A true Los Angeles native knows that life without a car is no life at all. This L.A. transplant of 20 years whose coming of age happened in the great City of Angels couldn’t agree more. She would also learn that life without Los Angeles is hard to imagine.
To love L.A. is to drive it. Even when you can’t get a license, an undocumented Angelino/a finds a way. We were certainly forced to find one after 1994 when licenses stopped being issued for folks without papers (although that has recently changed with legislation granting California Driver’s Licenses for Undocumented Residents).
Oh, yes! I remember the first car I drove. This car was what we call a carcacha, it definitely looked like a clunker; but on my last year of college it spared me the agony of the daily commute from my home in South Central L.A. to the San Fernando Valley, and back. On a good day I would spent four hours hopping on three buses and a metro. With that kind of commute I was certainly no friend of the Los Angeles public transportation system, but I was determined to get a college education and 30 miles were not going to get in my way. No way! Besides, the long rides gave me time to do my homework or take a nap, my antidote to a normalized sleep deprived life style.
When my dad had enough savings to buy me a car, it didn’t matter it was a vehicle that looked as it was ready to head to the car graveyard. In its past life, it had survived an accident that left a dent on the door on the driver’s side, but any repairs done to it didn’t remove the evidence that it was a survivor, like me. It had a missing window that was usurped by a type of plastic that was good enough to look like a glass window, but it distorted the driver’s view, giving it a blurred vision effect that made driving it either bit interesting or hazardous, depending on the type of driver you are. As long as I never had to take it any place where valet parking was required, I was good to go!
This minivan made me fall in love with Los Angeles, its multiculturalism, diversity, gentrification and segregation, all for the price of one. It took me everywhere I needed to go and become the car that made me a happy and fearless driver on the 101/405 FWYs. In my post-college years, so much of my life was dependent on my car. Going to work meetings, road trip to Las Vegas with my family to spend the holidays, rushing to meet my friends for happy hour, even grocery shopping.
After graduation, I upgraded by purchasing my first car, a red Camry Toyota that allowed me to continue my driving relationship with LA. This one survived a Freeway accident and an immigration persecution. Yeah, the one where I was stopped on my way to work. I’m sure my car will never forgive the officers for forcing me to leave it stranded in the middle of the street to be towed away. The bloody bastards!