On two occasions this week I've found myself on the 101 after dark. Once, returning from a trip to Santa Barbara with the family, the second driving a new friend back to their home in Reseda.
I've come to realize that I've missed a few things and not even realized it. One, I've missed driving at freeway speeds. My morning commute in the carpool lane maybe gets up to 35. My evening commute, not that fast. Two, I miss driving my car. Most of the time I drive my wife's small SUV; I don't get much time behind the wheel of my Intrepid. Three, I miss driving after dark. Married with a kid kind of limits how often one can just get on the road at 11, 12, 1 or 2 am. It just doesn't happen, it's too hard to find a solid reason. And finally, as much to my surprise as anyone's, I miss the valley.
As I've moved further and further east, I've left the big city for small towns. Small towns like Glendale, Pasadena, Monrovia and all the drive-throughs like Arcadia, Duarte and the rest. The problem with these small towns is that they're trying hard to stay small towns. This self-aware-ness is frigging annoying. To make matters worse, we ended up living in the county, not even in a city at all.
I've tried to think about what would make me miss the valley. That's a little bit tougher, it's not something I can really put my finger on, but I can try. I think there's a sensibility that's different. Instead of a self-contained organism, it's part of a larger whole. It's a little more gritty, a little less controlled. I think the valley is more REAL.
And another thing... in my old hood, the hills belonged to everyone. Around here, it's all flat lands. Where there are hills, they're just residential neighborhoods where people wealthier than us live. Sure, we couldn't afford any of the houses on the hills of the valley, either, but roads criss-cross the hills taking you to other fun places like Hollywood, Beverly Hills and so on.
Around here, to go anywhere, we jump up to the 210 and go east or west. From my old haunts in Sherman Oaks, depending on where I was going, I could take the 101 or the 405, or catch a flight over the hill via Mulholland or other cross-valley paths.
In the mid-90's, the valley was home. Say what you will, it was a nice home.