Monday, December 27, 2010

work uniform

blue-collar jobs have always had uniforms.  not every uniform is the same, but some variation on the name-tag-over-breast-pocket-on-dark-collared-shirt-to-hide-potential-stains-with-dark-pants-for-the-same-reason is generally employed.  i also know from watching mad men that there was a time when white-collared jobs meant a suit and tie with (you guessed it) a white-collared shirt.  some time since then, white-collared jobs that do not require people to be presentable sprang into existence.  though most evident in engineering professions, many office positions now conduct so little of their business in person, a suit and tie has become an unnecessary discomfort.  however, through some combination of low prices, comfort and mutual fashion indecisions, i would submit that the following uniform has arisen:

key elements to note:

  1. insulated cube-tote, often with logo of company handing out free swag at a convention of some sort (this guy has two)
  2. beige/light tan pants
  3. tennis shoes
  4. credential-holding implement (multiple lanyards in this case, though belt-clipped retractable device is common)
if not for the lanyards, i'd think this guy might be on some casual get-away, maybe picnicking with his companion. as it is, well, he must be good at what he does.  though i don't subscribe to this uniform myself, i've never known someone who does getting fired for incompetence.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

grab yer shappin cart

it's finally upon us.  the last day to buy gifts for "loved" ones (y'know, because that's what love is).  hustle out there, folks.  be like sinbad and my outgoing governor in that one movie i haven't seen where they're fighting over toys.  spend, spend, spend.  the economy needs you now more than ever.  and, if you need a shopping cart for everything you're acquiring, go here:

this picture was taken from a moving blue line train between the 103rd st station and the rosa parks station.  it's hard to tell from the train how deep the stack goes, but i'd venture to guess at least three, possibly five.  here's the other end of the stack, down to a single layer of carts, about a block later:

though this pile o' carts may not be as dramatic as the photos currently on display at 7th/metro or edward burtynsky's work, it's smack in the middle of los angeles, where you'd think real estate would be at a premium.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

a river runs through it

i know this is the name of a book (or a movie? both?), but i don't know what it's about and i'm not even sure who the author/producer/director is.  i also know that we angelenos take a lot of flak from the rest of the country when we pull out our fleece jackets when it gets under 60 degrees or complain on one of the ten days out of the year we can't play beach volleyball.  i blame our civic leadership.

how is one to feel safe from the elements when our infrastructure allows water to accumulate so deep that a bus leaves a wake in the median even when driving around it?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

out of context

a conversation between two teenage girls on the train

1: aren't you scared to do it?
2: no, i'm not scared.
1: well, yeah, you wouldn't be.  what's it like?
2: so, it, like, just gets harder and harder.

at this point, i'm wondering if this is some sort of practical joke and i'm on candid camera.

1: really? how long does it go on?
2: for like, 3 or 4 hours.
1: what are you doing the whole time?

are these girls really having this conversation in public?

2: well, like, everything's just funny.  you laugh a lot.
1: do you get the munchies?
2: no, it's not like that.
1: well, everyone's different, right?
2: i don't get the munchies.

okay, not what i originally thought, but still naughty.

1: so, you were at work?
2: no, we started right after we left.
1: you ate it?
2: no, it's like chewing gum.  it just gets harder and harder until it's done.

so, kids, don't be like these girls.  as chef says, "there's a time and a place for everything.  it's called college."

Sunday, December 12, 2010


wheelchair bound (wb): [wakes with a start, the train doors are closing] what stop is this!?

fellow rider (fr): hawthorne

wb: crenshaw's next?

fr: yeah.

wb: i fell asleep there.  it's so easy to fall asleep on the train.

fr: i do it everyday, especially after work.

wb: it just gets comfortable [demonstrates by lolling his head]

fr: drone of the tracks

wb: rockin back and forth

[arriving at crenshaw]

wb: two more buses.

fr: three more trains.

wb: i feel ya.

fr: have a safe trip

Sunday, December 5, 2010

fringe benefits

mention elevated trains to people in l.a. and you get the usual "eyesore" response.  i've always thought, "the trains in chicago look pretty damn cool," but never said anything in response because, well, i like to avoid confrontation most of the time.  harry dean stanton's character in repo man would hate me.  i think elevated trains have all sorts of other cool benefits.  they don't interfere with traffic, they don't endanger drivers or pedestrians and, as a train rider, i want the people stuck in their cars during heavy traffic to see what they're missing.  as i was strolling back to work from lunch the other day, i chalked up yet another advantage of elevated trains.

as you walk down the sidewalk on this side of the street, you get the wonderful comfort of shade.  notice that if you were to walk down the sidewalk on the other side of the street, the sun would be beating down on you like you're in the sahara.  the trees aren't even placed to provide the sidewalk any shade.  nope, there's only skinny light poles.  lucky me, i chose wisely.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

ups and downs

one side of two overheard phone conversations made by the same person:

"i'm on the bus."

