24-Hour Thinking Spaces and the Lack Thereof in LA

Once upon a time, I spent 72 hours straight at a school library that had been open around-the-clock.  It was only open around-the-clock because it was finals week.

I was writing around 30 pages on a topic that I really liked.  I decided that if I'd gone home, I would never get anything done.  The only logical thing to do was to put in 72 hours straight at a library.

It wasn't 72 hours focused just on studying.  There was lots of going to the restroom, moments of chowing down on apples, oranges, and carne asada.  Lots of politics with who deserved the opportunity to plug their computers into the limited number of power outlets.  Additionally, I learned to adapt new ways of sleeping:  legs up and squished into a square shaped couch.  Back down on a revolving couch.
 
I was not the only one who spent that much time at the library.  Lots of students had moved in:   air mattresses, bedding, toiletries, coffee makers --- all at the 24-hour library.

It was some of the most productive time I'd had all semester, those 72 hours at the library.  Lots of time to read, write, ruminate.  Emphasis on rumination.

On the computer, I might've done lots of cycling through Facebook, literatures from the community college, math classrooms, college math classrooms, adult students, gmail, realgm, but I was able to pull it off and contribute my part to society, albeit indirectly.

I love 24-hour libraries.  I love 24-hour spaces. 

If they existed.

What I loved was just having time and space to think.

I'd always talked about there being a need for a free public space at night for people.  Emphasis "free" and "public space."  "People" meaning "poor people."  Poor people like me who don't give a flying eff about being at the bar/club.  People who would rather be reading and doing geeky things that didn't require consumption, except that of knowledge.  The meaning of the free and the public space is partly about helping to foster a community as well as just giving us spaces to do something other than party.

I made a stink about having CicLAvia at night time, mostly because I motherfuckin' hate how the night world in LA/LB is so dominated by shady, impersonal, private space of the club and bar scene, all of which demand you fork over some of your economic capital to be in proximity with tons of motherfuckers you won't give a shit about.  I don't like how we like to be all bullshittily sunshiny only during the day time, but become all shady and disconnected when the cold is has got its arm around your neck, the gelled hair and popped collared douches are occupying certain streets, while avoiding others.  My call is just for a call for a space where you don't have to be social, but where you're allowed to think.

I know that in China they've got CyberCafes full of gamers, sleeping and paying rent there.  I wonder why they don't have at the very least something like that here.


All over Los Angeles, I've been hardpressed to find anything that was open 24-hours.  Yes, there's Hodori, but that's mainly a restaurant.  Denny's is for after the club.  Donut shops have too little room.

A cafe is OK to a point, and I only know LA Cafe at that, but haven't actually done anything there.

A thread on Yelp confirms that 24-hour spaces are difficult to come by in LA.  Someone in the thread mentioned that perhaps the 24-hour spot could be made viable in a city, town with lots of students.

I'm just looking for a place to do "thinking" because we just don't have it.  

We need more of that.  Thinking and 24-hour places in which to do it.

Long Beach, from a Lifetime Los Angeleno

They have their own MacArthur Park, a first through 59th street, a Spring Street, a Temple Street.

In the many conversations that I eavesdropped and participated in thru grad school, whenever people would reference one of those landmarks, I would automatically think of the LA referent with the name.

But nope, they never referred to LA.  Ever.

They were always talking about Long Beach.  Referring to things in Long Beach, wearing CSULB sweaters, Long Beach certified shirts, and the ever-popular baseball cap with an LB initials on it, as if it was the only city and school for miles around.  It was like its own universe, almost if not completely detached from its ultra-popular, wieldy, worldly, sprawling cousin to the north.  I can honestly say that I'd never seen any of that decal or clothing in and around LA, and I've been through and around many parts of LA.

Growing up, Long Beach was at least an hour away from my parents' abode in Central Los Angeles.  We took all kinds of freeways to get there, hell if I knew.  I just knew that Long Beach was where they had the Queen Mary...and...it had...the Queen Mary.  That's the only time I remember ever venturing there.  I was 9 years old, and Long Beach was about as far as Disneyland.

In high school, Long Beach meant Long Beach Poly, main rival school in football.  It was/is a multi-cultural huge public school, a stark contrast to the all-boys, private Catholic school Loyola High School that I went to.  Long Beach to me was also the home of Snoop Dogg and Warren G, Doveshack's Summertime in the LBC, and the Twinz who got the sound to make you go round and round

When I found all kinds of random friends in college, that is the UC-Santa Cruz part of college, Long Beach was just "chill."

Harlan and Desiree are the random friends in question.  Harlan and I golfed, beached, and played some random pick-up basketball at his alma mater, the non-Long Beach Poly school down the way, Wilson High School.  Wocka Flocka Flame would be very afraid of just how hard we went into the paint.  Harlan said that the best part of Long Beach was his ability to get out of the city right away.  He now lives somewhere in the Bay Area.

Desiree invited me to b-boying/breakdancing events, which included a set of tight-pants wearing killer breakers pulling off some deadly twists to a cover of Sublime's Santeria.  Breakers tend to raise one arm, palms down and shake it a bit after every cool move they see another breaker does.  Saw lots of that, and eventually incorporated that hand movement into my habitus for at least one summer.   

For a quick second, Long Beach was also home to what used to be a store-turned record label called Beatrock Music.  Watched the Native Guns, my favorite progressive Filipino rappers (along with Prometheus Brown) "re-unite."



Long Beach also kinda gave me the start to my career and room to my interests.

When I did Americorps, I spent part of my time in North Long Beach at a housing development they call Carmelitos.  Didn't seem so bad during the day, but my co-Americorpsers said, "it's different during the night time."  I didn't stay there, so their comments never really registered.  To me the developments looked just like college dorms.  My most memorable moment there was a Thanksgiving Celebration put on by staff members.  The episode could be summed up in two words: "Soula boy" and if you want to add two more "Soula boy told em."  Incidentally, it was at Carmelitos that I met an inspiration to pursue Anthropology at Long Beach, one Sarah Cote.

When I was with an ex-partner around December 2009, we led a bike count through a gloomy rainy day at the PCH and Anaheim stops off the Metro Blue Line.  Additionally, as a then-7-year veteran of the car-driving wars in LA, that was the first time I discovered I could actually take the Metro all the way to Long Beach.

When we put bike to gravel, I discovered something else:  Long Beach was kind of scary to bike thru, particularly PCH.  It had nothing to do with Gangstas, gangsta rap, or being afraid of getting jacked.  It had everything to do with crossing the Metro Blue Line tracks, to the 3-lane streets full of traffic, to cracked roads. None of the streets we surveyed seemed the least bit "bikeable" or "bike friendly."  And if it was, it seemed to be due to the fact that we were riding in groups of at least 8 people.

After one of the counts, she checked Yelp via her blackberry for places to eat.  A Thai-Cambodian place called Siem Reap.  Karaoke playing in the background, and the Thai-ness was really clear.  It was just another place for me to eat.

So...

Before grad school happened in 2010, Long Beach was Queen Mary, Poly High School, Sublime, Snoop Dogg & Warren G, and a town that needed to improve its bikeways.

August 2010.  My arrival at Cal State Long Beach. Which meant, a looot more Long Beach.

