Double Tap on Sepulveda

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There are no bike lanes in Van Nuys, from Woodman to Woodley. There are no bike lanes in North Hills. None in Panorama.  Put these three neighborhoods together and you have 265,000 people, nearly the population of Orlando, Florida. Orlando has bike lanes.  So does the city of Irvine, Pop. 266,000. But not us. We’re a colony.

Wait, a minute, what about the Orange Line? Ain’t that in Van Nuys?
Before the indigenous peoples south of Oxnard declared themselves to be Sherman Oaks, it used to be.  Now it’s an orphan.

The historic heart of the San Fernando Valley constitutes a medium-sized American city unto itself, but lacking the normal amenities found in such cities. Like say, Pittsburgh.
Then we have the nomadic tribes of the Favela, wandering their Sinai of dysfunction and dispossession from the 405 to the Wash, always on bikes.   Hundreds of them.

That’s a lot of people sharing lanes.   There are choke points, Sepulveda at Stagg being one of them.   It’s a great place to get clipped, pedaling against traffic.  At night.
Then again, it’s a great place to get clipped in broad daylight moving with the traffic flow, keeping yourself three feet from the parked cars, wearing a helmet and reflective clothing.

You don’t want to get hit twice.    Cause the first driver might not kill you. If he takes off, leaving you in the street, a second car might run over you like a speed bump, dragging your body up the block. She, too, might make a getaway, trailing sparks.   In the case of Stacy Adams, 55, neither driver rendered aid, though one of them managed to dispose of her bicycle in a spirited attempt to break the chain of evidence.

Erik Larson, the first driver, was arrested at his residence the next day.  The woman, Jenevieve Hegedus, was arrested a week later.

Cops like hit and runs.  They work them hard, they close ‘em fast.  -Michael Clayton

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The victim, one of 50 bicycle-vehicle fatalities in SoCal in 2017, has a ghost bike to mark where her body was crushed. It’ll be there for a year, and then it will be removed.

In a year’s time, Metro may raze Aetna and Bessemer street to build a maintenance yard for a light rail conversion of the Orange Line no one asked for.  I have a wee suspicion there still won’t be a bike lane on Sepulveda. There’s no money in that.  Maybe I could write a letter to the colonial bureau.

Leave the Cat. Take the Chainsaw.

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Suppose late one night you’re aroused from uneasy dreams by an unfamiliar noise. Flames crackle outside your window. No Emergency Broadcast Signal, no wailing sirens, but the fire is loud. Deafening, as the trees which overhang your house spark up like 60 foot matches.  You have quick decisions to make.  Hold on. Let me find my glasses, first, jeez….  

No time for glasses.

Where are my good boots?
Forget the good boots! Let’s go!
It’s crazy out there. I’m not going anywhere without my good boots.

Pushed off the headlines by more telegenic fires south in Santa Rosa, rural Mendocino County endured a fire last week you may not have heard of.  It originated with a downed power line after midnight. The initial conflagration overtook rural neighborhoods before people could evacuate in an orderly manner.    Most were informed of the firestorm, if at all, by fleeing neighbors, and only then if their house was convenient to the road. Those who hesitated, even for minutes, perished.  Dozens of residents remain missing.

My parents had a ringside seat from just beyond the evacuation zone, and the good fortune to have several days to watch the smoke and perfect an escape plan, should the worse-case scenario occur. I asked them what would they put in their Go Bag.

Paintings. (Really? Yes.) A few framed photographs. The laptop. ID’s and financial papers, naturally.  A violin. And oh yeah, the chainsaw. 

Yes, the chainsaw!  You never know when you might come in handy.  It has served him well over the years.

They were leaving the cat, however. “Every time we’ve put him in the car, even to the vet, he’s made a run for it.”   In their defense, they’re in their 70’s, an age oriented toward shedding burdens.

Gaming out a list like this works to God’s amusement, and one can’t help but wonder at the speed the list would unravel should they be forced to yield the car to the flames and make a dash though the woods. My mother I suspect would cling to the violin, which she doesn’t play, as a matter of principle.  The better question would be: In the rush to flee would my father remember to fill the chainsaw with gas? Or Would he be running through the woods carrying a 50lb gun which had no bullets? Probably yes. Which would make the chainsaw vs. violin debate rather academic.  He’d make her get rid of the violin.

Mrs. UpintheValley, decidedly Not A Cat Abandoner, has made a pre-decision to shelter in place come hellfire or zombies, and to that end ran out and bought survival equipment.  The entire conversation as to who to take and who to leave is anathema to her.

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The obligations of love require me to perish by her side, so I’m doing the sensible thing.  I’m buying bullets.

