And I come full circle.

It happens every day on the DTLA streets.  You are walking down Broadway or around Pershing Square and there is someone having a very intense and sometimes rather boisterous conversation…with themselves.  Those are the people that I generally avoid.  Not because I’m afraid of them, but because you never want to be too close just in case.  Self-preservation.

In fact, it happened this very morning.  I was walking along my normal route between home and office when someone was having a fairly serious debate with themselves.  It took me a few moments to realize that person was me.

Yes, on this very day, DTLA has finally caught up to me. It is true that generally I have a running dialogue going on in my head about the day’s tasks, work that needs to be done, or thinking through whatever shenanigans I found myself involved in the night before. But it seems with several topics and necessary decisions to be made, my mind was overflowing with confused and jumbled thoughts that made no sense at all and required some serious sorting.  Unfortunately, that sorting took place on the streets of the city and in earshot of many of my fellow pedestrians.

Well, my dear DTLA, you have finally and wholeheartedly won me over.  Now I may never be able to leave…

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With a little help from my friends…

I’ve been rather busy over the past couple of months.  Not busy with work or travel, but trying to keep up with changing schedules and changing routines.  While I’ve had a lot of fun, a bit of drama, and some heartbreak, I’ve also experienced a lot more of DTLA and beyond.  My more recent experiences made me a true believer in fate, destiny and signs from above.

As some of you know, or have seen me write about in the past, my dad passed away July 2010.  Before that, in June 2010, I lost a mentor – a guy larger than life who gave me direction when I was a wee baby of 23 and believed in my abilities far beyond anything I saw possible for myself.  Suffice it to say, losing two of the people I relied on and trusted most in this world left me a little lost.  Who was going to give me advice about what to do next?  Who would be there when I needed help and support in the future?

More than a year has passed and I still find myself asking my dad and my mentor questions, but I was always hit with silence in return.  What was I expecting to hear, right?  I’m just some girl shouting at the sky asking for a sign.

Then I took a trip to Coffee Bean on 5thand Grand with a very good friend.  We were talking while waiting for our caffeinated beverages when a woman turned around and said

Which way?!

to my friend, “You’re a very attractive man.”  My friend blushed from head to toe.  “You have a good soul and aura surrounding you,” she continued.  My friend seemed a little taken aback by the statements, so I stepped in and said, “he is a good soul, that’s why I keep him around.”  The conversation progressed to include her experiences in the Vietnam War, her beliefs in the cycles from life to death and back, and finally an edict to me to do yoga every day.  I asked if she could tell I was stressed out.  She said, “honey, I am 68 years old and I’ve learned that yoga every day eases the mind and the soul.”  I’m sorry to say I have not taken this advice yet.

I left the Coffee Bean thinking I was really happy I met this woman.

A week later I was making one of my regular trips to Culver City to see my roommate and other friends at a restaurant there.  I make it a point to go visit on Sundays when the patron traffic is low and I can sit at the corner of the bar while people rotate in to talk.  I was running late leaving my apartment and missed the first Rapid Transit 733 heading west.  I decided not to grab the local connection opting to wait on the next Rapid Transit thinking I could get there faster.  When I got onto the 733, I took a seat near the back.  Three stops later, who gets on but the same woman I met in Coffee Bean.  I thought “what a small world we are both on the same bus.”  Forty-five minutes later my stop was approaching.  Someone else already pulled the chord to light the “Stop Requested” sign, so I sat quietly and waited.  When the doors opened, I headed to the exit only to see that this woman was exiting the bus too.  As we got off I smiled and said, “Have a good night.”  She smiled and said, “Why you have a blessed night, too.”

A week after that, things happened that had me asking my dad and mentor for some guidance.  It was the Thursday before Halloween.  It began as any other day but ended in emotional upheaval.  So Saturday I did the only thing I thought I could do.  LAX CarShare became my escape hatch and I decided to leave DTLA for a while.

I was crossing the light at Broadway and 5th heading to Pershing Square to pick up the car when I saw the woman again.  We both looked at each other and stopped.  “I’ve seen you before many times, haven’t I,” she said.  I smiled and looked down at my feet, “Yes, in fact this is the third time we’ve run into each other.”  “You were on the bus to Culver City, weren’t you,” she asked.  “Oh yes, that was me,” I responded.  She laughed a little and said “that night I wanted to turn around and tell you how lovely you are.  You have this ability to make people feel welcome and safe, did you know that?”  “No, I mean I try to be friendly, but I’ve never thought of it that way,” I said.  “Why do you do that?  Why are you so amiable?” she asked.  “I guess if my options are to ignore you and be rude or say hello, I’m going to say hello.  You never know who you’ll meet or what they will be in your life if you are closed off all the time,” I said.

