You got to where you are now largely because of decisions, large and small, that you’ve made. Sometimes it’s obvious. Like, when you stabbed that guy in the neck because he made fun of The Carpenters, your all-time favorite brother-sister musical act, you probably should have guessed that you’d spend the next 12 years in prison.

Or, when you walked into Barnes and Noble on October 5, 2005 and arbitrarily peeked at the first page of some random new book called Twilight, you should have known that, almost seven years later, you’d be acting like a deranged mental patient on YouTube because your BFF Kristen Stewart kissed the wrong boy.

I’m not going to get into my own life decisions, suffice to say they have resulted in the odd consequence that I drive to New York’s airports far more often than I prefer, which would be never. Without sinking into hyperbole, the beltway connecting JFK airport to LaGuardia represents nothing less than the inevitable, rapid, pathetic decline of the American Empire.

Traffic James on the Belt Parkway

NYC traffic jam in the 60s. Some of them still aren’t home yet.

The only thing worse than driving to JFK Airport is driving to LaGuardia, unless you are driving to JFK Airport, which is the worst fucking thing on Earth you can do. Every journey is more horrific than the one before. I thought I had bottomed out last month when I spent three hours on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (a 9.6-mile length of road) returning from LaGuardia, at midnight no less, because of a goddamned pothole repair.

Then Friday happened.

Friday, I’m on the Belt Parkway coming back from JFK, when three NYPD cruisers fire up the cherries and, without warning or explanation, stop in the middle of the highway. Right then and there, they close the Belt Parkway, the only westbound highway from JFK (For the unfamiliar, west of JFK is where all the people live).

Suddenly, thousands of cars are forced to exit onto a one-lane road in Brooklyn. Five (five!) Satan’s-arse-loving hours later, I was back in Jersey, but not before I gave my East Asian passengers, in the United States for the first time, a bumper-to-bumper tour of Flatlands Avenue. Which prompted one of them to say, in earnest, “Wow! I didn’t know everybody in America was black.”

So if they closed the Belt Parkway in the middle of the day, they must have had a good reason. A toxic chemical spill? Air Force One making an emergency landing (not even Obama wants to go to JFK)? Too much sorrow over the national Kristen Stewart cheating tragedy? No, I think it was just three cops hassling a guy with Jersey license plates. Evil is banal, you may have heard.

I complain to my neighbor, who drives a limo for a living, about these driving catastrophes, but he just shrugs in the way that only a jaded, world-weary immigrant can, and says, “Eh. It’s normal.”

It’s normal that it takes five hours to go sixty miles? It’s normal that three cops randomly close major highways just for shits and giggles? It’s normal that the world has to grind to a halt so one guy can fill a hole while seven other guys watch? Did that last sentence make you think of gay gangbang porn?

May Elizabeth Winstead in Death Proof

If Death Proof had been set in New York City, Mary Elizabeth Winstead would have spent the whole movie trying to make a left on Canal St.

I struggle to accept a world where these conditions of life are normal, yet I know nothing will change. You can’t widen the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway without flattening billions of dollars worth of riverfront apartments. You can’t leave the Belt Parkway open without frustrating cops who want to flood random Brooklyn neighborhoods with thousands of incensed drivers. The only way it’ll get better is if the economy tanks so badly that no one has cars to drive and all the jets rot from lack of use. I’m not going to hold my breath, though.

The obvious choice is to move to Wyoming or Alaska, both of which have, like, 50 cars and half a runway between them. But the catch is… I like it here. I like the diversity and the world-leading art museums and the live music and the movies that don’t play anywhere else. I like the easy access to four major metropolitan areas and the architectural and culinary treasures found within, not forgetting 20 major professional sports teams. Go ahead and laugh at the irony, but I like the fact that I’m 60 miles from an airport that offers direct flights to almost anywhere in the world with a runway.

So I’m taking a cue from the millennial generation and am going digital, albeit metaphorically. These kids don’t buy CDs or DVDs or books because they rightly understand (unlike the rest of us) that physical objects are less permanent than digital versions. Digital does not rot or get lost or go out of stock. Millennials don’t need 2001: a Space Odyssey on blu-ray… mostly because they have no attention spans for camera shots that last more than a quarter of a second. But even if they developed attention spans, they still wouldn’t buy it. They understand that it’s always there for the taking, whenever, in digital.

Beginning of 2001 Space Odyssey

4 million years later and I’ve evolved into the thing on the ground.

Due to my advanced age of Over 40, I’ve recently crossed the threshold from “human being” to “withered husk that was once a man,” and I’m pretty sure it happened while I was sitting on the BQE waiting for that pothole to be filled. If you haven’t reached this threshold yet, I suggest you watch Invasion of the Body Snatchers for a sneak preview. I never knew the soulless aliens were the heroes until now!

As a Withered Husk, I can no longer experience pleasure, so the aggravation of driving to New York hardly seems worth the trouble, no matter the wonders that await me. Still, when some former Jersey resident calls me and says, “OMG, life in Tinklefoot, North Carolina is soooo much better. No traffic. No crowds. Everyone is friendly. Blah blah,” I’ll probably make some crack about the awesome soul food restaurants in Tinklefoot, not to mention the great collection of de Chirico paintings.

At which point the transplant will say, “Yeah, but you never leave the house anymore, so what’s the difference?”

And I’ll remember that I’ve gone digital and say, “But I can.”