Let’s talk about holidays. Holidays in the U.S. have been turned into plastic shrink wrapped commodities, with a few exceptions. I would go so far as to say that holidays here are not holidays at all, but a different kind of work most of us have to put in to our families, our corporate sponsors, and at our jobs (to fill that holiday demand!).
Real holidays in this nation are the days we get off to do something with people we really want to be with, doing something that generally makes us feel good to be with those people.
I am talking about Halloween and the Superbowl.
These two days capture the essence of what a real holiday is about – breaking the routine of social and economic connections that are reinforced by more official holidays and reveling in social ties and fun that is normally not allowed. I’m talking about a day of actual rest, and not “A Day of Rest”.
Add to that short list Carmageddon.
Carmageddon, and the upcoming Carmageddon II, refer to freeway closures in Los Angeles to allow for huge road widening projects to proceed. Carmageddon II is coming our way on Friday night September 28 through to September 30.
The day is sold to the public as “the end of times” – since driving on such a day is very inconvenient. As we all know driving is the lifeblood of every healthy economy, ever, since the beginning of time. There literally were no functioning economies before cars got their start plowing into crowds of kids and people in urban areas in the 1920’s. Right?
What the day ended up being, and what it should be this Carmageddon, is a day to (like Halloween) have some fun we’re not normally allowed to have and (like the Superbowl) hang out with people we are not socially required to hang out with on official holidays.
I think that the name, Carmageddon, is apt – because it should represent the end of times for a certain way of life. It represents the end of the reign of the car-as-succubus and a return, briefly, to our collective past as a species that must use its own two feet (and perhaps a bicycle) to get things done.
Let’s face it: we’re heading into this collective past now in urban areas. Fewer people are driving since 2007 and the planet has passed its peak production of fossil fuels (also around 2007). We can’t keep doing what we’re doing, how we’re doing it.
Carmageddon is our chance to practice being both citizens of the past and citizens of the future. Like CicLAvia, it is a grand piece of public theater to show ourselves that we can lose 2,000 lbs. in a day (i.e. a car) and the world will still turn on its axis, we can still go to that little restaurant on the corner and get a meal, we can play ball in the street, we can gossip about our neighbors (or at least learn their names), and go do weird quirky things like ride the train to one of our many entertainment complexes or walk to the park we told ourselves we moved to the neighborhood for but only drive past on the way to work.
Don’t let the gloom and doom speak get you down. Carmageddon is our chance to learn how to do things locally for a weekend. Skip the 40 mile trip to “hang” at a friends house and find a way to make where you ostensibly live into something more than the place you stash your stuff.