Tag Archives: Los Angeles

End of the Car Age: We Can Always Hope

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“Cities around the world are coming to the same conclusion: they’d be better off with far fewer cars. So what’s behind this seismic shift in our urban lifestyles?” Stephen Moss investigates

Source: End of the car age: how cities are outgrowing the automobile | Cities | The Guardian

Why? Because cars hugely degrade the civilized environment. So read this Guardian story.

I’ve thought a lot about this – and the paradox of freedom – which is how cars have always been marketed. Tell me, looking at this photo of L.A. freeways, this is freedom?

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Well, if so, save me from that method of being free. Some gems from the story:

“In many cities, the era of the suburban commuter, along with the era of the car, is drawing to a close.” – we can only hope this could become the ideal in places like Los Angeles, as well. (Which in my mind is always perfect for biking.)

On the future of the smart phone vis a vis car ownership: “Consumers will, so the theory goes, use their smartphones to check ultra-detailed travel news, locate car-club cars or bikes, check for parking spaces,call up Uber drivers, and arrange shared rides. Who needs a personally owned car?”  — I’ve found this is true in my now 2 years plus of car-freedom in Los Angeles.

Truth is, I’m not very optimistic that the vision shown in this article will become a reality here in California, at least in Southern California, at any time in the remote future — but I have hope for the Millennial generation, who appear to be much more interested in changing the car culture than the Baby Boomers and older are.

The Guardian story is a long one, but worth it.

Trump and Bernie are resonating for the same reason, IMO

The Six Things I Like Best About Being CarFree — A Six Month Update

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The Blogger, with chariot at night.

The Blogger, with chariot at night.

I’ve now been car free for six months – that’s right, car free in L.A., living without owning a car in Los Angeles. Here’s a status report, and my favorite things about this major lifestyle change.

  • Saving money! Absolutely, my favorite. My last car, the 2005 Scion Xa, cost just about $400 a month to own and operate over the period of time I owned it (almost exactly 8 years). So that’s $2,400.00 right there. I did have transportation expenses, though, so I must subtract those. Metro fares: $280. Car rental: $200. Bicycle expense (a new seat): $25. So let’s adjust: $2,400 – 505 = $1,895 I’ve saved so far. And, that doesn’t even account for the sale of my used vehicle, which was $6,000 (thank you, CarMax!). So I’m really ahead $7,895.00.
  • Keeping fit! I lost about 15 lbs. doing WeightWatchers earlier this year and have been able to keep that off since going CarFree with very little effort, which I attribute to all the walking and biking I do now. My default modes of transportation in preferred order are: foot, bicycle, train or bus, taxi, rental car or ZipCar or other car share service. I live in Southern California, so it’s quite rare that any particular day is not a good bike day.
  • Not Having to Find Parking! There was a time, when I first lived in L.A., probably the early eighties, when it was fairly easy to find street parking in almost any neighborhood and there were very few restrictions on parking. That world is gone! Parking had become very difficult and most often expensive (if you just succumbed to the valet or a garage) but now I’ve never had to pay to park my bike against a pole.
  • Never Having to Deal with Angry Drivers/Road Rage! There are a lot of angry drivers out there, sometimes they’re armed, sometimes they’re just fracking crazy and dangerous. I’ve yet to meet a raging urban walker or a raging bicyclist (though hey, it’s a crazy world, perhaps they exist. Yet they don’t have 2-ton weapons at their disposal).
  • Not Having to Remember Where I Parked My Car, or Worry About that (Insert Expensive Thing Here) I Left Inside It! There was always this nagging feeling that the apocalypse was there, just out of focus, that total disaster could happen at any moment and this Thing I depended on (the car) would be utterly destroyed or taken from me on a whim. To not have this object to worry about at all is a great freedom all its own.
  • Finally: Exposing the Myth that “You Need a Car to Live in L.A.!” No, you don’t. You don’t need to own a car to live in L.A. What the people who say that really mean is that THEY need a car to live in L.A., i.e., they’re not giving advice, they’re talking about themselves. There are hundreds of thousands of people living in the city who don’t own cars. If you step out of yours for a few moments, you might meet the real city.

A great resource for me has been Chris Balish’s book, “How to Live Well Without Owning a Car.” It’s been my roadmap for much of this journey. Thank you, Chris!

The Forest Dark, Locations: Bourgeois Pig

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Bourgeois Pig on Franklin in Los Angeles

Bourgeois Pig on Franklin in Los Angeles

Have you been to Bourgeois Pig in L.A.? Or at least driven by on a rush to that 101 Freeway entrance a few blocks to the west?

