Since I arrived in Los Angeles, and to my lovely Fairfax District, I have noticed a gesture toward block-by-block neighborhood autonomy. It is apparently the perogative of each residential block to decide whether it wishes to be a “bump street” or a “hump street”. There is nuance to this decision; for although there is no distinction in the physical form of the traffic regulation elements, the semantic distinction is dizzy with moral and aesthetic nuance.
Those of us on hump streets scoff at the crude vulgarity of the bumpsters. Sure they can regulate traffic speeds, but they just lack the refined tastes, the cultural cache of speed humps. One gets a sense of mismatch about them, something like when some Hollywood poseur on Melrose wanders onto West Hollywood’s stylish Melrose Avenue, and looks so garishly out of place.As I’ve told readers, before arriving at this realm of distinction, I was a foolish East Coast intellectual, who frankly knew nothing of humps at all. We lived in a world of bumps in Massachusetts. Fortunately, I found a musical introduction to LA culture before my arrival, although the meaning only unfolded with residency. [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aD_vJRatx-A[/youtube]
Thanks go out to Willard Van Orman Quine, and his Ontological Relativity and Other Essays (1969), for assistance with the title of this essay.