Monday, June 12, 2006

New blog

The Daily News created a blog for me here. It will be up and running by mid week. I will be posting there from now on.

Back on the bus

Three more weeks of bus life. I've only been doing this 1-1/2 weeks and I hate it already. I missed my regular bus this morning, and I was overwhelmed by the options. Should I take the DASH to the subway to the Orange Line. Should I take the 200? Should I catch the 2 or 4 up to a further bus line? Should I take a later commuter express bus and hope it isn't too late? So many choices. In my indecisions, I kept missing buses as it got later: There goes the Dash, there goes the 200, there goes the 304.

I finally got to work, one hour late. I was demoralized and slightly queasy from the herky-jerky driving of my Orange Line driver. While on the bus, I tried to make a list of why the Red Line is better than the Orange Line. But the bumpy riding conditions turned my notes into intelligble scribbles. So here's what I have at the top of my head on why the Red Line is better than the Orange Line:

1) The subway train has roomier seats. Both wider benches and more leg room. On the Orange Line even a 5'4" tall person such as myself feels cramped.
2) You can write notes, letters, do the Sudoku puzzle on the Red Line thanks to the smooth ride. On the Orange Line, you are liable to lose your pen during a particularly hard stop.
3) There's no Transit TV on the Red Line. No wonder everyoen's got headphones on. The Transit TV on the Orange Line and other MTA buses blares from these little white boxes mounted above the seats on each side. You can't even move away from the sound. And it's not like it's "The Sopranos" or even "Finding Nemo." It's either headlines or obnoxious ads for vocational school.
4) You can read a book or my column on the Red Line and not get nauseated. I know the Orange Line buses are supposed to be exceptionally superior, but they still bounce along at the pavement. And if you're in a bus with a driver who is heavy on the gas and brakes, it will take all your concentration just to hold on.
5) The Red Line is not over-airconditioned. It's just right. In my experience the climate in buses falls into two categories: Third-world melt-o-rama or Arctic freezerific.

Were it not for the fact that I ride one right after the other, I might never have noticed how the Orange Lines fails so spectacularly by comparison.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Stop the (campaign mailer) presses

This year's primary election was remarkable in its amount of campaign mailers. I have lived in California all my voting life and at this address for nearly four years and have never had the amount of slick mailers begging for my vote that I did this year. Every day my mailbox was loaded down with a small stack of appeals from state assembly candidates, the governor guys, various PACs and voting groups and school board candidates. Apparently even that wasn't enough as I got several mailers stuck directly in my fence. I vowed to not vote for the candidates who sent the most junk to my house.

Here's a short list of the goofiest campaign mail I received:
- A paperback book by the candidate who is related to Cesar Chavez.
- A pink fridge magnet from GloMo advertising the county's 2-1-1 call service.
- A glossy photo of Kevin de Leon with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
- A watercolor portrait of Steve Westly.
- A mailer featuring JFK sailing on a boat (The democrats really need to get a new icon. That one has been dead longer than most of the voters in my district have been alive.)

Monday, June 05, 2006

BusMonth Diary: Day 5

I had a longer column explaining my June bus experiment in the actual paper on Sunday. But here are my observations from the last few days.

Friday, June 2: Here's another thing I learned. You meet people on public transportation, whether you want to or not! On Friday a young shaved man riding the Red Line from NoHo to Ho proper struck up a brief conversation with me. At first I thought he was hitting on me when he asked, "Are you Italian?" Then I realized that he was pushing his art when he gave me a post card explaining his personal story and art. Still, it was nice to have an actual conversation, and his art is nice to look at. You can check it out here.

Sat. and Sun, June 3-4: I spent the two days holed up inside with the A/C cranking, reading or watching TV. This wasn't car withdrawal per se. I had been planning a bus tour of Hollywood on Saturday, but two blocks from home I was blasted into a sweating, woozy blob and turned around and limped home. And then stayed there all weekend. Normally, I would have been driving around, probably from store to store, spending money on stuff for home improvement projects I might get to at some point in the next year. Lunch with friends. Movies. That sort of thing. I saved a lot of money this way, but didn't have much to show for my weekend.