I'm in my 2nd year now, and I'm living temporarily in Lakewood, the city Desiree technically came from, which butts up against Long Beach.  I've accumulated a bit of a love for the LBC.
  • Home to tons of our Southeast Asian homies - Cambodians. 
  • People in the nonprofit circles actually know each other and there seems to be an infrastructure of folks already working together; 
  • Impressed that they had a bunch of youth programs at their Parks & Rec, specifically Homeland Cultural Center
  • People seem to work efficiently there;  at a neighborhood clean-up in MacArthur Park, due to budgetary constraints, we had only 2 hours to do "something."  With a gang of volunteers numbering about 50-60 on a Saturday morning, the something we did was clean up some alley-ways.
  • Kinda easy to get involved in whatever nonprofit work you want to do
  • Everything is scaled down to some sense of manageability - everything in LA is just big and unwieldy
  • Little to trace amount of "hipsters"
If I could define my time here, this my 2nd year in and around Long Beach, it's revolved around commuting and Cambodians.

For my first year, I would commute from LA via a Metro student pass and would bike from the stop at PCH to Cal State Long Beach.  This was the same PCH that I found quite frightening.  I still look behind me to make sure some impatient driver isn't going to let rage consume him/her.  The most frightening street however is Lakewood Blvd/CA-19, includes a tunnel and about 4 lanes, which means blind and fast drivers.  I thought it would be a shortcut to my place, and technically it is, but the pervading culture of vehicle promises that it won't be.

On Mondays in my first year, I'd bike and sleep over at my Godsis (G-sis) and her partner, Cy's condo in Downtown LB.  A cacophany of crazies there.  From the random yelling of a next-door neighbor about how he "could not eat his hambugers", to the next-door lady whom Cy yelled at but expressed so much love for bikes, to a muted black guy who took care of the property, I felt I had enough credibility to say that I was sometimes "in the hood."

I also got my bike jacked, which according to Cy is a bit of a Long Beach tradition. 

While at school, I'd learned very quickly that one of my profs was very interested in Long Beach and Cambodians.  One conversation I had early on with her was about the lived experience of the LA Riots in Long Beach in 1992.  Indeed, the snippet of a police report in the Sublime song April 26, 1992 was referring to a place in Long Beach instead of LA.  Anaheim Street in the heart of what is now known as Cambodia Town.



She was talking about how she was living at the epicenter of the riots, which meant looting, and how she tried to dissuade a bunch of Cambodian men from participating in the mayhem.  A substantial amount of damage occurred in Long Beach totalling $20 million.

Since that conversation, I've enjoyed a grip that LB has had to offer. I've had the opportunity to tour my Cambodian grandparents.  Drive a cyclo or as the French call it a cyclo-pousse.  Played a bunch of sey with my cohort member Adam, a game similar to hackey sack but much easier with a feathery contraption.  Went to Dragon House and do all kinds of line dancing and hand movements.  Attend a Theraveda Buddhist temple during Cambodian day of the Dead.  Get involved with a community garden.  Listen to the stories of Khmer Rouge survivors at King's Park in the LBC.

More on that later.

Metro Stories: A Woman Is Not Supposed to Smell Like That

Sunday afternoon of my sister's 23rd birthday.  Piled a bunch of stuff from my parents house, mostly clothes, and about five potatoes.  Carrying two bags. On to my 2nd home in Lakewood.

Blue Line. A little before the Florence stop in South Los Angeles.

Sitting in one of the last few cars of the train in the back seats normally reserved for seniors and the handicapped.  My aqua-blue Nishiki is posted up upside down here against the conductor's door with my two bags pinned up against the frame.

Usually I'm hesitant to put my bookbags down and away from me to restrain the bike; I don't want anyone stealing my stuff!  However, thanks to all my cargo, my bookbags are really heavy and unless in dire straits, I doubt anyone would want to bother hauling a bunch of clothes and potatoes.

There are two other bikers with me here, though they are left standing up.  Across from me and blocking the right door is some middle-aged white guy with long hair and his helmet still on.  Adjacent to me, a tall black guy with a mountain bike and a wiggly, barely-serviceable-looking seat.

I'd been in the train a good 20 minutes.  Sitting to my left was a little kid with turtles, her mom, a friend and another daughter/cousin.

The friend was sorta friendly with me;  she actually smiled back and attempted to engage me in conversation.  She asked me about my bike.  She asked me where I got my "We [Immigrant family running] LA" sticker on my helmet. I noticed that she had a bunch of tattoos in Chinese characters.  Out loud, she was talking about tea and how certain cultures based their diets around it.  I was wondering if she had an Asian fetish;  maybe this was the reason she was talking to me.

I spent most of the time listening to my Colloquial Cambodian by David Smyth.

Once we stopped at Florence, the tall black guy pushed his beat-up mountain bike backwards to allow people to either get off or board the train.  In entered, an over-sized woman in sweatpants, a familiar face. 

"Excuse me, I need to move my bike in," the tall black guy said to this woman.

"Ewww," the tall black man covered his nose.  "You smell, please go that way."

I sniffed the air, my nose in search of that pooh poohy smell that I'd come to associate with this woman.

This woman I'd known from my earlier travels on the Blue Line.  She would usually walk in and attempt to sell pens for $1.  Judging by the way she approached people with little tact and wide eyes when called upon, I figured that she was not mentally all together.

A woman from about 10 feet away from me behind the mother of the child sitting next to me said, "I will take you home with me and offer you a shower."

The poo poohy woman made her way up the aisle and away from me. 

The rest of the train passengers cringed and covered up their noses as she made her way down the train.  A general sigh and grunt hovered the atmosphere.  I laughed at their reactions. 

For some reason, I didn't smell her at all, as much I searched for it.  I knew she usually smelled.  All I smelled were tires.

The woman 10 feet away from me kept talking, "I know what it's like to be homeless, I was homeless for 5 years, but I always washed my ass.  A woman is not supposed to smell like that!"

About 2 minutes later, the poo poohy woman was peaking out coming our direction again.

The tall black guy said, "no, you stay over there!"

The woman 10 feet away from me offered again, "I will take you home with me, and you can shower.  I'll even feed you."

"I heard you the first time", said the poo poohey woman.  "I took a bath."

"What like last month", said the tall black guy.

"So you're not going to take my offer?" said the woman 10 feet away from me.

The poo pooey woman walked off.

"I was homeless for 5 years, I know what it's like, but I made sure to wash my ass.  You can go to the shelters here and they'll let you do that.  If you can't do that, something is not right with you," said the woman 10 feet away from me.

My laugh morphed into a brood.

Rebuffing Idiots Who Are Justifying the Recklessness of a Person Driving a Car

This is just too much.

Just recently, I saw this harrowing video of a car speeding through a row of people on bikes at 35 mph. Yes, "through" a row of people on bikes.



This happened in late February in Porto Alegre. It happened during a Critical Mass event. Thankfully, no one was killed, though 12 were injured. That's one of the worst nightmares of someone riding a bike can experience.

Like most people I was stunned seeing that. Driving through a crowd of people is just not something people in the sane mindset do.

