Monday, July 31, 2006

So far, riding the bus has been an interesting – albeit unforeseen – experiment in collective psychology. The result? Amusement with or bemusement at our fellow travelers and a shocking degree of civility and hygiene, despite the record humidity outside. Yes. Believe it or not, there are upsides to riding the bus here and (regardless if what downsides come hand-in-hand) an inarguable sense of WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER (cue Ben Lee, please).

Not to say that altruism is bubbling over in Busworld but five minutes into reintroducing ourselves into the petrol Petri dish of automobile driving, we realized just how selfish and myopic THAT form of transport is. Ohhhhh. Right. THIS is what we didn’t miss about driving. There, immediately after taking the road in our Flexcar-of-the-day, was evidence of just how selfish the average driver is. And there again. And there. And there. In fact, the average driver is, well, below average when it comes to vehicular skill AND civility. (we’ll give them an edge on the hygiene.)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Flexcar to the rescue!!

Wow. In a metropolis like LA, it’s still a bit shocking that there are some spots between two points one simply cannot get to via bus, light rail or train. For the inventive Angeleno, there are other options (not many, but a few).

One of the easiest routes to four-wheeled freedom is signing up for Flexcar. We had used Flexcar’s convenient car-when-you-need-it program last year when we had our own vehicle. The yearly fee is reasonable; most cars are fuel efficient and all are beautifully maintained. And, perk of perks, they carry their own automobile insurance. Suhweeeet.

It gets better … the car we’ve reserved for tomorrow’s meeting in Burbank, is a Freedom 5. That means from midnight to midnight on the same day, we’ll pay for no more than 5 hours! On our Flexcar rate plan, that’s right around 50 buckaroos. Plus, we’ll have the car for the entire day, allowing for a quick trip to the garden store and any other errands we’ve been saving. The mind reels!

Monday, July 24, 2006

take action and get your jollies, too

But first, a quote from today’s bus trip, an enthusiastic “It’s cooler in here than it is outside!”
Ya gotta love cruising on SaMo’s Big Blue and Double C's Green Machine … natural gas and air conditioned too!

The folks at the NRDC have asked that we take a pledge, so we did. Their goal is to urge Congress toward a national commitment to save at least 2.5 million barrels per day by 2015 and set enforceable limits on global warming pollution

Speak on up by clicking here. It’s an efficient way to voice your concerns in the midst of your hectic day. Got other ideas for a nationwide intervention? Hug it out virtually by sharing in the comments section (click on Comments below … you don’t even have to be a Blogger member).

And now for the fun stuff.
All the way from the UK, check out the new promo piece from Greenpeace. Watch it closely; watch it all the way through. Count the many reasons why it would never be shown on traditional media outlets in the US.

Some scoop from the Greenpeace release:
“The advert satirises the aspirational images and glossy marketing used by motor manufacturers to encourage car drivers to purchase an urban 4x4. In the film a city employee encounters distain from his fellow employees, but only at the end of the film does the viewer learn why – he owns a city gas guzzler. The ad ends with the line, ‘What does your car say about you?’”

Download the flick with a click!

Not to be a spoiler on the mini-film, but c’mon … you knooooow you’ve called your SUV cruising neighbor something similar (at least in your mind) as they wedged their hulk into 1.5 spots on your crowded, LA street.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

just-in-time sustenance

Ahhhh. One of the adjustments to maneuvering your life on foot or bus is grocery shopping. Well, the shopping doesn’t change, but the hauling home of the groceries is a new verse. CostCo is long ago fairy tale.

Living in a metropolitan area does provide the convenience of a major supermarket and relatively close Trader Joes. And, once a week we revel in Culver City’s year-round farmer’s market.

Even with these divine logistics, planning is required. It’s about buying all the ingredients for the next few meals versus stocking up. And striking a balance of heavy objects and lighter fare. On the upside, fruits and vegetables are actually eaten while fresh instead of withering away while waiting for the jars and cans to be diminished.

