Friends often ask what they should see and do in Los Angeles. This is always tough to answer because the city constantly evolves, as do my own tastes, and that doesn't take into account the unique preferences of the asker. Nevertheless, when a family of Austrian friends planned to stop in Los Angeles last summer, I compiled a list of suggestions based on their interests (seeing the beach, experiencing iconic architecture, and viewing landmarks). With a few changes and updates, I thought I'd share it with you.
More formally known as the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Agency, Metro offers more than buses and trains. It exudes personality, a personality interwoven with this vast community. Many claim Los Angeles has no public transit, but I know otherwise, and this afternoon's ride only cements my opinion. A bus driver stopping randomly alongside the road might not be the model of efficiency, but he embodies the charm of transit in Los Angeles. I've heard of bus drivers who croon Rat Pack hits as they carry passengers to and from their homes; I've watched flirtation blossom to affection on the platforms of the Green Line. I've watched drunken partiers stumble down bus aisles then politely strike conversation with late night commuters. I've even seen gangbangers politely offer their seats to elderly and disabled passengers.
It's becoming clear that the age of the automobile is coming to an end, or, at the very least, changing. Los Angeles, like other cities, loses billions of dollars each year just because of people stuck on the region's tangled roadways. Scholars, politicians, activists and numerous overlapping government agencies each offer often-competing solutions for how to get the region moving. All the while, the solution might begin not with expensive upheavals and construction of vast new transit networks, but instead with better cooperation, education and mobilization of the surprisingly robust transit network that already exists in the metropolis.
In the same moment a wave of familiarity washes over me here alongside the L.A. River. As the street lamps and billboards and taillights fade into the darkness I slip away from the Los Angeles I know, jostled into a new awareness by the thought of the path I am threading through the urban fabric.
I find myself all over the world. Now I am headed toward downtown Portland, Maine aboard the #6 bus, gazing at the B&M Baked Beansfactory standing starkly against the gray skies and grayer waters of the Casco Bay. A moment later I find myself on Portland Oregon'sMAX, where I see a net of concrete and steel and iron bridges crossing the same Willamette River I ride above. Then my thoughts shift and I cross the Rhine, I cross borders and history on the bus from France's Strasbourg to Germany's Kehl to buy Turkish Doner Kebab and American peanut butter. I find myself back in Strasbourg, listening to Tunisians and Moroccans joking in the center of Le Tram, the wide steel tube they ride day and night from the banlieuesof Meinau and Neudorf and Elsau toward the broad Place Kleber at Strasbourg's heart.
Familiar memories vector across my neural network, stitched together to form my life, as has begun to happen here, where I left my car at home, here, in L.A., the supposed Eden of automobiles.
How would you give a tour of Los Angeles with only a short time to do so? What would you show? Why? What do you think is quintessential L.A.? What can be ignored? Do you have a universal trip you'd share with every visitor or are there certain ones you'd reserve for certain people? Would there be a specific flow to your tour? Would you use the strict geographical boundaries of the city, or would yours be more a tour of Southern California with Los Angeles as its center of gravity? If you're not from Los Angeles, what would you want to see here if you only had a few days to do so? What is this place to you? Why would you want to visit? What type of tour would you want?
am convinced in this moment that the city is limitless, recreating itself as it crawls across the landscape. Too many discount it as a disjointed whole lacking some maturity shared by the world's great destinations. But it is only here, it is only this sea of stories crashing upon each other, glittering from the ripples in the water. As the waves draw near I know I am here, only here, perhaps realizing only further that home means far less than a mindset. It is just another constructed identity.
Oh the joys of coincidence. Since the day I moved to L.A. and passed the giant, gleeful bee scultpure outside a drive through fast food joint, Jollibee has pervaded my consciousness. In the following months, friends and family have all discussed the joint, yet I haven't had any crispy poultry or tasty beef patties. Just last night I mentioned to a friend how curious I am about Jollibee and was reminded, as I learned a few months ago, that the restaurant is actually a popular Filipino fast food chain.
I'm in the midst of preparing some posts about the Expanding Vision of Sustainable Mobility summit hosted this week by the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. In doing so, I'm semi-procrastinating by skimming long-ago bookmarked blog entries and websites I set aside for reference in my master's project exploring the possibility of a transit revolution in the Los Angeles area. This might be a bit late, but I was impressed by this January post from StreetsBlog LA about the Los Angeles Department of Transportation's (LADOT) plans to convert old parking meters to bike racks.