However, you wouldn't know that reading comments from the Huffington Post or heh heh, Youtube. You'd think that this was all justified. You'd think that the people on bikes were to be blamed.

The "suspect"/guy who mowed them down is Ricardo Jose Neis, a central banker. He is currently awaiting trial. He is a central banker with a history of violence: one for attacking his ex-partner, driving on the sidewalk, and driving the wrong way down a street and speeding. (In Portugues).

But no, let's not let any of these facts confuse any initial gut reactions from the viewing (largely American, car-centric) internet public.

Some comments from the most viewed video from the Associated Press.

(Youtubers had so many negative comments directed toward people in bikes in general that I had to divide them into categories.)

There were plenty of commenters who gave us some free lessons about driving psychology.
  • I can see this happening; not saying it was right. My family and I were stuck in Los Angeles downtown traffic for hours because of these bicycle numbnuts. They press their agenda by stopping traffic and clogging up transportation. Sorry, but this is an automobile culture and not all of us want to get hemmorhoids riding bikes. Cars were overheating, tempers were flaring, we and all motorists were stuck, businesses lost commerce. So, I give a big applause to the guy that mowed down these shits. - bordersushi
  • that will teach them to get a FUCKING car - pArR0otT
  • Hey when you block and clog the road, you are gonna piss people off. Brilliant protest people. Was it worth all those lives? - neonguy528
Some people even gave us comment-readers ill-researched lessons about traffic laws.
  • streets are made for cars. - sebaleon
  • I hate it when they don't stay in the bike lane - mshay1020
  • Roadways are not just for cars but all vehicles using the road are required to follow the rules of the road. In this case, if you are traveling well below the posted speed limit, keep to the far right. Critical mass riders intentionally block the road. - ABQ-Mike
For some commenters, the cyclists that were run over, represented cartoon-like, inanimate objects to be laughed at, "video game targets," as opposed to individuals to be concerned about.
  • Jesus, he must have gotten over 150 hit points just on that one street! new Record! - ScSSwav
  • Car: 1, Horde of protesting cyclists: -12 - kraigrust
  • Shit driver. He missed far more than he hit. - SozzledTerror
  • thats what helmets are for. - wrathchild356
Feeling like a video game target while on a bike was a meme I first heard on this blog. Generally, that's not a good feeling, because as a target, sooner or later you're going to get hit.

Finally, some people even said that what they saw on video was the enaction of a personal fantasy. It represented a cathartic release of emotion against what they perceive to be as symbols of obstruction.
  • I don't know about anyone else but i applaud the driver. If you're not gonna do the speed limit the either get out of the way or meet the grill of my car...-thedeityofthemind93
  • I love how they try running after the car.. stupid cyclists. Also, as no one was killed, I laugh openly, with the knowledge i'm not going to hell. - jettyt
  • I have fantasized about this many a night. - NycBlackout
  • You wouldn't believe how tempted I have been to do that lol. Fair play to the guy, he has a fair size pair of balls for doing that! -
    imperial109
The pervasiveness of these comments that remind me of how disengaged the general American populace is from bicycling.

I know that not all those comments are serious and that maybe put at the ground level, they might change some of their views, but it doesn't help that this public viewing it is carrying, expressing, and daring even more to express this sense of entitlement on the road.

I got a sense of humor, but given that car accidents account for 2% of deaths in America and the 6th leading cause of preventable death in America, that this self-entitled road rage is real and isn't likely to cease, that I or any other bicyclists in a pack could be subject to such whims is really frightening.

It's nice that we passed the Anti-Bicyclist Harrassment Ordinance for the city of Los Angeles, but people who drive cars in LA barely know the motherfucking traffic laws that have been in place since 1971. A chunk of them will probably still honk, yell, and generally make my experience horrible, especially in areas around LA County not under the jurisdiction of LA city.

Here are the good old, now in it's mid-life crisis, traffic laws, as spelled out by a lawyer, per California, via this blog:

The California Vehicle Code tackles the topic in Section 21202—Position in Traffic. It reads as follows:

(a) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations:

  1. When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
  2. When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
  3. When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes) that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge, subject to the provisions of Section 21656. For purposes of this section, a “substandard width lane” is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.
  4. When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.
The key part is #3. Stay to the right, unless you come across a street that is really narrow and unsafe. It's very subjective what counts as "narrow" and "unsafe", but in that case I would take the entire lane.

On my bicycle, I don't want to take one lane, but sometimes it's the safest way to ride the street. I'm in my 3rd year of bicycling, and I'm still always looking over my shoulder. If you're a new bicyclist reading this, yes it's tiresome and quite the hassle, but it's the best way to ensure that I get home in one piece.

For those familiar with San Fernando valley geography, I occupy one lane all the time on Nordhoff St. on the way to CSUN. Nordhoff Street is a 3-lane practice raceway moonlighting as a city street designed to promote access to racing and road rage to ordinary car-driving Americans.

Solutions?

Before I delve into that, here are some insightful and funny rebuffs against common memes.

Against the idea that "bikes cause and hold up traffic"
Cars cause 100,000 times more road obstructions than bicycles do. Traffic jams. Think about it. Is it ok for me to bike through a traffic jam with a baseball bat smashing peoples' windows and skulls because their car is moving more slowly along the road than I would like it to? - libertarian83

Against the idea that people on bikes "don't follow the rules" and "therefore deserve to be hit"

You don't ever see cyclists following the rules because you DON'T WANT to see it. - Jolimont

Using the logic of some of the people posting here [on Huffington Post article]. If there are a number of cars blocking the street, maybe for a reason such as they are trying to get home, a bulldozer should be able to plow its way through the crowd of cars blocking the way. Go bulldozers. Those damn cars block streets all the frigging time. - tomasmundo
Up until I saw this video, I always thought riding in a pack of bicyclists was safe.

But clearly, this video mixed with all these comments shows that a lot of people driving have itchy feet, especially when you make them really mad. Even without knowing who he is, most people used their experience as drivers to make snarky comments. This guy, Neis, was a symbol, a "vehicle" for them to re-enact their violent impulse wishes. The kind of impulse that is driven by a deeply embedded cultural expectation to speed, combined with the fact that there's little time to formulate any reasonable, rational mode of thought while in transit.

I think the same two solutions that I'll post over and over:

1) To foster a culture of biking in Los Angeles. Get the perspectives of those populations with the least mobility on the road and find creative ways to adapt conditions to those perspectives. "Those with the least mobility" being kids, women, families, and seniors. "Least mobility" being that for cultural, social, or physical reasons, they are restricted from moving as freely as a young dude like me.

I mention this only because on a road bike I'm likely to bike anywhere including the city of Vernon, Maywood, and whatever car-centric industrial areas exist. Conversely, I can't see many moms on cruiser bikes with little toddler Timmi in one of those protective carts doing the same as I do. It's possible, but I doubt there will be group rides of commuting moms getting over railroad tracks and narrow streets in attempt to get to and fro home. It'd be nice if that were the reality some day, it'd be nice if biking was made available to that demographic.

What this translates to is continued advocacy for bike lanes, bike rides, bike signs, but with more outreach focused on getting these highlighted networks of demographics integrated into biking, that the activity branches out and does become not just a popular, but a desirable form of regular transportation.

