Guck (gucky) wrote,

Nobody walks in LA

A few years ago, a gas pipe line blew up San Bruno, just south of here, along the same pipe line that runs beneath our neighborhood. So Pacific Gas and Electric is ripping up the streets all around us every four feet and putting in new giant pipes - in the sidewalk, in the crosswalks, in the street. And they fill up the holes with sticky, loose asphalt, which I'm sure makes us look from space like a coupon neighborhood to be cut along the dashed lines. But also makes it smell like tarry asphalt as I walk the dog, as I try to avoid the mess, muck and tar. But the smell.

The smell of sulfur and asphalt baked in the sun is immediately the smell of so many years ago, of the La Brea Tar Pits of my childhood. A sad downtown tourist attraction where I could press my face into chain link to stare at concrete mammoths forever trying to pull themselves free of a lake of tar in the middle of LA - a baby mammoth calling out to its mother drowning with an dirty Big Gulp cup at her side.

There's a museum there now. Maybe there always was one. But I don't remember the museum before my adult years. I just remember standing at the bus stop, the smell of tar, standing next to a monument to the horror of drowning alive in sinking tar taking over a block in the largest city I'd ever seen. Low riders and business folks driving past the mammoth family, oblivious to their eternal call for someone, anyone, to rescue them as the city itself swallowed them one by one. And my nightmares, dreams about the crosswalk, the sidewalk, the grass suddenly becoming seeping pools of tar that I would never be able to pull my feet from. And the rude teens standing by, throwing trash over the fence to see if they could make it sink, which will someday to be recovered as its own time capsule of 7-11 wrappers of the late 20th century.

The LA of the '80s stunk of petroleum. The derricks in the south pumped oil of some sort from the ground like miniature versions of oil fields from TV, but less grand because they were wedged between highway overpasses and broken down trailers. The sticky, black tar balls from the oil refinery washed up on the shores of the beaches, clinging to the bottom of your feet, requiring your dad to siphon a bit of someone's gasoline to remove before you climbed back in the car - but don't get near his cigarette. The community service worker going door to door, warning you not to eat the berries that grew from the bushes or the lemons that fell from the trees thanks to the lead in the air drifting from the Hollywood Freeway that shusshed us to sleep. The headlights, the tail lights, the giant boat-like cars that made you nod out in the back seat with their creamed air carbon monoxide leaks through the rusted floor boards and duct taped exhaust pipes. And the stench of the La Brea tar pits in the hot sun.

Oh, how I miss it.
  • Post a new comment


    Comments allowed for friends only

    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded