Tag: santa_monica


Many people often say about certain situations, “You can’t imagine what it’s like until you’ve experienced it”. Situation that invoke this claim include raising a child, marriage, work, and war. My first reaction to this claim is, “You people lack imagination”. However I can’t deny there is some truth to it.

I was raised in the suburbs. My mother has spent her whole life retreating further and further from the city, and when I came along she was already in full flight. Consequently, as a child and on into my teenage years, whenever we did something—anything—we piled into a car (later an SUV) and drove there. Even at college this trend continued. For some reason I chose universities out in the middle of nowhere (Penn State and Virginia Tech); the universities themselves were great but the towns left a little to be desired.

As I began my career I chose more urban areas but they were still neighborhoodish. I could walk to many more places than I could ever before, and it was nice. But even then walking distance often meant at least two miles one way, and many places to go still required a drive. (One interesting thing within walking distance one place I lived was a wholesale electronic parts store; many people don’t even have one of those in their state.)

At last I moved to Santa Monica.

I realized, of course, that Santa Monica was a real city with lots of commerce, and was more than just a tourist destination. (In fact, it only feels touristy in the block closest to the ocean; the next few blocks in are more like trendy downtownish; the rest of it is a real city.) So I knew I would be able to walk a lot more often than I ever could. However, what I never could imagine the sheer breadth of the freedom it gave me.

This came to me when I bought a refrigerator soon after moving in. (I had to because my apartment didn’t come with one.) Instinctively I got in the car and headed off to places like Best Buy, Sears, and so on. Even though I was aware that I was in Santa Monica precisely so I didn’t have to drive so much, I couldn’t even imagine buying something like a refrigerator on foot. But after looking at and not buying the fridges at those places, I was walking through town about five blocks from my house and popped into an appliances store, one that was right on the sidewalk, without a four-acre parking lot, and walked out not only with an order for my fridge, but also an appointment with an actual independent plumber to hook up the water line.

This was so different from my childhood experiences buying things like that. My parents would yell at us kids in the middle of a beautiful, sunny day to pile into the car, promising that it wouldn’t take long. We’d drive half an hour on lonely roads to an appliance or hardware store, they’d spend four hours trying to decide what color they wanted, another hour waiting for the supply boys to figure out how to pull it out of inventory and load it into the back of the truck, and then we’d drive home in the dark, with my brothers already asleep.

Now I can pop into a store a few blocks away and buy a refrigerator, and I never could have imagined that.

Let’s stop this urban nuisance

I want to talk about a problem, a problem that exists everywhere, but is a problem especially prevalent in certain urban areas, one of the worst being my home, Santa Monica.

Walking around downtown Santa Monica, I encounter an insidious nuisance seemingly every day. They stand there on the street, lurking, eyeing you up, waiting for you to pass. Then they strike, they confront you, they ask if you can spare something, and if you don’t they run a guilt trip on you.

Now, I personally never give these people a damn thing. In fact, I don’t even acknowledge or look at them, when they greet me I walk right by them as if they didn’t exist. This is the only effective way to combat these people. Giving them what they ask for only encourages them, and rewards them for being a nuisance.

Unfortunately, the law can’t help us here. It’s politically incorrect and possibly unconstitutional to ban this nuisance behavior, although many communities have enacted laws to limit it. Therefore, the only way to stop this is by a concerted community effort.

And that’s why I am calling all people, especially my fellow residents of Santa Monica: let’s put a stop to this. Let’s stop rewarding these people for being a nuisances. Let’s stop being enablers. Ignore them. Just walk past them. Don’t sign their petitions. Don’t even lift your hands to accept the literature they’re trying to hand you. Let’s show these activists they’re not wanted. Let’s….

Wait, you thought I was talking about the homeless, didn’t you? Oh, no, no, no. The homeless are kind of a nuisance, yes, but that’s because they are mentally ill or mentally handicapped, or both, and feel forced to live that lifestyle because of the way our cruel world treats them. I don’t give then any change, becase it doesn’t really doesn’t help them, but I do pledge a dollar to homeless charities every time a homeless person hits me up for change.

Activists, however, are a nuisance because they’re assholes. So, yeah, to hell with them. Pay them no heed. Or if you can’t ignore them, tell them shove their hemp coffee mugs somewhere.

Three months in Los Angeles without a car

It can be done.

Today I got my car back after two months in the shop after a month sitting in my garage unused (when I was too busy to attend to it). [1]

But I want to make it clear that good public transit was a big part of my decision where to move to where I live now (Santa Monica), and that my job is fortuitously right across from a bus terminal on the other end of the line. [2] In fact, I had been taking the bus to work for about a month before my car’s transmission started to go. Around the same time I had a big project at work that was nearing a deadline, and so I never got around to taking the car in for service till a month later.

So for that month and the next two, I took buses (and, in a couple cases, a train) everywhere. Granted, I don’t exactly have a vibrant social life, and I have a lot of the stores I need within a few blocks of my apartment. Also, I found that at no point did I have a need to hit anything like a Target [3], which would have been a pain. But the bus was able to get me where I needed to go: doctor’s appointments, destinations here and there, and downtown L.A.

So, the next time someone tells you it’s impossible to live in L.A. without a car, I am proof that it’s definitely possible.

Still, I’m really happy to finally have the car back. In fact, I was so happy I went to the supermarket and filled up a whole cart.


[1] Two months in the shop was for three reasons, 1. I have a Saturn, and my repairs were covered under warranty, but there aren’t any Saturn dealers left near where I live, so I had to take it to a non-Saturn GM dealer, which means they had wait for parts to come in, 2. rather than ordering parts for both repairs I needed at the same time, they ordered the second set of parts after the first repairs, 3. the guy fixing my car took a one-week vacation where nothing was done, and 4. they didn’t call me when it was done so it sat finished for a week.

[2] Or was, rather. You knew that as soon as I found such an arrangement my company was going to find a way to mess it up. Soon after I moved, they moved my desk to a building two miles down the road. But since all my work remains in my old building, I work in that old building in a lab, for now.

[3] At least not until two days before I got the car back.

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