2) To settle the conflict between bikes and cars: Get people in cars to expect people on bikes on the road. If you get people to expect people on bikes, then you buffer against this entitlement to speed that some people who drive cars seem to have of the roads.

I mean when there's a street shut down for a street fair, it's not like these [sane] people will drive through ferris wheels, cotton candy booths, and crowds of people. They "expect" to drive somewhere else.

In the case, Neis likely "expected" to pass through these bicyclists. And when his expectation hadn't been sufficiently met, he decided to that it was logical to go ahead and murder people.

We, as in people on bikes or anyone else who cares, need to make this expectation of bikes unmistakably clear with lots of signs.

I really like that some buses have a variation of this message on their cabooses:



The sign is very clear: [People/fish riding] Bicycles have the right to use a full lane. State [motherfuckin']Law!

I need to make a sign with this on my back.

Having just buses with this sign is good, but not good enough.

I'd rather we see this or some kind of sign at every stoplight or intersection. At the very least, those dangerous intersections where cars have tended to dominate.

I was just wondering if there was a way to get more of these signs as a part of the actual stationary infrastructure.

To any bicycle advocates reading this, I know that you're all trying to play a game of politics, you're doing your best to get bike lanes, things take time, and the city of LA is "broke."

As someone who's driven a car for 9 years in LA, I barely noticed any of the incumbent "Bike Route" signs. Those things sucked. If I was still a driver only, unless the street was painted a different color, I don't know that I would've noticed "sharrows" all that much if they weren't specifically pointed out to me.

"Bike Route" signs were just a curiosity to me, I really had no idea what they meant. Now that I know what they mean (basically that it's an ideal route for bikes to take), I see and ride those Bike Route signs on Woodman Ave. in the valley and Pacific Coast Highway in Long Beach. There are partial, piecemeal bike lanes. My experience on those streets: people in cars still drive those streets with a sense of indignation, if you dare take any part of the lane.

At any rate, be it by guerilla DIY means and/or by some private fund, I think in the short and long-term, the most important things are visibility and awareness of bikes and the people on them. The clearness of the message creates this expectation that there will be people on bikes, and that it is a legit if not equal way of using the street.

What's Up Could Mean a Lot of Things

Playing basketball down at the court on San Fernando Rd. and Macon in Glassell Park with my friend Brian.

Hot-ass day.

Friend named Gary comes later and helps us on to victory against a taller team, a game we weren't supposed to win because not one of us was taller than 5'9 and the other team had all the size and skills. The next game we drop, because I'm tired and it's a sweltering, smoking barbecued-up 95 degrees.

We lost, so we sit on the benches. Ever the social dude, Brian and I start talking about how I'm going back to school later this month and about Brian's undergraduate aspirations.

Gary, a dude who's quick to smile, comes down from a water break and sits with us.

Brian says to Gary, "why didn't you come out last time, I texted you!"

Gary, "Fool, I never got anything, you can check my texts."

Brian remains resilient, "Nah man, I texted you."

Somehow we all start talking about running marathons. Brian talks about missing the registration date for the Disney half-marathon; Gary slaps the bench upon hearing that he's missed the date. Brian tells us about his experience running LA and redeeming himself for 2008. He completed the LA Marathon last year, but he feels the need to redeem himself for what happened in 2008. Let's just say that there were a grand total of 2 or 3 people booing at what he did. Booooooooo!!!!

After this good catch-up, Brian says jokingly to Gary, "I almost didn't invite you last time. Remember when you thought I was gonna do a drive-by on you or something."

LOLwuttf? I was thinking.

"Yeah man, it was 9 or 10 o clock at night!" said Gary in a "Who does that?!" kind of tone.

"But I just said What's up?"

I was imagining the usually quick-to-smile, laid-back Gary getting tense at the shoulders with both hands on the wheel.

"Man, What's up could mean a lotta things. It could what's up, where you FROM? What's up can I have some loose change?

"But I have the gayest voice ever..."

"Doesn't matter, I was getting ready for anything..."

How to Tour your Cambodian Grandparents in LA

I don't have Cambodian grandparents, but I did play driver for some, a few weeks ago.

I will affectionately call them my grandparents sinced they called me "chao." (Cambodian for grandson)

I spent so much time with them and heard lots of use of the phrases "t'lai na" (expensive) and "mien louy dtay?" (do you have money?)

So yes, they were very cautious about spending money and I was trying to keep costs down myself.

My goal was just to have them have a great time. "Have a great time" I defined as:

  • bumping into other seniors and people who might have come from their province in Cambodia (Battambang)
  • not so much complaining

Where did I end up taking them?

The obvious first option was the section called Cambodia Town in Long Beach.

Long Beach has one of the highest populations of Cambodians outside of Cambodian. It was known as a reunion town for many Cambodians.

I've had the fortune to know some subtleties of Cambodia Town thanks to my classes and work at the Historical Society of Long Beach with professor Dr. Karen Q and Dr. Sue Needham.

I took them to the old United Cambodian Community building on 2338 Anaheim St. But before we entered, they went out to some bush and started eating some edible flowers. After they did that, a whole bunch of other Cambodians came to the bush and started eating the flowers as well.

Inside the old United Cambodian Community building itself is plenty of pictures of the Cambodian-American community, and fishes from the Mekong River that runs through the Cambodian capital city of Phnom Penh. This greatly intrigued "granddad" who was a worldly, educated man with an intense interest in animals.

The main thing to see inside the building is the Mietophoum (translated as "Inheriting One's Nation") National Library with a man named Socheat Kuch. Socheat has an extensive collection of books be they from Cambodia or heck English language books relevant to my own research.

Some of the more appealing media for my grandparents came in the form of Cambodian CDs with hits from pre-70s stars such as Sinn Sisamouth and movies starring Prince Norodom Sihanouk. What he sells is difficult to find.

If you show enough interest, there is a classic video that Socheat prides himself on and he shows everyone each time. This is a video he is re-mastering and hopes to get out soon.

As for "my grandparents", they had an intense-looking exchange with him. By the end of it, they said that they wanted to donate to Socheat for his work in preserving pre-Khmer Rouge culture.

For food, my grandparents gravitated towards Grand Paradise Restaurant in front of Long Beach's MacArthur Park for breakfasts and lunch. Everything was $6.75. We consumed a steady diet of crispy noodles, soups, rice, meats, and CNN news.

The Heng Seng Supermarket on Anaheim and Rose St. was popular with my friend for the mangoes and spices.

On the suggestion of one of their relatives, we ended up in Los Angeles' Chinatown. We went there specifically for the New Battambang restaurant. Another inexpensive place with great soups. This instantly became a favorite for grandmom and we promptly drove to the restaurant the next morning.

Outside of Cambodia Town, I tried to take them to places of interest in Long Beach. We went to Belmont Shores. We went to the Long Beach boardwalk and hit up the 1 dollar bookstore.

In LA, they liked seeing the places with picturesque views. They couldn't stop taking pictures while at the Griffith observatory. They enjoyed the views at the Getty but all of us were pretty disappointed at the Gods of Angkor display from the National Museum of Cambodia. The Gods of Angkor exhibit currently has all kinds of banners scattered and splashed around random parts of LA, but there was only one room in which the collection was housed; it just seemed like there was going to be more to the exhibit than just one room.

