Fourth (actually, fifth, but the original No. 4 was so boring, I decided to spare you all -- you can thank me later) entry in my Environmental Landscapes Journal.
10/23/05 – ENCINO, CA
Did you know that, prior to 1994, the state of California spent two times more on freeway shoulder landscaping than on the earthquake retro-fitting overpasses and abuttments? That’s what Michael Ventura said in his article for the May-June, 1994 issue of Psychology Today. The result, of course, was that a bunch of overpasses either actually fell down, or at least threatened to, following the Northridge quake of January 17, 1994. Clearly, the vegetation that we drive past every day is critically important to us. I started to write “the vegetation that we whizz past at 65 mph,” but who are we kidding here? Whizzing? I personally spend most of my time crawling along at a breathtaking 25 mph on the freeway these days.
Yesterday, I spent more time than usual regarding it when my distributor went to the Great Irretrievably Broken Auto Parts Graveyard in the Sky on the southbound 405, just short of Mulholland. Not the most interesting spot on the freeway, granted. A couple of bushes of mustardweed, which, if I’m not mistaken, is indigenous There’s nothing much to look at, except to stare longingly into one’s rear-view mirror, waiting for the tow truck that’s promised to come and rescue me. (Hey, wait a minute… those cars are whizzing, aren’t they. That blurred SUV just to the left my rear-view mirror is most assuredly whizzing. Bastards!).
So, being me, and a bit perverse, I came home and looked up “freeway landscaping + california” in a couple of search engines to see what I can find on all that “landscaped” real estate that we pass by every day. It turns out that we in California spend a lot of money on freeway landscaping. A large chunk of the alotted $27.5 million set aside for road maintenance is earmarked for planting and maintaining the vegetation that grows along the freeways that run across and along the entire State of California. This is where the mustardweed comes in, apparently. Recycled water is being used in some areas, but it seems to be meeting resistance from some locals who don’t fully trust what they’re neighbors are doing in their sinks and showers (and, really, can we blame them?) And because we’re trying not to water anything extra these days, landscapers are choosing low-maintenance, native plants that require little extra care than the environment gives on its own. Mustardweed and lantana are the biggies, with laurel sumac and certain ground cover flowers (ice plants, ivy, etc.) coming up strong behind. I personally have a soft spot for lantana from childhood, when I found that the little blossoms make fabulous Barbie wedding bouquets.
No lantana today, though. Just some rather ratty mustardweed, a few trees on the hillside across the way, and a bunch of taillights from the cars whizzing (oh, yes, I said whizzing) by as I wait for Triple A. And because this is a journal – one that you insist on reading, you glutton for punishment – if I have to suffer through this misery, so do you.
Welcome to my fresh hell.