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Baxter Street Makes Me Cry Like a Little Girl
Ok, so I exaggerated with that title. But only just a little. Baxter Street, which is one of L.A.’s steepest streets – cutting through Silver Lake and Echo Park – makes my stomach turn and my head spin. Every time I get to the top of the hill I think: “This is the day. It's the day that I’ll gently ride the brakes of my little Subaru in third gear all the way to the bottom.” And every time, I turn the car around and find other streets to get me to my friends on Echo Park Ave. (I used to drive a stick, and give me a red light at La Cienega or Sweetzer with a Mercedes and a BMW crowding my bumpers any day.)
The last time I faced this asphalt nemesis was on Sunday afternoon when my friend’s 4-year-old daughter was helping me navigate the neighborhood from the 2 freeway. I then realized where she was taking me: It’s a straight shot down Baxter to get to their house. So I get to the top of the hill, look out over my dashboard and realize (again) that I can’t see the street in front of me. I can only see the bottom of the hill, which is a very, very long way down. The vertigo kicks in, and my heart starts racing. I back the car up and turn left instead, hoping I don’t tick off too many locals who probably watch and mock everyone who does this.
“Christine, why don’t you go down that street?” the 4-year-old asks from the back seat. “We’re not going to be able to find our way home,” says her 3-year-old sister. I think she’s about to cry. Little does she know that I will probably start crying if they make me drive down the 33 percent grade that is Baxter. I don’t want to tell these little girls who drive this street every day that I am scared of the street. (Their mom might’ve been a little upset with me if I instilled a Baxter phobia in them, too.) So I do what any adult would do in this case: I lied. “You know, honey, I have another favorite street that I like to drive down that’s not Baxter. Let’s go find it!” The 3-year-old says again, “What if we can’t find the house?”
I start driving and find the first street to my left that's only on like a 22 percent grade or something. I drop my gear into third and ride the brakes down. Then I make a few turns and get us to the bottom of the hill and Echo Park Ave. “See, we’re at your house,” I tell the girls. “Now those were my favorite streets to get to you home.”
I wasn’t lying to the kids that time. My favorite streets in Echo Park are all the ones not named Baxter.
Photos by craig1black via flickr.