All of this recent toting has taken a toll on our inventory of cotton market bags, each received as gifts and branded with some event or logo. The last of the batch suffered a ripped handle Friday. We have yet to give in to the temptation of the granny cart; an ambulatory life can still be one of style. So, now we’re on the market for new bags to hold our bounty. Heading to Santa Monica for errands and this will be one of them. Some pre-shopping research online provided some dazzling styles, all in various shades of enviro-mindfulness. Who knew there were so many options!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

power to the peacemakers

Took a busline pilgrimage (by way of Venice and Fairfax) to see musician Michael Franti’s first film, I KNOW I’M NOT ALONE. The human-sized, home-movie focuses on our global family dysfunction – or more directly – a chance to see how our brothers and sisters in Baghdad and beyond are dealing daily with this stupid, selfish brutal war bred in Washington.

Topical Heat
A brave and amazing thing to do for a conspicuous 6’ 5” American with dreadlocks – walk down sniper alley in Iraq armed with nothing but an acoustic guitar and a question or two. This is no naïve hippie minstrel here; this is a man on a mission and vis-à-vis, we all take the trip with him …get to see the other side of a television war, the other side of “terrorists” and Muslims. Get to see ourselves reflected back at us. Get to see in a passing flash of the camera the truth caught in a gap-toothed smile, a tear. The fear of an eye. Watching these faces of civilians and soldiers, absolutely light up to the simplest of music in a war-torn world or cracking under the chaos of blackouts and bombs.

After the film, Michael took the stage for a thought-full Q + A, the art of listening on full display as every time we asked a question, he took a full and conscious pause before answering. Not a reflexive, defensive utterance to be heard – maybe the White House press secretary should take note. Or take up a guitar.

Speaking of which, Michael eventually segued from the film festival Q + A format into an hour-long acoustic celebration of the moment at hand, sharing old songs and new anthems and hearing us echo some simple, heartfelt, choruses back.

The new songs, perhaps from the about-to-be-released YELL FIRE, were pure Franti: born of simplicity, heart-sprung and giving us all a Here Hear Ear Now Wow goodie.

Or giving us (as he likes to ask/shout, arms open wide, smile mega-watted on maximum) a chance to answer “How you feelin’?!”

Babylon By Bus
Despite the invites from friends we ran into at the screening, we wanted to let the night sink in in private, so it was onto public transportation where the irony increased. After a pony-tailed Filipino American helped us find our bus stop (note to MTA: How the hell do you expect us to see out of these blacked-in, scratched-up windows?), we got off the 217 together and he recognized an old acquaintance of his, a wound-up ex-actress with old plastic surgery and barettes in her pushing 50, dyed-blonde hair. Somehow they get into a loooong War & Peace debate, triggered by his offhand declaration that the war in Iraq was wrong. I, a not so innocent bystander, admit I enjoyed watching her throw up her ludicrous defenses, her “I-on-the-other-hand-have-an-open-mind” posturing quickly killing all of his good intentions to have an honest dialogue. Single-handedly she stalled all negotiations of civility between them and the film came back to me again. Here were another bunch of strangers, on different trips but the same eventual ride and all of us just waiting….waiting…waiting for connections

Mucho thanks to KCRW and Laemmle for creating the opportunity to experience the magic of the film and the music. May habibi become our national anthem!


Monday, July 17, 2006

alternative energy all night long

Should Kimmie and Gadget ever invite you to one of their parties, you should say yes immediately and thankfully, rest up and go with gusto. At the house of bliss, it’s dance, dance, dance ‘til the rising sun.

Domo arigato!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

we are all in this together ...

Ever notice that once you start focusing on a subject, you see it everywhere? Though it may have more to do with one’s brain simply recognizing like-items, I prefer to think that it’s the universe stepping up to meet you as you mindfully choose a path. Serendiposynchrinicity, if you will.

In last week’s New York Times, there was an article on car buying lessons. This week’s LA Weekly is dedicated to electric and alternative fuel vehicles. The movie “Who Killed the Electric Car” is out; you can view a snippet of the movie on’s video podcast (is that a vodcast?). And, TreeHugger TV recently covered Lovecraft Biofuels, also part of the LA Weekly article.

Obviously most of us are looking for ways to be "less fuelish." What are some of the ways you’re making changes in your life? C’mon … share by adding a comment. Inspire us!

PS: Tonight we’re headed to Gadget’s geisha soirée. It’s within walking distance. Kismet, indeed!

Monday, July 10, 2006

More wine? Sure, I'm not driving ...

Had a very good pal in town for a visit. She was a brave soul and took to being carless quite well despite hailing from a city that relies on personal transportation almost exclusively.

