..[Los Angeles without a car, work permit or superpowers]

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Facts for Visitors


says a sign on Westwood Boulevard. It sounds testy, or ominous, or plaintive, depending on your mood.

Today on the Westside it's Golden State sunny but cold in the shade, and by the BluWave Carwash a man is wearing a sack over his ragged clothes for warmth. He's cut holes for his head and arms, and secured it round the midriff with twine, making it look like a Medieval tunic.

This is at Santa Monica and Westwood. Last month, in the LA Times, I read that there was a particularly nasty accident two blocks down from here; a northbound car crossed early, an eastbound car crossed late, and their collision killed a pedestrian waiting at the lights. Both drivers survived. The Escalades shall inherit the earth.
When the Blue Bus gets to Westwood proper, I switch to the Metro. While I'm waiting -- leaning against the wall of a Burger King that accepts food stamps -- I watch students, doctors and nurses at the busy six-way crosswalk. The UCLA medical buildings on the other side are monoliths; plaster-cast white, darkly mirrored or sonar-screen blue. My friend Rodeo Girl, TX, told me the other day that she overheard a hospital administrator on her campus shuttlebus say she loves the sound of ambulances sirens: it sounds like business. Rodeo Girl wants to get the hell out of TX .

After a while, a tourist asks me the way to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and whether this is the right bus stop because the schedule says there should have been a bus by now but there hasn't  been so he's just wondering if there will be. I reassure him that it'll arrive eventually. Which it does.

When I get on, the guy in front of me has trouble swiping his bus pass.

- It don't work,

says the driver.

- It should work.

- But it don't,

he restates, and then lets him on anyway. I feed my dollar fifty to the fare machine. The only other people onboard today are two middle-aged ladies chatting in Spanish. One pleasant thing about taking the bus is, I suppose, the knowledge that, should we recreate the film 'Speed' right here and now, I will be a shoe-in for the Sandra Bullock character. That's just demographic fact. The 302 rattles up onto Sunset Boulevard, and its ads feature the same poem that always haunts me on this route, ending.

Some men will make a grave out of anything.
Times when a body could dig through the night.*

Then I get off the bus near the Hustler store, and am nearly run over by a hippy on a Segway.

*Srikanth Reddy, 'Sonnet', from Facts for Visitors (LA/Berkeley: University of CA Press, 2004)

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