Carmageddon – Hell Yeah! Or How I Spent My Summer Staycation [California Seething]
The rantings of a non-driving theatre professional living in altogether the wrong city
For the second time this year, Southern California dodged the apocalypse. The first time, back in May when the Rapture didn’t come, was kind of a let-down since it would have been a great chance to get rid of all the right-wing, Christian nut-jobs before the debt-ceiling argument started (joke’s on you assholes — heaven has a Single Payer Health Care system- the Single Payer is called God and he loooooves gays and anchor babies.) This past weekend, however, the missed apocalypse was a pleasant relief.
In the grand tradition of making things slightly better by first making them infinitely worse (see Folktales, Yiddish- Bringing the Goats Inside), the City of Los Angeles decided to shut down a crucial stretch of the 405 freeway for an entire weekend in order to demolish a bridge so they can rebuild it over the course of a year and, one day in the distant future, make driving to the Valley marginally better (I’d still rather go to the Ikea in Carson.) For those of you in the snow-bound and cousin-fucking states who aren’t sure what the big deal is — closing the 405 is the equivalent of severing the city’s spinal cord — thus reenacting The Diving Bell and the Butterfly on a massive metropolitan scale. In one terrible moment, we would be transformed from a swinging, successful, drive-where-you-want, devil-may-care rakish urban area to a drooling, immobile husk of our former selves, paralyzed on Sepulveda and blinking out “Kill Me” in Morse Code on our collective break lights. If traffic is LA’s weather, this was to be our Blizzard of the Century.
In their efforts to prepare us for this catastrophe, the Mayor & LAPD took a number of drastic measures. From coming up with a cutesy name (Carmageddon) to putting up a Facebook page and encouraging celebs to Tweet about the freeway closure, absolutely no expense was spared in letting us know just how fucked we were gonna be. Turns out, Mayor Villaragosa has a huge flair for delivering terrible news, like an oncologist who hires Erik Estrada to tell you that your cancer has spread to your brain.
In a moment of pure inspiration, Jet Blue came up with the brilliant solution of offering $4 flights from Long Beach to Burbank, passing over the afflicted area like the Angel of Death dodging the ancient Jewish suburbs of Cairo (Pyramid Heights) and narrowly saving us from any possible danger of reduced fuel consumption or carbon emissions that might result from not driving over the weekend. Way to go JetBlue — that’s the Angeleno Spirit! After all, LA is a town of tiny waistlines and huge carbon footprints. The only reason we bought hybrids in the first place was so we could ride in the carpool lane without actually having to (shudder) carpool. Self righteousness was just the Decoder Ring in the bottom of the Prius box. Hell, I was so inspired by JetBlue that I planned to spend the weekend pouring gasoline on the ground, lighting it on fire and cooking lamb from New Zealand, asparagus from Chile and bell peppers from Holland, confident that if it got too hot, I could sit in the car and run the A/C just to keep my emission levels up.
Despite — or more likely, because of all the hype — Carmageddon turned into a huge, wonderful, non-event. Angelenos stayed off the roads, partied with friends, hung out locally and generally took it easy. We took their Blizzard and made it our Snow Day. We heard that real life was cancelled for the weekend, let out a holler and stayed in our collective PJs, watching game shows and eating metaphorical breakfast cereal all day (personally, I’m a big fan of Super Simile Flakes which taste just like Christmas morning – not so much with the Onomatopoeia Crunch, even though when I eat it, it sounds just like the name.) It was so great, I think we should put the city’s collective thermometer behind the stove next month and call in sick so we can stay home and watch the Price is Right. Aside from a nightmarish, profanity riddled four hour stretch spent putting together Ikea furniture, I had a delightfully, relaxing weekend accomplishing absolutely nothing (putting things together, btw, is my least favorite thing to do — if I were entering a Concentration Camp, they would replace “Arbeit Macht Frei” on the gates with “Some Assembly Required” to let me know what sort of hell I was in for.) It was a much more pleasant weekend than the over-hyped and incredibly annoying Fourth of July Holiday.
