At daybreak in bed I can still hear the whispers of the freeway as L.A.’s commuters make their way out to and from The City. Home is situated less than two thirds of a mile from the 101, separated by the small stretch of blocks making up the village which our feet have claimed throughout eons of sunsets and sunrise here. Our skin has wrinkled alongside the aging of this freeway, just as in the flow of night our bodies have stretched out like the sacrifice of its open concrete.
For most of life before adulthood, the freeway was but an afterthought. Mom taught my brother and I how to travel on Metro’s bus lines since we were old enough to walk to work with her. From there, it’d be a long time before there’d be any mention of el fri guey. The bus-lines we took knew no such thing, which effectively made us locals from the start; we took things one stop at a time alongside neighbors through the long haul in L.A.
Today, the 101 is that lifeline by which I make my way back to the pueblo when I’m due for landing from afar. It is a precious sight when it’s been a long trip. Once I’m in the middle of its familiar gridlock again, I look around at the colony of red taillights beaming all across my periphery, and I am warmed by them, strengthened by them, even fed by them.
It doesn’t matter if I never get to see faces behind the wheels. They are my gang. My locals. The ones I’ll be judged with.
In the end, however, most freeways do actually end up being a cancerous drain on communities, and quite literally at that. The Times shows this in a landmark research article discussing the Effects of Freeways on people who live near them. But respiratory illnesses and pollution aside, what a ride. It’s the 20th century of Los Angeles hemming its way into the 21st.