I love to drive. It calms me down, it helps me think, and it’s fun as hell. Since moving to Los Angeles, it’s been a substantial part of coping with the pandemic: whenever I need to just deal with shit going on in my head, I get in the car.
LA is built for people like me in this way, because there are so many great loops of road one can just rely on for a good ride. I’ve made a hobby on Saturday mornings of driving to Malibu via Sunset Boulevard—straight through Beverly Hills and Brentwood. While I usually make a point to avoid wealthy neighborhoods, when driving, you go where the best road is.
(I learned this in college, when my girlfriend lived in Connecticut while I was in New Hampshire. Driving to see her, I always knew which routes to take to get through western Massachusetts as quickly as possible, because its two-lane roads were full of potholes, whereas richest-state-in-the-nation Connecticut had four lanes and fresh paint on its roads in even the lesser-populated areas. The best roads are on the land where they keep all the gold.)
To drive as a hobby can be sometimes difficult to rationalize. The automobile has a complicated history in the United States, and directly allowed for the ‘white flight’ and suburban expansion to take place that re-instated the ongoing racial divide geographically & economically for another two generations. It directly impacts the willingness of public spending on transit, which thusly affects urban planning and the physical shape our society takes. Plus, the whole oil industry, carbon footprints, “Detroit,” etc., etc., etc.
It’s also one of those American conveniences that is a luxury everywhere else. I took a road trip with a friend in Croatia who hadn’t been able to afford the driving program and licensing fees until 29, and the process took her over a year after that to actually finish the exam and receive the card. That’s just a process nobody imagines in the States.
This is all why I try to appreciate the open road now, in the same way I sometimes taken an extra-long, extra-hot shower—in 50 years, chances are hot water for a shower will be a resource I may or may not be able to afford. Yes, sometimes it’s an indulgence, but I let myself off the hook for understanding that since nothing means anything anymore anyway.
Driving is also a strange habit because car culture isn’t my scene at all. I am not a fan of how it’s represented (the Fast and Furious franchise is fun and all, but … I mean, come on), and I’d rather use a warehouse to host an art show than fix up a Mustang. It’s an odd feeling to feel something meaningful, but not having any way to relate to it other than the act itself—like if someone loved to play music, but not listen to it or watch it or wear the t-shirt of their favorite band. Or, even have a favorite band.
(Speaking of music & driving, I drive with the radio scanning until I hear a song that grabs my attention, & today this comes on, one about driving nonetheless, goddamn what a pop song…)
Nevertheless, as I attempt to stabilize the precarious balancing act I call a life in this absolutely batshit insane world, being in a car on an open road is kind of a wonderful feeling. Even, or perhaps especially, without a destination, the act is one that creates potential for inspiration. It’s kind of like the inverse of the internet: while online, one can follow various wormholes of links and videos, as focus is distracted from one thing to the next. In the car, your focus is just as engaged with real-world events, but the mind is inspired by them to think on its own—a much different process than sitting in front of a screen.
Plus you can sing sad-ass broken heart teenage pop songs and nobody gives a damn.