For some of you, the Fourth of July no doubt evokes warm, fuzzy, patriotic memories: parades of pink-cheeked veterans saluting with their one good arm, the other uniform sleeve pinned up crisply at their side; red white & blue bunting covering the brick facades of Main Street storefronts; gap-toothed kids with watermelon sticky fingers waving flags and playing catch with dads who actually pay their child support — all that schmaltzy Norman Rockwell crap. For me, though, the Fourth is all about Fireworks — and not in a good way. Not in a lie on a blanket at twilight and ooh and ahhh over the exploding rose-blossoms in the sky kind of way, but in a fuckwads blowing illegal shit up all weekend at all hours until my neighborhood sounds like Baghdad in 2003 and I’m waving my fist on the lawn like old Mr. Wilson and calling the cops every ten minutes kind of way. Sure, all these explosions are a reminder of the high price our troops pay for freedom, but they’re also a reminder of the high price I paid for my condo in what is evidently an incredibly shitty neighborhood, and I’ve already got the produce truck that plays “La Cucaracha” every hour to remind me of that. So if you assholes could please just blow your fucking thumbs off and go to the hospital already, so I could get some sleep, that would be really appreciated — even though I know I’m paying for your healthcare. I know that for you deadbeats, a celebration of independence is actually a celebration of independence from having a job, but those of us that work need to sleep. The only nice thing about hearing all these banging sounds all the time is now I won’t be alarmed if I hear one of you morons shooting each other in the middle of the night, so I won’t have to bother to call 911 to rescue your bleeding asses. They’re sick of all my calls about the fireworks, anyhow.
Of course, there are some advantages to being Ghetto-Adjacent. Last weekend we decided to buy a new fridge. Our old fridge still worked, but there were only two temperature settings- Spoiled and Frozen, and every drawer, railing and shelf was at least partially broken so the interior of the fridge no longer had any semblance of a well-organized cabinet for food and instead resembled Pizza the Hut from Spaceballs- a congealed mass of assembled foodstuffs that laughed at me maniacally every time I opened the fridge to try and wrestle a hunk of pepperoni and cheese out of it. It may not have actually been laughing- hard to say- if you eat enough Activia stored at the wrong temperature, the hallucinations are pretty intense. That Jamie Lee Curtis is one trippy bitch, like the Timothy Leary of probiotics. Anyhow, it was clearly a bad situation, so we ordered a brand, spanking new fridge online and greeted it with tremendous enthusiasm and fanfare when it arrived like a giant new baby with stainless steel doors that keeps shit cold. We removed the old fridge, exposing the disgusting patch of floor underneath. I’m always stunned by just how gross the floor under the refrigerator is. You would think that being covered by an enormous appliance would actually help keep the floor clean, but like the fleshy cock of a Vietnamese tranny prostitute, it’s always a jarring and gruesome discovery, no matter how much you’ve paid and how squeaky his voice was while you were eating lukewarm nachos together in the Marriott Courtyard lobby bar. Anyhow, we dragged the old fridge to the curb, and before I could say “bulky item pick up” a friendly little pick-up truck with a lovely young couple from Mexico or Mexico-Adjacent loaded it up and hauled it away. It was urban recycling at its finest. I managed to get rid of a 400 pound appliance in less time than it takes to shove a pizza box into the garbage can.
So there you have it — halfway through July and the best part of the summer was Carmageddon, by far. It’s a good thing, though, because it makes me less apprehensive about the coming Zombie Apocalypse. When once I would have been terrified, now I look forward to the quiet roads and the opportunity to chill out at home in my sweats and get caught up on Dexter. Besides, I’ll take the sounds of shuffling feet and the moaning of the Undead over bottle rockets and sparklers any day. And if a Zombie does bite me — so much the better. I can take some serious time off and finally watch Battlestar Galactica from the beginning. I’m sure there’s plenty of room in my brand new fridge for cold, fresh brains. I would only hope the Zombies are a little more considerate and schedule their takeover for football season. It was tough being home all weekend with only NASCAR, Golf and Women’s Soccer on TV. The best thing I could hope for was that Brandy Chastain would forget she was a commentator and rip her top off — though like uncovering the floor underneath the refrigerator, that was likely to be a jarring disappointment — so it’s probably all for the best that the US lost. Hopefully the team will do better in London next year. I can only hope that the Olympics are scheduled to overlap with Carmageddon 2012. Now that’s what I call Rapture!
featured image credit: JDAC
empty 405 pic credit: cbucka21