On Wednesday, I took my legally polluting car to a trip to Los Angeles. Driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles involves mostly driving on highway 5, or, more or less, going straight for a few hundred miles. One starts from San Francisco, with its 65 degrees in the summer, its environmentalist car mechanics, and its dramatic hills, and suddenly one finds himself into a plain desert (not desert as in having few people, but desert as in sandy desert) with 105 degrees. Further ahead, highway 5 cuts through more fertile, but still very hot, rural areas. It is impossible to understand California politics, the election of Reagan and Schwarzenegger as governors, the passing of Proposition 22 and Proposition 209, the 45% of votes for Bush in 2004, without realizing that there are a lot of Californians who do not live in big cities or in University towns, and who do not hate our freedoms.
This may not be a novel observation, but Los Angeles is big. In San Francisco, and certainly in Manhattan, the size of a neighborhood is defined, in part, by walking distance. If you cannot walk between two places, then it would not occur to consider them “close.” Here an apartment advertised as being close to the beach, say, may easily be farther from the beach than the Mission is far the Marina (these are two neighborhoods in San Francisco that are antipodal in character and quite geographically far as well), or even farther than San Francisco is from Oakland. So far I have driven just between Santa Monica, Westwood, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and Fairfax, already an exceedingly vast area, and, on an LA map, this is all but a sliver of the city. (In fact, these are all places that are “close” to each other.)
I have decided to live in Santa Monica, near the 3rd Street Promenade, a stretch of a few blocks that is closed to traffic and is pedestrian-only. Pedestrians? In LA? I was surprised too, but I am getting the impression that it’s all tourists. By the way, in Santa Monica there is a group of five streets named after famous universities: there is Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford and Berkeley. No MIT.