Feeling a little ridiculous that I was having this conversation with a stranger I made a move to leave, but she held strong.  She gave me her name and I gave her mine.  We stood there for a long time talking about spirituality and life.

Then she said something that left me speechless.  “I have something to tell you, no I have something I have to tell you.”  Initially, I was a little wary.  But then she continued, “Do you know what happens in relationships between men and women?  Their physical attractions bring them together and create a connection.  Eventually people think it’s a strong bond or even love, but it’s just an attachment to the other person.  There is nothing wrong with that.  But, do you know what the opposite of attachment is for you right now?  Pain.  You are going to feel pain.  But don’t worry you’re not alone.  There are people surrounding you who love you.  I know you don’t see them right now, but they are there.”

I thanked her for her words and said I really had to go.  I told her I looked forward to the next time we would run into each other.  I haven’t seen her since that day.

Why do I believe in fate, destiny and signs from above?  Because I got one.

Thanks for the message.

We’re all a little crazy…

I have a house guest staying with me for a couple of weeks.  We could rename my apartment the Flat-Footed Motel.  We specialize in housing wayward travelers as they make their transition from New York to Los Angeles.  There is no better place in this fine urban sprawl of ours to use as a jumping off point for former New Yorkers than DTLA.  Some people would say, and really have said, that I’m crazy for allowing so many people to come through my house.  I often respond, “I might be a crazy-maker from time to time, but I’m definitely not crazy.”

Some of you may have heard the term “crazy-maker” before.  For those who haven’t let me attempt to explain this terminology for you with a little anecdote before we continue…

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Don’t lose faith in people – 733 Transit Unlimited (a re-post from @MixStirShake)

Below is a post written by the great and wonderful @MixStirShake that I have been lax in re-posting.  It is one of my most fond memories of her trip to Los Angeles for my birthday last year, which, for those who don’t know me personally, was a surprise.  The day she arrived I was in a rather sour mood after having run around all of DTLA for hours trying to get work done when I got a call about a birthday lunch.  “Fine, I’ll go, but I’m tired and I might smell a little, because I was running to catch people before they left their offices.”  When I walked into Wokcano, which seems to be our standard birthday lunch spot these days, I saw my roommate and another friend when I was expecting only coworkers.  Though confused, I let it go.  A few minutes later there was a small ruckus and my roommate had pulled out a little video camera.  The first few seconds on that camera you can see me look at her briefly, put my hand in front of the lens and ask “why did you bring that?”  A few seconds later @MixStirShake walked into the room having arrived that morning from NYC.  Yes, my reaction of shock, surprise and utter joy was all caught on video and has been memorialized forever on the grand interwebs.  As part of @MixStirShake’s surprise trip, we traveled to Santa Monica by bus.  Below is the story of what took place.  It is actually one of my favorite bus stories of all time, because I remember this girl very clearly with the tears in her eyes and complete exhaustion in her voice when she asked for a little help.  It also happened on my always favorite Rapid Transit 733.  Strangers helping strangers is a good thing.

733 – Transit Unlimited by @MixStirShake

One of my hostesses-with-the-mostessesss out here in LA is none other that blogger @Flat_Footed_LA of Is That A Pedestrian? fame. She writes about surviving DTLA & environs without a car. That’s right WITHOUT a car.

I took two bus adventures with her: one to Culver City and one from Santa Monica Blvd on the mighty 733. The 733 was a trip to be remembered. In addition to handling some bar-staffing drama back east in NYC, I had a great interaction with some lovely Los Angelenos.

For the first half of the ride, the bus was pretty packed. There was a hilariously flirtatious toddler who was all about Ms. Flat-Footed. We laughed with his family about what a “shy” kid they had on their hands. Like most journeys on public transport, flashes of friendliness were countered by boredom, fatigue, and general zoning out.

We were standing in the center of the crowded bus. The young woman next to me was maybe 17 years old. She was talking on her phone and then all the sudden… she wasn’t. Visibly frustrated, she threw her phone into her handbag and sighed. I smiled at her, as if to say, “Bummer.” She smiled back. As if to say, “Yeah.”  There was a short pause. I looked away. Then, I felt a tap on my arm. The young lady said, “Excuse me, Miss. Can I borrow your phone? Mine just died.”

I gave here my phone. Sure, she could have hopped off the bus at the next stop but I trusted her face. She sent her mother a text message and handed me back my phone. A few minutes later, my phone rang. It wasn’t for me. I handed the young woman the phone and she explained to her mother where she was getting off the bus and what time she would be home.

