Posts Tagged topanga

The bright stuff

As I mentioned before in this space, I take the winding roads of Topanga and Old Topanga Canyon to and from work on most days.  Depending on the time of year and time of day, I often have to use my brights on Old Topanga when coming home.  I know the road well by now, but it’s really dark and the extra light makes a hell of a difference when no other cars are around.

Being the courteous driver I am, I’m always super concerned about turning off the brights immediately upon seeing an oncoming car somewhere in the distance.  Their lights give them away usually a turn (or half a turn) before our paths meet, so I often have ample time to avoid blinding someone on the steep and windy road.  Aren’t I sweet?

Here’s what I’ve noticed though recently: I have the power to make other cars appear.  (My lovely wife might already be thinking, “The world doesn’t work that way” even before reading my explanation, and she’s right of course, but hear me out.  And honey, my sitting position absolutely affects how well the Lakers are playing – I’m not giving up on that one.  Though I should really be looking for new sitting positions since they’ve all been failing recently).  Much like my ability to make a rainy day sunny by leaving my sunglasses in the car, my usage of brights dictates whether or not I’ll be alone on Old Topanga.  Here, in all of blog’s glory, are how my powers manifest themselves:

Every car I’ve ever driven (to my knowledge) has had two ways to turn on the brights. (Sorry, another tangent.  I like the name “brights.”  It’s like two car makers were sitting around right after the variable-intensity bulbs were put into the first car and had a conversation.  “So we have our new and improved headlights,” said one, “complete with the ability to make them brighter when needed.”  “We should call them something,” said the second.  “The variable bulbs?” asked the first.  “No, just the brighter lights themselves.  You know, they’re not just regular lights; they also transform into super lights.”  “I see,” the first replied.  “But what should we call them?  We have lights and brighter lights.  Super lights? By golly, old chap, I think I’ve got it.   Lights and…brights!”  “Yeah…I’m not so sure about that.  I see where you’re going with the whole adjective-into-noun thing, and it’s good, but it might be a little confusing,” said the second.  “No, this is good stuff!  Why do you always have to be like that?  Is it because my dad owns the company and you think I get special treatment or something?  Is it because of that time by the lake when we had a little too much wine and things got a little weird and confusing?  Because I told you, that…that was an accident and won’t happen again.  I hardly even remember it and totally don’t think about it on dark and lonely nights.  Oh yeah, brights! We were talking about brights!  We’re going with that name.  My dad’s the boss.  Ya know, fuck you and the high horse you rode in on.  I’m tired of this shit.  Unless you wanna go to the lake again this weekend like old times?  Yeah, me neither.  I was just kidding anyway.”  I’m pretty sure it went down exactly like that.)  Wow, where was I?  Ah yes, two ways to turn on brights: you pull the lever toward you for the temporary version, or push it away from you until it pops into the lasting version.  Here is what I’ve learned: if I keep the lever pulled toward me in the temporary fashion, I will come across 0-2 cars during my whole time on that road.  As soon as I think, “It’s easier if I just leave them on” and push the lever away from me, I’ll see approaching headlights and need to turn them off.  It happens within seconds every time I do that.  I can make cars appear.  Keep holding the short-term brights, and it’s just me and the occasional coyote that crosses my path (which is why I really do need them).  Turn on the long-term ones, and it’s a frickin’ party in Old Topanga.

There.  I feel better now getting that off my chest.  It’s a burden having powers and not sharing them with others, so thank you for being there for me.  If you even need a car to appear on a dark road, a rainy day to turn sunny, or for the Lakers to keep playing at the same level of success or lack thereof, you know where to find me.  Have a great weekend.

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Topanga Canyon = Communist Russia

I’ll say this up front: I think of a lot of strange things, and not all of them work.  This might be one of those times, but that’s never stopped me before.

