I So Red Line Boogie

“Iso” jumped into our train last night at Universal City and told us all he was doing his show.  There was a slightly plaintive quality to the announcement, like he wished to assure he was offering quality and not some subway shakedown.

Then he fired up the boombox and subjected a captive audience to his energetic pastiche of karate moves and pole spinning.

As he was “dancing” I was thinking is it Iso or I So, as I so badass? Or is it “I? So…” Or, “I sow”? Or, “I sew”?  Any one of these might have worked.  If you told me he was going to take the two dollars he was given and run straight to a dealer, I wouldn’t be surprised.  Just as readily if I were to learn two bucks would prize him a pair of sparkly pants for his audition to be one of Rihanna’s back up dancers,  I would believe that as well.

The line between derelict and street performer is a narrow one. The line again between lifelong busker and employed artist is narrower still.

To this end, Jack Dishel, a Venice musician, hit upon the very inspired idea of a YouTube channel called :DRYVRS, wherein he has encounters with oddball rideshare drivers, played by celebrities. Ostensibly a comic short,  each episode serves as a stealth vehicle for promoting his music.

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Episode 1, starring Macaulay Culkin in a reprise of his Home Alone character went viral:  25,000,000 views.

Episode 2, starring Rosanna Arquette: 113,000 views.

Jack Dishel playing music on his channel, after being seen with Macauley Culkin : 4,000 views.  That would be a retention rate of .00016.  Or one out of every 6,250 viewers.

The series lasted two episodes.

“Iso” jumped off the train at Hollywood and Highland like he robbed a convenience store and disappeared into the crowd with his two dollars and his boombox.

At the Hollywood Bowl, Brian Setzer kicked off the show by telling us only 30 people came the first time the Orchestra played Sunset Boulevard, 25 years ago.

Since then he’s been perpetually touring, grinding it out with little variation to the set list, a hostage to his own success, dozens of families, musicians and crew, depending on the forever tour to pay the mortgage, the tuition, the grocery bill.

We were in the cheapest seats, by the upper terrace, and we swing danced as the music was meant for.  Our footwork was …let’s just say we were in no danger of anyone tipping us for our performance. In the shadows of the pepper trees, we almost looked like we knew what we were doing. Which is to say we had fun, fun being the operative verb of indestructible music, cheap wine and moonlight.

Dancing is exhausting. I so left the Bowl with a little more respect for…Iso.

Mary prefers the Red Line

The following is a guest blog post from my friend Mary Woodbury Gant:

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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.

Chaos, coming

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You can feel it out there on the street now. Twenty years of sound public policy going up in smoke.

Along the Metrolink tracks, where I once saw two or three parolees and drug addicts during a single walk, I now see twenty.

At the North Hollywood Metro station, I step out of the car and a grown man on a child’s bike starts circling me as I cross the parking lot, making a whoop-whoop sound, circling tighter and tighter, till he’s almost clipping my knees, muttering incomprehensibly. A radio hangs from his neck on a string, blasting pointless static.   The Sheriff’s deputies who monitor the plaza entrance don’t lift a finger as he moves on to the next unsuspecting commuter.

On the train I meet two men with prison-issue telephone scars.  Two, in five minutes.

At home I turn on the TV and the mayor of Baltimore is granting “those who wished to destroy, the space to do that as well,”  to a backdrop of burning liquor stores and pharmacies.  The district attorney follows up by indicting six police officers for murder for failing to secure a prisoner with a seat belt.  In the ensuing month Baltimore records it highest murder rate in 40 years. Seemingly sober people appear on cable panel shows scratching their chins, wondering if cause and effect could be related.

The distance between those who effect policy and shape our discussion of it (The Clerisy, to use a term of art), and the rest of us has become unsustainably wide. There is a particular species of American who waxes sanctimonious about Social Justice but would never tolerate Section 8 tenants on his block for five minutes. They love chewing on phrases like mass incarceration, comfortable in the knowledge the parolees are headed for Van Nuys.   Such people are ascendant now.

The chaos is coming west.

I’m old enough to have seen this movie before. It doesn’t end well.

A helpful reminder on the Red Line

Teddybear on the motel bed, an ominous sign

A teddybear on the motel bed. Always an ominous sign…

The City of Los Angeles would like the riders of the Metro system to know that it is Concerned. About Teen Prostitution. And Sex Trafficking. In case you stopped off for a quick one at the Palm Tree Inn before you got on the train today, and are at this moment skulking away from the scene of the crime twirling your mustache like Snidely Whiplash it would like to remind you that you are an abuser. Of children! If you witnessed such transactions and didn’t report them, well….you a neglector! Of helpless teen girls! An unindicted co-conspirator!   We need to be on the lookout!  Report in!  The City needs to know!

The ProtectLAKids website offers helpful tips for us:

A young woman may be a victim of trafficking if she:

  • Looks fearful or depressed, and is not on her own
  • Is being closely watched
  • Does not have possession of her paperwork or money
  • Shows signs of physical abuse

Alternatively, she may be a victim of trafficking if she:

  •  Is standing on Sepulveda Blvd with her hoo-hah peeking out of her shorts, rain or shine
  •  Has a barcode tattoo on her neck evident when she ducks her head in and out of car windows.
  •  Always walking against the flow of traffic, a phone tucked to her ear,  but her lips aren’t moving
  •  She ‘lives’ at any of the motels between Oxnard and Nordhoff
  •  She’s offering ‘dates’ for $35 at the bus stop in the middle of the afternoon commute

Until the Committees of Concerned Bureaucrats figure out where Van Nuys is on the map, and the ABC’s of nuisance abatement, we’ll all keep our eyes peeled for those morose teenagers dragging teddy bears.