My car is a 2001 Nissan Altima, a grey sedan of elegant proportions—a peaceful, cordoned-off section of our frenetic world, seemingly common. Inside lie rolling, randomly speckled, mini-hills of sixteenth-inch-thick upholstery that look a little darker than they really are when you rub them upwards with your finger. Sure, the dashboard's plastic woodgrain may be fake, but it invokes nature better than you'd think, and wouldn't real wood just age, summoning images of Death?
My car's center console has two holes—they're meant to store my soft drinks—but I keep a hairdryer and meds there, sometimes my poker chips on a good night. My car lacks a name, although were I to give it one—I'm a writer by trade—it might be something of the earth. Bryce, perhaps. I only feel safe driving my car under 54 miles per hour, and the a/c works; it's just that it doesn't blow cold under fan-setting 4, so it can become warm if you don't like you some wind.
I guess the only thing that distinguishes my car is the fact that I live in it. Easily, and for a good five years now. My car became the home/office I'd always dreamed of shortly after I arrived in Los Angeles from a five-day cross-country road-trip with my buddy Rolphe. We'd made good time, only stopping occasionally at key cultural spots—e.g. Oingo Boingo's, a nice “gentlemen's” village near a church in Missouri, and in the Great State of Las Vegas. Rolphe, a bassoon teacher, had to fly back East immediately upon our California arrival, and we couldn't just stop to see "every Grand Canyon.” But I'm proud of how we spent the time together, making our way through the first 10 months of recorded Krunk and Bach's B-minor mass—and only having three arguments, including just one about someone's older sister.
Soon, I’d found solace for a few nights in Santa Monica's Hotel California, which was run by a nice beachy lady named Gidget Doheny Geffen. Later I accepted a same-day invite to sleep at a friend's parents' house in Bel Air; they were glad to have me but after five weeks, I let them down easy and moved in with some mustachioed actors/e-commerce C.E.O.'s in The Valley.
Once that year, I started driving back east, but by the time I hit Barstow, I turned around. Without Rolphe, the trip would have been the Apocalypse. Since then I've stayed in LA for its creative opportunities, fresh air, and small-town feel. Car-living is pretty nice, especially here, given that you're better off driving anywhere you'd like to go. Working at home this way is also environmentally conscious whether or not your office passes the Smog Check: You're never forced to commute anywhere.
One day, at a mechanic's, where I inflate my pad's tires, a cool guy even figured out a way to remove my passenger seat, the way certain NBA centers do to make room for their long legs. This increased my cabin space and offered a guest bed to the lovely LA ladies. One thing I dislike about working at home is my lack of a fax machine—you know, the type the Tim Robbins character had in his Range Rover in Robert Altman's film The Player, which I just watched on my IBM laptop, via DVD, parked next to a Panera with free Wi-Fi. But I just learned about this site called eFaxIt, so now I just have to roll up to a Kinkos.
Point of interest: Igloo coolers are really helpful when you live in your car. They're odor-proof, so they work when you're not near the cleanest of restaurant bathrooms, if you get my meaning. I also keep a versatile cleansing agent in the glove compartment, next to my Triscuits, called Goop. That stuff gets anything off you. Once a surfer came up to my car, covered in tar. I gave him the Goop, and soon he was sparkling with a healthy glow. You have to stay clean in the elements.
Actually, that's the best thing about living in my car in L.A. I'm beachfront. Although this usually only lasts until nightfall, when a crazy park ranger tells me to move. But then I just drive up into a canyon and park at a rustic-chic bistro. I fit right in. I think most of the customers are hasbeen movie producers from the early aughts, so with my ripped hoodie and old flared jeans, I look stylish, meeting “friends,” and “just starting” with some tuna tartare. “They're usually late; you know us LA types,” I say to the waiters. Then I saunter outside, flip up the Razr, and “ttake a phone-meeting.” I like raw fish for dinner.
What kind of work can you do on wheels? Why, anything that works with the World Wide Web. That's why I chose to become a successful writer, penning about one essay a month in one of America's best men’s net magazines for $.15 a word, and getting lots of hits on my blogger, which I have monetized with affiliate marketing, proving that pennies really do turn into dollars, especially if you get social about your whereaboutskis.
For instance, today, I used this new thing called Twitter to send out my location (Lincoln Ave. in Venice) and my plan for the day (#cruising); I made something like $4.50. You have to think “long-tail." You can make a good living, working from your car, as long as you don't get hung up on what constitutes currency at this very moment in economic time.
That said, I always have enough money for gas, and my editors know that I'm ready for some man-on-the-street reportage. Of course, it was hard at first to receive contracts and other mail, living in my car. But then I realized that wouldn't be different if I had a stationary house. Having an old-school “home” would have also kept me from getting my new Tom’s sneakers customized by international fashion design god John Varvatos. If I didn't live on the road, I would have never known some online sneaker store had left a package outside a gated Brentwood house for five straight days, unopened. It's an advanced to life this way, forgive me, but entropy makes all things right.
Mostly, though, LA car-living is relaxing, especially if you avoid the 405 and rogue ice-cream trucks. The less space you have, the less you clean, and the more selective you get about visitors. For instance, I now know right away if a first date is going to lead to a second (I can be pretty picky about companions), or if a new buddy has Rolphe-potential. Also, I stay trim because eating anything other than lean protein and produce, “obtained” at food trucks and local farmer's markets, is just not passenger-seat-friendly. You know what I mean if you've ever tried to eat, say, duck confit tacos, while driving Mulholland.
My only dietary rule concerns legumes. Sure, they offer the complete chain of amino acids, but they're just not ideal meals in the home, and I keep my windows closed to cut down on pollution entering the boudoir. I have more tips like this, but I'd rather not become one of those car-living gurus. I don't like today's barrage of experts everywhere you look in those big bookstores with baby changing stations in the restrooms. If there's one thing that choosing to live in my car has taught me it's that power seats should not cost a premium. I once met another car-liver in Griffith Park who'd also chosen to become a successful writer. He had a leather bed in a pretty sweet old veggie-oil Mercedes. His only problem was that he and his girl got stuck in one position some night, and he couldn't straighten out his back for 12,000 miles. Keep it manual, I say.