'Clueless' is to Blame For My Fear of Freeways

You’re a virgin who can’t drive.
— Tai Frasier (aka the late and great Brittany Murphy)

“Yo, what the hell? You’re gettin’ on the freeway.” That’s the last thing Murray (Donald Faison) says before the famous freeway freakout scene in Amy Heckerling’s 1995 cinematic masterpiece Clueless.

IMG_4932.jpg

Deep in conversation, Stacey Dash’s Dionne unknowingly drifts her boyfriend’s red BMW onto the freeway. Distracted driving at it’s finest, the situation goes from bad to worse when Cher (Alicia Silverstone) and Dionne both start having meltdowns. Cars whizz by. Horns blare. A motorcycle gang swerves around the convertible causing Dionne to perform one particular cardinal sin of driving. She takes her hands off the wheel. This before screaming her head off and closing her eyes. You know, just as a huge semi-truck appears behind the car.

Eventually, the car cruises to safety, but the damage is done. Murray tries to calm a dramatic Dionne down, while narrator Cher sighs from the backseat realizing that “getting on the freeway makes you realize how important love is.”

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the same epiphany watching this scene. Instead, came the cause of my life-long (well, 25-years-long) fear of that six-lane terror that takes drivers from one side of the city to the other.

Yup. Clueless is to blame for my fear of freeways.

It’s been nearly 25 years since the film was released and I remember that scene as if I watched it yesterday. Probably because I did. But also because it was that traumatizing. Before I moved here I never had to worry about Dionne’s fate becoming my own because there are no freeways in my hometown and anytime I did encounter one while traveling, I was asleep in the backseat.

That all changed in September of 2018.

Moving to Los Angeles, California came with many challenges. I had no job. No place to live. Few friends in the city and no family. But the only thing I was freaking out about was the prospect that I would one day have to get on that death trap they call the freeway.

I’m confident in my driving abilities, but let’s be real. Before moving here it had been almost four years since I regularly operated a motor vehicle. I prayed that driving would come back to me like riding a bike is supposed to (not 100% confident this is true either), but boy did my anxiety go through the roof.

The “what if” buzzer went off in my head and I contemplated all the horrible outcomes me driving in LA could bring. And let’s just say that 9 out of 10 scenarios involved the freeway.

Back in 2015 Hecklering did a Q&A about the movie and explained the inspiration behind that particular driving scene.

“I’m a nervous driver, and I don’t drive on the freeway,” Heckerling said. “But now and then, you find yourself on a street or a ramp or a lane where you cannot stop and turn around, and it’s going onto the freeway, and then you go, like, ‘Oh my fucking God, I’m going onto the freeway,’ and there’s nothing you can do about it except to keep holding the wheel and screaming until you get off. It’s very frightening to me.”

She was right. My first foray onto the freeway was by total accident and I freaked out the entire time.

I had rented a car to go to Santa Monica with my friends in October and unknowingly drifted onto the freeway thanks to the stupid GPS. Cue a meltdown of my own. Suddenly, I was forced to increase my speed from about 35 to 60, cars were on both sides of me, and someone had abruptly turnt off the music. Someone was me.

Both of my hands were firmly on the wheel and I was sweating bullets. I distinctly remember my friends laughing that I was going so slow in freeway terms, but I didn't give a damn. It was terrible and I’m pretty sure I ran a red light at some point after that because I was in a trance.

Somehow we made it to Santa Monica safely, and no, I didn’t drive back home that night.

From that point on I made the super-easy decision to stick to side streets. Sure, that means I have to leave at least 15 minutes earlier than everyone else to arrive on time, but I’m cool with that. And on the rare occasions when I have no other choice but to get on the freeway, I grip the wheel tightly, forget procedure, and try to control my breathing as Murray said to do.

Now, if only I had a boyfriend to comfort me when I got to the exit.

12 Reasons I Love Los Angeles

In Los Angeles, everyone is a star.
— Denzel Washington

It’s been almost a year since I hopped off the plane at LAX with a dream and my cardigan (don’t lie. You just sang that.) I never thought I would live here at all, let alone for nearly 365 days. From learning where the heck I’m going to finding creative inspiration in the wackiest of places, it has been an adventure. Has it been entirely drama-free? Of course not. But this is a glass-half-full moment, alright? Alright!

The most frequent question I get from people is if I miss New York and like Los Angeles. The answers are simple. No and yes. I do miss people in New York, my favorite taco restaurant, and all the reading I was able to get done on the subway, but Los Angeles has quickly won my heart.

