Most of my childhood, L.A. was the product of pop culture and long car rides covering short distances. My aunt and uncle lived north of the city in the mountains, which meant we passed from south to north through the entire region without ever leaving the 5 Freeway save for gas or food. Sure we visited some L.A. spots over the years, but mostly we were passing through, mostly slowly because if there is anything more constant than the sunshine in L.A., it’s the traffic.
The worst trip I can remember had us sitting for close to four hours between the Orange Crush interchange and the north end of the San Fernando Valley. There were five of us—Aunt Barbara, Grandma June, my sister Jeanette, me, and my aunt’s dog—packed in their white 1978 Trans Am. I’m pretty sure we all aged at three times the normal rate while we sat there staring at the graffiti along the LA river.
On the subject of the Trans Am: it was fast. Ridiculously so. My uncle, who was friends with most of the California Highway Patrol officers near their small town, told me it only really settled in and drove more smoothly when he hit 120 mph.
It always seemed a shame that car was ever shackled by the kind of L.A. gridlock we inched through to get to their house for the holidays.