The trip for them ended on a high note when I took them to Chinatown, and they were free to shop. There they lightened up and bargained for their real grandkids gifts, foods, bags, clothes, and novelty items.

Things they did not like:

They left some decisionmaking up to me. After they got in, I took them to a place I liked for their beef jerky: Sophy's restaurant. For them, it was alright, but said that it was overpriced.

I took them to another place, a place that functioned as sort of a place for comfort food. Thai BBQ at Mr. Noodle. It was a place where I'd found love, produced it, but for them it was expensive and upset their stomachs. It seemed all fine when we were there.

I had this hankering to take them to Koreatown. In there we found the new Galleria Market: Another Cambodian friend of mine and I had discovered this the day before I had taken them there and the grandparents liked some of the food my friend and I brought back.

Lessons Learned:

  • If they had a longer stay, I would've taken them to the actual United Cambodian Community just so they could bump into a few seniors. However, I hadn't planned in advance when and what they would be doing there.
  • Grandmom walked really slow even with the Lexus of walking aids --- a walker. It was very dauntingly slow walking with her --- 100-200 meters seemed like such a long distance away at her pace, so we often just walked across streets when they appeared to be clear of cars. However, the moment a street would seem to be clear, some folks zipped in thru the narrow streets, and yelled at her to use a crosswalk. For an enclave where you find a lot of old Asian folks walking on canes, traffic is way too fast and there are just not enough crosswalks with handicap access.

Open Letter to Whoever Stole my Bike

My Bike in 2010



My Bike in 2011. I switched out the beat up old blue seat with a red seat that I got as a birthday gift.



My Bike in 2011.



The above are pictures of what had been my main form of transportation for a year up until 2 days ago: my bicycle.

A bicycle that got stolen from a community center in Long Beach.

My bicycle is/was more than just recreational fun; this was my ride from my home in the San Fernando Valley to school in Long Beach. About 50 miles apart.

And. With no car.

To whoever you are, young, old, whatever race or gender you are, if you just wanted something to take a ride on it, I would've let you. If you just wanted a bike of your own, I could've helped you get one of your own (or worked with you to get one of your own). If you just wanted a bike to make some quick money, why couldn't we work something out?

Did it have to come to you stealing what has been my main form of transportation?

You just stole something from someone who wants to believe in you and the goodness of people.

The worst part about all this is that this happened in a place where kids are already stereotyped by the police, and it happened while a bunch of Jehovah's Witness missionary types were doing some kind of workshop in the room next to where my bike was.

When people asked them if they saw if anyone stole my bike, seeing their bicycle helmet, one of them said, "that's why you lock it up" as if the community is something to naturally be distrustful of.

The bike has all the stickers of my interactions with people. The Los Angeles Bicycle Coalition, Pimpin' Peace, Beatrock Music, Justice for Oscar Grant --- it was like a record of where I have been and where I'd like to go.

How I Got this Bike

I got this bike off of Craigslist for $150 bucks in Monterey Park in 2009 with the help of a cycling advocate.

When I first got it, the seat would move up and down, there were gears, and the ride was anything but smooth.

But with a little bit of work and trial and error, I eventually found a way to make the bicycle work for me. I found out how to set my wheel just right so the chain wouldn't keep falling off the gear, how to currently use bicycle pumps, and how to change flat tires.

So much so that in addition to a Student Metro pass (that took 2 months to get) that allowed me to ride the Orange, Red, and Blue Lines, the bicycle became my main mode of transport from the San Fernando Valley to Long Beach.

My Route to School

I would usually begin my commute in the morning in the heart of the San Fernando Valley.

I would bike through the speed/war zone called Woodman Ave. in Van Nuys to North Hollywood. Apparently a bike-a-ble street.

"Apparently" being an operative word. Every morning, afternoon, or even early evening I could feel cars breathing on me. The only time that it was nice to bike were those very late Tuesday and Thursday nights at 11:45 PM when it would just be me and wide open streets.

From North Hollywood, I would go through Griffith Park and head into the LA River Bike path.

During the sunny days, the LA river bike path is where I'd catch all the flies in my mouth and face. I always wondered why this one person always wore fake eye-glasses whenever she rode her bike --- that very situation is why. On the day of my orientation at Long Beach, I even had one screw break off at Griffith Park making it so that I could no longer pedal; I had to use my bike as a skateboard to the nearest bike shop --- 4 miles away in North Hollywood. I got a replacement screw for 5 dollars, and ended up taking the Red and Blue Line.

After getting through the LA River in Griffith Park, I'd make the decision to either go to East Los Angeles or just go through Silver Lake into Echo Park.

Sometimes I'd go the East LA route, which took me through its surprising hills, narrow right lanes, and Salesian High school.

However, most of the time I'd take Silver Lake into Echo Park because that provided the option of spending $1.50 to take the Blue Line to Long Beach.

If I opted not to, I would make my way down to South LA. I would turn left on Martin Luther King St. and find my way to 41st Street and Alameda, the site of the much-contested South Central Farm. Last time I rode down, there was literally a circus on site.

I'd find myself then side-by-side with 18-wheel trucks in the "city" of Vernon. It's not so much a city with people walking and living there, but a massive storage space for various industries. I wouldn't recommend it, but somehow this is where the LA River Bike Path continues into Long Beach where I usually cruise 14 miles before hitting Pacific Coast Highway.

I ride 4 or 5 miles east on another supposed bike-friendly street, Pacific Coast Highway, roundabouts and fast-cars, to Cal State Long Beach.

I'm not saying I biked all these miles to brag, I'm just saying that I was really, really, really, did I mention... REALLY...DEPENDENT on this form of transportation.

It wasn't really fun, luxurious, or recreational. It was just fun, functional, and necessary.

Just a plea from a student who just wants to make things better, doesn't care who you are, and just wants his bike back in one piece.

Brian

A Cute Moment at Chase St. Park

An sunny Friday afternoon.

My litany of arm exercises at the gymnastics playground.

The gymnastics playground is a favorite not just of menly push-up-pushing men, but plenty of little kids as well.

The plenty of little kids particularly gravitate towards the elevated uneven bars, usually grabbing on to one side. Some use it as their personal chin-up or monkey bar. Plenty use it to lay their legs over the bar, suspend themselves in mid-air with no hands and tumble.

At this particular moment, I was on one side of the elevated bars. I was doing my 3rd set of dips.

One the other side of the elevated even bars, a 5-8 year old kid ascended the elevated bars. He grabbed one side, used the other side to lift himself up and standing on the even bars.

Beneath him a little light-skinned somewhat pudgy boy looking up at the athletic exploits of this kid. The pudgy boy inquired, in the lightest, unsurest, tiniest, mouse-like voice "are ya scared up there?"

He clinged to one side and attempted to lift himself.

Metro Conversations: Violence in the Public Space

Sunday night at the Metro. Wardlow stop in Long Beach. Waiting to go back to LA via the Blue Line.

15 minutes after I get to the stop, the Blue Line to LA comes. I walk in at the end of one car, flip my bike over, see a family occupying the first few rows of seats, walk to an open window seat next to a young black lady.

