Much has been said and written about California car culture, specifically Los Angeles. Drive-in restaurants thrive and motorists are encouraged to roll up and down the coast on PCH. Lowriders dominate urban pockets of the city, while neighborhoods in the hills are littered with luxury vehicles. There is even a certain vernacular required to describe the method of reaching one’s destination, and a genuine interest from others which route was taken. And then, of course, there is the traffic. EVERYONE complains about the traffic. The traffic is so bad. I can’t go from HERE to THERE because there would be SO MUCH TRAFFIC. There are instances when the roads are frustratingly overwhelmed or a fender bender in the fast lane throws a wrench in the morning commute. But for the most part, THE TRAFFIC isn’t that much worse than the awful band of the same name.
…but I do avoid extra time on the road if possible and I have been known to take the Metro to maximize “convenience.” In fact, last night I rode the rails for the fifth different trip in the last two weeks, which must be some sort Angeleno record. Many are not aware of the network’s reach across Los Angeles, and while I would never admit to being a Trained Professional along the Metra or CTA in Chicago, I have figured certain routes are best attacked using LA’s much-maligned public transportation system.
TRIP ONE: LONG BEACH TO CULVER CITY (ONE WAY)
This was admittedly made more difficult than it needed to be, but I was meeting the ROAMING team for dinner at our favorite Korean BBQ spot and didn’t know what time they would be off work or how much soju and Hite would be consumed. It was a perfect commute. I came home from work, walked to the Long Beach platform at 5:54 and began my journey. From a previous trip, I knew I could step off the Blue Line at LATTC and catch the Expo Line around the corner with a little hustle instead of standing on the Pico Platform. I ran and caught the Expo train just as it pulled into the station and then walked from the Culver platform to Hanjip and replenished all of those burned calories with copious amounts of bulgogi. I crawled into the ROAMING van for a comfy, safe ride back to Long Beach instead of joining my people on the train ride home.
TRIP B: LONG BEACH TO LA ARTS DISTRICT
It took me longer than I wanted to escape the office and then fought traffic on the drive home. I changed and hustled back to the Long Beach Metro stop, standing on the platform at 5:54 (again). The ride was mostly smooth, with familiar encounters with the guys selling snacks and bootleg headphones. I got off at 7th Street / Metro Center and walked to the brewery. At some point between Skid Row and the Arts District, I noticed a deranged homeless person. I made a specific effort to avoid eye contact, or perhaps to avoid even sharing the same sidewalk. But he was on to me. We met in the middle of the crosswalk and he mirrored my every movement like a quick-footed defender on the top of the key. My heart raced as I juke-stepped around him and walked the last few blocks with an extra pep in my step and repeated looks behind to ensure he wasn’t following me to the party.
Fast forward to the end of the night after the second brewery. I’m not sure anyone paid attention to how late we were out. I got a friendly ride to Union Station… Only to discover that Union Station was closed for the night (?!) Thankfully I got back in the car to Metro Center and sneaked onto THE LAST TRAIN OF THE NIGHT TO LONG BEACH, per the overhead announcement. I was grateful to have not been stranded DTLA and dozed off for a minute in my uncomfortable, germ-infested seat. The conductor made an announcement that THIS TRAIN STOPS AT WILLOW, END OF THE LINE AT WILLOW, which was too difficult to comprehend. I called a Lyft, walked into my building and saw my Super doing maintenance in the lobby. We exchanged pleasantries and both wondered what the other was still doing awake after 2am. Damn that PBJ tasted delicious before tucking in, from what I remember. I guess there was a happy ending to this saga after all.
TRIP III: LONG BEACH TO LA MEMORIAL COLISEUM
Since I had so much recent practice using the Metro, and because parking around Expo Park is a nightmare, I took the train once more in Los Angeles. It was a weekend afternoon ride in the blistering sunshine on the sweaty metro car. I waited on the platform, and kept waiting. The trains usually arrive at the Long Beach station 10-15 minutes apart, but I stood on the platform for at least twendy before embarking on another journey. I connected downtown to the Expo Line and walked the Coliseum for LA Food Fest, compliments of the ROAMING team. I guzzled a few soda pops and beers and was well hydrated. Thankfully I was able to get some value drinking, since eating at the festival was a disaster. Vendors were either sold out of product within the first two hours of the gates opening, or lines were hundreds of people long awaiting a morsel of goodness. I stood for fifteen minutes to eat a silver-dollar tostada and again for a chorizo taco bite, which served as appetizers for an actual meal upon returning to Long Beach.
TRIP 4: LONG BEACH TO HOLLYWOOD BOWL
This was a nightmare. Once again it was a rush to get from the office to my apartment to the train, knowing I would have to connect in Los Angeles to the Red Line before making the rest of the journey to the Bowl. I returned to the platform at 5:54 and read the alerts on the scroll for dates and times and stations that were not relevant to this excursion. I nervously guzzled a Red Bull to boost the energy of the evening. The train finally came around 6:30 and we were off, me and my closest/loudest/rudest friends. I made the mistake of sitting on the sun side of the car and roasted while sitting as close to the window as possible to avoid eye contact and touching anyone or anything on the train. I’m not sure if it was the brutally bright sunshine or dose of taurine or the cacophony of music and colorful language that made my headache pulsate.
It should be about an hour from one end of the Blue Line to the other. On this day, we were stranded between stops near downtown. It was the perfect distance away to be too far to walk, and we were between stations so everyone was stuck on the train. Eventually we made it to the station, where I hustled to catch the next Red Line to Hollywood. I knew I was on the right train and going the right direction, but the automated announcement system did everything possible to confuse me. NEXT UP UNION STATION. But, this train is going the exact opposite direction? NEXT UP WILSHIRE/BEVERLY. Umm, we passed that station two stops ago. Thankfully a daily commuter noticed my concern and assured me I was going the right way before she stepped off the train.
After my previous nightmare during TRIP B, I am forever paranoid to miss the last train out of the city and being stuck on The Streets. I enjoyed the sights and sounds of Phoenix at the Hollywood Bowl, but always with one eye on the time to make sure I embarked on my journey home at an early enough hour. Thankfully the commute back was more efficient and without delay, even if I was still riding the high of Red Bull and Ti Amo.
TRIP CINCO: LONG BEACH TO DODGER STADIUM (ONE WAY)
I should have learned my lesson by now, to be done with the train, to begin a new commuting relationship. I sneaked out of work a few minutes early knowing I would need every moment possible to meet friends in the Arts District before going to the ballpark. Once again there was a delay, ruining the time I had saved. It was an especially warm early summer evening and the train was crowded and crabby. I learned all about Baby-J potentially fraudently using his homey’s credit card for multiple Uber rides to and from The House. I anxiously observed how a bicycle blocked the door and walkway for other passengers to enter and leave the train. I listened to THE SAME LATIN SONG ON REPEAT for the last 40 minutes of the ride because the passenger in front of me enjoyed her music without headphones. There are entreprenuers meandering up and down the train selling snacks-headphones-chargers-pop-water, why do multiple patrons insist on listening to their phone on speaker?
Anyhow, I abandoned the train three stops before its final destination because I was cutting it too close to get to the meet. I walked past a sketchy, deserted part of LA and lived to tell about it, hailing a ride and miraculously making it the rest of the way weaving through traffic and burning red lights. I made it to Arts District Brewing and the beer tasted delicious. Five trips on the Metro over the last two weeks have quenched any further desire to experience Los Angeles public transportation, at least for awhile.