Tuesday, February 03, 2009


I have always been an advocate of life-experimentation. My adult years have been peppered with attempts to alter the general lifestyle/environment surrounding me. At times for the better, at times for the worse, but the "value" of these experiments is at best a secondary consideration. As the old sages once taught, "the point of a journey is not to arrive."

I was affected in a great many ways by my last stint in New York. Eleven days is a long time for someone who adapts rapidly and unconsciously. I became very comfortable with the idea that I never had to drive anywhere unless I absolutely insisted. New York's mass transit system is the meat of many legends and it lives up to its mythology brilliantly, even today. I felt awash in sights and sounds that normally I would have missed altogether in the confines of a Taxi Cab or in a car. I repeatedly took what one of Saul Bellow's characters (Ravelstein) called a "Humanity Bath." As much as a social misanthrope as I am, this should not be confused with pure misanthropy. I prefer an anonymous cohabitation, yet I still gain many insights amongst the masses.

Upon my return, as a result of the aforementioned need to alter my personal patterns indiscriminately, and financial accommodations, I decided that beginning in January I would begin to take the mass transit system to and from work (and wherever else LA's limited system can take me...including the Central Library!). I have been faithfully riding the rails since then. On occasion I must rely on my car to perform the tasks of the day but I have been able to remain steadfast in my use of the Bus and Subway system.

Los Angeles is notorious (thank you Blondie) for treating Public Transportation with disdain, treating it like the vile step-child one must only suffer in reparation for some other distance and uncorrelated sin. I was explaining this to a friend from Brooklyn recently; if you take Public Trans. in LA it is assumed that someone you have fucked up in the game of life. Seeming to make my case by kismet, my lovely and talented landlord announced last week, "I am SO proud of you for taking public transportation! I mean you have a job, you have a car (that runs), you have no DUIs, I'm proud of you!"

She, as ever, put it more succinctly than I could (she's a Ninja like that...).

My routes have varied slightly as I have become more accustomed to the timetable. Initially I was walking the full mile and a half to the Orange line in Sherman Oaks and taking that to the North Hollywood train station. However, hangovers and late nights make such a trek at 7AM painful to say the least. I began taking the Sepulveda on the corner near my house, but I found that although there are two busses that run an identical route (as far as my venture is concerned) that one is unerringly more frequent than the other. Luckily, both share a stop on Van Owen so I am able to get in a sturdy (substantially shorter) constitutional on the morning and still catch a bus down to the Orange Line.

Re-visiting my surroundings via a lively morning stroll has been priceless. There are so many things one cannot possibly observe from a car, I have missed these things and now I feel I must glut myself until it all becomes mundane and pedestrian. I also feel like the sinking paranoia I usually experience in crowds has slowly been evaporating in favor of a more utilitarian outlook of participation rather than separation. The crown achievements have been a great financial savings (I have doubled the amount of miles a tank of gas will allot me), and the precious and so evasive ability to read for one solid hour in the morning and in the evening.

Last Friday I participated in my first drunk on public transportation experiment. I attended a work-party for a dear friend's wife, open bar, music industry, carnival games (including ring-toss, the water-gun game where one blows up a balloon, and a Hot Dog on a Stick vendor), and a wee puff on the side had me seeing double and just on the cusp of spins. I pulled myself together and realized I had to split or I'd miss my only opportunities to ride home. I made my way from the party, traversed the mile to the station and summarily dropped into a drunken nap on the subway benches. Propped sloppily against my valise I assured myself that surely a large train whooshing into the tunnel would awaken me. I was correct...this time. Though I remained skeptical that things would actually work out in my favor, the last red line train emerged from the darkness, and I was off again to North Hollywood.

Upon arriving, I further convinced myself that my luck was not strong enough to actually catch the last orange line bus. Wrong again...As I emerged from the station, I spied the last bus idling at the station. Though I should have broken into a sprint, my alcohol addled perception convinced me that it was a poor idea. I walked steadily and the bus, waiting to complete its final run, sat idling until a few minutes after I'd located a seat and slumped back down on my assorted notes, letters and paperback book. I shared the bus with a few chaps, most looked as if they were taking advantage of not having to drive, just like I was.

It was a pleasant silent ride. Though I may have been able to catch a final Sepulveda bus, a friend, waiting for me at the homestead, insisted on picking my drunken ass up.

Mission accomplished.

NOTE: My apologies to all who have been waiting for an assessment of my last trip to NYC. I feel like I have entire novels worth of notes, but I do intend to condense and post a synopsis here. Preferably before I return to New York! My last article has been turned into the editor, I am without company for a week and in spite of several letters I NEED to complete, perhaps I will get that synopsis done this week. Perhaps...


Anonymous said...

Love public transport, but you failed to mention two reasons no one in La takes it: earthquakes and train wrecks.

Wish Athens had a subway. Or train to atlanta, which still gets talk about believe it or not. no track though.

agentofdiscord said...

Train to Atlanta is most necessary, but will it ever happen? I'm sure that there is some commuting to Atlanta from Athens, but enough to justify? I've become an advocate of copious pub. trans. as far as I'm concerned if there are two points humans want to bridge, there should be a way to do it while reading a book.

Had my first in-tunnel eatrhquake a few weeks ago, didn't even know. Thankfully (depending on whom you ask) the train wrecks have all been above ground...stupid AMTRAK...