Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Five

I have a request to write a poem for the 5 freeway. I might tell about the dog I rescued that wandered out between cars or the time I got a ticket for going too slow because my mother was in the back seat yelling that I was going too fast. However the first never happened and the second occurred on the 10 freeway…which must be twice a good as the 5.

As freeways go, the 5 is one of the few single digit ones I have known. The number 1 wins the prize for being so scenic one can die happily driving over the cliff. The 2 is stuck in Glendale and the 5 is notable for being the shortest but dullest route to the Bay area. It is so boring one has to plan ahead with loud music and stimulants.

In fact I can’t recall ever driving on the 5 unless it was that time I made a wrong turn and ended up on the road to Bakersfield. That might be the way Bakersfield was settled; by folks with no sense of direction.

Why do they post signs on freeways announcing distant destinations? Is that the work of visionaries intended for people who want to get as far away from here as possible? Bakersfield? Sacramento? I expect one to direct me to Patagonia or the polar ice cap.

If I lived in Lancaster or Palmdale, God forbid, it might be my favorite freeway, too, but I’m willing to live out my remaining decades without calling the Antelope Valley my home. The 5 Freeway receives most attention for the stretch known as the Grapevine as in I heard it on the…. It becomes a headline in the holiday season when thousands of travelers are stuck there for 48 hours due to black ice and fog. Seems like a good location for a soup kitchen.

A friend told me she and her husband found themselves on it during a sand-storm, getting off just before a multi-car pile-up. They pulled into a Mobil Station where she wanted to use the restroom. Upon leaving the car the wind started to carry her off. She wrapped herself around a gas pump till her husband rescued her. Never again on the five, she vows

As my mind goes south, I think how the five goes under the name, Golden State Freeway, and then the Santa Ana Freeway and finally it’s what happens to the 405 when it approaches San Diego. How can I love a freeway which can’t decide what to call itself?

I expect we all have a love/hate relationship with the freeway that gets us to and fro. I’m thankful I don’t need the 710 or 605 which specialize in jack-knifed big rigs or the 101 or 10 approaching downtown which inch sport fans to the Coliseum, Staples’ Center and Dodger Stadium.

My favorite is the Marina Freeway on a Sunday morning or any other time. It has only two exits and I could put up with anything for that long.

Sorry, my friend, I tried but have no ode in me, just few stanzas of off-ramps and a fender-bender for a heroic couplet.

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