I long for an entire day to sit and write. To mull over the time I’ve spent away and enjoyed. To remember and feel the endless blue of Lake Tahoe wash over me. To smile at how silly to not have known of such a beautiful, relaxing place. Oh to be in that water right now…so clear. So soft. Like glass early each morning, before boaters disturb its calm.Â Not salty.Â Not murky.Â No sea grass or kelp.Â Just brisk, fresh water.
But I also need time to relax and forget the angst I feel when I have to sit on a freeway with a ridiculous number of cars attempting to go somewhere. Anywhere but where they all are, inching along. Testing one another’s patience. Pushing limits. Practicing stupidity.
I’m not good at that. I can’t say how many times I longed for a laser or something like one might find on the Starship Enterprise. Zapping another’s molecules into oblivion because they see nothing wrong with darting in and out of traffic. Speeding up to and around cars in a burst of energy and then slamming on their brakes at the last minute, making me gasp with worry about what could happen to them and others nearby. Forcing me to finally grab for my book so that I wouldn’t have to witness what might happen next. I’ve gotten to the point where I can barely sit in a car that I’m not driving because of it all. “Take a nap,” the MoH tells me. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be possible. If I’m going to die, I’d like to know about it, or plan to go down with a very noisy fight, screaming obscenities about why idiots are allowed to drive and why they think they’re so much more important than the rest of us.
I’ve tried to blame it on the developers. Those individuals who just keep building. The ones who believe we all need to live on top of one another and then crawl to work each day on roads not intended to hold that many people. They’re just looking out for themselves. They want to make more money, so nothing else seems to matter except their bottom line. Once they’ve planted the last stupid palm tree in the last stamp sized neighborhood, they never look back to notice that on the best day, it’s difficult to see more than a mile or so through the haze.Â They don’t care.
Since I’ve traveled from our Paradise to another quite different, through the hell that is east of Los Angeles and back in this last week and can remember a time when much of that land was covered with lush farms and dairies, then I can say that I see no point to the sprawl. It’s so ugly. All of it. And it’s so very sad.
When I was small, we used to drive up the old 395 to see my grandparents who lived in Chino, and then Ontario. I remember the long two lane roads marked by broken lines of paint, and edged with enormous eucalyptus trees. I remember being able to see the wall of mountains in the distance that rose sharply into the sky. It was possible to get there without needing to drive on a highway that had more than two lanes venturing in one direction. There were no mega malls. There was no Honda complex or obscure distribution center where an unbelievable number of containers awaited loading and then shipment out to consumers elsewhere. There were no areas filled with housing so compact that our slice of Paradise looks grand in comparison.
Â Â I know I should be writing about things that are light hearted and carefree. I’ve just returned from vacation. But I’m always tired after returning — especially when I’ve had to sit in a car for 10 hours. Especially when three-quarters of the journey is filled with the most amazing beauty imaginable, and then just before arriving home, we’re welcomed back to reality with the ugliest slap possible. The slap of “who cares what happens later. Let’s just use up what we have right now. Who cares?” It reminds me of what a blast site must look like with its center wasted, and a wave of smoke emanating from that center. Somehow, “Urban Sprawl” is too kind a description, conjuring an image of a restless adolescent who has outgrown himself, stretching to ease his growth taxed limbs. Far too kind an image for this.Â Tree, anyone?Â Water, perhaps?
I have crossed the line. I am now old. I qualify for geezerhood because I wax about what once was. I find no beauty in what has evolved. I wince to imagine that it’s okay for others to have no need for personality in their neighborhoods. To want cloned strip malls or shopping meccas at an arm’s reach. To be so close to their neighbors that it won’t matter that they can’t see the sun through the haze.
Aren’t you glad I’m back?