SoCal: A Parody of Itself

1964 Chevrolet Impala Lowrider Magazine

A dozen years ago, I travelled to LA every other month for work. Then 10 years passed without a trip. Had it always been so ridiculous? And had it always been so much about the cars?

The fun started right away, at the Hertz Car Rental office. A fabulous man handing out snacks to the ridiculously long queue offered me a cookie and told me how much he liked the swing in my hair. The fun continued as I meandered through the lot, looking for my car. An older employee smiled at me and said: "Which star are you looking for?"

Being a parody of a visitor, I told him I was looking for a dark blue convertible.

CA Convertible

LA was smoggy and busy. It was late morning and I was glad to get out of town. As I drove south on the 405 and cleared Camp Pendleton, the sun broke through and the temperature dropped five degrees. Suddenly I saw the appeal.

I turned off the Interstate into Carlsbad and passed a surf woodie on the other side of the street. You know, an old-time station wagon that looks like one of these, only is a real car, with a surfboard on top.

Beachy Woody And Surfboard Hooks

I checked into my hotel in Carlsbad, and thanked the front desk clerk for her help. "Most def," she replied. Really? Did she really just say that? Most definitely.

I hopped into my car, put the top down, and headed to Oceanside to the place some relatives were staying. I waited at a stop sign while a lowrider with papa driving and mama and baby in back passed me.

1964 Chevrolet Impala Lowrider Magazine

At the next stop sign, I waited while surfers, beefcakes, and scantily-clad babes crossed the street to the beach.

Later that evening, driving back to Carlsbad on the Interstate, The Fast and the Furious passed me in the form of three cars: an orange Porsche 911, a souped-up Toyota Supra, and a neon-carriage-lit Acura Integra. I had to stop my conversation with my cousin, who lives in LA, and ask her if this happened very often.

"What, street racing?" she asked.

"Yes," I answered. "I've never actually seen anything like that."

"No, not very often, but it does happen," she replied. "Once I saw two cars trying to run a third car off the road. I almost called 911, it was so scary."

Indeed, it was kind of scary. But it was also kind of impressive, to see such insane weaving through traffic on such a busy road. Impressive, and stupid.

I drove back to LAX at dawn, almost alone on the road, listening to Hair Nation on SiriusXM satellite radio. I wondered what kind of car I would drive if I lived in LA. It wouldn't be a Prius. It wouldn't be a Hummer. But in keeping with the theme, the top would probably come down.