Fear and Raging in Los Angeles

5 Mar

Go go go!

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One of the things I do not appreciate about my new Los Angeles life is the traffic. To understand how jarring traffic is for me, I may need to give you a little background information.

I miss you.

Before moving here, I resided in the absolutely perfect Napa Valley. For almost 15 years, I lived in a little hilltop town that boasts of one stop sign on its “Main Street.” I lived half a mile from my work, so the commute… well, there wasn’t one. A jaunt into St. Helena, the closest place of interest took all of 15 minutes. While the nearest Target and retail shopping was about a half hour away in Napa itself, I didn’t mind the drive. How could I complain when such a trip was filled with field after field of grapevines and the occasional hot air balloon? I couldn’t. Tourists who were suckered into bicycling the valley also made the drive interesting, as their misery was greatly evident. I loved to make fun of them. (photo source)

It’s true that the summer months brought in hoards of tourists and jammed the 29, but none of them ever bothered to do any research about where to go or how to get there, so the Silverado Trail was usually fine. The moral of this tale is that until recently, my experience with traffic was practically zilch. While it is true I encountered some traffic whenever I trekked into San Francisco, it was excusable because I was going to San Francisco.

Now, since my husband and I share a vehicle (shout out to Pierre!), at least two hours of my day is devoted to getting us to and from work. I suppose I should be grateful there isn’t more, but it’s still something I’m having a hard time accepting, which I assume you can understand given my past history. On weekdays, my husband and I aim to leave our house before 8 a.m. We take two freeways to his work. I drop my husband off, and then take another freeway to my work. The worst part of my commute is the 1.7 mile stretch from the freeway to my work – it takes at least 20 minutes. Then I do the whole thing in reverse at the end of the day. What kills me is the trip is approximately 26.7 miles but takes at least 45 minutes to complete. Don’t even get me started about how I have two Targets 4.9 and six miles away from my house but I have to get on three or four different freeways to get to either of them.

If the whole thing sounds unpleasant, it’s because it is, but I don’t mind since my husband is able to commute with me at least for part of the time. The worst part about all the driving are the drivers. The drivers in LA are hands down the worst I have ever been around. I may be doing 10 over the speed limit in a residential neighborhood but I will be tailgated and honked at and occasionally flipped off. It is great (I’m being sarcastic). On the freeway, I have learned that if I am not tailgating the car in front of me, it’s like I have a large, Vegas-style sign atop my car that says in bright, flash lights “Yes! Please! Cut me off!”

As you can imagine, all of these things make me mad. Very mad. And I may have a confession to make…

I have road rage. Or at least an early onset version of it.

I feel your pain, man.

But don’t worry, you won’t see me jumping out of any cars and trying to hit anybody with a golf club. The only person my rage effects is myself. See, it’s kind of a passive-aggressive kind of rage, in that other drivers are more than likely not aware of my feelings. Mostly, I yell at the cars that are tailgating me/cutting me off/otherwise driving irrationally and call them names. That is because I am terrified of other drivers, which takes us to the second point of this blog post. (photo source)

More explaining may be due here. Remember that small, hilltop town I referenced earlier? That town has little to no crime, and the same goes with the majority of Napa County (though Napa itself I realize is getting a bit sketchy in parts). I literally know millionaires who don’t lock their million-dollar homes. With the exception of the Wal-Mart in Napa, I have never been worried when walking alone, even at night. (I realize this has a very “Pleasantville”-esque sound to it, but it’s the truth.) In my entire time living there, I believe there was only one murder in St. Helena and it was family-related (not that that makes it any better, but at least it wasn’t some random killing). It was the first homicide in the area in years.

Now, I live in a county that has had 96 homicides since the beginning of this year, according to The Homicide Report of The Los Angeles Times. So you can see why I would be hesitant to even honk at a motorist who deliberately cuts me off or tailgates me relentlessly. I’m worried they’re going to shoot me. When driving around in Napa, my biggest concerns were avoiding the numerous drunk tourists or hitting a deer.

Thanks for telling me to stay "Straight Outta Compton."

