the competition, I cheered with abandon. We all did.

 

 

Baker Jen and I were tired out from all the activity (and from the beer), so we said our goodbyes and moseyed back down the street to the car and made our way home. As we moved easily down the late-night, traffic-free highway, Baker Jen said that she thought the Universe had conspired to get her out that night. She said she thought maybe she was meant to venture out – outside herself – for a while. I thought about her words and said I agreed. It seemed the Universe did us both a good turn in sending us out into the world.

 

 

When I said goodbye to Baker Jen, she tossed out one more “I can’t handle Baby!” before climbing into her car and driving away. I headed into the house to wash my face and get ready for bed.

 

 

A few minutes later, as I was closing my eyes and starting to drift off, I realized I was smiling. I had had such a fun night. I was so glad I’d committed and gotten a ticket. I quietly laughed a bit, thinking of the Wanda Sykes bit. I can handle Baby, I thought. I really can. Then peaceful sleep washed over me, like a soft, blue blanket, filled with warm stars.

In. Slow. Mo. Tion.

 

 

Yesterday I was out and about in L.A. On a 2-lane surface street, I was in the right-hand lane and this white Prius was a car-length in front of me, in the left-hand lane. A motorcyclist was in front of him and the Prius slammed into the biker, sending the motorcycle and its rider straight up into the air. The rider and the bike crashed onto the ground, and both were motionless. I grabbed my phone, dialed 9-1-1 and kept an eye on the scene.

 

Because my friend Betro was recently the victim of a hit-and-run accident, I immediately scanned the Prius’ license plate and committed it to memory. I was placed on hold by the 9-1-1 operator (I kid you not) and watched as the Prius slowly moved to the side of the road. A woman wearing a lab coat (a doctor?) got out of her car, grabbed some first aid supplies from her trunk and began helping the motorcycle rider. About 17 cops pulled up (again, I kid you not) and I decided I no longer needed to wait on hold with 9-1-1. So I hung up my phone and walked over to one of the police officers. He asked me about what happened, and I told him all I’d seen (including the license plate of the Prius). He asked about that car, and we both looked around. It was nowhere in sight. After a couple of minutes, he told me he had all he needed and thanked me for my time. I got in my car and drove away.

 

Traffic really is terrible in L.A. I’ve lived here long enough to know this. But it still never ceases to amaze me when I witness a bone-headed move by a distracted driver. It’s unsettling and it’s hard to process. Take yesterday’s incident, for example. The brake lights of that Prius didn’t shine until after impact with the motorcycle. We all make mistakes, but come on. What was the Prius driver doing? Certainly not focusing on the road.

 

After witnessing the terrifying and ugly accident, it took a while for the adrenaline to leave my system. And during all that anxiety, I kept seeing the crash over and over again. The car hitting the bike, and the motorcycle and its driver flying into the air. In slow motion. It took about an hour, but my blood finally cleared the zoom-zooms from my veins and I calmed down. Then I realized I’ll never understand the driver of that car, or why he fled the scene. And I don’t have to. The accident didn’t happen to me, after all. I was merely a witness. And if nothing else, the event caused me to drive a bit more vigilantly for the rest of the day. And to appreciate home, when I finally pulled into my own driveway. Without injury. Without harm. There truly is no place like it.

The Perils of L.A. Freeways

 

 

Remember when I wrote about a globe jumping out of a pick-up truck and nearly taking us out as we drove an L.A. freeway?

 

The other day, Mister and I were out on that same freeway, covering the same route even, and just as we merged onto the 5, the pick-up truck in front of us lost a wheel. Not the tire alone, mind you, but the entire gal-danged wheel. It happened quite suddenly, and as the pick-up’s driver struggled to maintain control of his tilted vehicle (at 65 miles per hour, I might add), Mister did an amazing job of dodging that bouncing wheel.

 

I need to take a moment to praise Mister, if you please. Seriously – not only was the pick-up veering and the unattached wheel bouncing wildly, but while avoiding both those things Mister also had to brake suddenly and maintain control of our car. His command was stellar and I’m simply amazed. And grateful. For reals.

 

We pulled over in front of the pick-up, just as the rogue wheel bounced across 5 lanes of traffic and collided with a big rig. In only a few seconds, traffic had come to a stand-still. Then a miracle happened: that stopped traffic included a highway patrolman. He got the naughty wheel off the road and to the shoulder, where he pulled his car over, then loaded the blasted wheel into his trunk and began slowly backing up to check on the driver of the pick-up. By that time, I had already gotten out of our car and checked on the driver (and his young son, strapped into the pick-up’s backseat). The guy was clearly shaken, but he and his son were okay. He was freaking out about possibly having caused a major accident, but once the wayward wheel was cleared from the freeway and all 5 lanes of traffic began to flow once more, he relaxed a bit. I made my way back to our car, Mister merged into the resuming traffic and the highway patrolman continued his slow back-up to the stranded pick-up. As we passed him, he gave us a friendly wave. We waved back and headed home.

 

It didn’t take long for Mister to remember the last time we were out on that same freeway, and how the globe had come right at us. With that in mind, I am seriously considering writing off that entire section of highway. I mean, 2 incidents, 2 pick-ups? If that freeway is trying to kill us, I do not want the third time to be the charm.

Way to Go, Mingo

 

 

As I drove south on the 405 yesterday, I was nearly taken out by a mingo (that’s an idiot, friends) in a low-rider suv. For reals. That kid was clearly a middle-school-dropout, as he mistakenly believed 2 vehicles could simultaneously occupy the same lane space. As I swerved to avoid certain death, I glared at him. And at his gauged ear lobes, filled with giant plugs.

 

As this particular mingo was dangerous, I got away from him as quickly as possible. And though I’ve never once thought this about another person before, I was glad he had stretched his ear lobes beyond ever shrinking back to what would be considered normal. That idiot deserves saggy lobes. Way to go, mingo. Way to go.