Plop down. Look around.

In front of me, a black family of 6. Behind me, a middle-aged Asian couple. Nothing too remarkable, just every day on the Blue Line.

At the Imperial/Wilmington station, a pair of white kids come in. One of them looks like NBA Basketballer Dirk Nowitzki. They sit on the side adjacent to me, divided only by the aisle.

I don't notice that one of the white kids looked like Dirk Nowitzki until minutes later when a flying sour patch kid pegs him. Pegs as in darts right at him. Right in the back.

The throw looked very intentional. It came from where our backs were turned.

The flying sour patch kid originated from one snickering pre-teen, early-teen black kid near the mid-car door. He was laughing it up with about 5 or 6 other snickering pre-teen, early-teen black kids.

Another flying sour patch kid was thrown Dirk Nowitzki's way. I looked his way and he and his friend were getting visibly annoyed.

I was too.

30 seconds later.

Another one. Kid in the back smiling mischievously.

He finally turned back and looked at them.

Apprehensive about what he might say, he finally said in a British accent, "Can you please stop that?"

The British accent didn't do him any favors. The kids ripped into and played with his accent. They told the sour-patch kid thrower that he was going to get beat up by the British guy. In the meanwhile, they also flirted with the idea of possibly beating the British kid down.

The British guy could only sit looking back at them.

Before you know it, a sour patch kid, obviously thrown, landed where I was seated.

Slightly empowered by the British guy's reaction, I looked back at the offender and put my hands up as if to say "What?"

It wasn't meant to be a threatening I'm-gonna-fuck-you-up-What?" more like a "what the fuck are you doing" kind of What?

They left me alone for a good 5 minutes after I did that.

Under their breath, the British kids who'd incurred that initial barrage of flying sour patch kids were building tension. I heard one of them mumble "they're just niggers anyway." Being in this situation, I could understand why they would think that, not that I condoned race-baiting.

The black kids spent the 5 minutes they left me alone verbally playing/taunting a young Latina girl who was seated behind the British kids.

They asked her multiple times if she gave head. Witty in her own right, she said that she was surprised that anyone would consider having sex with any of them.

One of the boys then said that they would pop her. It wasn't clear whether that popping was sexual or violent, but either, way it's not really a way you'd talk to someone you don't know. She was trying to stand her ground, but faced them as if she knew them.

By this time, the entire train had grown visibly annoyed at what these boys were doing. They were annoyed at the rowdyness, the harrassment of ordinary folk.

But no one was speaking up. The Asian couple would've done a million other things than be on the Blue Line. A Latino dude with a bike and a Rose Bowl 2007 Michigan sweater looked every once in a while to the back where those boys were.

Tired of the verbal games that these boys were playing, the girl moved into the open seat next to me. I had my bag slightly on the other chair, but the Asian guy in the back lightly nudged me to move my bag so that this girl could sit.

The boys saw this and chided her out loud.

They said that she was "a ho running to her boyfriend." Having done nothing except move my bag slightly so she could sit next to me, I became the target of laughter again and said that "you in the glasses, you just protecting her to get pussy."

I looked back at one of the boys diagonal to me, remembering Adriel Luis' facebook wall post on my wall and trying to bring good vibes, I said "C'mon fam."

I wasn't trying to be mocking or anything by calling him 'fam and in a way that some would consider "deficient" English, I was just genuinely trying to engage with them.

He said, "Fam? I'm not your fam!"

I said, "Well, I don't know, you could be."

After a slight pause, I looked at one of the group members with glasses and another kid behind him he was taking up two seats.

I said, "I ain't trying to fight ya'll. You know, just chill ya'll, folks are just trying to get home." I was just trying to tell em that it shouldn't get that serious and that they were seriously stirring up something.

They nodded and seemed to be getting where I was going. I was just trying to establish an air of respect for them.

One of them remarked "man, he got a duck tail," referring to my newfound tail haircut.

I said, "yeah, it took a while to get."

One of them asked, "yeah, how long did it take you?"

I said, "eh...about 4 months."

I wish I could say that we talked some more. I wish I could say that the mocking, and them being loud in public all ceased after the interaction. It didn't.

About 2 more sour patch kids landed my way.

However, the throwing was not really recognized or celebrated by the rest of the boys. They didn't mock anyone else or me for the duration of the ride, least out loud.

The rest of the trip, we just heard them banging on drums and freestyling, conquering the shared Metro car airwaves of a Sunday Night on the Blue Line.

After interaction with the kids in the back died down, I looked at the white British kid and his friend. Reading the tension in their bodies, I told one of them "not to mind, they're just kids," hoping that perhaps they would just dismiss the incident to "being kids", rather than "being black."

That these kids were...kids.

But I could easily seeing them get into all kinds of trouble with that public bravado. Perhaps the same need for bravado that drove Cambodian and Latino kids to kill each other in Long Beach during the 1990s and 2000s.

I wanted to tell these kids that they were fostering resentment in ordinary people of other people in their category. I wanted to tell them who Oscar Grant was. Someone was really annoyed by him in the moment as well.

I could see the violence wanting to rage out in the white British kids and the black kids as the white kids walked pass them to exit towards the Staples Center/Convention Center. The white British kids wanted to show that they weren't punks, the black kids hit the window back to show that they were a force to be reckoned with.

Violence or the threat thereof, sadly one of the more used languages in America.

I figured that the black kids really were just looking to talk. Keyword is "kids." And by "kids" I mean people who can be talked to and perhaps should be talked to, instead of having "other" elements, technologies, or entities (namely institutions) "deal" with "them." Elements, technologies, entities dealing with them instead of individuals dealing with them. Albeit on a television show, individuals showed to be less willing to deal face-to-face with black kids.

These kids on the Metro on this Sunday night were an outburst of energy. They were just calling attention to themselves, probably cause they had nothing better to do. I just did my best to try and engage.

Better that than dismiss and leave them to be put in another trash bag that we call our prison-industrial complex.

Metro Conversations: 99 Problems, and the Girl is 98.4 of them

As I was riding the Blue Line home to the Valley from the Del Amo stop today. It was strangely warm. Strange, because it hadn't been warm in a while, at least it seemed like a while.

Though there were some stupid kids obstructing the stairway while I ran up with my bike not even knowing when the next train was coming, I'd made it to the stop just on time!

Locate a car with space for my bike at the ends of each car, not the actual designated bicycle areas in the Blue Line which most people don't understand, especially in traffic, is in the MIDDLE of the car.

Get in. Flip the bike. First few rows close to my bicycle, taken. About 2 rows of seats down, see a bunch of Asian kids napping, sat next to one.

Next stop, Artesia. A whole bunch of people get off from the first two rows, allowing me to sit on the right-hand side as close as possible to my bicycle, while not sitting on the handicapped-reserved seats.

The nuances of my public transportation sitting habits.

I even decide not to jackass it today while sitting down. That means I take the window seat, allowing space for a passenger to sit on the outer seat.

Usually, because I'm always on the lookout for my bicycle, I want to be able to access the bicycle freely, so I sit on the outer seat, preventing others from sitting down and retaining a domain of 2 seats, though I am technically only occupying 1 seat.