I understand that Los Angeles is much different than Napa, in so many ways. Population-wise, little Napa County boasts a mere 134,650 residents (source) while LA county has over 9.8 million (source). I also know that a majority of the crime in the county occurs in East Los Angeles, which I can tell you I will never visit. I’ve listened to Dr. Dre, I know what’s up. Still, it is unnerving to know I live in a place where there’s actually crime. And traffic. (photo source)

Thankfully, however, my husband and I are lucky to live in a really nice place, one that has only had 11 violent crimes (no homicides!) and 129 property crimes in the last six months. We have no plans to venture into Compton or Inglewood, and I guess I just need to get a grip about traffic. Mom, rest easy. 🙂

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Don’t Be a Statistic!

23 Feb

This guy should have read my blog.

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Chances are, if you have spent any time with me over the last few months, you have heard me utter the phrase, “Don’t be a statistic!” in regards to walking/driving/living. If you haven’t, allow me to explain.

As a previous blog post noted (see “S.E. OoooOoOOoOOOOooOoooooO.”), I work for a legal internet marketing company as a blog editor and copywriter. We deal exclusively with attorneys, and the vast majority are personal injury lawyers (as opposed to criminal defense lawyers). My days are filled with writing and editing blog posts and website content pages on topics such as product liability, medical malpractice, workers’ compensation, defective drugs, and various accidents, such as car, bicycle, motorcycle, and truck accidents.

Thanks to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), I’m able to rattle off certain accident statistics like I’m Watson the super computer. I can tell you off the top of my head that 33,808 people died in motor vehicle accidents in 2009 in the United States (stats for 2010 haven’t yet been published), and over 2.2 million people were injured in these accidents, and that over 10,000 fatalities were in alcohol-related crashes (I had to check my handy NHTSA PDF to see that the exact number is 10,839). These statistics scare me, but it’s easy enough to brush off since the population of Los Angeles is somewhere around 3.8 million (source), making my chances of being involved in an accident relatively low.

I know you can read.

However, there are two areas whose statistics I haven’t been able to shake from my mind, and that’s where my phrase “Don’t be a statistic!” comes in.

(I apologize if what follows is overly preach-y or if you have heard me rant about this topic before. Learning these things at my job has definitely made me improve my driving habits and by sharing them, I hope to change the habits of those who read this as well.)

Of those 33,808 accident-related fatalities in the U.S. in 2009, 5,474 were reported to have involved a form of distracted driving (source), which includes cell phone use, eating, flipping through a playlist on an iPod, etc. Of those 2.2 million people that were injured in accidents that year (keeping in mind that becoming a paraplegic is considered an injury), 448,000 of them were injured in accidents that were distracted driving-related.

A recent study found that a driver using a cell phone (texting or talking, handheld or hands-free) delays their reaction as much as have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at the legal limit of .08 percent. Scary, isn’t it? Think about that the next time you reach for your cell phone while behind the wheel to read a text that likely contains something along the lines of “Hey, what’s up?”

If these statistics and facts still haven’t made you want to change your driving habits, I encourage you to go look through the NHTSA’s “The Faces of Distracted Driving” video series, which highlight the people who have lost their lives in distracted driving-related accidents by interviewing their friends and family while telling the victim’s story. They are heartbreaking.

I warn you in advance: if I am a passenger in your car and you get out your phone while behind the wheel, I will yell at you.

 

Let the poor man walk!

Closely tied to distracted driving are pedestrian accidents, the second area of personal injury with which I have become obsessed. According to our friends over at the NHTSA, a pedestrian “is any person on foot, walking, running, jogging, hiking, sitting or lying down who is involved in a motor vehicle traffic crash.”

In 2009, 4,092 pedestrians died in traffic accidents in the U.S. and an estimated 59,000 were injured in these accidents. (Note: these statistics are not a part of the 33,808 motor vehicle accident fatalities or the 2.2 million people injured.) These statistics result in an average of a pedestrian killed every two hours and one injured every nine minutes in traffic accidents in the U.S.

This information has caused me to now look both ways before crossing a street at least twice, and then give each car that approaches or is stopped at the intersection the evil eye should they be tempted to run me or my companions over.

Also, thanks to my job, I have the contact information of over 100 highly skilled personal injury attorneys, and you bet your sweet rear-end I will sue the living daylights out of you if you hit me or my friends.