Monday, June 5: Who knew I might one day welcome the return of June gloom. "Gloom is Good" is my new motto. Certainly my perspecitve has changed with the new morning ritual that includes a 1.1 mile walk to catch the bus on the side of the 101 freeway. It's no fun to arrive at work stinky and disheveled. The quick and pleasant morning commutes on LADOT's Commuter Express ( just 35 minutes to Warner Center!) make the daily 2-hour Orange Line/Red Line/MTA bus return journey bearable. But only just.

This morning, as I read my free copy of Hoy, I noted with satisfaction that about a third of the bus riders were also reading a newspaper. But there was not an LA Times, Daily News or NY Times in the lot. Half were reading La Opinion, the other half the freebie tabloid Hoy. I'm starting to think I should concentrate on improving my Spanish grammar if I want to continue to be a print journalist in LA.

Note about LADOT maintenance: This morning, I noticed the copies of Hoy and Daily News that I left Friday morning for other commuters to partake was still stuffed in the same place. I guess the buses don't get the daily cleaning I expected. Good to know.

Friday, June 02, 2006

BusMonth Diary: Day 1

While the morning ride on the Commuter Express 422 on Thursday was pleasant despite whisting dude, the return commute was like a quick visit to the Third World. Part of it was the weather, and the fact that the rickety old bus (most of the commuter exresses are new with charter bus-like plushness) that seemed to be a MTA reject had no air conditioning. It was 20 mintues late and packed with people. I squeezed passed the other hot, sweaty grumpy workers to the very back where I found a small step to squat upon right in front of the last row. Note to self: No more white clothes.

After about 5 minutes I was drenched with sweat. I could feel it dripping from my kneepit, and cruising down my back. The smell of the engine might have made me sick had I felt the least bit queasy. 1 hour and 10 minute of jerking down the 101 freeway later, I limped off the bus, gurbby, stinky and with numb butt, and sat down to wait for the 200 Alvarado. Normally, I would walk the 1.1 mile home. Not today.

Two hours after I left the office, I was home. I cranked up the a/c and poured a glass of wine and plopped on the couch. I was too tired for anything else. I hope I get better at this.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Month of the Bus

For those of you not in the small Mariel Circle of Confidence, I want to let you know my latest kooky endeavor. I am striving for a car-free month. This means that I will not drive my car all 30 days of June except in the case of a personal health emergency, or that of one of my menagerie.

I've only just begun this morning, so it's hard to say how it will go. But if my frustrating experiences getting a bus pass was any indication, it's going to be a long month. Turns out that many of the places that sell the regular MTA monthly passes, don't seel the pricier EZ Pass, which is good on MTA and LA DOT buses, as well as a bunch of regional bus lines. After futilely driving around to places that sell passes on Wednesday monring, I gave in and went directly to the source -- the MTA HQ downtown -- and bought my pass.

And, I've already discovered there's a bus version of road rage. I felt a twinge of it on this morning's drive thanks to the personal weirdness of another passenger. I won't get into. Suffice to day after this morning's experience, I will be packing my Walkman.

I'll be updating my experiences on this site, assuming I have any meaningful exchanges, observations or ephipanies.

Meanwhile, see you on the Orange Line, baby!

Isn't it ironic?

It took the denouncing of me and my Sunday column about the LAPD blog to make the LAPD blog interesting. Mary Grady fires back here. Good for her! That's what will take the blog beyond just a PR machine.

And re: this "factual error" that folks keep bandying about. I never indicated the source of the Web redesign money in the column, I merely made a crack later on in the column about spending taxpayer money. Yet that's what folks are quibbling about, not the overall sum. The result is that it seems its ok to spend provate donations friviously, even though the people who donated the money (who, I suspect are taxpayers like the rest of us) would want that money used sensibly. Just a guess. Anyhow, despite the abuse heaped on me, I'm glad that this generated some outraged response.