"you said last night to be there at 8." (it was 8:10 at the time.)

"so you already got someone else?"

"aww, man."

same person about twenty mintues later:

"this is [person's name]. can you see if there's any mail for me." (said in completely unfamiliar tone, as to an sro attendant, though that's just me speculating.)

"oh, there is.  who's it from?"

"can you open it?"

"yeah, what does it say?"

"oh, that's great.  thanks so much."

walk buttons

when you take public transportation, you tend to walk (or bike or skateboard or otherwise self-propel) more than when you drive.  after all, buses and trains won't take you right to your door, so you have to get yourself there from the stop.  sometimes, you even have to cross streets, which forces you to encounter something like this.

you also get to see lots of other people encountering such things.  in the past several years, i've noticed a huge increase in number of people who love to mash the buttons repeatedly until the sign changes.  perhaps it makes them feel better, but i'm fairly certain we have yet to deploy urgency-aware walk buttons widely anywhere in the world.  but, then again, i don't believe psychics either.  in any case, here's a walk button for all those button-mashers out there.

top picture taken from flickr user PappyV
bottom picture taken from flickr user

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


i'm not generally a fan of pigeons.  in larger urban settings, they spread disease, they remind me of how wasteful my fellow humans are and my neighbor was feeding a bunch that decided to relocate to my roof after he stopped feeding them.  i suppose if i saw them in the wild rather than scavenging, things might be different.  despite all of that, i still appreciated the following site.

that's right, a whole flock of pigeons in a feeding frenzy.  it's not too often you get to see any kind of feeding frenzy in the big, bad city (families crowded around ice cream trucks don't count).  but i believe this frenzy happens daily.  if you can place it and time it, you'll see three loaves of bread disappear almost as fast as they can be crumbled and spread.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


one thing i definitely see more of on public transit than the other parts of my life are elaborate manicures.  do the (mostly) ladies sporting these fine gems have an iphone?  hmm-mmm.  clicking on them touchscreens with nails don't register, you feel me?  only smartphones with physical buttons for these fine folks.  i was hopin to get a picture of one set i saw the other day.  while i'm sure there would have been no objection, i only noticed the manicure as this woman was getting off the bus and i didn't want to make her late.  so, here's a series of pictures to help give a visual.  the base color was something like this:
i think it's called "magenta foil."  the length of these nails is best illustrated by this next picture.

and while the nails i saw didn't have lace, there were jewels -- no color, longer and thinner than the ones shown here and arranged in (if memory serves correct) a six pointed star.

i have no idea if the ladies (again, mostly ladies) who do this are tryin to make a stranger's day, but sometimes, they do.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


yeah, okay, the poorer a person is, the higher their chance of using public transportation and the more limited their options are for healthy eating.  i'm not here to judge people for their weight or their wealth.  i will say, however, that when your weight impacts the daily lives of a busful of people, something has gone terribly wrong.

how might this happen?  now, i always thought wheelchairs were for those whose legs don't work, but that seems to be changing.  there's been a pretty strong up-tick in the number of people who have motorized wheelchairs due to obesity.  i don't go running up to them, testing their legs for motor function, so, who knows, maybe the peoples' legs are indeed non-functioning. 

nonetheless, on one fateful bus ride home one day, one such passenger was boarding.  while slightly slow, when you ride the bus, you don't get too annoyed by wheelchair delays.  folks need to get around after all.  so i just went right ahead reading my book, paying no attention.  after getting through a couple paragraphs and realizing we still weren't moving, i looked up.  the wheelchair apparatus could not lift the passenger and their motorized wheelchair.  i know mta may not keep their equipment tip-top ship-shape, but i've never seen a wheelchair apparatus simply be too weak.

alright, well no big deal.  the passenger would just have to wait for the next bus, right?  sucks to be them, but what can you do?  the bus driver apologizes profusely and the passenger seemed understanding enough.  when the driver goes to reset the wheelchair apparatus to a set of steps for ambulatory passengers, however, it became apparent that the attempt to lift this passenger had broken something else.  the door wouldn't close.  so, despite all the cursing and upset people, we were now in the same situation as the wheelchair-bound passenger.  and while i've yet to experience the social stigma of obesity, all us on that bus were put in an obese person's shoes for about half an hour that day, waiting for the next bus.

