Monday, December 21, 2009
When I was growing up, my family took two trips a year, one in summer, one in winter. Lucky us, we found the four corners of the earth in North America, so our mode of transportation never varied. No planes or trains, strictly automobile.
It’s fair to say our family suffered in the area of short term memory. Weeks before each trip we’d be bouncing off the ceiling with excitement, forgetting the hours, days, we’d spend on the freeway, trapped in a car with each other and dire consequence. We’d forget Dad would lose his explosive temper, mom would take blame for navigational mishaps, and we kids, confined in the back seat, would bicker, pinch, scratch, bite, and sucker punch one another until somebody finally cracked and took a grievance to the front seat. We kept that wheel spinning until...
“You want me to pull off the road now? Is that what you want? You want me to turn this car around and go home? Is that what you want?”
Last week I walked a length of the Foothill Freeway -- the Freeway that splits Pasadena in half and claims responsibility for some of the city’s current prosperity and decay.
During the 1960’s and 70’s, the interstate designers and engineers were kings. They promised and delivered freedom to families such as mine. We reciprocated by hitting the open road and patronizing whatever towns came between us and the Grand Canyon.
Interstates were designed for travel -- to distract and delight the car-bound family with hillside vistas and the comfort of a six or eight-lane freeway. Interstate designers wanted us to see the USA in a Chevrolet, or a Ford or a Mercedes. These great freeway architects and engineers, they cared about us; they wanted to create the best ride and views their boundless popularity and power and our money could buy.
They cared about us, but only so long as we stayed in the car.
They cared about us least when we were at home. Particularly if that home stood in their way.