Mark Haskell Smith is the author of five novels with one word titles. His latest is Raw. His first work of nonfiction is Heart of Dankness: Underground Botanists, Outlaw Farmers, and the Race for the Cannabis Cup. He lives and works in Los Angeles.
Traffic in Europe is different than traffic in Los Angeles; despite the cobbled streets and lack of open space for parking, it’s much easier to navigate around Amsterdam or Paris. You might find yourself on ancient, medieval roads, or driving down a narrow mews, but wherever you were, whether in Brussels or Hamburg or Nice, your fellow drivers were, for the most part, kind and intelligent, courteous and observant even if they were tearing down the road like madmen. They were the kind of drivers who took a philosophical view of the experience. Because weren’t we all trapped in a machine made of steel and glass and rubber and plastic? The European drivers recognized that it was inhumane at best, that the automobile was an isolating presence in the world, an invention that had kept people apart, that denied people time to sit on a tram and read a book or strike up a conversation. Apparently, this philosophical understanding, this detachment from being dominated by machines, hadn’t made it to Los Angeles.