I Live in Los Angeles

3 Feb

That's my city!

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(Sometimes, when I’m driving on the 2 and see the sun setting behind the city, I can’t believe I live in Los Angeles. [along with 4 million other people!] It’s surreal.)

Lately, my LA life has been going a million miles an hour.

I’m very happy to announce that earlier in January my husband was offered a position at DreamWorks Animation Studios, where he had previously worked before getting laid off. This time, however, he’s an assistant artist, which means he’s doing ridiculously cool things, like spending his afternoon drawing with super legit people. Obviously, I’m jealous, but my stick figures look like mentally handicapped people, so I know a job in the creative realm is out of the question. Thankfully, my husband is contractually locked in until 2013, which is a huge relief to us after we were both unemployed for a time.

A lot of January was filled with celebrating, as you can imagine. We also awoke from hibernation, and finally crawled out of our little home and got around to exploring some of prettier parts of the Los Angeles area, which, according to Travel & Leisure Magazine, is the rudest city in the United States. (Personally, the people I have met are nothing but nice—however, the drivers here are TERRIFYING.) Thankfully, the annual Urban Mobility Report from the Texas Transportation Institute reports that traffic in the LA area isn’t the worst in the U.S. anymore, which is great.

Awesome.

The first place we visited was the Griffith Observatory. I was anxious to go for a few reasons. I had heard the views of Los Angeles were incredible, that you could see the Hollywood sign which I hadn’t really seen, and I was desperate to go to the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theater there, because I am a gigantic nerd. The Observatory was wonderful. It was a beautiful sunny day, and it was actually relatively smog-free. The views were fabulous, and reminded me that I actually live really close to the ocean now (it’s easy to forget in the concrete jungle). I was disappointed to find that a huge cell phone tower is atop the hill the Hollywood sign resides against (and almost ruins it), but it was great nonetheless to see such an iconic LA landmark. While we didn’t star gaze, since it was daytime, the exhibits and city views definitely made the trip worth it, even if we had to park what felt like 10 miles away to get to the Observatory. I can’t wait to take my space-loving dad when he visits!

We then trekked over to Hollywood. We first visited the legitimacy that is Gallery 1988 to see the exhibit, “Is This Thing On?” featuring art inspired by popular comedians. I can’t express how much we loved the gallery! How can you not love a place that displays art like little stuffed Brets and Jemanines from “Flight of the Conchords” or a piece that highlights the greatest cinematic glory of our time—the fight scene in “Anchorman”?! Love love love. Then, we went to the Hollywood strip to see the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Without a map, I was excited that we stumbled upon the stars for Harrison Ford, William Shatner, and Godzilla (me=nerd, remember?). I had no idea that stars weren’t just for movies—did you know stars are also given in the categories of television, music, broadcast radio, and live theater? It felt a little bit like Vegas, but without people trying to shove porno business cards in my hand. I also saw the Kodak Theatre, which to be honest was a little disappointing. They do a good job during the Academy Awards broadcast of not highlighting the nearby area, so I was surprised to see the Theatre was next to a giant Gap, among other stores. So not what I expected. I’m halfway tempted this year to camp out by the Theatre and watch the stars arrive for the Oscars, but my husband pointed out that then I wouldn’t be able to actually watch the broadcast, so I doubt I will attempt such a feat.

On our next outing, we went to Venice Beach. It had been several years since I had visited, and two things jumped right out at me that had changed: the plethora of medical marijuana dispensaries and the abundance of really weird art that featured Marilyn Monroe as a gangster. (Note: Anyone who thinks that marijuana isn’t legal should definitely visit Venice Beach. I have news for you. It basically is.) We walked the entire Ocean Front Walk, enjoying our lemonade in the hot sun while refusing about 10,000 people asking us if we wanted to see a “doctor” to get a medical marijuana license. We skipped over to Intelligentsia’s Venice Coffeebar, where I proceeded to trip down a stair, spilling my expensive cappuccino in front of bored hipsters, solidifying my lameness and the fact that I have no business being at such a trendy place. After my embarrassment, we checked out the “Multiplayer” exhibit at the other Gallery 1988. I don’t play a lot of video games, so many of the references went over my head, but I was excited to see a few pieces that featured Mario, Sonic, and the original “Tron”, which I had recently seen and loved. (How can you not instantly love a movie that looks like one long Fry’s commercial?!)

