Thursday, June 16, 2011

Growing up in the ‘Car’nejo Valley

From:


My first ever column in a professional paper.

By Dashiell Young-Saver
It’s not easy to take a stroll in the Conejo Valley. Things here are so far apart.
The landscape resembles the Las Vegas spread for a game between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Los Cerritos Middle School basketball team (of course, the middle school team would be highly favored).
Residents have therefore embraced car culture. The moms of the “Car”nejo Valley drive huge SUVs (Sub-Urban Vacuums). Well-to-do Westlake dads drive sports cars on lease, trying to accelerate their slowing lives with the gas pedal of their car.
But the most interesting group of local drivers is made up of teenagers. To a high school student, a car is not only a vehicle, but also a friend, a symbol and a one-way ticket to freedom.

Young people without a driver’s license in the Conejo Valley have to bike long distances, often uphill in the heat, round trip, in order to see their friends.
Once they get a license and a car, the newfound ease of travel creates an everlasting bond that’s unique between pimple-faced youth and machine. Simply put, teenagers love their cars.
The love is unconditional. Students do not care if their cars were made in the Paleolithic Age or are prone to breakdowns.
Knowing certain peculiarities, such as the radio going on when the windshield wipers are set to high, makes the driver the owner of something distinctive, not just another mass-produced machine.
When I hear reliability, I hear boredom: There’s nothing more exciting than a busted brake disk in Malibu Canyon.
Take my car as an example. It is a 1996 Lincoln Town Car. It is just two years younger than I am, harder to park than a pregnant elephant, gets as many miles per gallon as it has cup holders and goes 0 to 60 mph in a time of—well, it does not really get to 60 mph.
However, I would not trade my car for any other.
After driving it cross country from my grandfather’s house in Massachusetts, I became enamored of its comfortable seating, tanklike structure, roominess and classiness.
I love every inch of it. I love every sound it makes.
And I respect it. When it is tired, I give it a rest. When it gets dirty, I wash it.
Whether imagined or real, we share a loving bond.
Teenagers revere the vehicles that others take for granted. Their cars, like them, have breakdowns. Their cars, like them, can be highmaintenance.
Their cars are the automated versions of themselves. At a time when everything is changing and crazy, the mechanized stability of a car provides the balance of freedom and friendship that teenagers need.


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