the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Driving in LA – In Two Parts


Part One — Car Poetry

This week’s Poetry Thursday assignment was to be inspired by a single line from another blogger’s poem. I picked “A Morning By the Sea” by Susannah of Ink on My Fingers.

The line that inspired me was:

The computer hums,
the kettle rumbles.

Why this line? Her poem is wonderful, filled with wonderful images. This is probably — content-wise — one of the least important lines. But that’s exactly what inspired me about it. Its importance is more than just the content, or the onomatopoeia of “hum” and “rumble.” I like the way the line rolls off your tongue, like a good song lyric.

The computer hums,
the kettle rumbles.

I think one reason I find it poetry difficult is because I’m always focusing on the “meaning” of the words. Poetry, more than fiction, is about the music of the words themselves.

I have a comedian friend who is always rewriting his material to make it funnier by using “funnier” words. These are words that start with a “hard” letter. So, a “Crazy Cat” is theoretically funnier than a “Weird Worm.” It’s his own way of using the “poetry” of words to enhance his routine. In a way, Susannah’s poem helped me to remember my love of words — words for their own sake.

In my ideal world, Elliot Yamin would have won “American Idol,” not because he has the best voice, or a doting Jewish mother, but because he has the coolest sounding name.

Elliot Yamin.

Taylor Hicks? Not poetry.

As I was driving on the 10 Freeway today, I thought about how much the big auto companies must spend to come up with their “poetic” sounding names for their cars.

I wonder if they hire poets.

Chevrolet Cabriolet
Toyota Corolla
Ford Focus
Hyundai Santa Fe
Rolls Royce

I like the way all of these car names “sound.”

I’m driving on the freeway
In my Hyundai Santa Fe
Zooming past a Corolla
and a Chevy Cabriolet

I know my car ain’t a Mercedes
Or a beautiful Rolls Royce
But it’s better than that Ford Focus
Now that was one BAD choice.

I know, I know. A fourth grade poem. But it was fun.


Part Two — Overheard in LA

As most people know, Los Angeles is a driving town.  What you drive matters.  Since I first met Sophia, she’s had four completely different types of cars — each one evoking a wildly different negative response from some other driver. 

1) 1996 —

As we entered the parking lot of Campanile Restaurant, an upscale restaurant, a friend told Sophia, who was driving a five year old Honda Accord:

“I’d be embarrassed to give this piece of junk into the valet.”

2) 1999 —

After a motorcycle cut us off in Beverly Hills, Sophia blinked her lights at him.  The motorcyclist turned to Sophia, who was now leasing a Infiniti i30, and yelled:

“Screw you, you rich bitch!”

3) 2001 —

As we left a coffee shop in Redondo Beach, an environmental activist was putting a flyer on a windshield of Sophia’s new Hyundai Santa Fe SUV:

“Do you morons know what you’re doing to the environment with this monstrosity?”

4) 2006 —

As (Republican) Sophia pulled away from an IHOP, after having breakfast with me, in her new Toyota Prius Hybrid, I heard two men talking about the special DMV stickers that allow some hybrid owners to drive alone in the carpool lane:

“What gives these liberal treehugging assholes the right to use the carpool lane when we can’t?!”

Moral of the story:  You can’t win driving in LA.

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: 90 Million Women Wear Wrong Size Bra


  1. wordgirl

    Gah! It never occurred to me that people would get upset seeing someone in a Prius.

  2. claire

    Sounds like the moral of the story is if you have somewhere to go, get someone else to drive. 😉

  3. femme_despoir

    did you realize that your poem can be sung to “The Beverly Hillbillies” theme song?

    yeehaw! i luv it.

  4. MA

    Thanks, Neil. That was the laugh that I needed.

  5. Lynn

    I’ve never, ever seen a slant rhyme using Rolls Royce and Ford Focus. Bravo.

  6. DebR

    I’m so impressed that you did the prompt and wrote an original poem. YAY, Neil!

