Mrs. UpintheValley dragged us to the Annenberg Space for Photography yesterday afternoon for one of her mandatory marital field trips, appropriating my day off, which was really only half a day since I worked until 3 AM the night before.
Also, I don’t really have days off anymore. I just choose, periodically, to neglect the three ongoing domestic projects I have in play around the house and attribute it to ‘rest.’ I had a plan for myself, and it didn’t include traffic, or doing anything which smacked of obligation, like going over the hill. In short, expending energy on anything but satisfying my creative whimsy, and/or reading the new Richard Price with a glass of whiskey balanced on my forehead.
But I got in the car. There we were at Annenberg, when strobe lights started going off in the room. Then an announcement to leave the building.
Outside on the plaza, the entire CAA building next door had been evacuated. A suspicious package had been found and the bomb squad summoned. Agents and staff milled about, waiting for the all clear. It was a cheerful scene, a young adult version of a school fire drill. No one took it too seriously. There was a lot of networking.
Things took a turn for the ominous when police herded everyone down the plaza stairs, across the grassy knoll to another building, and cordoned off CAA and Annenberg with police tape. Half-hearted attempts to keep working were displaced by debates over whether to adjourn for drinks at the Century City mall.
Someone officious announced the parking garages were closed for a police search. Which meant we were all headed to the mall. It was 4:30. Any hope of late afternoon productivity was shot.
On the way we passed these service staff workers taking full advantage of the break to play bean bag toss. I was struck by how far removed we were from the bonfires of the world. What a luxury to enjoy such a notion as a bomb scare. In the great arc across North Africa, the Middle East, the Caucasus and into Central Asia, there is no polite filing for the exits. There are no warnings. You’re haggling over the price of figs in the bazaar, suddenly there is a flash of light, and -poof- they’re picking your DNA off buildings three blocks away. If you’re one of the survivors of the blast radius…you share of the winnings include tinitus, grief and prosthetic limbs (if you can afford them). You shuffle through your daily routine knowing/not knowing what could come at any moment. One makes psychic adjustments. But is such a concession to the Sword of Damocles really possible without irrevocably changing who you are?
Only a few years ago we as a nation-state were deeply involved in the long, civilizational struggle against such barbarism. We have, without announcing as much, or crucially, admitting honestly to ourselves, ceded the battlefield. Whether this is the wise or foolish course is a bit of an existential gamble. As long as the bombs stay Over There, hermetically sealed among the dusky hordes and their incomprehensible alphabet of grievances….it will sort of work out, right? For Us.
Does anyone really believe that will be the case? For how long?
At Bloomingdales Mrs. U put her purloined hour to use, and availed herself of a free facial, with $300/ounce skin cream.
Why not? For now, we have mall enough, and time….
Happy Drunk White Man and Asian Woman in an Uber:
Asian Woman: I got pulled over right here once. This stupid person was driving so slow, I just passed them on the shoulder. This cop saw me and pulled me over. It was the one and only time I ever played the Asian card: “Me so sorry. Me no understand. Me not from this country.”
White Man: Did that work?
Asian Woman: I told him I was from Taiwan and “me always drive on shoulder.” Because of the pig trucks taking up the whole road, it’s a very common practice. I never had to show him my license.
White Man: I want to play the chink card! (kissing) Can I use yours?
Asian Woman: (kissing) You’re terrible.
White Man: I’m not the one doing accents.
White Man: Driver, we’re not going to the karaoke bar. Just take us home.
The following evening, Three White People are picked up in front of a restaurant in Beverly Hills:
Man: What was up with John’s dad calling Marshall a chink? Who says that?
Woman: I felt embarrassed for him.
Second Man: Don’t feel bad for him, he’s rich.
Woman: So? It doesn’t entitle you to call people chinks.
Second Man: He was born in Mexico. He came to this country with nothing. He’s self made. He built his business out of nothing.
Man: What’s he really do? That’s what I want to know.
Woman: He’s a contractor.
Man: I work with contractors every day. I don’t know anyone who has a Black Card.
On the third evening, Two Asian Women are picked up in Santa Monica:
Woman #1: He’s so shady with me. I don’t understand why I keep following him on Instagram.
Woman #2: Stop following him already.
Woman #1: Then how will I know what he’s doing with her?
Woman #2: Gimmie your phone, I’ll delete him right now.
Woman #1: No! I have to know. I’ve synced up with her.
Woman #2: It’s not like she’s the moon.
Woman #1: It’s like she’s taken an axe and cut a chink in the armor of my dignity.
Seeing a gaggle of booty-shorted women working a corner in the harsh, unforgiving morning light, one thinks: who does this? Who pulls over in the middle of the commute, in full view of the yoga moms and clock punchers and school buses and negotiates a curbside transaction for full release?
Men do. Otherwise these ladies wouldn’t be here.
The Daily News profiled an undercover operation not long ago, in which the first john nabbed was suddenly surrounded by his wife, mother and kids, all yelling at the police demanding to know why he was being arrested. It turned out he was procuring his…date…down the block from his house. In daylight.
Men. We stupid sometimes.
The following is a guest blog post from my friend Mary Woodbury Gant:
I am a middle class white woman in her 30’s who takes public transportation in Los Angeles. I know what you are thinking… did your phone just run out of battery so you couldn’t Uber to a rental car facility during your tire rotation, so you decided to take the bus? Or how drunk were you when you got that DUI? My answer is neither. In fact, I own a perfectly fine 2012 Ford Fiesta. I just like the stress free feeling of not having to worry about bad traffic, expensive parking or hitting the brakes before backing into that annoying Prius. Considering LA traffic, it typically takes at most 15 minutes more than driving. Many other middle class (and above) women refuse to take public transportation. They claim they are harassed, scared or put in uncomfortable situations. (FYI – I’ve only seen one guy die on the train and he was wayyy old.)