A great little coffeehouse I used to go to when I lived, for a short time, on Ivarene Street nearby. (I’ve also met blind dates there, but that’s a different post.)

In the back, they used to have what I called “the casbah,” which should be self-explanatory. Now they have a little enchanted forest, and this is a place where the characters in my novel “The Forest Dark” meet on occasion. Check them out – both the coffeehouse, and the book, of course!

Study: Los Angeles Traffic Still Sucks

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Well, this hardly comes as a surprise. No wonder the traffic is worse – I just checked some stats yesterday, and the city of Los Angeles has added close to a million residents since 1980 (about the time I moved to L.A.) so it’s no wonder the traffic both seems and is much worse.

Used to be you really could take Fountain or Franklin across town (from the Silver Lake area to West Hollywood) and it would be pretty quick. Not anymore. So I guess that old quip attributed to Bette Davis (Q: How do you succeed in Hollywood? A: Always take Fountain.) is no longer true. But I’m glad to have lived in L.A. when it still was.

CicLAvia October 7, 2012

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Here’s a fun post. Los Angeles hosts these CicLAvia events about twice a year. It’s an opportunity for citizens to rediscover their city up close and on a bike, on a skateboard, skates or on foot.

Variations of this event happen in cities all over but in L.A. it involves closing streets to vehicles for a set period on a Sunday. The route usually starts and ends at a civic focal point, in the case on October 7, it was subway and light rail stations linking MacArthur Park, Downtown LA, East LA, and Exposition Park (the new Exposition Line).

I had a great time on bikes with friends Meredith and Marshal, who I lost, then with friends Chris, Liz and Tom, who I did not lose. We even had a light sushi lunch in Little Tokyo. Really, an L.A. Day at its best. Enjoy the photos.

CicLAvia final route for October, 2012

The 10 Worst U.S. Cities For Heart Problems

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Heart Health: The 10 Worst U.S. Cities For Heart Problems.

Milwaukee skyline from Lake Michigan

Oh good, a chart. A list. With city pictures, one of my favorite things to look at on the internets. Did I ever tell you geography was one of my favorite subjects in grade school? It was. I think that’s partly because of all the photos that went with the text in the books. Skylines, farms, coal mines. Train stations, airports. People with wrinkled faces and no teeth (or lots of teeth) smiling back at the anthropologist’s camera.

But, alas, this list is about where it’s better to live for your heart health and where it’s worse. The city I live in, Los Angeles, comes in about halfway, Number 41 (I guess that’s 41 best) with a grade of C+. These days, that isn’t so bad. [Read the criteria in the links, but it includes the factors you expect, like air quality, deaths from heart diseases, people with diabetes, people who take statins to lower cholesterol (I raise my hand there).]

On the other hand, the city I grew up in, Milwaukee, comes in at #95 with a solid F. I guess beer, brats and butter have consequences! Also, Cleveland, where I have beloved relatives, is close by at #92, only slightly worse than Milwaukee. It’s the pierogis there, I have no doubt. Interesting, though, only 70 miles or so west of Milwaukee is Madison, where they’re oh-so-much heart healthy, clocking in at #13, with an “A.”

The winner of this contest, is, of course, San Francisco, to the relief of songwriters everywhere. It must be the brisk walking to get out of the “afternoon seabreeze.”

Just a few words on America’s crumbling infrastructure . . .

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I know that infrastructure refers to much more than just train tracks and stations — however, that’s the most recent infrastructure I’ve had the opportunity to take a good look at.

Media is from recent train trip: Crumbling infrastructure all over, but I particularly noticed it in a few areas specific to train tracks, train stations and bridges. I’d have to say that most – but not all – of the train stations east of the Mississippi, from Toledo to Albany, were in some need of major overhauling. One thing I did notice were that the platforms and canopies (see pix and video clip – which I believe is Rochester, New York) are all the same vintage. To my uneducated eye, they look like they were likely built in the 1930s or 40s.

They all seem to be falling apart at the same rate.

One of the most embarrassing stations of all was Union Station in Washington, D.C., which has the same deal with the crumbling platforms. Luckily, they just announced an upgrade is on the way.  Imagine you’re a businessperson from Europe on your first trip to D.C. from New York and this is your first impression of our nation’s capital? Kind of pathetic, compared to what you’re used to seeing in Western Europe or Asia.

