“Bus” is a bad word
The bus in LA is incredibly affordable. If you are fortunate to be near a major bus route (which I am) then the $1.25 USD price tag is very reasonable when you consider that this mode of transit covers a serious stretch of space. In Toronto where the Buses/Streetcars/Train is the same price ($3CAD) whether you are going 16 stops or 2 – I appreciate this.
And yet, everybody seems to hate on the bus. The ones I have taken have not been dirty or (too) full of crazy people. As someone who has primarily lived in 3 major cities with awesome Public Transit, I’m kind of stubborn when it comes to a city that deliberately spreads itself out and doesn’t provide an easy, cheap way to get around.
It’s like you WANT me to have to drive man, and I now I have to do the opposite.
Streets to not walk down
LA is somewhere that has places you can walk, but you definitely need to drive to those places. Like the Griffith Observatory, or cute neighbourhoods. But if you are a clueless visitor like me, you might be under the impression that you can just walk where ever, from point A to point B.
Turns out, LA is a city where a nice street you are walking on, can turn into a scary street just by turning a corner or walking the wrong direction. And its not like you can google: “way home that will be murder and rape free” or “dangerous streets of LA” (Oh shit you totally can for neighbourhoods…maybe that could be an app? Like Google maps but for women just walking minding their clueless bizness?)
Where you live in LA can say a lot of things about you…how rich you are, how cool you are, how artistic you are, if you have a family…and people can tell this simply by the way you answer the question: “So which part of LA are you in?” (By the way my answer tells people that I definitely found my place on craigslist and had no idea about this neighbourhood elitism)
Can I get that Vegan, Gluten-free, Skinny, Non-soy, Organic, Homogenous, Air-Free, Non GMO, and can you tap-it-gently-three-times-with-your-two-index-fingers and whisper “Nancy Noooo!” into the cup before you it?
Do you have a food thing? Like, you can only eat plants that come from a field planted on the west side of a mountain? Good news, LA will cater to you – no matter how ridiculous your request (you weirdo).
The traffic is the new weather
In other major cities, the weather is a nice safe topic to chat about with strangers. Hong Kong and Sydney: “So hot today” or “Crazy rain!”, Toronto: snow (lack there of, the crazy amount, the consistency, texture) but here in LA where the temperature remains fairly consistent (not a great conversation starter…”still perfect out there!” “yep”) the Los Angeleans talk about how busy the roads are/were and how crazy traffic is.
We get it, its bad.
And to that I say, “yeah well… maybe if more people took the bus…”
You can survive without a car
The rise of ride sharing companies Uber and Lyft make it super easy to not have a car here, so long as you have a phone with the internet and the app, and a credit card. Parking is a bitch anyway (it takes five minutes to understand the signs themselves) and although I can drive (in theory: passed my test, haven’t driven since) I honestly think having less cars on the roads will also ease traffic issues (also I am terrified of the aggressive driving, but also the noble thing). Plus with Uber Pool and Lyft Line, (carpooling) its very very economical so you can save your dollars for Gluten and Fun free beer (barf).
Everybody wants to tell you their story
Ride sharing these past 8 days have introduced me to people I would never have a ten minute conversation with. And everybody out here seems to have an interesting story. Maybe its because it is a city built on overnight fortunes and aspirational living, but no one has yet said “oh i do this one thing and i’m pretty comfortable” nope. Everyone gives you their headline “I am a song writer but I want to get into modelling” “I work at a country club but I want to get a union job at Frito-Lay” “I work for a startup that is manufacturing Hemp pain relief for Dogs and Horses” (seriously…seriously)
And Last but not least:
The Homeless Situation
I hate to get all serious at the end of this frivolous blog but with the good, sometimes you get the bad, and here it goes…
I’ve travelled all over the world and I have never seen a worse homeless situation than I have in Los Angeles. I had heard of “Skid Row” or “Tent City” but I was not mentally prepared for the reality – which is, there is a population of people living on the streets of one of America’s largest Cities, with views of the millionaires living up in the “hills”. According to this article, the population of the homeless has grown by 12%… Forty Four thousand homeless people living in the city. That figure is gobsmacking, and when I have asked people living here (immigrants and born&breaders) what the ACTUAL fuck is going on, there has been a general shrugging of shoulders, or a gentle shaking of the head and light tsk-ing. Apparently it is well known that psychiatric hospitals discharge patients with one-way bus tickets to LA/California AND there are red tape laws that prevent young homeless people from staying in shelters that house adults.
It is all kinds of fucked up that I’ve seen gold bentley’s cruising down the streets and walked past homes that look like they are bigger than every house I’ve ever lived in put together ever (aka OBSCENE wealth), and then walked past people with wheelie bags and trolleys living under a tarp on a street corner.
Maybe, maybe I could ignore it if I was in any other foreign country. But I can’t because this is America. This is the “land of the free and the home of the brave”. This is (traditionally) the country that everybody looks at, to get a piece of that “American dream”.
And the reality is stark. It is in your face aggressively there. And it isn’t easy for me to understand how anyone can get to the point in their mind where this is normal.
There are so many wonderful things about LA, and I am having such a great time in California, but the Homeless situation is something that you may never know about unless you come here and see it with your own eyes. It is very, very distressing, I don’t know how it can be addressed or fixed in a country that seems to be so angrily against the “socialist ideas” of somewhere like: Canada or Australia say.
Being new to a place gives you a unique perspective – things that become every day, or things that you don’t notice after a while are still very obvious, and funny or sad to me.
LA is like no where I have ever been before – it is a city of 18.5 MILLION PEOPLE, 270,000 Millionaires and 44,000 homeless people.
So far, I’m not too sure what to think – it seems like the kind of place you might fall in love with passionately, or hate with a vengeance.
Time will tell.