Sunset.

Santa Monica was next. My favorite part of this leg of our tour was watching a street performing sing “Colors of the Wind” from Disney’s completely inaccurate “Pocahontas.” Mostly, we walked around, which was nice, and when the sun began to set, we went to the pier. Though everyone in the group was afraid of heights, we toyed with the idea of riding the Ferris wheel, but opted not to. Our day as tourists came to a close with a treat from Vanilla Bake Shop, which is how I feel every day should end.

More and more, as I begin to depend on my Garmin less, I realize I’m starting to put down some roots in Los Angeles, and surprisingly, it is alright with me.

(How about those Clippers?!)

Changing My Name, Part II

31 Dec

The California Department of Motor Vehicles

This is the second part of my two part series about legally changing my name now that I am married. For the first part, see “Changing My Name, Part I” when I visited the Pasadena office of the Social Security Administration to request a new SSN card with my married name.

Over Thanksgiving break, I received my new SSN card. The next part of my journey entailed going to the Pasadena DMV to get a new driver’s license with my new name. Once that was complete, the state of Oregon, the federal government, and the state of California would be aware of my new name, and I would be legally “Larissa Church.” However, I had been told that the Glendale DMV was closed, and I should get an appointment at the Pasadena one. The earliest appointment I was able to get–remember, this is back in late November–was December 28 at 4 p.m. So I waited for my appointment, patiently, but anxiously.

I’m not sure if you have seen it, but for the past 10 years, I have had the worst driver’s license photo of anyone I know (with the exception of Steven Bowen, who had a full beard by 8th grade and looks like a terrorist in his driver’s license photo). As I mentioned in “Little Known Facts About Me” I had a hair-dyeing addiction in high school. My addiction eventually ended in mishap and for a time, I had hideous hair–orange-y red blonde at the bottom, and dark brown roots. I had vowed never to dye my hair again (which I have kept thus far), so my roots were bad, very bad. This meant I wore beanies often, which I unfortunately chose to do when I went in to the Napa DMV to take the test to get my permit. No one had warned me that they also take your photo for your driver’s license that day. To my horror, I was forced to take off my beanie, expose my tainted hair, and take my license photo. The result? I look like my hair is painted on my head like a Ken doll. It’s been truly wonderful to show the photo to airport personnel, merchants, bouncers at clubs, and the like. About 95% of the time I am asked if the photo is really me. Unfortunately, it is. So you can understand why I was anticipating my December 28 appointment. This time, I would not be caught unawares. This time, I would look incredible.

At my new job, if you need to leave early for an appointment, you are required to come in early. Since my appointment was at 4 p.m., and I wanted to leave at 3 p.m. to allow for traffic/accidents/natural disasters, I clocked in at 6:49 a.m. I spent my morning drinking several cups of coffee, as you can imagine I was tired. When 3 p.m. came, I was ready–I brought my makeup bag with me, and covered those dark circles! I made sure I looked fabulous. I brought a sparkly headband, and I was wearing a red cardigan so my photo would have some color. Per a few friends’ advice, I opted not to wear my new favorite scarf, because as one of them put it, I didn’t want to look like I didn’t have a neck for the next 10 years. (Very good point!) I was ready! After 10 years of waiting, the day had come for me to take a new driver’s license photo!

I encountered a bit of construction and traffic on my trip to the Pasadena DMV, but I wasn’t too worried–I had left myself plenty of time. However, when I arrived, I saw that I wasn’t in the slightest prepared.

The first thing I noticed was that there was a line of people out the door that wrapped around the parking lot. The line was at least 100 people long. I started to get nervous. I circled the parking lot several times, but there weren’t any spaces available. There was even a tow truck towing a car that had parked illegally. I realized I would need to park someplace else, so I went to the Staples lot next door. There were signs plastered everywhere that warned motorists their vehicle would be towed if they weren’t a customer–usually, this is an empty threat, but there was another tow truck towing a car. I started panicking. I eventually found parking half a mile away, on the street, and in 1 hour parking.

