The look on the receptionist’s face told me I had said something wrong. It was a maternal expression, like that of an elderly woman who has found her grandkid outside in the cold with a runny nose but no jacket. There was genuine concern in her eyes, but her pursed lips suggested a certain annoyed disbelief: Just what were you thinking, if you were thinking at all?
“You don’t have a car?” she asked, accusingly.
“I don’t have a car,” I replied.
It was my first day at a new job, and I had taken the bus that morning. That bus took me to a subway—a futuristic train that goes underneath Los Angeles in order to get from one place to another—so I didn’t need a car, just like I didn’t need the people’s history of the local parking situation she had graciously given me. Seriously, the subway is, like, right over there.
She nodded her head and forced a smile the way tourists do when they don’t understand a word you are saying.
This happens almost daily: We, the car-less of Los Angeles, must confess our lack of an automobile as if it were a character defect on par with betting on dogfighting. You risk being judged not only at your workplace but at the supermarket, where the teenage bagger asks if you need any help carrying those boxes of generic cereal out to your four-wheeled expression of self. Having a car shows that you have the financial means to own a car. Not having a car makes people assume you live at home and have an unhealthy relationship with your mother—and as sexy local singles say, that’s a deal-breaker.
So it’s a bit heretical when I say I like not having a car. It’s actually rather nice to leave the driving to someone else and not have to worry about steering your personal air-conditioned death box at 70 miles an hour on a freeway full of idiots—and hundreds of thousands of people in the LA metro region agree with me on this. Sure, it takes a bit longer to get somewhere—30 minutes instead of 15—but you also don’t have to spend 20 minutes circling the block for parking whenever you go out. And there are buses and trains that go almost anywhere, and by taking them you free yourself from worry about car payments, parking tickets, and DUIs.
You also don’t need to worry about getting mutilated in a horrific car accident. According to the US government, more than 2.3 million people were injured and 33,500 died on America’s roads in 2012. For people in the US between the ages of one and 44, motor vehicles are the leading cause of death. Avoid driving on a freeway and you significantly reduce your chance of being injured or killed on one.
Should America Double Its Exports of Coal, the World’s Dirtiest Fossil Fuel?
Somewhere outside Ferndale, Washington—after following a series of backcountry roads through rolling pastures and fertile farmland dotted with goats and llamas—I reached a sign warning: “No Trespassing, Violators Will Be Prosecuted,” that marks the presumed far outer edge of the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal.
If approved and built, the massive, $600 million facility will ship at least 59.5 million tons of coal per year to Asia, doubling US exports of the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel. To effectively feed the beast, nine trains per day, each one-and-a-half miles long, would travel from the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming, over the continental divide, to this small stretch of coastline just 17 miles south of the Canadian border. Then those same trains would turn around and head back to the mines, to fill up once again—all part of an never-ending loop cutting through small towns, remote wilderness, and even big cities like Tacoma, Spokane, and Seattle, spreading coal dust all along their route. Up to 3 percent of each load escapes from the trains’s open-air tops on every westbound leg of the journey.
That’s the plan, anyway.
What lies beyond the No Trespassing sign at this particular moment, however, really depends on who you ask. Before venturing to Ferndale, I started my inquiries earlier in the week with a visit to the Washington State Department of Ecology in the state’s capital, Olympia. The DOE is currently tasked (along with the small County of Whatcom and the US Army Corps of Engineers) with producing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the Gateway Pacific proposal. Plans for the terminal were first submitted in 2011 by SSA Marine, which owns the land upon which the export terminal would sit, and the DOE have been racing to produce their study.
Pretty much everyone in America, sans a “longtime fan” in Phoenix and (hopefully) Jay’s wife, Mavis, hates Jay Leno. That being the case, Leno-gate 2013 has definitely taken a toll on the Chinned One’s ego. Now, it’s finally official, and Jay is on the outs. No one has stood up and defended Jay’s honor, even though we all know what’s at stake. It appears the American public really is cool with letting that smarmy little Capital One spokes-shit Jimmy Fallon take over TheFUCKINGTONIGHT SHOW. Clearly we’ve lost our way, and our collective minds. Listen—Leno wasn’t voted “America’s Late Night Leader” for nothing, OK? What the hell has Fallon ever won? “Most Manchildest Saturday Night Live Cast Member (Ever Since Adam Sandler Left)”? I’m tired of y’all hating on Jay. If you think Leno hasn’t made the world a better place during his 20-something-year tenure at the helm of The Tonight Show, you’re out of your goddamned mind.
HE, NOT UNLIKE THE UNION, MAKES US STRONG
A few years ago, People magazine revealed that Leno consumes two (as in, more than one) chicken sandwiches from Johnny Rockets (as in, Johnny Rockets) for lunch every day. People didn’t publish this shocking revelation as part of a smear campaign against Leno—he willingly gave them this information. His lack of shame is admirable and something those of us who constantly live in fear of other people’s judgement should aspire to. Do I like Arby’s? Yes. Was I ashamed to admit that fact for decades? YES. Leno’s bravery, however, has made me embrace my monsterism. Fuck the haters. Pass the Horsey Sauce.
HE’S A POWERFUL SOCIAL CRITIC
With his recurring “Jaywalking” bit, Leno has shed some much-needed light on the rampant problem of Midwestern ignorance. I mean, lemme get this straight—nine out of ten Affliction-clad crackers can’t name oneSupreme Court Justice? No wonder this country’s going down the drain!
HIS FUNNY CARS ARE FUNNY
Every time one of his funny cars breaks down on the I-5, you know pretty much everyone who drives by laughs their balls off at his misfortune. Regardless of how you feel about Jay’s iteration of The Tonight Show, you’ve gotta admit the man’s bringing light and laughter to people’s lives in at least one regard. Unlike Jack Paar, who was deeply humorless and, in his spare time, beat orphans with golf clubs.