Sunday, December 13, 2009

I was not a white girl today.

Los Angeles is expensive and difficult to get around in. Usually the places I go, I try to walk as much as possible to get a lay of the land. If I can't walk it, I feel completely incapable as a person. I'm in Beverly Hills. I wanted to go to downtown LA. 40 minute drive is what I was told was the distance. Rent a car is what I was told as far as my options. And I said a big hell to the no, I'm conquering this land of Range Rovers with my Nikes.

3 blocks walking. $1.25 bus fare. 52 minutes down Wilshire Ave to 7th & Grand listening to Florence and the Machine, noticing how when crowds of people came on the bus that they were not like me. Hispanic or Latino families, elderly Asian women, etc. 5 blocks walking to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. Hello Project Runway. Hello free exhibit on Betsy Bloomingdale's haute couture gowns. Unfortunately PR and school have both shut down for the season so further exploration was impossible on the campus. Many more blocks walking on 8th, Spring, 7th and Grand, checking out downtown. It is wacky. Old beautiful art deco buildings stand tall on the somewhat swept streets. Beautiful theatres that would've been the spot for the rich and famous in the 20's and 30's are now gutted for flea markets. It's obvious no one in this city walks as I was fighting to get through crowds of people walking slower than the preteens at Mall of America. Twas this, and the color of my skin that immediately made me stick out among the masses of shoppers. It made me wonder if this city is used for anything? People obviously live there. Shop there. Do they work there? Is it all belonging to a certain stereotype while the rich and well dressed SUV drivers commute to work in Beverly Hills?
I had had enough of the lack of splendor of Downtown LA. A few more blocks to the Pershing Square Metro stop and on the underground I went. A toothless gentleman offered me his used ticket and I was shocked by this kindness. Where it was only $1.25 for the ticket, the generosity surprised me. Then as I thanked him and took it he said "I need $1 for that!" Realizing my naivety, I gave it back to him and bought my own $1.25 ticket. A few minutes and a few stops later I was at Sunset Blvd and Vermont Ave. Where I had read I could get a trolly for 25 cents up to Griffith Observatory. What I didn't know is that there were no posted times for this so called trolly, and since no one takes public transportation, and the bus drivers are no help, I ended up standing at this hopeful looking sign for about 40 minutes waiting. Just as I was getting harassed by the first caucasians I'd seen that day, asking about my natural hair color and making other inappropriate comments, I was ready to give up and start walking in the opposite direction, I saw a little red trolly take the corner and stop right at my feet. Gratitude swept over me as the driver asked for a quarter and we took off up the huge hill that became Griffith Park.
The Griffith Observatory has been seen in such films as Charlie's Angels 2 and Transformers. It is a planetarium at the top of one of the Hollywood Hills, offering scientific exhibitions and other boring junk as well as beautiful views of an over-polluted and over-populated city. The building itself is beautiful. More of that Art Deco detailing at every corner that LA embraces. I'm very glad I waited an eternity for the cheap ride. It was quite the impressive site, the building and the views (although slightly brown and grainy).

Another quarter to get back to Sunset Blvd and a bit of a walk to Vine and Hollywood Blvd. This was not a necessary stop on my trip, but since I was in the neighborhood, I decided to do the tourist thing and read the oh so famous names on the sidewalk. As klutzy as I can be, this actually helped me not trip, paying attention to the ground for once.
Aw, Michael, I love your work. Walking around Hollywood Blvd, I definitely got swept into the crowd of camera wielding tourists. It's almost a treat once and a while to be one of a crowd. You're not noticed. Not an independent person, just one of the crowd. I was offered a cd on the street and when I said "no thank you" he said "I know you're a black girl, you want this music!" I laughed and kept walking. Walking around to the tunes of Metric's Fantasies I felt content in my own little world. I picked up the novelty souvenirs I had promised to a friend and decided it was about time to head home. This time on the 4 bus from Santa Monica Blvd back to Beverly Hills. Another $1.25.

I only point out the race factor because it really is apparent here. In a city of diversity, you would expect a variety. But there were honestly no white people taking public transit. In Minneapolis, where the bus fair is $1.75 mind you, MORE expensive than LA, people of all shapes, sizes, colors, and statuses ride the bus. Every other city I've been to, this is the case. Why LA, why? Besides the fact that people have the attitude that saving hundreds of dollars is irrelevant. A day of sightseeing that would've been hundreds had I rented a car or taken a taxi cost me $4.25. All day. I think this is pretty fantastic. So if you're reading this, and if you go to LA, sometime try the bus or the Metro. It's pretty convenient and traffic sucks anyway...maybe us all jumping in a bus would make traffic lighter? Maybe???


  1. Fascinating observations. I love it.

    I had that minority-as-a-white-person experience in Brooklyn last summer, and it really made me have my own little "dialogue on race". Made me think about separations...and the reasons things wind up intentionally or unintentionally segregated. Creation of socioeconomic borders and all kinds of craziness. In short, it was very good for me.
    I applaud your mass-transit taking and outside the L.A. box thinking. :)

  2. What a toothless jerk!!!! I can't wait to see you in like a week.... : )

  3. you're so adventurous :) Love it!!

  4. this is a great blog post...really great. I can't wait to see more pictures when you get home! What a fun day =)