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Gasoline Zen

It’s remarkably silent as we slowly cross Beethoven Street. I ponder the gradually passing shadows and whether they are the most real thing I’ve seen today. Dry-clean smell permeates this black Kia Optima. We keep inching along Culver. Finally, the freeway sprawl, in front of us. I servo down a window in anticipation – only to find the freeway packed with the afternoon jam, and myself in stasis again.

Jon said that Uber has put a layer on top of the city, opened it up. It provides no freedom, replacing one rigged system with another. New economics, but no new access (economics newer create new things). Nothing improved, it’s a stall, sideways momentum. My driver is a quiet, chinese man, entirely clad in beige. He puts a Muji tray of caramel sweets on the handrest. I take one and never eat it.

Under the street lights, a Volkswagen Passat stops to pick me up. Its interior smells of industrial strawberries, the stereo playing progressive sidechain arpeggios. There is a moody iridiscent sliver in me that enjoys how well this music matches the ride, the nighttime tunnel flow. We are traversing the dark city in an almost meditative state. Gasoline Zen, I post to Twitter.

The music selection is an integral part of every ride, in a very different way than during Berlin Taxi rides. American radio stations somehow seem to have access to a deeper archive of 1980s rock classics, inacceptable music that seems strangely adequate in Californian air. Toto, Stones, The Wings, they all seem to complete a cliché that may be more real than the actual city.

Thomas is driving me. He is in a palm tree-patterned daishiki. He is listening to The Wave radio at full volume, some black-eyed R’n’B, and keeps humming along. The ever-present industrial strawberry smell mixes with his vanilla perfume. All of this is highly pleasant.

This one blasts trap beats, the stereo’s volume perfectly tuned. As the sun casts soft shadows onto my ankles, I notice yet another variant of the faint dry clean/dried fruit scent that I am unable to place (this country’s olfactory industry has long since emancipated itself from the limited selection of fruit available on earth, I scrawl into my notebook). The car is en route to Los Feliz, where I’d like to visit Ennis House, and stare at the cityscape in dusk and sun. On Glendower Avenue, the door closes and the Prius hums away. I remain by myself on a steep road, next to a vaguely Aztec structure.

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