Our plan was to take a train up to Santa Barbara for some scrumptious wine tasting. We missed the first Metro 33 from the Westside to Union Station (this is where we would’ve previously given up on public transportation and hopped in the car!) but made it downtown in time for the Starlight Express.

The Starlight is a sleeper train that cruises up to Seattle. It’s clean and spacious; seems a bit newer than most of the Surfliners I’ve taken.

St B was lovely (of course)…both Giessinger and the Wine Cask indulged us in some delish vino. I purchased the ’98 Lodi Zin and the ’98 Viognier at Giessinger (the Zin was not long for this world and accompanied dinner last night).

Some tips for the newbie public transporter:
  • Amtrak has an easy to use site, but some of the times are slightly off (our trip to San Diego left 20 minutes earlier than we were confirmed for on our reservation; all Santa Barbara times were spot on).
  • Wear layers! The sun shines beautifully into the train during day trips and keeps the cabins toasty. However, the air conditioner stays on high at night. We were all a little stiff from the chilled air on the return, evening trip.
  • Pack cards! Stay tuned for complete instructions on our favorite train game, Hate Thy Neighbor. It’s a combination of Crazy 8 and Uno; always gets everyone in an uproar (the ensuing noise works well for scaring pesky kids away from your seats, too).
  • Be early; prepare to wait (I have a feeling this will be a recurring theme). An on-time bus is sweet, but an early bus can take you by surprise … and, possibly cause you to miss a train. The best option is to get to the bus stop early and have a book handy to bide your time.

A thankful shoutout to the bus driver of the Metro 33 that handled our stop at 8:01am … your helpful, cheery attitude set the tone for the day and was greatly appreciated!


Friday, July 07, 2006

memento mori

So I had just done the post-mortem final examination of the auto body…conducted the silent (and private!) last rites over our old four-wheeled friend and proceeded to pick over the glove compartment, the trunk, the front and back seats, of everything “important.” I threw it all into a Hefty bag, grabbed the big, 4-armed tire iron and walked out of our mechanic’s auto graveyard into the high noon heat and concrete of Sepulveda Blvd. There. I had joined the walking few. The Untouchables. A caste system refugee on some slow Pilgrim’s Progress back home, dusted by all the cars hurtling by me, spitting up road grime, spewing Styrofoam cups, cigarette butts and assorted trash in their hurry-by wake. A few wide eyes stared at me as they turned the corner past me. I realized the sight of me must have frightened them, with my big X of a trunk tool held aloft, pushing the WALK button. Me in white – a neon reminder that they too, one day, would be dead, I mean, they too would be (gasp!) without a car. Yes, no matter how briefly, the thing they were driving – right now, right by me – would die. So I came home and scratched this poem out (literally, a few times) and realized that old-fashioned feeling I was carrying was guilt. And now the unperfect poem was my punishment. Oh well.
Mea Culpa Mitsubishi…


walking down the boulevard
with a tire iron in my hand
the sign of the crossed
the unlucky
of a pent-up penitente
paying for the sin
of being carless in L.A.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

A new kind of independence ...

Did you hear the one about the couple who’s car died and they decided to live without one, just for a while, to see what it was like?

We hadn’t either ‘til we decided to try it for ourselves.

Our beloved ’94 Mistubishi Mirage Coupe said so long suckers on June 18, 2006. We grieved; we cried. Then, we woke up to reality. We had no car. We live in Los Angeles … without a car!

Ambulation Locomotion … or just Loco?
But we had just moved into a new house, walking distance to our new jobs. We work a lot. And when we’re not working, we like to be home or near by. Within walking distance are a large grocery, mid-sized grocery and weekly market…also, yoga, a pharmacy, post office, two movie houses, a fab theater company and a handful of bars. Plus, very near by are bus stops for both the local and the metro cross-town buses.

How bad can it be, to be without a car?
It’s been two weeks and we’ve adjusted nicely. We’ve celebrated a birthday in fine style and have been to San Diego’s Sea World via bus, train and taxi (in less time than it took us to drive last visit!). But as the novelty wears off, will we crack? How long can we do this?

Get on board!
Check in with us as we report from the field about life in the city of angels, sans auto. We’ll take buses, trains, and taxis as well as utilize car sharing programs like FlexCar. Wish us luck, we’re gonna need it…enjoy the ride!