I’m a Freeway Baby! Can you imagine L.A. with no freeways and half as many cars? Well I can! Back in ’57, when I was growing up and had my Learner’s Permit, freeways were a concept with space age, visionary-styled vehicles, programmed destinations, no one steering, people playing Poker, reading, clipping their toenails, and doing anything but driving. No road rage. Hmmmm…I wonder whatever happened to that idea?


I can’t believe I practiced driving on my mother’s off-white ’49 Cadillac, which was no easy task because that was before power steering was invented and maneuvering that tank required significant upper-body strength. Training was challenging, starting with the driving teacher my mother had hired. Mr. Crookshank had a large purple growth on the right corner of his mouth, smoked a cigar, and rolled up all the windows. If I didn’t hit the brake just right, he would nudge my foot firmly with his cane. I was a quick learner and eager to try out my new skills on the first freeways being built from L.A. to the Valley and finally! the home stretch…the 10… straight through to the beach!


Cloverleafs gracefully linked those concrete beds, promising exhilarating, new adventures as we looped de loo’d and crisscrossed this city of the angels, our hormones racing with horsepower to kick us into freedom.


I inherited my sister Stephanie’s turquoise and white ’54 Chevy coupe, which was still heavy but sure cuter than the old Caddie, reeking of stale Ma Griffe and Chesterfields.


And then for my Sweet 16 I got a brand new ’58 robin’s-egg blue Chevy Impala convertible with white-wall tires and chrome wheels (BCE: Best Car Ever!). I went major cruising in my V-8, with the top down, heat blasting, and Chuck Berry singing “Rid’n along in my automobile…with no particular place to go.”


How did my mother Stella know I had driven to Laguna with my best friend Phyllis Sicola who I called Pepsi Cola? It was a combination of stupidity and innocence: gas credit card bills went to her…not manna from heaven. I was oblivious to the gathering thunderclouds about how we were ripping off our earth’s resources and poisoning ourselves. Delayed guilt. Immediate gratification.


Ah yes! I’m moving in my blue cocoon and doing the Car Ballet with all the other dancers as we weave in and out, sensing the perfect time to merge and surge by what seems like osmosis (that’s scary!) It was quality time with myself, singing along, dancing in my seat to the radio or my favorite tapes. I could take off up the coast, through Big Sur to Mendocino, visit friends, and feel no pain. I’m in total sync and feeling free all the way…free way!


Driving puts me in the zone.


Even though LA’s rap-metal band Rage Against The Machine prompted an early closing of Wall Street as Y2K was ushered in, it didn’t dampen my passion for my newest ‘machina’ … Black Beauty…a smooth, strong, shiny Lexus, fully loaded with CD player and XM, totally wired into Image and Power. Only to be replaced 6 years later by a 2006 Infiniti M-35…a cross between my Black Beauty and a BMW with more bells and whistles then I have time to figure out…plus it’s built like a Mac Truck as it took the hit instead of my body, when I stopped at a red light and an MTA bus didn’t! … slamming into my back end.


After $34,000 in repair costs, this ballerina danced away and is still cruising…miraculously separated from tons of steel hurtling towards her fast charcoal grey, sleek feline by a few painted yellow lines, some Botts Dots, and changing lights.



 

CARLA FISCHER

CAR BALLET


May 14, 2008

If I have learned anything it is that life forms no logical patterns. It is haphazard and full of beauties which I try to catch as they fly by, for who knows whether any of them will ever return? -Margot Fonteyn

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