Saturday, August 13, 2005

Why I hate the Metro
The adventures of the Irrepressible Pansy Tham will return.

whether you like it or not...

I am one of the few people I know that actually commutes to work on public transportation. This is mostly due to the fact that the large corporation I work for has a deal where they will pay half the price of your bus pass, but will charge you to park. It's a carrot and stick deal, you see, and while I am personally averse to carrots, I am even more averse to sticks. So, I take the bus to work, and somtimes even on weekends to go out. That way I can go to Santa Monica without having to cope with trying to find a place to park or worry about moving the car every two hours.

I've had a long personal history with the Metro, at least through two major strikes, three name changes (do they think they're fooling us?), the construction of the subway (and subsequent destruction of parts of Hollywood), and the addition of the new "Rapid" buses.

The Metro has been working my nerves during this long history. They cancelled a line that I really liked that ran along San Vicente Boulevard (very scenic) that. admittedly may have been there solely so servants who worked in the big houses in Brentwood and Santa Monica had a way to work. It was usually me and about 25 women who were obviously cleaning women ar nannies. It was also one of the few busses that actually ran during the first transit strike I lived through in LA. I'm sure the fact that the then-mayor live in Brentwood had nothing, nothing at all to do with that.

Then they added the "Rapid" bus. They started out with Ventura Boulevard, which had no affect upon me, and on Wilshire, which did. "Rapid" buses make very few stops. The idea is that you get on in Whittier and make only about four stops before you get off in Santa Monica. Which is nice if you live in Whittier and crave a trip to the beach. The "Rapid" buses were fine for a while, but then the fine people at Metro came up with the bright idea to seperate each "Rapid" stop from it's lesser (and now a lot less frequent) local bus by putting it on the other side of the intersection. This means that commuters enjoy that wonderful Murphy's law effect on Wilshire. For instance, say I want to go to Santa Monica. I can either wait on one corner to see if the red ("Rapid") but I see way down Wilshire is A) stuffed to the gills or B) only going to Westwood, or C) both, or I can wait for a few years on the other corner to see if the orange (local) bus coming is actually going to Santa Monica, or just to Westwood. Invariably, after waiting long enough on one corner to need a haircut, I will switch to the other corner: the buses, who have clearly been in hiding will then release the gaggle of buses that I had been previously awaiting, which will pass me by, radioing any bus scheduled to stop at the stop I'm at that they should divert to Idaho until further notice.

I suppose there is some MBA in the Metro management that came up with this idea (most likely when he was driving into work in his Lexus), astounded by his own brilliance. I think he should be sentenced to having to commute from Covina on local buses only. It's almost as if the Metro's attitude is "If you live on the westside and don't have a car, you're too much of a loser to leave your neighborhood"

In any case, the Metro people are really enamored of these "Rapid" buses. Looking at the timetables, I can't see that they are doing much in the way of saving time for anyone but the drivers, finally giving them a green-light to gleefully pass up people who only want to get anywhere. They've been expanding the number of "Rapid" lines exponentially over the years, until last month when they finally hit me where I live: The Beverly Boulevard Bus has now been "Rapid"ed.

Previously, I could stumble out of my shower, get to the corner with the sure and certain knowledge that there will be at least three buses that will get me downtown reasonably close to early for work. Now, thanks to the MTA, I have one. I suppose I could walk the two places that the "Rapid" would deign to stop for me, but adding a half-hour walk onto my morning commute past 5 local stops makes as much sense as parking in Koreatown and walking the rest of the way. Plus it ensures that the one local bus that does come along is so choked with people by the time it hits downtown that it makes getting off the bus as easy as trying to extricate the middle anchovy from the can. Without opening it.

Personally, I think it's a plot. The car companies are behind it. They clearly want you to buy a car. Any car. And drive it everywhere

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Pansy's scenic drive

So, early the next morning, I awoke, checked out of my hotel, and left Portland FOREVER. Well, maybe not forever, but I felt a little drama was needed, ya know? I got back on the 5 south and headed towards Los Angeles.

All of you who have been so far riveted will doubtless remember that I had said that there is nothing to see on the 5. You may ask yourself why I got back on that road. You may even ask me. Mostly because it's right in Portland. Duh. However, the first chance I got, I made a sharp right and went for the coast.

I took the 101 south through the Redwoods, stopping at the drive-though tree because, really, you just have to.

There are many sights in this country that are awe-inspiring in their loveliness. One of the big ones has to be the coast of Northern California.

For this reason, at Santa Rosa, I made a hard right and went to Bodega Bay. Many of you will remember Bodega Bay as the site that Hitchcock used as the small coastal town in "The Birds". In many ways it looks pretty much the same. The old restaurant has quintupled in size and is unrecognisable, but the old school is still there, with the house Suzanne Pleshette lived in right next to it (actually, that isn't in Bodega Bay, it's on the way into town in Bodega, a few miles inland)

Leaving Bodega Bay, I drove the coast route into San Francisco. This route was in the part of "The Birds" where we aee 'Tippi' Hedren piloting her Aston Martin to deliver her love birds to Rod Steiger at the beginning of the movie. If you are ever in Northern California for any reason whatever, you must, MUST make this drive. It's absolutely spectacular. A word to the wise: it was also the route they used in "Basic Instinct" for the white knuckle car chase between Sharon Stone and Michael Douglas. It's a tricky road with switchbacks and vertiginous drop-offs. Agoraphobics take note. I felt very un-'Tippi' in my giant sand-colored Toyota SuburboCruizer minivan, but I was glad I was getting to make this drive with pay.

I'd like to be able to tell you the rest of the scenic wonders that I experienced, but there really weren't any; the Golden Gate bridge was an experience, and San Francisco is, as always so agressively scenic you sometimes want to slug it. I could stayed the course and kept to the coast road, but it was getting towards dark and I had a holiday dinner to go to the next day. So I got back on the 101 and was back in my lovely home in the Industrial Triangle area of beautiful Beverly Hills in time for the 11 o'clock news.

I got into my house to find a message from the friendly gorgon. Thong World no longer needed my services. I'd been replaced.

Boo freakin' Hoo.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Now that you're all riveted....

So anyway, I delivered the sofa without much fanfare. For some reason, I didn't feel like exploring Seattle. I don't know why (Bill Gates? Mount St Helens? Starbucks?). So I went south to Portland, and found a hotel. The hotel was a rather cheap but clean affair east of the 5 in a neighborhood that was middle-eastern. The people who owned the place were very nice, and pointed me towards some very yummy and very cheap food. Which I availed myself of before I went to the Mecca, the Shangrila, the el Dorado for anyone who loves books: Powell's

Powell's is an enourmous place, having started out as a used bookstore in what was then a rather rundown neighborhood in northwest Portland. At one point, they came up with the great idea that they'd sell new and used books. Since that day in teh 70's, the place has grown like Topsy. One day when I have a lot of extra money, I want to go in there with my platinum card between my teeth and a U-Haul at the curb. I spent a few hours perusing, then herniated my way to the car under the weight of my (what I thought) meagre purchases. Luckily, there was a lot of room in the van.

Did I mention the van? A Toyota Sienna minivan in a tan color that must have been listed on the option sheet as "Champagne Inoffensive Metallic". Pay attention, because this will figure later in the story. There may be a quiz.

Next: Pansy takes the scenic route!