Friday, October 15, 2010

nothin but money

ok, so i drive some days and this is supposed to be about the mta, so this post is off-topic.  i hope you all can forgive.  while driving, i saw this seemingly unremarkable car.

sure, it's got a nice back bumper, looks like it may even be a custom job and the body of this little bug is in awfully nice shape given how old it must be by now.  so, what's noteworthy?

why, the license plate of course.  nothing makes my day quite like a self-deprecating vanity plate.  though, who knows, perhaps the owner of this vehicle is not being self-deprecating at all.  either way, he or she is definitely making us all take notice and think.

though i don't have a picture, perhaps the only better vanity plate i've ever seen was on a beat-up old yugo.  it read "SRBLIMO."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

paper clothes

i apologize in advance for not including a picture for this post.  rest assured, it is to protect the innocent.  well, okay, they're mostly guilty, or at least deemed so by our court system.  you see, when people are released from twin towers downtown, they're not given much.  i'm not really clear on all the details, but i can say with certainty that many of them seem to have little more than some paper clothes, paper booties and an mta token.  they're always a colorful bunch (unlike their black and white striped predecessors, orange being the most common color), so excited to be out they don't care if they're scaring people with their extroverted advances (and facial tatoos) on an otherwise private and uneventful subway ride.  the way i see it, most people need to have a little life injected into their day and why not by an ex-con?

Friday, October 1, 2010

safe biking

the other day, a bicyclist attacked a bus.  i know this because i was on the bus as it wound its way north on figueroa towards what i think of as "union station annex," 7th/metro (aka 7th/hope, 7th/flower and 7th/figueroa).  along with the usual rush hour crush of cars and buses, a pack of about 20 college kids (or perhaps old looking high-schoolers) on bikes were meandering up the same route.

on this stretch of figueroa, there's a bus lane, one that's wonderfully wide open to us bus riders and simply too tempting for bicyclists.  between traffic and stops, the bicyclists were easily keeping up with the bus, but in that wandering, would-be-drunk-if-driving kind of way.  the bus driver had to make several sudden stops to avoid hitting the bicyclists and eventually got fed up and honked.  a block later, the bicyclists caught up, went over to the driver's side and smacked the bus while yelling, to which the driver yelled back.

above, you see a view of the beautiful bike lanes nyc has installed on 9th avenue (pic taken from  they are physically separated from cars and buses and there is no question what the space is intended for.  bicycling is encouraged because it is safe and conflicts between bicycles and motorists are minimized.  if there were such a lane on figueroa, perhaps the bicyclists above would not have had to put themselves in danger and our dear bus driver could have gotten through his day with lower blood pressure.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

solar backpack

i'm all for the whole green movement.  that's one of the reasons i ride mta most days.  but i try not to get too righteous and avoid wearing my opinion on my sleeve.  or on my back.  not this guy.  (pardon the picture.  i didn't have my steadicam with me this day.)

that's right, he's prepared to generate electricity with his backpack anywhere the sun strikes.  speaking of people not reading books (see last post), i'm guessing this person has at least three portable gadgets, including a kindle or some other e-reader.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


sometime between when "the chronic" came out and now, the music and fashion sensibilities of much of l.a. has moved from gangster to a bunch of other sub-cultures, mostly ones that involve wearing a lot of black.  punk and metal seem to be the leaders, with some skaters roaming around, all mixed and blended to suit the individual.  the likely but unfortunate truth is that this shift may have been forced on the youth by lapd and society's seemingly insatiable fear of gangs.  for some time, there was no better way to get harassed by authorities than by looking the part.  whatever the reason, all i can say is the kids i see sporting punk and metal today seem to be a happier lot.

enter a man in a light blue shirt with white stripes and a beret.  by virtue of carrying this book:

he and a high-school girl proceeded to have a conversation about music, the bands they and their parents have been in and listen to and the long, twisted history of metal music.  it's good to know people still read books and even better to know that they, like their vinyl brethren, can produce a spontaneous, shared experience.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

vietnam vet

i couldn't help but admire this guy when i saw him.  he may not be able to walk, but he'll be damned if he wasn't gonna show the world what he's made of.  some notable details:

1) he uses the head of a terminator to steer his vehicle (its eyes light up red too)
2) the glare hides it, but the pins on his hat include a picture of albert einstein, a peace sign and a picture of janis joplin
3) under the left arm, he's installed a flashlight as what i can only surmise is a headlight (i'm not terribly familiar with the different models of personal mobility vehicles, so maybe this comes standard)

i didn't bother to ask where he was goin, but i sure hope he made it safe.

inaugural post

telling people you choose to take public transporation in los angeles will often get a person a puzzled look in return.  if the listener is not downright ignorant of the system, negative connotations fueled by a fear of strangers and helped along by poorly written articles (like this one or this one) enter people's minds.  this blog is a humble attempt to put some of the more interesting daily realities of taking public transit in los angeles up for viewing.