Los Angeles the Hard Way

An Old RTD Bus on Its Route

When I first came to Los Angeles late in 1966, I did not know how to drive. And now I was living in a city in which it is considered to be impossible to get anywhere on public transit. For the next nineteen years, I was to disprove that. It was then that I began to study the city’s public transportation network. At that time, there was no fast rail, no subways—only buses. I lived in or near Santa Monica, so I could take either the Santa Monica Big Blue Buses or the orange RTD buses.

Why hadn’t I learned to drive? In Cleveland, we were too poor; and besides, my father was too impatient to teach me. When he tried, every time I made a mistake, he swatted me, hard. I thought it would be better if I put it off.

And so I did. Then something else came up. One of my family’s medical curses caught up with me in my twenties: high blood pressure. For years, I was taking a medication called Catapres that gave me narcolepsy, especially when I was a passenger in a moving automobile.

Suddenly, in 1985, I was off Catapres. The narcolepsy, having left me, no longer kept me from taking driving lessons at the ripe old age of 40. So I called the Sears-Roebuck driving school, and a patient teacher by the name of Jerry Kellman taught me. I passed my driving test with flying colors. I purchased a 1985 Mitsubishi Montero with automatic transmission (most in that model line were stick shift) and hit the roads.

Although I am on my third car, a 2018 Subaru Forester, I still take the buses (and now the trains, which Los Angeles now has) from time to time to go where I want without having to pay exorbitant parking fees. My trips downtown cost me a total of $1.50 there and back, which compares well to the $20-30 parking fees in cramped lots which would lead to dents in my new car.

So now I’m ambidextrous, to to speak. I can drive or take public transportation.




Viejo Cuba

Our Boutique Hotel in Quito

Our Boutique Hotel in Quito: El Viejo Cuba

For almost forever, I have been in charge of planning the vacations for Martine and myself. My brother Dan knew that, so I thought I’d let him have the upper hand. As we tend to think alike on most issues, that will be no problem.

We will be in Ecuador together for two weeks, then he will return to L.A. by himself because of business obligations. I will have an additional week in Southern Ecuador all alone. For those last seven days, I will do all my own planning as before. I think that’s a good compromise.

One thing that will be different is that Dan wants to rent a car and drive. That gives us a much broader choice of places to stay and allows us a lot of flexibility. I keep thinking of the three all-night bus rides I took in Argentina and Chile. Although I rather enjoyed them, I don’t think that Dan would quite so much.

That puts me in the role of navigator, which is a role I enjoy. Whenever, as a child, I went anywhere with our family, I was the one hunched over a map and dictating directions.

Our first stop in Ecuador will be the Hotel Viejo Cuba (illustrated above).  It’s a few blocks north of the popular Mariscal Sucré neighborhood, named after Bolivar’s favorite general.

This trip will be different, but I like the way it’s shaping up.

K-Rails and Steel Plates

Prepare for a Bumpy Ride

Prepare for a Bumpy Ride

One of the problems with California’s apocalyptic drought of 2014 is that virtually every street is under construction—without fear of rain.Today, Martine and I visited the Grier-Musser Museum near downtown. On the way home, we must have run over two hundred steel plates on Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Drive, Fairfax Boulevard, and Santa Monica Boulevard. These were accompanied by perhaps a mile or two of K-Rails (known in the East as Jersey Barriers).

K-Rails a.k.a. Jersey Barriers a.k.a. Concrete Barriers

K-Rails a.k.a. Jersey Barriers a.k.a. Concrete Barriers

Now that California is beginning to recover from the Great Recession of 2008, driving the streets of Los Angeles is like going back to the early days of motor cars, with the roads being in a constant state of disrepair.