Friday, October 18, 2013

Always take public transport in LA

There are wonderful things to discover in Los Angeles. You might walk past a block of flats that Charlie Chaplin built for his crew or the streets where Chinatown is set. I recently mentioned an article on the remnant stairways in hilly Silver Lake.

You can still find the stairs that Laurel and Hardy tried to take the piano up, or the one that the Three Stooges took the iceblock up only to end up with an ice cube at the top. This article makes the point, though, that most Angelenos don't notice these jewels because they're encapsulated in their cars zooming along the freeway.

I take the bus. And it's fantastic.

Granted, it takes two hours to get a lot of places. But you can sit in a traffic jam in your own car too. Sometimes, I think, public transport (or 'transportation' as they call it here) might be faster. But you certainly learn the layout of the city, and it's definitely interesting.

You get to pick up Spanish, meditate, read. Most of all you're exposed the theater that is America from the moment the bus, or train, pulls in at your stop.

What about the guy in the maroon striped suit playing shells on a flattened newspaper on his knee, and passengers vying to pick which shell the nut was under. 'Lemme have a go at that!' shouts a guy about to get off who just will not allow himself to be left out, and who turns over an empty shell - 'Oh m-a-a-a-a-n!' - and then scoots before the doors close again.

What about the two guys in front of us talking about guitar playing? The conversation - basically a sharing of enthusiasms - was like a seminar: 'I said, "This is 60s music, man. It's got to have bass." He kept playin' it soft. This is not Jazz.' I discovered their names later in the week when I ran into one of them again in Westwood (how does this happen in a city of 12 million??)

And of course, then you get the monologues from bus drivers: 'Good morning again. We are approaching Javier Ave. This is a far side stop but if you'd like to alight at the red light you may do so. Passengers who wish to alight at the regular stop, please stay on board and I'll drop you on the far corner.' Funnily enough, every driver we asked a question of in Sydney responded with a surly grunt. 'Does this bus go to Wynward?' And the driver voices something like a 'yes' with an inflection that suggests you're a bloody idiot. There was one bus driver who was spectacularly bright and affable - who seemed to relish life like an American. 


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