Thursday, April 17, 2008

Screeching to a halt

This morning, while sitting at a red light stuck behind another big ass SUV, I noticed two drivers squaring off. Young guys - stereos booming, one in a mustang, the other in a compact. Well dressed, good looking. Part time drag racers.

The light turned green, SSSCRREEECH! As I watched them peel away I didn't immediately think of the multiple accidents Los Angeles streets have been subjected to due to this juvenile shit, no, instead I thought, "10 years from now, those guys will be remembering this time as the good ol' days." Then, for a moment, I twinge of sympathy hit me.

As the American auto era slowly draws to a close, I've often delighted at the thought of middle class suburban soccer moms having to forgo their appointment at the estheticians cause' gas prices have gotten too high. But what about the 60 years (approx) worth of urban auto culture? What about all the lowriders, the detailing services, the blue collar shop mechanics?

For folks in the inner city (at least from the city where I come from), cars are everything. I mean, where I grew up, people would spend hot L.A. summer nights sitting in lawn chairs NEXT to their cars with the stereo on. For capitalist America, cars are one of the few acceptable expressions of ethnic pride - for Persians, the center piece of the Iranian flag as a decal; for Mexicans, serapes in the back window; for Chinese, red and gold good luck charms from the rear view mirror; for Jews, a mezuzah on the dashboard, and for Chevyists, a "fuck Ford" sticker on the bumper.

There's little doubt in my mind that the urban subcultures that have evolved around automobiles are going to have a real hard time adjusting in the years ahead. It would kind of be like Hinduism having to cope with a mass extinction of elephants. Maybe cars will become like trains, and parents will take their kids on buses or bikes to see the parking lot museum where the remnants of Hondas and Chryslers will lay, deteriorating under the sun. Okay, maybe not.

Who knows what the future holds once gasoline hits $5 a gallon? I hope for emptier streets where pedestrians can walk and not have to shout over engines to be heard. Oh yeah, and the only folks challenging each other to a friendly race to the next light will be bicyclists - you ready?

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