My friend and I were on the bus a good half hour after the young woman got off. During that time I got a couple of nice text message myself. The first one wasn’t for me: “That’s not safe, no phone!” The second one was: “Thank you nice lady.” As far as I’m concerned, there are a whole lot of nice ladies in this story.

Don’t lose faith in people, people.

Relationship Advice on the Rapid Transit 733

Though I may give away my age a bit by saying this, I recall the first time I saw someone walking with a cell phone down the street.  I was living in Boston at the time for a Summer rushing to catch the T to Cambridge from Brookline.  All of a sudden I heard this woman talking rather loudly to herself.  It took me a second to realize she had a phone to her ear and was having a rather noisy disagreement with whoever was on the other side—likely a significant other based on the level of ire in her tone.  It’s been awhile, so I don’t remember exactly why she was angry.  However, I do recall thinking “Really?  You want to air your dirty laundry in public like that?”  This was also pre-reality television.  We’ve come along way since then…

On Monday night I had a fairly crazy public transportation filled evening.  I was in downtown Los Angeles trying to make my way to the Los Feliz area near Barnsdall Art Park to pick up a tripod for a photo shoot and then to Ford’s Filling Station in Culver City for the shoot.

Late night snacks while waiting for the bar to close. Chef did insult our choices, but whatever. Pecan brittle and french fries are the perfect salty sweet snack.

For a girl without a car this can be tricky.  However, one metro, two buses and nearly two hours later I was walking through the front door of Ford’s being greeted by the bartender a la Norm from Cheers.  I’m waiting for the day they yell my name when I walk in.  This is not a sign of alcoholism.  I’m very good friends with the bartender who might also be my roommate and who only served me water and coffee.  So please, no frantic messages checking on my liver.

Back to the point, some people hate the bus.  Granted, sometimes I wish it was faster and smelled a little better, but in the end I love it.  There’s a camaraderie among bus riders that is very similar to passengers on an airplane.  Oh, you want to hear my life story?  Well, OK, we are stuck here with each other for the next 30 minutes or more as the bus makes a billion and a half stops on its way across the city.  In fact, I heard a story from a gentleman in his 50’s about his cancer struggles.  When we got to his stop, the girl sitting next to him yelled out, “Enjoy your life, live it to the fullest!”  The gentleman responded in kind, “I am!  It’s only one life.”  I agree completely.

It was here on my favorite Rapid Transit 733 to Culver City–though I caught it at Venice and Fairfax and nearly missed it after a mad dash across Venice while carrying a 15 pound tripod–that I heard some of the best relationship advice ever.  “Why don’t you two turn your backs to each other and count to ten.”

A couple sitting together on the semi raised seats in the center of the 733 started to have a little argument.  The argument got louder as the ride continued.  I have no idea how it started, but the back and forth could be summarized as being one person said something the other didn’t like or took the wrong way and the alleged offending party was trying to clarify her statements but the alleged offended party wasn’t going to listen.  The back and forth went on for awhile.  I had the same thought as I did during that one Boston summer, “Really?  You want to do this right here and right now?  We are all trying to pretend like we’re not listening, but you are sitting directly in front of me so it’s hard not to pull out some snacks and watch what goes down.”

That was when the gentleman next to me dispensed his sage advice and told this couple to stop bickering and take a breath.  I thought it was brilliantly said.  Simple, to the point, and excellent guidance to give.  Too many times in my past have I been so hot-headed that I can’t seem to stop my mouth from running before I’ve dug an even deeper hole for me.  Now I live by the words “take a breath and count to ten.”

Though this couple did not heed the advice it seemed to bring them together again anyway.  In unison the couple said “Why don’t you mind your own business.  This is a relationship matter.”  Yes, but I would venture to suggest that when you bring your relationship matters onto the bus it might be fair game for outsider comments.  And maybe that’s not always a bad thing.  I’m just sayin’…

Only one other time in my life have I been on a completely empty bus.

[Also, as a final note, I would like to take a moment to thank the bus driver on the 754 who was parked with the engine off taking a break when I kind of begged to get on there as opposed to walking four more blocks carrying a 15 pound tripod.  I had the bus to myself for about ten minutes while I waited for her break to end.  Thank you, nice bus driver, you earned some good karma points for that and a lot of gratitude from me.]

The Pedestrian Debate

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted.  Let’s say life sometimes gets in the way of writing.  Things are good in my world.  I’m somehow involved in a fantasy football league, I traveled home to see family last weekend that resulted in getting even less sleep than usual, I’m spending a lot of time with friends in my off hours, and met some wonderful new additions to my DTLA life.