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Dept. of NGAF

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“Can you watch the game, just for a few minutes?”
“I’m reading.”
“We’re inside the 20. There’s 12 seconds left.”
“I told you I don’t like football.”
“Just pretend.”
“Go Giants.”
“Rams! Girl, football!”
“I’ll cross my fingers. How’s that?”

Final score: Seahawks 16, Rams 10, with the game tying pass dropped in the end zone, seconds after this photo was taken.

So it’s all her fault.

Also the fault of the bars downtown that refused to put the game on. What is up with that?
Me: Do you guys have the Rams on TV?
Mikkeller: (laughter) We never have games on.
Karl Strauss: Well, yeah. But its on mute.
Why? Why would you have a giant TV over your bar broadcasting the NFL, and sullen bar staff playing music instead?  Why would anyone watch a game they can’t hear? Its Sunday afternoon. Bars are three-quarters empty.  Thousand of CicLAVians are zipping past your door on bicycles. Some of them like football.  You going to send them back to the Valley?
Apparently, yes.

Four bars we went to with the TV on mute. Four! A gorgeous fall day we had on the bikes, ready to be topped off with a couple quarters of smashmouth football.  The Rams, vying for playoff position. Twenty years we’ve been waiting for this, and now, bupkes.

At Fifth and Spring, from an open doorway we heard a sudden roar of fandom, whistles, play-by-play, people in game jerseys spilling out on the sidewalk, the happy smells of spilled beer and fried food. All the encouraging indicia of sportsjoy.

The Rams? No.
The Chargers? No.
Packers-Cowboys.
So we have established there are NFL fans in DTLA. Only their loyalties are elsewhere.

Mrs. UpintheValley, sensing my incipient crankiness,  persuaded someone at Beelman’s Pub to put the sound on, for which I am grateful. We ordered the requisite carbohydrate-laden appetizers and settled in for excitement.

All seven of us.  Six, if you count her.

Gettin’ Jumped

Ready to be a ho

Wanna Lyft?

Thursday night in Studio City, I get a ride request from a 7-11.  A man gets in and asks a familiar question.
“How long have you been driving for Uber?”
“Two years.”
“Really? Me, too.  I’m a driver, also.”
“That makes us veterans. A rare breed.”
“You ever think about driving for Lyft? Cause I can sign you up right now, in ten minutes.”
Wait, what?

We pulled into a parking lot of a bar, and a woman, his supervisor, hopped into the back seat.  She opened a briefcase. They had a Lyft recruitment packet ready to go.

They were brand ambassadors. They seemed to already know who I was. Like how I had partially completed a Lyft application in 2016, that I never followed up on. They were friendly, eager to have me.  Flirtatious, even.

“We can do the vehicle inspection right here in the parking lot, while you download the driver app.”

Suddenly it was happening. I was being jumped. By the rival gang…

They photographed me standing in front of the bar, submitted my background check, gave me my pink trade dress. I was on my way to being a bi-sexual driver, as so many of us are, now.

It explained a few things. Like the generous spike in Uber driver bonuses of late. And the fresh TV ad campaign for Lyft featuring Jeff Bridges and Tilda Swinton.  Los Angeles is the biggest ride share market in the country, and Lyft has steadily been gaining ground.

LA is the misty plain upon which each company is intent on luring the other into a Pickett’s charge.  If there is going to be a defining slaughter, it’s going to happen here.

Much is made of Uber as a tech company, but the technology behind rideshare is easily duplicable. The company owns nothing, not even the infrastructure.  The phones and the cars are the infrastructure.  What Uber owns, and Lyft desires, is the transaction itself, the connective tissue between rider and driver.    This too, if you think about it, could be re-positioned onto a publicly-owned forum that could match drivers and riders, Craigslist-style, or more accurately Waze-style, in real time.

Rider demand is unslakable and growing.  Cheap fares get people off the bus. Fewer working people on the bus means the derelict/normal person ratio becomes less palatable, leading yet more people to get off the bus. More cars on the road mean fewer people want to drive, and more car owners booking ride share.

So the drivers are the whole ball game.  This may sound counter-intuitive. On paper, we’re 1099 peons from Palookaville. We have no collective bargaining rights, no benefits, no employment status. While nearly anyone without a DUI or criminal record can become a driver, in practice very few people do so.  Most who sign up wash out after a few months.  There is an initial gold rush when Uber enters a new market, after which subsequent driver recruitment efforts yield diminishing returns.   In a few years the market is established and pretty much anyone who is going to be a driver is already doing so, or tried it.

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Los Angeles has entered the Yojimbo/Fistful of Dollars phase of rideshare.  We’re all smoking cheroots now, trading our services back and forth to rival bands offering no quarter to the other. The money has never been better.   I’m ready to be a ho samurai.  I got my ho shoes samurai sword/six shooter out tonight. I got my pink dress. I’m bisexual, for like, whatever.