And here’s what I love about this place so far…

IMG_0638.jpg

1. Seeing the Hollywood skyline as soon as you arrive at LAX

I still remember the moment I first saw the Hollywood sign on this drive and interestingly enough, I was not listening to Miley Cyrus when I did. Instead, it was Des'ree’s “Gotta Be” playing in my ears. Now anytime I see this sign or hear that song, I’m reminded that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

2. The consistent iced-coffee weather

Nothing sounds better to me than sitting with a good book in one hand and a cup of iced coffee in the other. In New York where the temperature is less than optimal at least 6 months out of the year, this is a non-starter. Well, the coffee part at least. So, I appreciate the constant sun and slight breeze that Los Angeles offers. Because of this I also get to wear my jean jacket every single day otherwise known as my favorite piece of clothing ever.

3. UCLA

IMG_3027.jpg

As someone who once desperately wanted to go to USC for grad school, I’m happy I didn’t get in. If I had, I never would’ve gone to UCLA and learned from some of the best screenwriters working in Hollywood today. Nor would I have met my fabulous writing group or felt encouraged to write zany scripts about a southern group of computer coders or a woman who gets trapped within the pages of a romance novel. More on that later.

4. tacos are everywhere

Know that this list is in no particular order because if it was, tacos would’ve been my number one. I eat tacos at least 1-2 times a week now. From brick and mortar eateries to a taco truck on damn near every street corner (not even kidding!), I there are so many good places to choose from. So, of course, this means a guide to my favorite tacos in LA is coming soon.

5. Watching movies under the stars at Hollywood Forever

Like Issa did on HBO’s Insecure, I watched a movie in a cemetery. Trust me, it’s not as morbid as it seems. But it is very LA, and I loved every second of it. Just imagine sitting around with your friends, eating snacks, drinking wine, that LA breeze is blowing, while Bring it On plays on a gigantic screen. Okay, it was a wall. Now, tell me that doesn’t sound like paradise?

6. the RIpped bodice bookstore

I love romance novels and I’m not at all ashamed to admit it, which is why I love the Ripped Bodice aka the only exclusively romance bookstore in the United States. It's also woman-owned, which makes it 10x better in my opinion and their selection of romance reads is unmatched. Also, they host great events including author meet & greets and romantic comedy shows. Haven’t been to the latter yet, but it’s definitely on my list.

7. Eating a burger at in-and-out

IMG_3625.jpg

Consider this a right of passage in Los Angeles. It’s the place where all the celebs eat after the Oscars and tourists consistently have the place packed. The burgers aren’t necessarily the best I’ve ever tasted, but the atmosphere and service is one-of-a-kind. Very chill, despite being hectic, and it’s cheap. So hey, sold!

8. The studio tours

A big part of what makes LA, LA is Hollywood. In my opinion, there’s no better way to experience Hollywood, then to go tour the places where the movie magic comes to life. Expect a full review of the Warner Bros. Studio Tour coming soon!

9. how california the brunches are

Weekend brunch is hands-down a sport in New York. Can't exactly say the same for LA, but when my friends came to visit me best believe we hit up multiple brunch spots. And let’s just say that the vibe was very Cali. That could be because of the palm trees, the number of entrees that featured avocado on the menu, or maybe the amount of mimosas I drank is clouding my judgment right now.

10, The abundance of avocados

Speaking of avocados... These things are everywhere and as someone who loves avocado toast, as a total, proud basic bitch, this is quite frankly the best news ever.

11. the good sleep you get on the beach

I have a love-hate relationship with the beach, mostly because I can’t stand walking through sand. But I do enjoy going to the beach and attempting to read a book, only to fall asleep 10 pages in. It’s the best sleep ever. Well, that is until the sound of children running after birds and someone hawking boogie boards and street corn wakes me up.

IMG_2974.jpg

12. Being among other dreamers

Los Angeles is an interesting place. There’s traffic like nobody’s business. Most people can’t drive. Seasons don’t exist (unless you count awards season). Earthquakes? They’re a thing. Fires? Even worse. Food options are annoyingly healthy at times (sorry not sorry that organic, vegan salad isn’t something I consistently crave). Yet, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.

Being surrounded by so many other dreamers working hard and patiently waiting for their big break, makes a creative like me very happy. There’s something beautiful about the struggle of making it and knowing that I’m not alone on this journey makes each day of the grind (and the hours stuck in traffic) worth it.