La Grange

My goal is not to die in the 405 reconstruction.

Let me explain this to you. The Democrats voted for stimulus, and money was appropriated to extend the carpool lane from deep in the San Fernando Valley so far south it’s a different time zone, assuming time zones changed from north to south, which they might as well, with traffic so slow in Los Angeles. And you might think this is a good idea, but that would mean you’ve never studied highway science, wherein it’s stated if you build it they will come, yup, if you make more lanes it’s only a matter of time before they fill up with traffic from citizens living ever further away.

So I’m against the reconstruction. Which has now lasted so many years I don’t expect it to ever end. I expect to see Kiewit workers married, having babies and dying before traffic ever flows freely again. Yup, Kiewit is the contractor, their yellow trucks are everywhere, that’s where the real money is, not in entertainment, I’m sure Mr. Kiewit is a billionaire.

So let me explain this to you. Realizing that L.A. is gridlocked almost as bad as Brazil, construction doesn’t start until dark, when reasonable people are safely home in bed. But I’ve predicated my whole life on being unreasonable, I’m a contrary, I come from the Yogi Bear school of life, I may sleep til noon but before it’s dark I’ll have every picnic basket that’s in Jellystone Park. In other words, you won’t find me in rush hour traffic, but when everybody’s car is in the garage, that’s when I ply the freeway, with the drunks and the professional drivers. And I’m on that freeway, the dreaded 405, every damn night, it’s the main route from Santa Monica to Felice’s house, her exit is Skirball, just a hop, skip and a jump before this endless construction, but now…

You can never figure out when exits are open or closed, never mind lanes. I’ve driven south to go north to have to go east to pack it all in and take Beverly Glen more than once. And I hate the loss of time, but even more I’m worried about my life.

Yes, what do they say, in a massive construction project they factor in the deaths? Yup, like if they build a skyscraper “x” number of people will die? I think they’ve made that same calculation with the 405, I feel my days are numbered.

Let me explain this to you. While they were fixing the Sunset bridge, I oftentimes got on in Bel Air, I think it’s Moraga, I don’t even pay attention to signs, I just run on instinct. But the problem is… You get on and your lane ends…instantly. And there’s no warning to those zooming down the track.

Now my car’s got a ton of power. Which is why I leave so much room between me and the car in front, to the point where people behind me flash their lights and beep their horn…I want room to maneuver. God forbid you drive a Chevette, you’re gonna get crunched.

Yup, you accelerate and the orange cones tell you your lane is ending but there’s no warning to those already in the lane that you need to merge and it’s so late at night they’re somnambulant. It’s a harrowing experience.

But it gets worse. Just last week they opened the new northbound Sunset on-ramp. Fantastic. Except they haven’t yet taken down the barriers, you swing around the corner and are injected into traffic blind… Yup, you can’t see through the concrete and the oncoming traffic can’t see you.

But Wednesday night was the worst.

Somehow they decided they needed to squeeze five lanes down to two at the top of Mulholland, where they had to completely rebuild two bridges to accommodate the two new lanes. Yes, that’s like tearing down your whole house to build a new bathroom, but that’s the way this inept reconstruction project was conceived.

Only one problem… I can’t see that my lane is going to end. There’s no sign. I’m just cruising along and I notice up ahead that…the cones seem to be encroaching upon my lane.

So I put on my blinker. I downshift, I look for my entrance point.


Big rigs, vans, everybody with their brights on is zooming down the one of two remaining lanes I’ve got to merge into.

This is finally it. What I’ve been dreading. Death. After years of reconstruction, my luck has run out.

What do I do? Run through the orange cones and wreck the undercarriage of my automobile and then figure out how to cross back through to merge again? Yup, the three lanes to my right are completely empty, god knows why they had to close them, but the orange cones are so tight there’s no way I can go from the wrong side to the good further down the road.

And I’m running all this through my brain, its calculations faster and better than a computer, and I’m completely flummoxed…if I force myself into the left lane will these drivers wake up, going 70 instead of the construction speed limit of 55, and move into the one remaining lane on the left? But there people are doing 80, oblivious to what’s going on, what if there’s no room?

And if I put on the brakes, how long before someone plows into my rear end?

So I’ve got the revs high, the pedal to the metal, and miraculously I squeeze in. I really can’t tell you how I did it. Reminds me of missing that rock in Val d’Isere, out of control on the ice, with nowhere to stop. My brain shut down, my body took over, I don’t know how I survived. Same deal Wednesday night.

And now I’m confronted with a big question. Do I ever take the freeway again?

I don’t want to be one of those people who stay on side streets, who take Beverly Glen or Roscomare, but I’m feeling my number is up.

And last night I decide, like a circus performer, I must take the freeway, to get over the fright. I make it on at Sunset and I move into lane number 2 to avoid a problem but it seems like I’m at the Nurburgring, because in lane number 1 everybody’s positively flying, oblivious to the changed conditions.

And the radio is blasting, I cannot take my hands off the wheel, it’s the soundtrack to my demise, it’s keeping me going, and just when I get in the clear, I hear it, the unmistakable, previously resistible, but now indelibly great intro to “La Grange.”

Sometimes it’s just about the sound, sometimes your brain just shuts down, thinking stops, and what pours out of the speakers into your ears keeps you alive.

“La Grange”

One Response to La Grange


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  1. Pingback by What La Grange does… | brucelarochelle | 2013/10/26 at 21:27:59

    […] Lefsetz on “La Grange”, July 13, […]

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  1. Pingback by What La Grange does… | brucelarochelle | 2013/10/26 at 21:27:59

    […] Lefsetz on “La Grange”, July 13, […]

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