Monthly Archives: December 2014

I Lost My Muffler in Flagstaff, Arizona

I Lost My Muffler in Flagstaff, Arizona
I Lost My Muffler in Flagstaff, Arizona

I Lost My Muffler in Flagstaff, Arizona

A snowy mountaintop near Flagstaff, Arizona, my rusty old Ford Escort, eighty-something, model year and mileage: that mountain would eat my muffler.

Way back in the twentieth century, before the Internet was something for MIT students, before cell phones could even flip, when tax forms were retrieved at post offices and libraries and snail-mailed to the IRS, long ago in the nineteen-nineties, when current contestants on American Idol were just being born and Friends wasn’t on the air, broadcast air, yet, it was a great adventure to travel America’s Interstate system; built primarily during the Eisenhower administration in case of attack by the USSR. It was true freedom. No one could reach you unless you wanted them to; truck stops were your home as you moved across the great North American Continent in rugged individualism, sort of, we did have credit cards and pay phones.

This was my great escape to Southern California. From the Northeast, crossing through Ontario, Canada, passports weren’t needed then, through the snow to the great planes, to the glorious red ridges of New Mexico that left me breathless, the grand feeling of wonder and awe at my forebears who came across the Atlantic to America, the harsh yet beautiful landscape reshaping our souls. As I came closer to the City of Angeles, Jerusalem and Mecca of my dreams, America for Americans: the great Los Angeles – I lost my muffler on a stretch of I-40, mimicking the old Route 66, that left me thinking about the Donner party and being eaten by cannibals hold-up in a deserted hotel that seemed out of a Stephen King novel on the side of the road.

The muffler had neither the decency nor the grace to just fall off the car. No, it had to be welded like bolts in a battleship on one end, and rusted through on the other, throwing sparks off the pavement in the glistening, pink twilight glinting through the majestic Ponderosa Pine trees and casting a melancholy mauve off the new, just fallen snow. I had to pull over before I actually blew the car up with the electric spray threatening the gas tank. Hiking to a nearby hotel to call for the Auto Club, the hotel being the only seeming business around for miles, the air became biting cold, the kind that can break off toes and finger if you’re not careful – and it’s hopeless to stop your nose from running and it just ends up freezing into baby icicles.


Then I saw it: “Closed for the Season.”


Desolate and abandoned, the strange nineteen-forties era hotel didn’t even have the effervescence to even seem haunted.

I went back to the car and fought to get the rotted muffler off that car. It was me – or the muffler – and it wasn’t going to be me.

The Five Stages of Grief Driving in Los Angeles

The Five Stages of Grief Driving in Los Angeles
The Five Stages of Grief Driving in Los Angeles

The Five Stages of Grief Driving in Los Angeles

-Dying is Easy: Driving is Hard


Perhaps you’ve never driven in Los Angeles. It’s probably the one thing that should be on the bucket list of all licensed drivers to prepare for that day we actually do all face the great beyond, the unknown country, that great HOV lane in the sky. The five stages of grief, famously delineated by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, are experienced on any drivable surface in L.A. County on any given day.

One – Denial

It’s really not that bad. This on-ramp is always busy. The traffic will break up and it will be freewheeling in fifth all the way to Downtown.

Two – Anger

Oh, for God’s sake! Why don’t BMWs come with turn signals? Why do we put up with this? I’m writing a strongly worded letter to City Council and the Governor. – Then comes the ritual yelling and cursing while wishing for a giant asteroid to hit Earth and wipe us all out already.

Three – Bargaining

If I go down Melrose to Vermont, pick up Figueroa, then go north to go south, I should be able to make it in time – if I have decent parking karma. Why is SIRI taking me to Chinatown?

Four – Depression

My life is being wasted sitting in traffic. It’s bad for the car, the environment, me, international political stability, and is cutting into my television time. Why do we have to drive to the doctor’s office anyway? I’d be happy to send in a urine sample, if the Post Office allows it. And aren’t we supposed to stay in when we’re sick?


And finally:


Five – Acceptance


This is L.A. Being angry about gridlock is like being angry about tectonic plate drift. Eventually this highway will be underwater and the fish will be complaining.