I do this because I hate getting sealed and trapped in a window seat by some stranger, and by "stranger", I usually mean probably some other dude. Today, I decided that it didn't matter.

I pull out my so-obviously pink netbook, remember all the work I still have to do, and get crackin'. As we near the Compton stop, some Latino dude with a mustache and some kind of tat on his arm rolls out of nowhere, plops down, and asks me how far the Washington stop is.

Being near the Compton stop, I say, "about 20 minutes" or about "4 or 5 stops", unsure really of how far we were.

He looks kinda disheartened. He asks me where the Green Line stop is.

I think for a split second and say that it's the next stop. But after recognizing that the Green Line stop is pretty far from his request of "Washington", I ask him "wait, where you tryin' to go?"

"Monterey [Park]. But I gotta get to Union Station."

A native-colored woman with a baby in a stroller joins our running conversation. "Oh you just take the train all the way."

I elaborate saying, "yeah, you just stay on the train. You'll have to take the red line to Union Station. Then you take the gold line." Clarifying my own thoughts, I repeat.

Yeah, stay on this line till the last stop. Get on the red line, it'll be about 10 minutes to Union station. And from Union Station you go to the Gold Line.

Visibly flustered by all the trains he'd have to take, he says, "man, I'm lost. I left at like 12."

By then it was around 3:30 in the afternoon.

"Man, where you coming from?"

He says "Anaheim."

Excited that he might mean Anaheim St. in Long Beach, hoping he might be a part of the Longos gang in Long Beach and therefore provide an "in" for my research, he clarifies that he means "Anaheim", the city, to my slight dismay.

Given his confusion over the train stops, I ask him, "this your first time on the train?"

He nods yeah. "Man, I'm gonna be late!"

I give a nod and say "Yeah, you really have to plan your trips out on the Metro."

He says "I woulda left earlier if my girl hadn't snapped at me."

I say, "Oh damn, what happened?"

"I just broke up with her, found out that she was cheating."

"Ohhhhh man. I feel for you dude."

It was interesting that we shared this connection, straight male to straight male. It didn't matter that he was Latino, looked like a former gangbanger and that I was a privileged ass Asian graduate student typing away on my computer.

He tells me that they had been together for 4 years, and had a kid together. He had a job at a Japanese restaurant in Monterey Park, which he used supported the both of them and their child. He was wondering if the kid was his. He was fed up, he was disgusted, he was feeling bad.

I wanted to communicate that the pain was somewhat shared.

My own experience fresh in memory, I tried to assure beyond the standard, true, but somewhat empathy-lacking responses of "move on" or "there are plenty of fish in the sea."

"Man, I'm going to start drinking again."

"Man, don't do that. You know what I did? I just wrote a lot, just expressed everything. I know it feels like you just want to do something. You talk to anyone?"

He told me that he hadn't had the chance to.

And here he was on the train almost late to work.

We continued the conversation. After checking his phone, he decided that he was not going all the way to Union Station but was going to catch a bus from Grand Station.

I asked him why he wasn't driving. The reason? He'd lent the car to his girlfriend. A car he'd been driving with no problem for 7 years. And it had broken down earlier in the week.

"You know what the worst part is? She took my rent money!"

To me that was sort of an auxilary piece of the puzzle. I told him, "Damn, I'd buy you a drink," remembering how my own godsis fixed me one when I rolled over after a break-up.

I spent the rest of the ride trying to hear the dude, cogitating my own experience with break-ups. We were nearing the Grand Station. We were talking about how the experience sucked at the moment. Then he said something interesting that I also thought about a lot.

"You know what? It's all good, I think Kharma will come back on her."

"Heh, yeahhh, I know what you mean."

Responding to Anti-Bicycling Sentiment in LA

Bike plan about to be approved by LA City Council as reported by the LA Times.

Reading comments by everyone, picking out the "knowlegeable-seeming" ones not hellbent on picking random internet fights.

LA Times User PauvrePavillion posted 6 straight times on the article. I've posted his comment after my commentary.

While he seems to be fine with building dedicated bike paths, he concludes this: people riding bicycles don't belong on the same road as people driving cars.

It's as if people driving cars dangerously and hitting bicyclists was an established law of nature, difficult, machines that worked reasonably well, with random acts of misfire.

S/He neglects the fact that people driving cars are just that. People driving cars. "People" meaning "individuals!" Individuals with plenty of "control", perhaps an excess of it. "Control" in the sense that if you have a vehicle, you can move at your own pace, travel more spontaneously and further, and most importantly an established "ownership" of the road.

It becomes "your" right to maneuver as fast as you can, as long as these other damn car-drivers weren't on the road.



I drive a car too, on occasion. I understand that the priority on a given day with this extreme control at disposal, is that the main goal is to "manuever" or weave through traffic, and it becomes a game, where a driver tries to find "ways" to get to places much faster. This "game" is predicated on the cultural expectation, the expectation that the streets of Los Angeles belong to those who drive cars. And when bicyclists appear either on the periphery, or even GASP! in the middle of a lane, they disrupt the "game" in progress.

I understand the point that accidents do happen with bicycles on the road, but then again, accidents happen even without bicyclists on the road. They kill pedestrians too! Maybe we should get cars off the road then?

Gas is rising astronomically ($3.65 a gallon at a local Arco Station last I checked), and more importantly, biking on the road is the freekin' LAW. California Law. There's enough people who ride on the streets, and they don't have much if any backing. The bike plan's a way to build momentum to get more infrastructures that might eventually ensure a lot more safety.

LA Times User PauvrePavillion said:

More cyclists on the roads means only one thing... more dead cyclists.

Based on results, public roads are neither an appropriate nor intelligent place to ride a bicycle. If sharks were taking out ocean swimmers off the coast of Newport at the rate that cars take out cyclists in Orange County, you would conclude that it is fool hearty to swim in this location… and you would be right.

Catastrophic accidents happen with regularity not because the drivers are out there trying to hit the cyclists but because bikes and cars are an inherently dangerous combination. One is slow and fragile. The other is quick and carrying from 3,500 to 6,000 pounds or more. Accidents are going to happen and riders are going to get killed.

Another more "reasonable" rant is a call for people who ride bicycles to get on the sidewalk on "busy" streets.

Comment by LA Times User Lost-Angelr

Bicyclists - If its a busy street, get on the side walk. Do not ride like its Venice when its Olympic or 6th Street, Sunset, Santa Monica... Melrose... or any other major street. Don't slow down traffic, do not claim your lane when its a CAR road... get on the side walk and ride carefully, pedestrians are also important for you to consider. Take small streets, you're more able to maneuver and use small streets to your advantage. BUT stop at stop signs. OBEY road and street and sidwalk LAWS.
I've flipped through the DMV manual and safety tips for bicyclists, but I didn't come across anything that said ride on the sidewalk on "CAR roads."

Obviously, I'm just being a smart-butt.

I know there are some streets with a high amount of traffic and that for my own safety it would be best if I didn't take those roads.

However, what gets me is that legally, we have the right to be on there. Again, California. Law.

