Driving, Dreaming and Daytime Napping in L.A.

By Isaac Parfrey

How to waste gasoline in style while putting your baby to sleep

parenting - driving baby to sleepI’m leaping over speed bumps, cruising the potholed boulevards and aimlessly wandering the canyon roads. I have no destination and am often jammed in a traffic-laden city artery, but I have not an ounce of road rage, lane pain or street defeat. No, I’m delighted, because Hank is still asleep in the back seat.

When you have a 13-month-old, or a baby of any age, really, naps are crucial. There is no better time than those 40-80 minutes of quiet reverie parents call “naptime.” In parenting, the nap becomes more multifarious with time. It becomes curiously necessary for our psyches to get those quiet moments, that time for ourselves. Please sleep, Hank. Please.

Hank is one of those all-too-common babies who slumbers incredibly well while being chaperoned around town. The quiet hum of the engine puts him into a drowsy dreamscape. Even the floored engine roar lulls Hank into a gentle purr. Our crib, if you will, is Los Angeles, where all the paved space and the complex car-centric history lends itself to the baby naptime drive.

I’ve stumbled on some vital and engaging routes across town that showcase some of the best and most fascinating features of the city. If your hell-raiser is tired and you need to get out, I’m your Siri.

Quiet, Hank. We are going for a ride.

The Marina/Venice Canals Route

parenting - driving baby to sleepI start in Mar Vista. Hank is babbling in the back, chewing on some of his books. From Centinela Avenue, I head West on Short Avenue – a truly short avenue that promptly turns into Mindanao Way, leading directly to the Marina.

I cross Lincoln as I start to spot sails and desperate singles. I then turn right on Admiralty Way. Now I’m zooming by yachts and condos. This is Marina del Rey. Admiralty will curve around a few times, moving me into a thick coastal eddy. I can hardly see the personal trainers through the fog, but I finally get to Via Marina and turn right.

Now I’m heading east and cross Washington Boulevard. It’s official – I’m in Venice. And now, like clockwork, Hank is sleeping. I meander over the wooden bridges of the canals and ponder the logistics of having to live there and how to maneuver a canoe on two feet of saltwater and sewage. It’s actually a beautiful sight, the fabled canals of Venice. I wouldn’t mind living on them, but I’d have to live in the obligatory modern glass home.

Oh well, enough fantasizing. I hit Venice Boulevard and turn right – east toward Abbott Kinney. I head north on Abbott Kinney, passing restaurant-boutiques, juice-boutiques and boutique-boutiques and it’s onto Main Street.

We bear down in the original bayside community, Ocean Park. I take in the craftsmans and craft-ale bars, and find myself turning around. I steer the Subaru southward back toward Venice and hug the beach, turning into Pacific Avenue. I stick to the ocean as far as I can until I’m forced back east by the Marina and back to Admiralty Way.

The Sunset/Benedict Canyon/Mulholland Route

parenting - driving baby to sleepI drop off the Mrs. at a nail salon on Montana Avenue and Hank needs to sleep. Where do I go? I go north. I go rich and I go famous. I go languish amidst the opulence and history of the Three Queen Bees: Brentwood, Bel-Air and Beverly Hills. Passing mansions and poodles and nannies walking tricked-out strollers, my baby isn’t raising hell – he’s on snooze.

Montana Avenue will meander through Brentwood, saddle up with Barrington and hit the once-winding cattle road we call Sunset Boulevard. Hank likes to roll – minimal stops and minimal traffic. This is a mid-day nap and we are reeling through Beverly Hills.

I go farther north through the haunted and notorious Benedict Canyon. The houses appear inert and anachronistic – sometimes a little spine-chill is what you need at 11:30 a.m. – and then you hit Mulholland, a ridge-crest, a famous joy-ride of the disenchanted and strung-out. Now I’m trading amazing views of the Los Angeles Basin and the Valley.

As I drive past the gated mansions and speeding construction trucks, I wave goodbye to beautiful valley views and retreat back through the canyons and back to Sunset. Back to reality. Hank and I are both due to stop dreaming any second.

The South Bay/Hawthorne?/ I’m OK Route

parenting - driving baby to sleepGranted, I’ve been driving through some high-rent districts. But sometimes viewing the elite and privileged gets old and irksome. I’m working hard. I’m not some silicon beach Google-glassed millennial. I’m not some private schooled trustafarian selling soap in Silver Lake.

How about some good ol’ class warfare?

It’s 6 a.m. I’ve been up for an hour trying to get Hank back to sleep. I have to get out and drive. I take Culver Boulevard west toward the coast and turn south across Playa del Rey and past Dockweiler Beach. I have 747s flying over my head, distracting a whiny Hank, but I push on and watch the schools of dolphins attempting to swim through garbage.

On this route, you’ll drive past the appropriately named Scattergood sewage waste treatment plant. Maybe plug your nose. Then head east on El Segundo Boulevard.

Be fearless. Be brave. You’re in Hawthorne: Tarantino and Beach Boys country. If you’re from some other highfaluting area of Los Angeles, you might think to yourself, “Oh, so this is where all of those pick-up trucks come from.” You might ask, “Um, where can I get a cold-brew coffee around here?” Not going to happen. This is strip mall land. This is liquor store alley. Lucky Lotto country. You’re in the South.

Eventually, you’ll want to turn around. I take Crenshaw Boulevard north to Washington Boulevard. Hank is asleep. It’s time to get back to work.

Isaac Parfrey studied writing at the University of Iowa, but grew up in Boyle Heights and Santa Monica. He currently lives in Mar Vista with his wife and son.

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