There are some folks on the “other coast” in that “other” infamous city who claim that Los Angeles has no culture. I beg to differ. I think the problem lies in how one defines culture. We need to expand the idea of culture to include aspects of life other than museums, art galleries, ballet, and opera. Los Angeles is rich in culture if you are to include the art of driving a car. The mosaic of elements that comprise driving in LA include the kind of car you drive to how you get from one part of town to another to monitoring the progress of freeway construction Case in point: Ask anyone here to describe getting from the Westside to the Valley on the 405 freeway. On a good day this activity means that after you pass the Mulholland Drive exit, you notice huge white cumulus clouds that dot the perfect blue sky. The rays of the sun spotlight green San Gabriel mountains. And there is no back up on the transition road to the 101 West. Only relatively long-time residents of Los Angeles understand just how crucial this particular element is to defining the quality of the LA driving experience. Heck, in LA, this will also define the quality of your entire day! But more often than that, there IS a back up on the transition road to the west-bound 101. This can change everything. Driving then morphs from an art to a sport. First you have the “bad guy” team. This team consists of jerks and sneaks. The jerks are those people that head down the hill in the far left lane and then dash across four lanes of traffic at the last minute to get on the 101 transition road. Then you have the sneaks. These people nonchalantly drive in the first lane just to the left of the transition road, looking for an “opening.” But you decide to be on the “good guy” team, and having made an un-sense- of- entitlement decision, you wait in a line of bumper to bumper cars like “everybody else.” Being on the good guy team means everyone has to make a group defense. Much like the late great John Wooden and the just fired Ben Howland, you can’t win the basketball game unless you have a strong defense. So the “good guys,” like British soldiers in the revolutionary war, decide to make a wall. Making a wall means that as you inch down the hill you have to hug the bumper of the person in front of you. You watch the cars in line up ahead. you pray that everyone is guarding his/her position, leaving no room for the jerks and the sneaks to cut in line. But unfortunately, there will always be some gardener’s Datsun truck on it’s last legs with questionable breaks that leaves lots of room for one, sometimes two cars to cut in line. When that happens you let out a sigh, feeling like Charlie Brown in that classic bit with Lucy and football: you prepare to kick the football knowing full well that Lucy will remove the football a nano second before your foot is supposed to kick it, but you do it anyway.
If what I described above is not culture, I don’t know what is. And sometime in the future, when kids are sitting in their Sociology 101 class located in the Taco Bell Social Studies Building freshman year in college, they will study this phenomenon. And I hope my great-grandchild aces the midterm.