We touched down at the Oakland, California airport a week ago Wednesday (July 9). I was curious – has the price of gasoline changed California’s famously maniacal driving habits? I was here to find out.
Actually, I was here to go to a wedding (see I’m Going To California), but I was still curious to see how Californians, with their wondrous skewed materialism and idealism all slushed together, were facing peak oil. The cost of housing has driven folk right out to the outer outer suburbs. Towns that used to be artichoke centers or desert spas are full of new subdivisions and professionals who drive 85 miles to work every morning. That’s the distance between San Francisco and Stockton, once an affordable community for San Francisco wannabes who couldn’t afford to buy there. Or it was popular until their mortgage balloon payments called the game.
Unemployed writer and ponderer that I am, I can afford to sneer, but I don’t. We’re all stuck in this shit, one way or the other.
Patrushka and I grabbed BART to downtown San Francisco – where you can rent a car for half the price at the airport, and off we buzzed towards the great Beach Boys California to the south. Good Vibrations, here we come.
The Eyesore Freeway as far as Gilroy is still crammed with giant SUVs hitting 80 miles an hour on their way to somewhere dead important before it’s too late, leaving the Pondering Pig in his rental Dodge Caliber inhaling their carbon dust. $4.85 a gallon? Pigeon feed. I got lunch with Steve Jobs. Let’s roll!
There’s next to no clunkers on the road, so maybe the $4.85 a gallon has affected the beatniks, layabouts, and other troublemakers who know how to enjoy the coast, but now that I think about it – there never were many clunkers on the Eyesore – this piece of Highway 101 is in the land of big salaries and young cats with two Mercedes and a Hummer in their three car garages. OK, there’s still the odd gardener burning oil down the Eyesore on his way to the next job, but that cat’s driving a gas-conscious 60.
Me too. This rental car has cruise control, we got the time and I want to look around.
Gad, I hate to write this. But I am sworn to the truth, no matter how much it costs: the California coast in July is just as beautiful, just as near perfect as it ever was, even looking out a Caliber car window. Oh man, why didn’t I rent that white Mustang convertible instead? I need the top down to watch the wind tousling my baby’s hair. As soon as we hit the eucalyptus groves north of Salinas, the years melted away, my hair grew out down over my shoulders, the pounds melted off and I popped a Coca-Cola, the kind with sugar. And Patrushka, my gosh, she looks fab in that bikini next to me, just like she did when I first fell in love with her in the spring of 1969.
Maybe if we think and wish and hope and pray it might come true
Baby, then there wouldn’t be a single thing we couldn’t do –
We could be married!
And then we’d be happy!
Wouldn’t it be nice?
We stopped for lunch in Pismo Beach. Is this guy still selling these things?
You know what? I sat down to write a nice self-righteous diatribe against people still living a sybarite lifestyle with the apocalypse nearly upon us – but damn it, this is California and the myth is just too big to see over. I’m getting those good vibrations! I can’t raise up the required sourpuss-ness.
Say, isn’t that the curve where James Dean bought it in his Porsche Spyder one afternoon in 1955? And isn’t that Dead Man’s Curve, that place you won’t come back from? And look, isn’t that where that guy in the black denim trousers and motorcycle boots and a black leather jacket with an eagle on the back bought it on the railroad tracks? And, my gosh, that’s exactly where Brian Wilson’s girl made him come alive, made him want to drive in Don’t Worry, Baby! Hey Patrushka, stop slathering yourself with Sea ‘N Ski. Let’s roll! We got a wedding in Santa Barbara!