Random thoughts from both coasts

(By Sue and Bob)

LA Outsiders (folks not residing in Los Angeles):

* Don’t know traffic. They think they do, but believe me, they don’t. Those who haven’t driven for one hour and not yet passed the next exit ramp — or who haven’t been delayed for hours by a gawker’s block (“Look! A shoe! By the side of the road!”) — or who haven’t seen the sky fade to the color of putridity while their Starbucks coffee grows cold and rancid in the cupholder — They Don’t Know.

* Think everyone in LA is laid back and relaxed. “Surf’s up, dude.” Well … no. Most LA denizens have a bad case of the “LA Meanies”. You would too, if you Knew Traffic.

* Ask where they can find famous people. Take tours that stop on Rodeo Drive and Hollywood & Vine — where the famous people aren’t. Hint: the famous people — most of them, anyway — try to lay low or get out of town.

* Move to Hollywood dreaming they’ll make it big in the movies. Maybe they will. Or maybe they’ll get on-the-job training in food service.

LA Insiders

* Have a genuine horror of cold weather. (You mean you actually went outside when it was 25 and didn’t die?)

* Can’t spell half the places of New England. Hint: the second ‘c’ in Connecticut is silent. Worcester is pronounced woo-stah. The trick to spelling Massachusetts is knowing when to stop the esses. Does this clear things up?

* Have never seen a 70 year-old woman without a face lift. (“Look! Yoda!”)

* Give remarkably accurate Richter Scale estimates seconds after an earthquake has rattled through beneath them.


  1. Ah Bob, sounds like you’re homesick already.

  2. Well, then I just log on to sigalert.com and look at the traffic mess in LA…

    But I did just scrape ice off the windshield this morning.

  3. Cold? People in New England don’t know cold! To know cold, they need to come to the upper Midwest (where, ironicially, a disturbing number of southern Californians are from).

    Actually, it’s probably been colder in LA during the last couple of days than you’ve had back East. Drier, though: more than 8 inches below normal and the “rainy” season about to end. This is the driest season I’ve ever seen here, and I’ve lived through 4 of the 5 driest on record (which, being California, only goes back to 1888).

  4. Bob,

    I’ve been reading your comments about traffic in LA with some … bewilderment? That’s not the right word, maybe I mean a sense of “there but for the grace of God go I.” I lived in LA for almost 3 years (fall ’98 to winter ’01), and I never really found traffic that terrible. Certainly no worse than what I deal with now in Portland, OR (at least during rush hours).

    I lived in Santa Monica, which I’ll readily admit skews a lot of my perceptions about LA. But in my time there I commuted to mid-Wilshire, downtown LA, the Valley, and Ventura (the city, not the boulevard).

    Have things just gotten worse, or was I fortunate enough to not drive in this terrible traffic? I do recall making efforts to avoid the 405, especially at rush hours (which last longer there), and I was always grateful I never had to deal with the 101.

    What annoyed me more than anything, driving wise, was the lack of public parking. Again I was spoiled because my first place in SM was central to most everything I wanted, so I could (gasp!) walk. In my second place, I was a little further away and would sometimes drive to places (the promenade, post office, etc) and would be annoyed at the lack of available parking that didn’t cost a great deal. Similarly when I worked downtown I had to search high and low for affordable lots to park in. That was ridiculous.

    Congrats on the move, though. I hope you enjoy Connecticut!

  5. LA traffic has gotten much, much worse since 2001. A friend drove us from Santa Monica to LAX when we flew out. It’s what, 8 miles? It took nearly an hour. She lives in Santa Monica and works in West Hollywood. That drive is an hour each way for her. This is “normal” now for LA.

    Sue was commuting from Van Nuys to Beverly Hills for 4 months. It’s 17 miles and generally took 75-90 minutes each way.

    In 2001 that commute might have taken 30-40 minutes. Plus, rush hour is all day long, there’s never really much of a letup.

    Santa Monica downtown now has many new condos with resultant congestion. Finding parking anywhere near the Third Street Promenade is much more difficult than in 2001.

  6. The real problem with Santa Monica in the past 5 years is that the number of jobs here has increased exponentially. Santa Monica has just under 90,000 residents, even if you include the homeless. The daytime work population, however, is 250,000. Plus, Santa Monica College, which supposedly serves the local community but which in fact serves the entire LA basin, has about 40,000 students (more than UCLA). There have been no significant improvements to the infrastructure since 1966. Gridlock? Let me count the ways:

    Used to be you could get OUT of Santa Monica without any real problem. Now, if you’re leaving the city any time much after 2 pm, forget it. The freeways will be jammed completely. Getting in in the morning is equally impossible, with only 4 freeway exits available.

    The traffic has spilled over onto the city streets. I live just south of Pico, which used to be an easy way of getting around. After 3:30 pm, forget it until about 7; you’ll move slower than the freeway.

    All east-west streets, including many which are designed to handle a decent number of cars, have similar problems. God help you if you have to get to the bank that’s a mile away and you try to drive anytime after 5 p.m.

    The city government doesn’t help. The idiot traffic engineers have timed the lights, all right: they’re in perfect synchonization if you travel at 40 mph, which is illegal on any of the city streets. And besides, they only time you can do that it between 5 am and 11 am on weekends when Angeleos all are asleep.

    I referee soccer occasionally. Many games are held at the Archer and Brentwood Schools, just west of the 405 on Sunset. About 4 miles away, max. Takes an hour to get there from Santa Monica; takes about 12 minutes if there’s no traffic (i.e., in the middle of the night). A friend of mine, living about 6 miles from the school but on the other side of the 405 and away from Santa Monica, gets there in 15-20 minutes, including an interminable wait at one of the traffic lights.

    Typical lack of planning, combined with drowning in success of attracting people without figuring out how to get them in quickly and effectively.

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