However, that usually means once I get home and I think “it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything on my blog” I end up sitting on my couch staring at my closed laptop with no will to write.  It’s not so much writer’s block as a lack of energy.

Yesterday in between allowing my brain to completely zone out in the middle of a conversation at lunch, I got into an interesting, albeit short as my attention span was lacking, debate about California traffic laws as they relate to cars and pedestrians.  And I’m writing this post in honor of my friend who I shall refer to as the Grammar Nazi — I dare you to count the number of split infinitives in this post.

Now I could try to transcribe the conversation below, but my level of exhaustion and zoning out tendency created a bit of a flow problem to the discussion.  Every so often when someone looks at you and says “OK, she’s looking at….a chair,” you know you’re not quite functioning at full speed.  And, it was true that time, I was looking at the chair in front of me and thinking “focus, focus, focus…oooh, chair.”  I realize this a sad turn of events in my life.

Anyway, the conversation basically boiled down to whether it is ridiculous for a car to wait at a crosswalk where there is a light flashing to warn of pedestrians but the pedestrian is actually on the farthest side of the street.  Essentially, the argument was that the car was not in danger of hitting that pedestrian and so why not allow the driver to continue on their way instead of waiting for someone to meander all the way across the street.

Well, let me tell you why you should wait my dear driver-friend.  When that light is flashing, the pedestrian has the right of way.  Not only the pedestrian you see crossing the street, but any pedestrian that might run over to catch the light or even possibly that other pedestrian you just happened to miss because you were focusing on your radio, your blackberry, the other cars, or the clock getting annoyed about having to sit there for a couple of extra seconds.

I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve nearly been hit while walking though DTLA – alright the answer is five, but that’s five times too many.  I am more aware of cars on the street than they are of me.  Either the car is trying to beat me before I get to the other side of the crosswalk or they really don’t see me.  Terrifying.  I’ve been lucky enough to avoid being hit, but I do know of a few friends who were not so lucky.  So far no serious injuries though.

Without question the laws should be overprotective of pedestrians.  A few seconds delay and an annoyed driver versus catastrophic injury and possibly the taking of someone’s life…there is no debate here.

What’s in a name?

Cheerleader, hipster-lover, yuppie, suit, country, nerd, jock.  These are merely a few of the labels that have been placed on me during my lifetime.  There have been plenty of names that have disparaged my race, gender, and general appearance over the years, but I’ve learned to push those aside and keep going.

There is little I dislike more than being labeled, but only because I often think a single label cannot completely embody all of who I am.  And while I decry the use of labels, I use them every day to describe people, too.  I am not above it.  It seems to be ingrained in us.  We compartmentalize people.

Last night I made a trip to LAX, my second this week and hopefully my last for awhile, to pick a friend from out of town.  In the car on the way back to downtown she began looking at the scenery that is LA with a bit of awe.  “When I say something that makes me look like I’m a country girl visiting the big city for the first time, just tell them ‘she’s from Oklahoma,'” she said at one point when she stopped our conversation all together after being somewhat overwhelmed by the traffic.  It reminded me of my first night in Los Angeles.  I wasn’t even staying in Los Angeles proper, but in the Inland Empire near the Ontario Airport.  I was eighteen years old setting out for the first time on my own.  Though I was nervous and unsure about what was going to happen next, I was ready to see what the world had in store for me.  I thought I’m a city girl.  I can handle this place.

Then I watched the evening news and nearly caught a plane right back to Texas.  I had a very similar thought as my Oklahoma friend.  Instead of looking naïve or completely out of my element I’m just going to say “come on, I’m a Texas girl.”  An attempt to label myself before someone else thought of something worse to call me.

Fast forward to 11:37 p.m. on Thursday, September 8, 2011.  We made it back to downtown Los Angeles with minimal swearing on my part about how much I dislike traffic and cars and being in a car in traffic.  It was Art Walk, and so we meandered to Rocket Pizza for a midnight snack and drink.  The place was packed with people.  When we sat down I took stock in the people around us.  Young, old, frat boy, punk, college girl, hipster, cyclist…me.

I actually had a cinematic music playing in the background as the world around me continues to go along as normal internal dialogue moment last night.  Looking at all those people around me thinking how amazing it is that we are all in the same place at the same time doing the same thing…enjoying life in that instant.  Ah, downtown, I do love you so.

So, if you have to label me, then please call me DTLA-freak.

Courtesy of Facebook Images