I’m not quite sure where I misplaced my weekend.
It started yesterday when I went on tour of the Metro Gold Line and its art. In Los Angeles, 0.5% of the budget for the Metro line trains goes to building the stations, and commissioning art for them. The designs and themes are chosen to work with the station itself, the local culture, and the surrounding neighborhood. Some just incorporate a few pieces of art around the station, but others had made the whole stop into a work of art. It was very un-L.A., public transit with clean, cheerful, artistic stations.
It also took me and my adopted cousin on a train ride from the old Union Station downtown (re-done in late-40s fonts) out to the northeast of downtown. And the train follows different paths than I take on the roads, so it gave me a completely different perspective on the places I’d driven through, but hadn’t seen much of. Because the trains – like the Gold Line – follow the old Red Car streetcar tracks, they go through the heart of some of the streetcar suburbs like South Pasadena and Highland Park. And they took the old freight tracks past the train yards in downtown Los Angeles. It was a path through a lot of the layers of history, the points where the last hundred years come together. It was wonderful. That is the Los Angeles I want to show people. That is what I’m trying to make everyone understand.
Some of the things we saw:
- the old train yard downtown with vintage 1950s trains stored in it
- the Cornfields project – the former railroad switching yard that has since been razed, and is being turned into an art installation of a cornfield, with corn.
- transit-oriented housing development, new low-income housing built specifically to be within range of the Gold Line, in the former no-man’s industrial land of east Downtown Los Angeles
- the Autry Native American Museum, in Highland Park
- the Arroyo Seco, and the oldest bridge in Southern California that was built to run trains over it
- two of the fourteen bridges over the L.A. River
- the community of South Pasadena, a perfect 1950s Main Street
- the Pasadena City Hall, which is just ridiculous
An experience like that is like visiting another city for the day. It isn’t just that it’s geographically different than the part of Los Angeles that I live in. It’s that it’s mentally different – like visiting a city with real community and urban planning, rather than the void that the destruction of the streetcars and the installation of the freeways left Los Angeles, a fragmented sprawl with only a few vague self-images. It doesn’t seem possible that the Victorian houses of Highland Park, hundred year old homes complete with turrets and gingerbread detail, exist in the same city as, say, the Sunset Strip.
I think what I’m really in love with here is what Los Angeles should have been. I love finding the places in the city where the history comes together, and I can see a completely different city than the bland, concrete one I live in. Seeing the train lines expanded, and seeing the communities becoming more cohesive, reforming around more numerous smaller localities, gives me hope. Maybe everyone will get out of the cars. Maybe the human connections will get made. Maybe life on the car scale isn’t forever.
Imagine my megalopolis, my Los Angeles, dissolved and reformed, evolved into dozens of small communities joined by a real working transit system. Imagine people commuting to work on a train, and then walking everywhere when they get home, saying hello to neighbors, on quiet streets lined with stores rather than parking lots. How much of L.A. would be like that if the car corporations hadn’t destroyed the streetcars? I would rather see dozens of Main Streets than see everyone drive to a few major malls, I would rather be able to walk everywhere in Mar Vista than have to drive into another neighborhood.
And then, of course, last night was our house party. We estimate almost eighty people turning up, between four birthdays and the usual crew. The party warmed up by 10pm, and ran until we threw people out at 3:20 in the morning. I’m actually shocked none of the neighbors complained – I was running loud breakbeat/house tracks and “classic alternative” at high volume through my laptop and a stereo in the backyard – but we somehow got away with it. Fine time had by all, I think.
But the devastation – oh, the devastation this time was terrible. Almost as bad as the November party. There are footprints in the bathtub of the bathroom I share with my guy roomate. And a random glowstick. There were half-empty bottles and cans and glasses on every available surface, almost completely covering the tables and counters, inside and in the backyard. There was a giant pile of garbage in the kitchen, boxes and bottles and paper towels. The floors in the kitchen are black with dirt. I can’t remember why I always think it’s a great idea to throw a raging party four times a year. It seriously looked like a hardcore frat party this morning. It would have looked more like a frat party if I’d actually made Green Slime out of the leftover mint ice cream I used on the birthday cake.
Two hours of cleaning – with a crew – got the house almost to normal this morning. Then I made beignets and quiche for breakfast, and we sat out in the sunshine in the backyard for a couple hours, eating breakfast and plums from the tree in the backyard. (All the rain this winter has led to a bumper crop of plums. I’ll be baking pies next weekend) It was a nice way to spend a Sunday.
I should be finishing the kitchen, actually, not just sitting here writing, but I’m running out of energy. Parties like that one are an all weekend project – preparing, six hours of hosting, and then recovery/cleanup. Thankfully, I’m not hung over today. But I have laundry, and floors to mop, and general housewifery to do, because I have a busy week coming up, starting with Digweed at the Mayan on Tuesday, and then a series of history nerd events and parties that will take me up through the weekend. I have to get through Collapse so I can see the exhibit at the Natural History Museum next weekend. I have to start getting to the gym, have to start so much…there’s just so much I want to do, and yet never seem to get to, from starting a book club to finishing the decor on my room.
But yes. Less blather in journal, more mopping while watching Family Guy. G’night everybody!