Highway 39 links Huntington Beach to the 405 and 5 freeways in Orange County. It’s straight and it’s long and though it’s eight lanes wide, the width of each lane makes the entire road as big as any freeway. Los Angeles gets a bad rap for being sprawled out. It’s more a collection of tight neighborhoods divided by fairly prominent landmarks: the Valley, Hollywood Hills, Santa Monica Mountains, and Downtown.
Orange County is good old fashioned sprawl.
I get anxiety in a lots of odd but sort of understood places. Drop me at a party without a best friend and you’ll quickly find me squatting on a couch with a beer not talking to anyone, or up in a tree doing pretty much the same. At work whenever I have a phone call or a manager wants to talk to me my heart beat elevates and I sweat, all within the span of a ten seconds. It’s just apart of me. I deal with it fine but it’s there.
I didn’t expect this.
There wasn’t any traffic on highway 39. Not enough to cause that sort of stress. The road was almost too empty in fact. I passed drive-through Starbucks and drive through Subways. Every building had enough parking spaces to house a convention. Every building. No exceptions. The road was so wide I started making parabolas with my car just to see how wide I could go. It was wide and it was open and yet somehow I couldn’t see a fucking thing.
Have you driven the desert? Or have you driven through the midwest? It’s open and it’s flat as well but somehow it’s different. I could be a nature asshole and say the concrete is the difference but I don’t think that’s just it. I think it works more on a cerebral level. Huntington Beach and much of the San Fernando Valley are claustrophobically open. There’s no tower around you and yet you are trapped. Any mountain is an unseen distance. Any building isn’t much more than 100 yards away.
There simply isn’t much there.
And what’s there is…what’s there is…listen, I’m sorry, the whole fucking place is concrete and asphalt. The buildings are drab and gray. I already said it once but they have drive through Subways. DRIVE-THROUGH SUBWAYS. I went to an Albertons’s and the parking lot was bigger than any I could find near the Staples Center. One percent of the spots were taken. The Alberton’s itself? Just as big. All of it filled with shit that probably takes a week to sell.
It is a land of wasted space. A land created so nobody–NOBODY–will ever have to wait in line at any moment in their life. It’s a land made to alleviate stress. And so all it did was stress me out and make me want to drive my car through the parking lot and pull a Blues Brothers. Does anyone else feel like this in certain places?
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© 2013 Christopher Dart