ANZIO Digital Over the Pond - November 2009

by Avram I. Stanton, freelance writer, USA.
Date: 7 November 2009

Golden State of California - Lincolnshire Magazine - LincsMag

Salutations from the Golden State of California!

Iíve been chosen as a guest writer at this fine publication for my wit, charm, skill with the written word, and I work for free. Actually, Iím not sure if any of those first qualifications are true, but the last seems to have hooked the job.

I work and play in sunny southern California, a land that from where I stand looks to be entirely paved from the deep blue Pacific straight on to the southern range of the Pacific Crest Mountains.

While Iím sure the readership in Lincolnshire has seen its fair share of urbanization and suburbanization, trust me, you havenít seen it like this.

Itís wall to wall city for nearly 100 miles north to south and the same east to west.

Iím employed by a commuter rail service that moves about 40,000 people a day out of a population of about 15 million. If I could describe the hustle and bustle of beyond the pictures you see, maybe you would have a better idea of this out of control love affair. Los Angeles and the greater LA basin is choked every day with millions of autos that flood out of every nook and cranny of the suburbs and constipate every six lane super highway to the point where a 15mph (thatís about 24 kph) crawl is the best youíll get. And thatís now, during the kick off to the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression; you should have seen it two years ago.

Itís wall to wall city in california - Lincolnshire Magazine - LincsMag

If there was any silver lining to this hellstorm of economic catastrophe youíd think it would be less traffic. No job, no drive, right?

Then again, with all the bailouts getting thrown around and unemployment benefits being extended at the largess of the working public, Iíd imagine that would leave quite a few people with a lot of free time on their hands. Free time that they apparently fill by clogging the motorways throughout the LA basin.

Now, my knowledge of the British way of vehicular possession is weak at best. I understand that vehicles are not allowed within certain city limits unless you have paid some sort of fee in order to use them. I suppose this is the sort of thinking that comes with living on an island. You donít want the whole damn place filled up with cars and trucks, right? Well, in the expansive landmass known as the North American continent, we Yankees have no concern for such trivial concerns. Motoring has become a culture unto itself.

Let me explain this fascinating aspect of American culture in better detail. Worshipping your automobile is not a fanatical thing in the States. In fact, a tangible part of the US economy is geared towards the temple on four wheels. Everything from oversized rims (commonly referred to as dubs or tims), flat panel televisions that drop down from the ceiling to even hot water shower systems are available to the motorist inclined enough to spend their hard earned dough. We buy accessories for our accessories. Granted, many automobile enthusiasts purchase go fast parts, cosmetic additions, or even a little hula girl for their vehicles (both in the US and abroad) in order to express their individual feelings about the world, traffic laws, or as I am about to expound upon, common sense.

pick-up for the survivalist - Golden State of California - Lincolnshire Magazine - LincsMag

Before we proceed it would only be fair for me to offer what sort of perambulator I use on a daily basis. The chunk of Detroit steel that I hurtle down the roads of southern California is a 1999 Dodge Ram 2500 4X4. It has a 5.9L Cummins turbo diesel and has a curb weight of something like 7600 lbs, or about 3400 kg. Itís as close to a commercial application passenger vehicle as you can get. My only defense in owning it is I am a survivalist and this sort of wagon does well in harsh environments.

But it does provide some insight into the culture I referred to earlier.

I own one of nearly half a million of these beastly trucks. Detroit produces about that many more of these 3 Ĺ ton monsters every model year for Chrysler alone. Ford and Chevrolet each have a truck with similar specifications for a total approaching 1.5 million, per year. So, it is not uncommon at all to wander about the states and see soccer moms driving trucks that should require some sort of special commercial license in order to operate.

Common sense would dictate that a Ford Superduty with a 12Ē lift kit sporting 44 inch tires is about as useless on a crowded highway as a TVR Speed 12. However, you will find just this sort of titanic metal monster barrelling out of control down one of the many interstate freeways within California on any given day of the week.

Thatís just one sort of highly modified vehicle you are sure to bump into on the roads where I live. Then there are the ďricersĒ. You may be familiar with the almost comical Japanese import cars adorned with what I call the grapefruit launcher exhaust systems, a shopping cart handle rear spoiler, and some sort of air dam hastily installed and lacking paint. Usually these vehicles are accompanied with a youthful driver still exploring the flexibility of traffic laws and a sound system capable of exceeding 140 db. Which all begs the question; why?

Do you need a truck that moonlights as heavy industrial machinery? Do you need a sports car lowered to the point that three stacked sheets of paper might have difficulty being slid underneath it? Or a car with $8000 rims? The answer is no, of course.

But we Americans have some sort of sickness when it comes to our vehicles. The length of time that weíve courted this mode of transportation combined with how critical they are to our way of life (for no other reason than our lack of investment in some other way to get around) has led to some sort of cognitive dissonance. We complain about the congestion on the roads, inflict ourselves with the leading cause of death in the nation, and yet when we are presented with the option of leaving the automobile behind we canít bear the thought of it. Till next time, see you on the other side of the pond.

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