    I chickened out. 😀

  7. Fitèna

    lol! Did you read my comment at Chicky’s about you?! Fine. Don’t. lol! This is great *grinning* The moral of the story according to me is No matter what car you drive, no one is happy.
    Human nature.

  8. jackt

    In high school I read a book that lingered on the word “suck”, how it sounds, what it means. That’s how I first got turned onto writing. I wish I was better at writing poetry.

    Funny how the car makers use these fancy names for a lot of their models, but for the luxury cars they use letters and numbers like E320 or GS400.

  9. Catherine

    “Cadillac” is a cool word. It sounds sort of like the sound a train makes going over the tracks, if you say it over and over with the right rhythm

  10. ms. sizzle

    you can’t win anywhere really. (and aren’t we all losing with the outrageous price of gas!?)

    🙂 Sizz

  11. Dagny

    So now you have finally discovered the beauty of poetry. Bravo! To me a good poem needs to be read aloud so that you can experience not only the meaning but the rhythm of the words. And sometimes due to the rhythm, the words take on a whole new meaning.

    OK. So maybe I should stop writing comments after I have been out…

  12. eeekat

    Ha again! BRILLIANT. What kind of car *do* you have, anyway?

    And: S is a Republican???

  13. Bre

    I agree completely,sometimes the allure of the poem is the allure of the sound. My favorite “poetry word” is “vainglorious”… I’ve never ever heard it used outside of poetry and for some reason I just love it!

    Also -my uncle Joe’s friend copyrights all sorts of car names and then sells the copyrights to car companies for a disgusting amount of money. Clearly, you need to devote some of your creative energy to following in his footsteps!

  14. Tatyana

    Exactly why I detest poetry in English: unbecoming clusters of sounds, screeching, pushing their elbows unto the neighbor, breaking the tongue of the one attempting to read it aloud. Lumps of hardened oatmeal in your mouth.
    Ask Sofia to read Blok for you: this is what I call pure music.

    Unrelated: are you sore this morning, after all that huffing and puffing?

  15. The Moviequill

    interesting how she came full circle from the gas conscious Honda to the Prius… you do realize statistics say the next one will be a V8 or another SUV sized

  16. Alison

    It may have been a 4th grade poem, but those are my favorite kind. Thanks for the giggle.

  17. Margaret

    4th grade poem? It’s the first one I’ve understood.

  18. Kevin

    I don’t care how fourth grade that poem is, I loved it! Thanks for the early morning laugh.

  19. Scarlet

    damn tree huggers.

    But really, that’s interesting about all of the reactions. I was once called a “rich, snobby bitch” because of what I was wearing. I made sure to let him know I was NOT rich!

  20. Blonde Vigilante

    Some of the poetry I write is childish, but I don’t care because it’s mine. It’s what strikes me at that moment. Make no apologies…I enjoyed it.

    I drive a 2000 Plymouth Breeze with a giant dent in the trunk. What this says about me….I’m not entirely sure. No, it’s not classy, but I could really care less what a valet thought of it. He’s a valet for God’s sake. No offense to valets or anything, but it’s not like it’s some really upscale job. Who cares what some 20 year old thinks about your car. I’m glad I don’t live in LA. People would probably think I lived in a trailer park.

  21. stephanie

    You’ve been tagged! (Sorry!!)

    And I wonder what they’d think of my 1994 Volvo Station Wagon? (yeah, it’s a soccer mom car, what of it? 🙂

  22. ACG

    I don’t miss having a car at all.
    I heart mass transit and PhillyCarShare.

  23. amanda

    pretty funny…wow, buying a hybrid really is putting your money where you mouth is, go sophia. also, with regard to the mention of the meaning of words in poetry, i went to a lecture by anna deveare smith, playright and actress, and she was being interviewed on stage by a journalist who admitted to being a slow reader because he drinks in all the words and loves analyzing the way things are said. i was like, that’s me! what a great excused for reading slowly! your poetry comment reminded me.

