All Roads Lead To The Hood - 2/18/04
On my continuing venture to find a way to live in LA without a car, I took the train downtown today to visit Eddie and friends Bart and Doug who were in town from New York and San Diego. Yes, those are far apart. And yes, LA has a mass transit system.

Other than having to transfer twice, I was basically impressed. The train moves quickly and is fairly clean, especially for a train. The trip took a little over an hour, which isn’t that long considering it was like 20-plus miles. Anyhow it’s faster driving during rush-hour.

The odd part about the light rail in LA is that in order to get anywhere, you have to go through South Central first. Want to get from Hollywood to Pasadena? Gotta go to the hood. Redondo to Long Beach? Through the ghetto with you. It’s a little strange, but it adds a fascinating diversity to your ride.

But by far the most interesting person I encountered was this woman from Miami who got on the train with me in El Segundo and kept me company until she got off at the Greyhound station in downtown. Miami, LA, Greyhound? Yes, she had an interesting story. And I had nothing better to do since my ‘Interview With the Vampire’ book-on-CD had run out of batteries.

Her story as best as I can remember and pare it down: Apparently she had taken a bus all the way from Miami to Los Angeles, a journey every bit as horrible at sounds. Throw in all the stops and dumb routes along the way and you’re looking at a 68-hour trip. 68 hours. On a Greyhound bus, the melting pot of all the screaming babies and screaming wack-jobs lower society can spew forth. Last time I was on a Greyhound the driver almost got in a fistfight with a guy who was thirty seconds late coming back from McDonalds. The time before that my row-mate won a bet with a girl over who’d had more sexual partners, because he used to frequent prostitutes. More than 500 of them, to toss out a number.

This woman had been accompanied by her husband, but in Texas something happened involving him punching her in the head, the driver calling the cops (this happened right on the bus), and the cops taking the husband to jail. I guess he’d heard one too many screaming babies. He also had all their money with him, which she tried to get back as they hauled him away, but he wouldn’t answer. So she was left with her suitcase, no money, and a restraining order.

Now here’s the part that defies all reason. Despite having only a one-way ticket, she decided to proceed to LA on the Greyhound and negotiate her return trip here, rather than doing it right there in Texas. I and several other people have tried desperately to fathom the logic behind this, but so far have come up empty. I guess we’ll have to leave it that she’s a crazy person I met on the train in South Central.

Anyway she got to LA, promptly had her suitcase stolen, then rode the train around for a day and a half until she wound up at a Denny’s at the airport talking to this religious guy from Long Beach. He told her about a church there, where she went and was given a check made out to Greyhound for the price of a ticket back to Miami. She then went back downtown, was told her check was no good, went back to Long Beach, was given a hand-written note to go along with the check, and now was on here way back downtown to give it another go. Oh and did I mention she was 35 but walked with a cane because she said she’d been mugged and paralyzed several years ago?

I know what you’re thinking. A scam. But she never once asked me for money or even my name. She just liked to listen to herself talk, I guess. I helped her carry her new suitcase (given to her by somebody else – I didn’t even ask) up a flight of stairs, but that was it. And c’mon. Who makes up a story like that?

All in all it made the trip very enjoyable, and gave me something to write about at long length. The only thing that bothered me was she had this habit of saying vaguely racist things, on a crowded train-car full of the kind of people who don’t typically respond well to vaguely racist things. Things like “the black areas here aren’t nearly so bad as the black areas back in Miami. At least not that I’ve seen so far.” I wasn’t quite sure how to respond to things like this.

I guess she plans to hire a lawyer to divorce her husband, as soon as the lawyer working on her workman’s comp settlement comes through with some money. I thought about telling her she should consider rehiring the same lawyer if he won the first case, but I refrained. Good for her, I thought. Divorcing her husband. Something tells me the two of them hanging out more can’t possibly lead to good things. It’s hard to say what exactly is ‘workman’s comp’ about getting mugged and paralyzed, but I don’t know. Maybe there was some other story I didn’t have time to hear. There were a lot of things that were hard to say about the whole encounter.

I finished the evening at a video arcade with Eddie, Bart and Doug reclaiming our childhoods by beating the original Ninja Turtles game. It only cost us 14 dollars.

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