It’s a cliche but it’s true, you live in your car in LA. Everything in La-la is worked out based on how much time you have to spend behind the wheel in order to achieve it. Catching a movie at the Arclight is 40 minutes in traffic… probably going to go. Summer barbecue at a friend’s house with no pool in North Hollywood – 1 hours drive including a freeway… forget it. Hot date in the OC for dinner and guaranteed sex – nearly two hours on the 405… be there ASAP!
But the tyranny of distance has created an interesting artistic side effect in LA. Tracy Emin is a British artist who created a piece called “Bed”. It was quite literally her bed from her London flat, dragged down to the Saatchi Gallery, reassembled and a hefty price tag slapped on it. But it is mesmerizing. There are probably a hundred items that come with it from the disheveled duvet to the lipstick ringed cigarette butts and the dildo in the open drawer that make it a voyeuristic delight.
In this town, we live in our cars the way that Trace lived in between her sheets. Could we all be driving priceless art objects over the cracked bitumen and freeway ramps littered with standard issue LA crap that you can’t but collect?
Let’s start in the drivers’ seat. Tom-tom for sure and/or iPhone holder to navigate your way around. Three lost pens and $2.26 in change under the seat which you dig out when you park at an old meter that hasn’t got a glorious “Fail” sign blinking at you. The pens are all dead, but there is something comforting about them being there, so even though you think about throwing them out, their totemic value makes you leave them there by the chair rail slide. Sand from the summer when you swore you’d come back to the beach the next weekend and didn’t.
Mid Console there will always be two fortunes out of a Chinese Cookie that you are planning to play the numbers on the next time Mega Millions tops out over 100. Between these and the pens, the karmic future of the car is secure. Always a poo bag in there if you own pets; purple, never standard blue. Add another few dimes for that old meter and we’re done here. Oh wait, a hair elastic with that girl’s bleached strands tangled up in it.
Glove compartment is where it really starts to get interesting. On top of the two unpaid fines, you must have a small bottle of sun block that you bought at a liquor store one night that you thought was really clever because it has an abseiling lock on it so you can attach it to a bag. Even though it never leaves your car. This lotion is liberally applied on the left arm at red lights. It’s twin is the bottle of moisturizer that was stolen from the hotel on the last shoot on company dime. Good shit, usually L’Occitane or however you spell it. Applied at alternating red lights. Both lotions make the wheel alarmingly greasy for the next half hour and keep it polished to that unnatural high shine.
There are always a couple of rubber bands in there too from mail and/or drug prescriptions. Another pen that actually works; blue, never standard black. A few business cards from 2009 from some lame party. Take out menus so you can phone that order through for pick up when you’re stuck on the 101. Even the one from the Mongolian that you never eat at, but never throw away.
Parked in the cup holders between the seats there are always two water bottles. One or both are half drunk, both are hot and both have been there for a few days. But they are the oasis in the desert when you’ve been sucking Bud Lights, wine and pollution all day. Chewing gum wrappers are de riguer with one bent, melted piece that you’ve not been desperate enough to chew yet whose sweat has discolored its paper.
Back seat is the next stop where there is always an array of interesting items. There’s usually a sweatshirt of some description hurled off in a burst of sunlight while driving, still half inside out and strewn half on the seat, half on the floor. At least one empty water bottle with no top. Files from work. A dog-eared script, even if you’re a dentist. Old movie tickets, one pair of flip-flops and a single Converse shoe. There are some buckles for the seatbelts to click into, but since no one except your parents on that Memorial Day weekend visit have ever sat in the backseat, you’re not sure exactly where those are. What is in plain sight though are those brochures from the tourist office of Solvang from the same trip.
Then it’s on to the trunk. This is like a dresser on wheels. Since you’ll never make it back home in time for anything, you have to carry clothes for every occasion. A hoodie will always be lurking here somewhere. I don’t know if they were invented on the West Coast, but the people here have made them ok to wear to restaurants, gigs, weddings, the beach, you name it. Especially handy when the weather here goes like the moon for six months of the year. Psst, a little acknowledge fact… all winter and half of autumn and spring in LA are frickin’ cold. You stand in the sun and you sweat, you move to the shadow and you freeze. Baywatch lied a lot.
Women always have a pair of driving shoes that they keep in here and wait till their date has driven off around the corner before they get out of those DSW high heels and chuck on some Chucks for the drive home. And if you’re an actress, you must have enough clothes in the back for everything between a casting for Hooker #3 to A Nun’s Story. And double that amount during pilot season.
Somewhere tucked in the back is a half eaten box of power bars, a first aid kit and yet more water. See, we take our earthquakes very seriously here and like to be Kung-Fu ready for when the big one hits, which we all secretly hope will be San Francisco and not us. Or at least San Diego. You never know when you may have to camp out in a shelter for a few days on end. Only to discover that you’ve eaten half your rations.
Add a flat spare tire, a wheel lock that you secretly believe will be your weapon in any showdown with gang bangers bought on sale at Auto-mart and used for a week, a few Whole Food shopping bags lined with Ralph’s receipts and a beach towel with a sun bleached corner and that just about takes care of the full inventory.
See? Just like Tracy’s and just as fascinating to pour though.
I’ve got mine with Sotheby’s, going once, going twice…