  24. Neil

    Eekat, I drive a boring Honda Civic. Well, actually it’s not so boring now with gas prices.

    And yes, Sophia is a Republican. I love the way you ask the question, as if I said she was an axe murderer. But you know the current administration is in trouble, when even she’s had enough of President Bush.

  25. cruisin-mom

    Neil, that is the absolute best summation of driving in L.A. I’ve ever heard (I grew up here, I should know)

  26. Party Girl

    Sounds like she was influenced in her purchases by each comment. I’m sure she wasn’t, but quite coincidental!

  27. Jenni

    I don’t mean to pee on your parade or anything, but chevy doesn’t make a cabriolet. VW did…and so does Porsche and I believe so did Audi.

    I drive a VW cabrio which doens’t allow me any special privileges which therefore doesn’t offend anyone. Except that lady I flipped off yesterday when she cut me off.


  28. Lou P.

    I think it’s funny when environmentalists use up natural resources (i.e. trees) to tell other people how to live their lives.

  29. Neil

    Jenni — I was just about to rewrite my entire “poem,” when I did a search on Google. There must have been a reason why “Chevrolet Cabriolet” came to my mind. It actually is a car, from the 1940’s. Now, it is probably unrealistic that this person is driving the freeway in this old car, but screw it — maybe there’s an auto show in town and VW Cabriolet just doesn’t sound as good, so I’m keeping it.

    And, I knew you were the VW Cabriolet type just by reading your blog!

  30. Jack

    This post makes me miss my Camaro.

  31. Hope

    I’d like to get into the business of naming things: cars, paint colors, etc. I love the poetry of names too. Usually it’s names that have a similar syllobal in both the first and last/second names. Like Hyundai Santa Fe or Eddie Vedder.

  32. Denise

    I’m pretty sure that the moral of the story is that you shouldn’t drive in LA. Ever. End of discussion. (Or perhaps that’s just me?)

  33. better safe than sorry

    isn’t there mass transit there? seems like you’re living in another world.

  34. LisaBinDaCity

    You especially can’t win driving a German car if you, (or anyone you know,) is of the hebraic persuasion.

  35. AWE

    The only way to win while driving in LA is to have the bigger gun.

  36. Tara

    If you think you can’t win by driving in L.A., you should try taking the bus. It was probably one of the worst experiences in my life. I wasted so much water obsessively showering after every ride.

  37. Mari

    nice poem.

  38. mrsmogul

    My friend moved to LA last year and SHe doesn;t know how to DRIVE!!!!!

  39. Jacynth

    Perfect example of how no matter how hard you try, you always manage to piss somebody off!

  40. Paris Parfait

    Well this is why I live in Paris, where you’d be OUT OF YOUR MIND to drive around the Arc de Triomphe or anywhere else for that matter. I agree with you about the poem. Very clever bit about the cars, their names and reaction to cars as status symbols.

  41. 3rdtimesacharm( 3T )

    Everyone’s a critic!

  42. susannah

    I’m honoured to be mentioned on Citizen of the Month… you’ve made my week neilochka 😉 and don’t listen to your penis – poetry is *hot* (as are the chicks that like it)

  43. serena

    As a liberal, treehugging asshole, I have to say that even I get pissy when I see hybrid owners driving solo in HOV. Seems to me, that if environmental, then you should want to cram as many people in that hybrid as possible ; )

  44. mik

    As someone who drives a motorcycle, I can tell you – the motorcyclists have always been allowed in the HOV lane, because they drive a low-emisssion vehicle. The same idea is in place with the Priuses – to encourage more people to purchase lowest-emission cars (that cost quite a bit more,) and reward those who do. Besides, unlike with the bikers, that privilege is only good for two years, and only for 65.000 drivers in all of California. Other states have been doing it longer and with no 2-year restriction. After all – HOV is there to encourage social behavior, and that’s exactly what they’re doing with this. As a tree-hugging liberal, you should be the first to applaud it. 😉

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