But it appears that the "culture" established on those streets, that of people driving cars, is completely impinging on my legal right to ride my bicycle. What has been established by people who drive on those streets is an informal law, reinforced and practiced everyday. What gets built in driving on those streets with only cars, is an expectation. An expectation that they as people who drive cars have the ultimate domain over the roads.

People who drive aren't out to get bicyclists and bicyclists are not on a mission to disobey every traffic law.

Whatever mode of transport we choose, we are all just people (less I missed a few cyborgs born with pedals on their feet) trying to "get in, out, around" Los Angeles.

How we "get in, out, around" Los Angeles, is dictated largely by the environment we choose to create ourselves, both through law and everyday practice.

A bunch of people created the large 4 lane quasi-highways in the Valley. A bunch of people created a "CAR-road" like Wilshire Blvd. A bunch of people created the industrial zones of Vernon. If we are to meet the US demand of not depending so much on oil, if we are to build a "world city" with a more "community" feel to it, it would really help if the people with the capital would do some things on those streets to make the environment conducive to both cars and bicyclists.

Fixing the environment is one thing. It is the long-term solution.

But the long-term can't be the only solution, because I still gotta ride my bike to school later today, starting from my corner in San Fernando Valley down to the "bike-friendly" Long Beach.

Considering that 630 people who rode bikes were killed in 2009 in the US, while those who ride bicycles cannot kill people who drive, it would be nice if people who drove in LA could learn one simple thing if antyhing before they head out to drive today: EXPECT bicyclists to be on ANY road, it's the law!

Threatened with Jail Time by an Orange Line Bus Driver

So yes, what you read above is what happened to me at about 7:40 in the morning on my way from the Valley to Long Beach after my daily trip on the Orange Line.

The culmination of bad design, a cold morning, a bus driver needing to assert their authority, and most importantly a righteous bicyclist.

What led up to this?

Bicycling right in front of the orange line bus on Oxnard and Buffalo, the Woodman Orange Line station.

Yeah, I know, biking in front of the orange line bus is not really safe or something I like to do for shits and giggidies on the weekends, but let me tell you why I felt the need to cut off the bus at this particular intersection.

First off, when I was a really novice bicyclist and Metro rider, at this particular stop, I would often miss the bus, usually catching nothing but the tail end of its cloud of smog.

Following the traffic laws, I’d have to wait for the walk signal to turn on. As the walk signal would turn on, the orange line bus would move forward to the bus stop, about 200 feet away from me.

In order to actually catch the bus from the very same intersection, I discovered over time that I'd have to account for a lot of things within a very small time window: 1) coming from the bicycle path to the left of the station, I have to cross the street to the right side AFTER the fast-moving bus has passed 2) making sure I got to the bus or crowd of people fast enough, through a combination of bicycling and running 3) tapping my card. 4) after tapping my card, getting back on the bike quickly enough to bike the 50 or so yards separating me from the crowd of people entering the bus as the bus stop. This has to be done within a window of about 45 seconds, which can be somewhat stressful.

That. Or missing the bus.

The consequence of missing the bus? Waiting for the next bus, which could take as long as up to 20 minutes.

20 minutes in the life of this grad student is time I could spend much better than waiting around watching a bunch of tough guys spit loogies, deflecting unwanted glances from random individuals, or listening to the sounds of frozen awkward silences between riders.

Having a bicycle, sometimes I’d be better served just biking to the North Hollywood Metro station. However, I’m never sure when the bus is actually coming, unless I already see it.

If I see an Orange Line bus with an empty bike rack, I absolutely NEED to rush as fast as I can. Why? Because I never know if the next bus is full of bikes. If the next bus if full of bikes, I can’t get on, and have to wait another 10 minutes for the next bus, grudgingly and enviously watching waves of people who got to the stop at the same time as I did, prance on in leaving the bicyclist stranded.

It feels like I'm being punished for having a bike!

Anyway that brings us to earlier this morning at 7:30 AM.

At this intersection, Oxnard and Buffalo, I was waiting at the same stoplight as the bus. Not wanting to go through that stressful 45-second ritual, I decided to go before the stoplight and the bus so I'd have plenty of time to get across the street, tap my card, bike to the stop, and actually get there.

Ahhh...made it in front of the bus!

I'm going to be on time with the bike rack empty, it's a good start to my day.

As the bus approaches me at the stop, he looks at me and honks.

Yeah, I know I fucked up, I'll take whatever verbal harangue he has to offer.

I put my bicycle on the rack.

As I enter, the bus he asks me "Why you do that?"

I responded, "Because sometimes you bus drivers don't care [if I miss the bus]"

I thought that was a reasonable enough response, he had nothing else to say. I made my way to my seat and plopped myself down for the 15 minute ride to North Hollywood.

Uneventful ride.

Then comes the exit. I take the front exit so that I can get my bike.

As I retrieve my bike from the rack, the bus driver steps down from his bus and walks up to me.

He asks me again "Why you do that?"

I tell him, trying to elaborate that "Sometimes other drivers don't seem to care if I miss the bus. I can move as fast as I can and sometimes they just don't care."

He continued, "Well, that's why we have buses that come every 5 minutes. You can’t wait 5 minutes?”

I told him, "It usually takes more than 5 minutes, and I don't like being late to things, I gotta be different places."

He says "You're lucky there wasn't a Sheriff here or I would have you cited for $250 dollars"

Infuriated at the fact that $250 is hard for me to come by, remembering a blog about the middle-class habitii of bus drivers, and recalling one bus driver’s conversation about how some drivers made up to $100,000, I fired back with a mounting annoyed fury in my voice, “do you ride the bus?”

He didn't answer.

Instead he attempted to assert himself, he said, "Next time you do that on MY bus, I will report you to a Sherriff and if you don't pay that fine, you'll serve some jail time."

Completely thrown off by his unwillingness to listen, and losing my sense of rationality, I told him "Man, fuck you."

He said, "Try me then next time" as he walked off.

"What the fuck is wrong with you, making $100,000 a year and trying to take $250 bucks from me? What the fuck is wrong with you?" I yelled at him as he made his way stage left.

He called off in the distance, "Try it!"

Micro-dissection of a Terrible Intersection: Del Amo St., and Susana St, Compton, CA

On my way to the Historical Society of Long Beach, I generally get off at the Del Amo stop.

Below is one particularly irritating intersection on my way there, technically in the city of Compton (according to Google Maps), bordering Rancho Dominguez, that contributes to annoying the hell out of me, and probably just one big/little thing that scares people about biking in Long Beach.




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Where to start on this one?

  • The road is charred from all the heavy-ass trucks that make its way by the micro-second. This makes for a real bumpy, tire-tearing experience.

  • The two-way roads are segregated by a physical barrier. A bicyclist wanting to head East is generally not going to want to bike OVER that barrier just to bike on the correct side of the street. I usually take the sidewalk and bike AGAINST traffic. I'm eventually trying to get on the the correct side.
  • Deciding to bike on the sidewalk coming from the Blue Line, I can't actually continue on the sidewalk. I'd actually be cut off from doing so if I tried to continue on this sidewalk, There is actually NO sidewalk on a stretch of industrial infrastructure. Instead is a thin patch of dirt that is unbikeable. Vea abajo.