I think the same rules for walking anywhere in a major city by yourself apply when taking public transportation. Don’t wear a slutty outfit if you don’t want people looking at you. Long shorts and loose socks are ideal. Don’t listen to loud music on your headphones so that you can’t hear what is going on around you. Stay aware! Unless you are an aspiring singer/actor whom can sing really loud while wearing headphones and can pretend that no one can hear your inconsistent warbling. Do read an actual book. People will assume you are smart and not to be messed with. They will also assume you are poor and have no money to steal since you are not using an e-reader or a kindle. Wear sunglasses when you nap. Then people won’t know if you are awake or asleep. It keeps them on edge.
I have always followed these rules and have never had a problem. However, I have seen many scantily clad women wearing headphones while texting on expensive electronic devices while periodically napping and not wearing sunglasses….and I don’t see them get harassed, scared or put in uncomfortable situations either.
People who take public transportation in Los Angeles are real people, and you don’t see a lot of real people in this city. They are not spoiled children. They are not rich jerks. They are not kept women. They do not get spray tans. They might not own deodorant. (Personally, I’d take the smell of a gentle piss over synthetic lavender cologne every day of the week.) They are people with real families, real jobs and real problems. They are the people in Los Angeles who are easy to ignore…which is why I feel comfortable taking the bus cause they don’t bother me and I can easily ignore them.
Angelenos, do yourselves (and your city) a favor and take public transportation once in a while. It’s better for the environment, your health and your wallet. It might take a couple trips, but eventually you will develop your “bus legs”.*
* Bus Legs are how to stand when you are on a moving train or bus and it’s so crowded that you can’t grab onto anything to steady yourself. In that situation, you need to stand with your body facing the side of the bus and your feet slightly more than hip width apart. The leg closer to the direction you are moving should be slightly bent while the back leg should be locked. That way when the bus comes to a stop you will slightly rock back and forth instead of flailing forward onto a stranger who is a little to happy to have someone bump into them.
Actually, that’s not exactly true. Bernie drew a big crowd, and then, in a remarkable act of self-abasement, relinquished the microphone to two women who stormed the podium. They demanded four and half minutes of silence and proceeded to lecture everyone, including the candidate, for their “white supremacist liberalism” and insufficient fealty to the Black Lives Matter agenda.
“Don’t ask questions! We’re shutting it down! Let her speak NOW!”
As political performance art goes, it was a thing of beauty. Vermont folded its hand in under a minute.
After the rioting in Ferguson and Baltimore, the #BLM movement has alienated much of the country save two groups of people: the media, and a particular species of upper-middle class liberal who is as separated from inner city life as is culturally, economically and geographically obtainable. In short, Bernie Sanders voters. After this weekend, I’m not sure where this leaves them, in this the seventh year of the Obama presidency.
I have a pretty good idea where the media is leading the rest of us.
All this was on my mind at the Culver-to-Venice CicLAVia today, which was lovely and pleasant as always…but kind of, dare I say it, lacking in local color.
I didn’t see a lot of bikes like this one, from the Valley CicLAVia in March. Nor many riders of the type who make bikes like this.
The crowd was rather….er, Bernie Sanders-ish. White, prosperous and polite. If voting habits and campaign donations are fair proxy, blissfully indifferent to the political arson they’ve set in motion around the country.
Here we are today. No streetcars. No horses. Plenty of cars. Houses built atop garages with no yards and no trees, squeezed four to a lot on the lots of old, ringed by a wall. It’s a single family home, but you can stick a broom out your window and scratch your neighbor on the shoulder while he’s shaving in the morning. A century of Valley history squeezed into one frame.
It’s official. Gentrification has snuck in the back door of our beloved working-class brigadoon. Doggie day care has come to Van Nuys. You let one craft brewery in and the whole place goes Echo Park on us overnight.
I polled a few locals for their views:
Blogging has been light lately, what with the night work, so I took a break from my labors Saturday and go to a poker game in Los Feliz at the invitation of friends. A night off. That was the plan anyway.
Getting in the car at 9 pm, temptation whispered coyly in my ear: “why waste a trip to town? Just turn on the app….pay for your chips on the way.”
One ride, what could it hurt…it will probably be going to Hollywood anyway.
An hour later I was in Brentwood listening to a couple fight in the back of the car:
You blew it in there!
No, I didn’t.
I can’t take you anywhere.
You just don’t like it I understand people better than you.
Oh yeah, you got superpowers…
I texted my friends to say I was running a little late. I would send be heading to the Eastside and would make my apologies with a few bottles of Jackie Tar.
Two hours later I was sort of East…but more Southeast, down on Traction Street:
So what did he say?
He didn’t. He was rock hard quiet.
He thought it was sexy. Like defined abs or something.
Silence is negativity. Don’t let it mess with your head, girl.
He’s already in my head, like a virus.
By 2 AM, I was back in the Arts District again, by way of LAX, Glendale and Carthay Circle. The night was shot. The card game long over, and I was a no-show. For the second time in a month I had stood up the same friends on the rationalization of “okay, just one ride….”
Addiction is characterized by the inability to abstain. The re-wiring of the personality around reward circuits. Besides easy and certain money, what am I chasing?
Mrs. UpintheValley has a theory that I’m an extrovert who has chosen an introverted life, for the most part. Maybe this has something to do with it. Maybe I’m Bruce Wayne leaving my bat cave in Van Nuys at night, heeding the thrum and pull of the city. For now, I’m enjoying not knowing Why.