I've been taking care of business up north – up north is also in Southern California, but a foreign land to me. It even sounds exotic: Valencia, north of LA. I drove up at six yesterday and missed most of the traffic, but I knew coming back down in the afternoon would be a different proposition, three hours or more to drive the ninety miles home. Instead I waited until almost eight, after the worst of the rush hour, to drive back and was rewarded with that most uncanny of LA experiences, the empty freeway.
(c) Google maps
For music, I was at the mercy of iPoddy thing Little Grey Fella on shuffle. I set out south on the I5 at such a rate that I only occasionally remembered to look at the speedometer and slow down to seventy five – and I kept up that pace even as the road curved around Hollywood, where I don't believe I've ever gotten much over thirty miles an hour before. Outstanding conditions for it too – it's traveling south, but the road magically does not face the setting sun, so the Hollywood hills were bathed in that golden light that attracted filmmakers to the area, that perfect Magic Hour glow where the whole world looks ready to put on its high heel sneakers and step out for a memorable night. A large moon hung in the sky ahead of me. Black Sabbath's Snowblind was on the LGF as I pass the aptly named Sunset, still having to watch my speed to keep from going too fast. Overdriving the conditions, in fact, as the I5 in LA really isn't engineered for speed. It still has its 30s bridges and white houses hidden in wooded copses at the side, putting the Chandleresque in a mashup with the mundane modern as the street lights and billboards come to fluorescent life in the dying evening glow.
Sensing what's next, the LGF switches to Robert Fripp's Under Heavy Manners so I can sing along with David Byrne as he recites "Remain in hell, without despair, O Urizel!" to accompany the transition into LA proper. And then it drops the bomb and I have no choice but to listen to the dirge of Sandy Denny's voice, all 48 hours, 37 minutes and 27 seconds (subjective) of A Sailor's Life from Unhalfbricking, that siren drone and that fucking fiddle as I navigate that Soto Street interchange and get back on to the 5, knowing the song's motorway death history and its relentless unforgiving desperate-nails-on-the-underside-of-a-coffin-lid minor key wail. It's the sound I'll hear when I'm chained in hell, for sure, and what will make the unending torment worse is the knowledge that somewhere nearby another damned soul will be screaming for relief from some music I actually like and wanting for a pleasant hour with Fairport Convention like a dying man in the desert hallucinates the pleasures of cool streams. Luckily the LGF got confused after that and played Snowblind again. What a relief to hear cheerful music once more, like having a drowned corpse lifted off your chest after a night in a shipwreck.
By then it was night and I was still going too fast on an unfamiliar road in the dark. I'm a 405 sort of girl, never liked the 5 if I had the choice. Short, though. I was home in South Orange County within 75 minutes. Not bad; but I may reset the LGF before I go back up north again next week.