Sometimes I feel that if the world’s so small
That we can never get away from the sprawl,
Living in the sprawl,
Dead Shopping Malls rise like mountains beyond mountains,
And there’s no end in sight
We were in hell, folks. Only four hours into our trip and we were already in hell. It was the kind of hell that you can only know after trying to leave Los Angeles on a Friday during afternoon rush hour traffic. In four hours we had moved eighty miles. We were surrounded by suburbs on either side, and those ugly suckers stretched out as far as the eye could see in every direction.
It wasn't a pretty scene. The traffic itself was the worst kind you could ask for. A lot of people think the worst kind of traffic is the kind that never moves. Bullshit. At least you know where you stand with that kind. No, the worst kind of traffic is the kind that teases you. The kind that plays with your mind. The kind that gives you hope before stripping it away.You know the kind.
It's the kind where at least once every five minutes all the cars in front of you suddenly start moving faster. You try to peer out to see further down the road and you think it looks better than before, but you can't be sure.
So you gamble, you push on the gas just a little bit harder than usual, just to test the waters, and just as it looks promising, just as you think you can continue at this speed- BAM! a sea of red brake lights hits you right in the face.
And as you push down on the brake pedal for the millionth time you mutter to yourself that this is no way to live.
Not in a sprawl.
Not in a city that has grown so grotesque in size that its actual numbers in length are known by no man.
But I guess I couldn't feel too sorry for myself. It was I who chose to live here. And on some days I do enjoy it. But lately, I felt like I was suffocating. I felt like everyone in this damn town was trying to kill me. So I decided to get out for awhile.
Get out of dodge, as they say.
I should go to some place small, I thought, some place that has a city limit that actually means something. I could go to New Orleans. I have family there, they would let me stay with them. And isn't Jazzfest coming up? I've always wanted to experience that. OK, I decided, That's what I'm going to do.
But of course, I wouldn't fly out of the sprawl. Oh no, not me. I had to leave this town on my own terms, by ground. I had to go out to the most eastern point of this monster and see with my own eyes the exact spot where it dies off and turns into desert.
Oh, the desert. That's where I wanted to be. Above all else, above New Orleans, above Austin, I wanted to be in the desert. Nobody lives out in the desert. It's just cactus, rock, maybe a windmill or two, and all the empty space you could ask for.
That's where I needed to be.
So I started making plans. Then one day my friend heard about my plans and asked if he could join.
"Of course," I said. "We can use your car."
We decided we would leave on a Friday at five, the minute my friend got off work.
I knew that that was going be trouble but I just put it out of my mind. I'm escaping the sprawl, I kept telling myself. That's never easy.
And it wasn't easy.
It was hell.
And I almost lost it, no joke. I was honestly about to blow a gasket right there in my buddy's car.
I guess my friend could sense the volcano getting ready to blow, because he quickly decided to play some music, something relaxing.
"Have you heard Arcade Fire's new album?" He asked.
I told I hadn't, although I was a fan of some of their older work.
"Well you gotta check this out. It won the Grammy for best album of the year. And besides, they're going to be headlining Jazzfest this year. "
He played the first track off the album and I rested down in my seat, closed my eyes and listened. The name of the song was Suburbs, same name as the album, and man, was it fucking good.
I listened to every single song on that album with my eyes closed, it was as close as spiritual experience as you can hope to achieve on a LA highway during rush hour.
But it wasn't just the quality of the music that made this so special, I mean the music was beautiful, but it wasn't just that. It was also what they were singing about. It was what the album was about.
Living in the sprawl. Feeling trapped in a maze of never ending suburbs. Wanting so badly to escape, but feeling like it will never happen, could never happen.
In short, the album was dealing with the same shit I was dealing with, and even though neither of us were happy about it, there was a certain kind of peace to the album that I certainly didn't have. I wanted it though. I really did.
When the last song on the album ended I asked my friend to play the album again, from the beginning.
I kept my eyes closed and just listened to the music.
We were in the middle of listening to the third run-through of the album when I noticed that the car was no longer coming to a complete stop every twenty seconds. In fact, it felt like we were moving rather fast.
I opened my eyes and looked around.
"Hey buddy," My friend said when he saw me rise. "I would have told you but I thought you were sleeping."
I didn't reply. I just stared out the window. Then I hurriedly reached to the backseat for my back pack and pulled out my camera. I held the camera out of the passenger window and took a picture.
I immediately switched the camera to display mode and examined the photo I had taken.
Then I showed it to my buddy.
He laughed emphatically.
"We did it." He said in between laughs. "It almost killed us but we fucking did it."
We did, didn't we. I thought. And now we have the road trip of our lives to look forward to, and after that, New Orleans, Jazzfest, and Arcade Fire.
I suddenly felt like a little kid again. You know that feeling when there are so many new and exciting things going on at the same time that you really just can't even handle it so you just go and do something stupid because your a kid? Well that's how I felt.
But even though I may be a boy, I am not a kid, so I didn't do anything stupid. Instead I just looked out into the desert and thought about how great this moment was. And how great it was to know, that it's possible to escape the sprawl.