Two months in, the most common question new acquaintances ask me upon knowing I am a newcomer to the city of Angels is “So how do you like it so far?” Though very likely that it is a staple filler question that people ask any strangers due to lack of better conversation, I always answer it earnestly. “It’s been okay so far, though I think I would enjoy it a lot more had I rent a car or bought one.” Obviously such response is only asking for more encouragements from the curious ‘local’ who probably can’t imagine what life would be like living in this sprawl of highways without wheels. What would you do if you crave for In-N-Out in the middle of the night? What do you do with the mountains of groceries? Do you walk the twenty minutes to school? Do you *gasp* take the bus? How many homeless people do you know by now? Are you on first name basis with them? Highly exaggeration, I was once one of them. Way back to my Columbus, Indiana time when an attempt of walking back from work, 5 minutes drive away, solicited two friends in two separate cars stopped at two different occasions offering me rides back thinking that my car must’ve broken down or got abducted by aliens. Focus. Back to Los Angeles. Yes. It figured to enjoy Los Angeles properly, I had decided that one would need a fully functioning set of wheels. Four of them. As bicycle is just asking for trouble. To me anyway.
Today, however, may have just changed my mind. As I live in this quiet section of Los Angeles called Brentwood, the area is actually quite conducive for pedestrians. There’s a strip on San Vincente Boulevard that houses a number of coffeehouses, cupcake store, fro-yo, restaurants, groceries and a number other shops that oils the joints of your life. That’s 15 minutes walking time. On Wilshire Boulevard, 5 minutes walking, there’re a few bars that the Brentwood’s grad students residents often frequent, a number of typical Chinese, Indian and Mexican food, a yoga place, massage places and the like. To school, there’re very cheap buses (compared to Melbourne’s trams at least) going every 20 minutes or so. Though the 20 minutes wait time can often be quite an annoyance, with enough reading material and a smart phone at hand, you can barely feel the wait. Santa Monica, the beach is just around 30 minutes away by bus on the other direction, stopping at a street short of the Promenade and the two clubs that does salsa on Monday and Wednesday nights. Though coming back home at the wee hour could be quite nerve wrecking in between thoughts of ‘if you screams from getting mugged and no one hears it, did the mugging happen?” and “when is that frikking bus stop that you swore you saw when you coming down the street hours earlier”. So a ten dollar taxi ride is highly worth it on such situations. All of the stated above facts does not necessarily mean that Los Angeles is a pleasant city to live a car-less life. It just means Brentwood with its highly graduate student population is a friendly suburb that is sheltered from the forces of nature.
What sort of forces are we talking about? Well, well. Today I decided to venture a bit to the right direction on the map (I guess that makes it East side) on Barrington Avenue toward Santa Monica Boulevard. As I walked the fifteen minutes journey on foot I can’t stop noticing how I only passed three other pedestrians. One with a dog, so she practically has to walk. For the dog. It’s interesting how people won’t walk anywhere but they’d do it for their dogs. So, Santa Monica Boulevard. It felt like walking from a sterile area to Mexico. Almost. Had a look around through Goodwill, a favourite past time especially after the San Fran vintage shopping free last week that left me empty handed but a serendipitous sweet after taste (story on this later). Alas, I left empty handed again. The color organized store with no sizing differentiation kind of put me off. It was just too frustrating. So I walked up the street looking for this little coffee shop that has quite a good review in Yelp. Yes, I Yelp, best invention ever. And such a hole in a wall it was. I was sold at the art on the wall and the two pink-haired customers. Quirky and gritty. Reading the assigned readings for my entrepreneurship class I was suddenly overwhelmed with ideas. A force of nature it was. So hopefully I will have a solid four to five ideas to play with before I graduate. And if I can have five more, one out of ten should be feasible enough to throw into the jungle, no? Let’s hope so.
As the sky was getting darker though I hardly wanted to leave the place yet, I almost heard a voice inside my head saying “go home now, you won’t regret it”. A block away from home, it was pouring hard. So there’s my first LA drench. Of course with a set of wheels this would not happen, but what’s the fun in that? The 15 minutes walk was actually quite refreshing. And to think that I would’ve driven here and there had I got a car is almost unthinkable. And to miss all the free exercise?
So is Los Angeles a walk-able city? Not quite. But if you pick the right suburbs, you might just get by, and find the Lost Angels in every step that you take.