For me, the most disappointing of all was Houston, Texas, which is the nation’s 4th largest city, right there behind New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. The Amtrak station in Houston is a garbage-strewn wasteland of one crumbling platform stuck under a freeway. Again, I wonder if Houston’s city fathers and mothers really want that to be the first impression visitors get of their fine town when they roll in on the train?

My point with the post is not to vilify certain cities or regions (sorry Houston and Ohio) but to just point out what’s probably obvious to anybody anywhere in America these days: Yes, our infrastructure is crumbling, and falling behind the rest of the world. We have people who need jobs who could rebuild it; we have money available at the lowest interest rates in decades to finance it.

Why isn’t anyone in our government doing anything about this? Well, for one, I know the Republicans pretty much hate the trains. At least their candidate says he’d pull funding from Amtrak if elected. Yet the trains were full. I’d love to know your thoughts.

Not to be completely gloomy, there were some bright spots: NOLA’s completing a new light rail line, Los Angeles just opened a new light rail line, there were well kept up small town stations in places like Tuscaloosa and Meridian. And, there’s a new intermodal station in Milwaukee.

 

50 Reasons Los Angeles Is the Best Effing City in America

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Griffith Park view of the Hollywood Sign

50 Reasons Los Angeles Is the Best Effing City in America

Today, a reprint of (LA Weekly’s) 50 true and sometimes humorous reasons why the city is just the best.

It doesn’t hurt that the high temperature forecast for today, January 1, is 82 degrees (not the norm, but hey…).

Enjoy the list! What would you add to the list if you could? And, Happy 2012 to everyone, Angeleno or not.

CicLAvia 2011: Bicycles, strollers, skateboards, Occupy LA

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CicLAvia October 2011:  What fun. What a beautiful day to close off streets for people, and to keep cars away! I joined the thousands of folks on bikes, skateboards, with strollers, walking, running, hanging out, etc. on routes that stretched from East Hollywood to East LA, through Downtown and Little Tokyo and even Chinatown.

It was great, as always, to take in the diversity that is LA. To see the street art and other murals. To hear the musicians. Even to witness the bafflement of residents who picked up on the idea that something out of the ordinary was going on. Smiling cops with relaxed expressions. A good event for OccupyLA to get awareness for, as the route passed right in front of the occupation encampment at City Hall. So much more, that you never would see driving down the street in your car.

The CicLAvia route ended on the east at Hollenbeck Park in Boyle Heights. I don’t think I’ve ever been there before. I went a little further south to take a couple of snaps of the Linda Vista Hospital, site of a great Ghost Adventures episode. Spooky! Even in the bright sunshine.

I’m now collapsed after riding all that way and back. Also it’s the perfect end for a carfree week, as I took the bike on the Red Line train to the Sunset/Santa Monica stop to do the CicLAvia route.

Enjoy the pix!

No second trial in murdered gay teen case, gay rights group urges

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No second trial in murdered gay teen case, gay rights group urges

courtesy Los Angeles Times

Link above, but there’s an update: They decided to retry the murderer of Larry King, Brandon McInerney, after all, still as an adult, but without the hate crime allegation. Now we have jurors from the first trial expressing a wish for leniency on the murderer, that in fact he was “bullied” by the victim, a classic case of the “homosexual panic” defense.

This makes me insane!

Can we have a little genderfuck scenario, please, as a bit of illustration just in case some can’t see the blatant homophobia here? Let’s pretend, for an instant, that the victim was a pretty, straight, 15 year old girl, “Jaye.” She’s popular in her school, perhaps she’s a cheerleader or some other kind of teenage extrovert, happily secure in her heterosexuality, so much so that when she meets “Larry,” a classmate who just happens to be a gay kid, Jaye can’t resist the urge to try and “change” him by overt flirting, perhaps exchanging some words back and forth over the period of a semester.

Larry just can’t stand this affront to his own secure sense of self, and he’s just had it up to here, so one day he brings in a handgun and shoots poor Jaye in the back of the head. Twice. Just to make sure the bitch is dead.

We can certainly understand what happened. Jaye was “bullying” Larry; we can understand his revenge even though it was a little extreme. But it’s certainly understandable that gay kids would go into “heterosexual panic” when threatened, so in a way, the killing was justified because of Jaye’s actions, in other words, she brought it on herself.

Let’s assume for an instant, dear reader, that the above scenario is what played out. Can you imagine for a second that we’d be having this conversation about this murder not being a hate crime or even all that serious to begin with?

No, you cannot, because our society is biased toward the majority, toward heterosexuals. Brandon McInerney should be retried for murder, with the hate crime clause intact. IMHO, this kid knew exactly what he was doing. He killed his classmate because Larry was gay.