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“Anyone on foot in suburban California is one of four things: poor, foreign, mentally ill, or jogging.”

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Hari Kunzru, in his new novel, Transmission.

Having been on foot in L.A. for many years – let’s see, four years of undergrad at UCLA, then four more years of med school, then internship, then another year before I finally broke down and bought my very first car ever, I am one who can say, “not necessarily.”

Though there are those among you who would, respectfully or not, disagree. But I digress.

My first car remains my favorite of all the many cars I have had. This is in contrast to my first girlfriend, who, though I loved her madly, is not my favorite.

My first car was a huge white Buick Skylark convertible that I bought from a guy in West Hollywood, whose boyfriend said it just looked too ugly parked in the driveway next to their house.

Appearances are important, don’t we know? As Oscar Wilde said, “Only the shallow judge by more than appearances.”

Anyway, that big Buick got about 6 blocks to a gallon. You could almost watch the gas gauge go down if you looked real close while you were flying down the freeway at 90.

And that baby could fly. Man, it had a zillion horses and tons of steel keeping it steady. When I’d go out in the morning and first look at it, it almost seemed like an aircraft carrier.

The girl I was going out with at the time loved it. She nicknamed it “The Thrasher.” Perfect.

The thing was, even though I was piss-poor on arrival in L.A. from Milwaukee, fresh off the plane with my two steamer trunks from the Army-Navy surplus store, holding everything I owned, I had enough money from loans and scholarships to buy a car if I’d wanted one.

It just seemed far too much trouble.

Besides, the traffic, to this midwestern boy fresh from the Dairy State, was frightening.

So I managed to get around using a combination of my bicycle, walking, buses, cabs, hitchhiking, and friends for 10 years.

Sure, lots of times I was miserable.

But that’s then, and not now.

And I sure saw a lot of weird, impossibly bizarre shit as I made my way among the “poor, foreign, mentally ill, or jogging.”

For the most part, Kunzru’s right on.

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  • JR

    Ah, but Kunzru covers himself by throwing in “suburban”. I don’t think Westwood is the suburbs; it’s fairly self-contained aside from a lack of hardware stores (apparently UCLA students aren’t interested in home-improvement projects).

  • palisades

    I dont think Westwood, Brentwood, Bel Air, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Hollywood, Century City, Santa Monica, Hollywood Hills, Pacific Palisades, Hancock Park, and other areas of West Los Angeles, where a UCLA boy move around, can be called suburban California, not really. What about Whittiers or San Bernardino, Anaheim or Chino, Fullerton or Agoura Hills, Pasadena or Northridge, Long Beach or Dana Point??? I think the boy is right but in the wrong location, like bad Burbank´s films!!!!