Last week, I was taking the long and winding road (cue music) to work named Topanga Canyon.  For those of you unfamiliar with this road, it’s about 10.5 miles of one-lane twists and turns that take you up and down a mountain in order to avoid the 405.  On this particular trip, the events that unfolded left me likening them to the machinations of a totalitarian state.  I don’t know if Communist Russia is actually the best example, but since I just read a three-book series set in that environment, it’s the one that first came to mind.  (Incidentally, those books also made me dream about denouncing my family as Western spies, but that’s neither here nor there.)

I was driving along at a decent speed, a happy worker bee in the system.  Before long, I saw the cars up ahead were moving a little more slowly.  The reason was clear: a pickup truck wasn’t going as fast as others would like.  The pickup truck was our leader, though we had no say in the matter and never collectively chose him to be our #1.  Because of his position of power, he set the pace for the rest of the cars, and there were now five of us behind him (with me in the #4 spot).  After just a minute or so in this situation, it was clear that the proletariat – oops, I mean the cars behind him – were getting unhappy.  The car directly behind the truck got a little closer to it, expressing his displeasure and encouraging the truck to use one of the turnouts.  The rest of us followed suit, each inching closer to the car in front of us to send the clear signal to the truck that we were in solidarity.  The truck wasn’t having any of it.  Though likely fully aware of the unrest in the masses, he stuck to his guns and refused to cede control of the road.  Meanwhile, the rest of us were bonding and growing more hostile by the minute.  A turnout would go by unused, and we’d all throw up a hand as if to say, “Come on, man!”   Minutes went by, and our collective frustration grew.  We felt oppressed by the absolute nature of his rule, but we were no longer going to resign ourselves to the tyranny.  After another couple of turns, some polite-ish honks and “move over” gestures started (none by me, but I appreciated my comrades – er, fellow commuters – taking further action).  Still nothing happened.  The truck ruled with an iron… whatever the car equivalent to a fist is.  The message was clear: “I’m in charge.  This is how slowly I want to drive.  You can’t do shit about it.  So suck it.”  Just like Stalin, am I right?

Another minute later, and the truck’s left turn signal went on.  Not the right one, which would’ve indicated the use of a turnout, but the left, meaning he was turning.  This was no abdication of the throne, and he stuck to the pillars of his regime until the very end.  He then made his turn, and you could practically hear the cars rejoicing.  What a coup!  The will of the people had prevailed!  The euphoria was palpable as our collective speed shot up another 10mph or so.

As the new #1 moved along, something changed.  You see, at first we only had the pickup truck as a point of comparison.  In that regard, the new #1 was doing a great job.  Slowly though, that car (a silver Mercedes) became judged on his own merit rather than just being celebrated for his “anyone but that pickup truck” status.  He now had to deal with being the leader and the pressures that come along with that position of power.  Only a minute or two into his reign, the car behind him moved in closer.  New #2 (a tan sedan) had a taste of revolution, and he wasn’t prepared to give that up yet.  He had ambition, and #1 was his only obstacle on his road to glory.  Closer and closer he got, the Lieutenant who dreamed to be the General.  I could sense #1’s fear by the way he drove: he sped up on the straight-aways to try to prove his worthiness, but he wasn’t comfortable taking the turns fast enough to keep the overzealous sedan off his ass.  He wasn’t cut from the same cloth as the pickup truck.  Instead, his rule was anything but absolute, always keeping a careful eye on the underlings he once led and wondering when he’d have to use the white flag equivalent of the turn signal.

But not today, my friends.  Though I felt like the driver’s hand was probably already moving toward the signal lever, the traffic gods intervened.  We were literally reaching the end of the road, and there would be no more revolting on this day.  We made it to Pacific Coast Highway, and everyone went on their respective ways to their respective destinations.  Whether it was to work, home, or to run an errand, it didn’t matter.  What mattered was that after 10.5 miles comprised of tyrannical oppression, the unification and rise of the masses, a bloodless revolution, the dawn of a new era, an internal threat from an old ally, and a thwarted coup d’etat, we were all free.  The ocean had never looked so beautiful.

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