Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Kandy Kolored Tangerine Flake Red Car, Baby

Los Angeles has long been justifiably mocked for its smog, and I'm not going to try to refute that. We have smog; it's horrible. Add a sprawling metropolis to a desert basin, and you're going to have smog.

We of course could do a lot better by using alternate modes of transportation such as public transit, but at this point we're too devoted to our pink Cadillac convertible cars that we drive to the beach with our blonde hair streaming behind us like a sexy sunkissed flag, right? Isn't that what people driving in Los Angeles do if they're not in pre-driveby shooting road rage mode? Pray to the blessedness of their tailfins while stuck in a sigAlert?

Erm, no. We do love our cars, but that love mainly comes from dependence. Any viewer of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? should remember that the basic plot of the story was a conspiracy involving the replacement of Los Angeles' well-conceived Pacific Electric Railway (a/k/a the "Red Car" trolleys) with a bus system. A bus system that used gas, and tires, and buses manufactured by various companies with an interest in taking over transportation for a sprawling metropolis. And public transportation in our city crumbled when somebody realized that public transportation wasn't a moneymaking opportunity even when you have a monopoly on it.

So we developed our car culture as a way of making lemonade out of lemons. If you don't believe a dead silent film star like me, just check out Tom Wolfe's essay about kids and designers in the middle of LA car culture in the '60s to see what a fantastic lemonade we made. But really, I think we'd all be happy here having the opportunity to use public transportation and alternate methods of transport rather than having to drive all of the goldurn time. We dream about it, and we're working on making the dream a reality. It is, of course, still hilarious to be stuck in traffic behind that ancient mummy Angelyne and her pink Corvette, but I don't think the humor would be lost if we could encounter that sight while whizzing past her on a bicycle.

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