When I walked into the DMV, it was pandemonium. I noticed a sign on the wall that said the maximum capacity was 495–I guarantee you there were more than 495 people there. There were several security guards directing people into different lines. I felt like a refugee waiting to get food. I tried to ask a guard where I needed to go, but he just glared at me. I found a table full of papers and forms, found the one I needed, squeezed myself onto a deck, and began filling the form out as quickly as I could. I managed to find a line that had a sign noting it was for people who had an appointment. I waited at least 20 minutes before the lady at the desk handed me a number. I was F168, or something like that.

I looked in the waiting room, and it was overflowing with people. There were screaming children, children running around, crazy people, old people… too many people. I decided to stand outside of the waiting room and watch the television so I could see when they called my number–I could barely hear the computerized woman announcing numbers. At this point, I began to regret my intake of copious amounts of coffee, and my heart was racing. I overheard several conversations of people saying they had been waiting since noon or 1 p.m. It was hands down one of the most chaotic situations I have ever been in.

There were 26 windows that were rotating people out as fast as they could. My eyes were glued to the screen. I had brought a book, but I could see that had been a useless formality. When I was finally called to window 14 after waiting another 20 minutes or so, I practically had to punch my way through the crowds to get to it. Thankfully, in stark contrast to every other DMV employee I have encountered, the man was extremely nice. We chatted some, and I asked him if it was always this insane. He laughed, and said yes. Apparently it’s been like that for months, since the Glendale and the West Covina DMV offices are closed. I have never been more grateful not to work at a DMV than I was at that moment.

After I signed my form, and showed him a certified copy of my marriage license and my new SSN card, I was directed to another line to take my new  driver’s license photo. I nervously glanced at the clock and saw I had about 15 minutes until my parking meter ran out. I tapped my foot impatiently, the caffeine screaming in my veins. As I waited, I debated leaving, because I was terrified my car would be towed and I would be stranded. But no–I had come this far, I never wanted to come back. I waited.

I noticed a sign that warned people attacking a federal employee would result in heavy fines and possible jail times, and I wondered if the glass partition that separated the DMV employees from the rest of us was bulletproof. I could see someone losing it.

Finally, it was my turn, and after they scanned my thumb print (Is that new? I don’t remember doing that at Napa. Or is it an LA thing?) I took my new photo. The lady behind the counter exclaimed that it was a wonderful photo, and thought I would be very happy with it. I told her my previous photo was wretched, and she assured me the new one was great. However, I think she was on drugs, because she seemed a little too happy for someone working in such an insane work environment.

In 4-6 weeks I will receive my new driver’s license photo, and I can only hope the photo is an improvement over the last. If nothing else, I am happy that I am now in every legal sense Larissa Church, just in time for 2011!

Little Known Facts About Me

21 Dec

 

Now I'm weird, but not THAT weird!

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These past few days I have been sick, very sick, which I don’t do very often. While it is true that my stomach has a particular aversion to garlic as well as certain amounts of cheese (I like to refer to my condition as “lactose uncomfortable”), it is a rare occasion that I am ever genuinely sick. I have a pretty amazing immune system, but perhaps the smog in LA has decreased its working ability.

I became ill on Saturday night, when I noticed I was sneezing quite often. I was also suffering from a runny nose. Sunday I was worse, with a very sore throat, the chills, the aches, a nose that alternated between runny and stuff, and a fever. Monday was much the same, but I still attempted to go to work. My supervisor promptly sent me home. I have somewhat improved, but I remain gross, so I am home bound yet again.

My sickness got me thinking about other weird and random facts of my life, and so I thought it would be appropriate to share them now. You may or may not already be aware of them.

As I have referenced in a previous blog post, I was raised without any pets (see “All I Want for Christmas Is…”), which I find completely un-American. What family in the U.S. doesn’t have a pet? Mine.

I am 26 and I have never broken a bone. It isn’t for lack of trying, either. When I was a kid I loved to ride my bike, climb trees, and generally run around like a chicken without a head. I was one of the only kids I knew who hadn’t had the luxury of breaking an appendage and then coming to school with a neon colored cast on their arm or leg, to be swarmed in the playground at recess like a celebrity and have everyone desperate to sign it. I was jealous, and don’t even get me started on crutches. I lusted after them like the Cookie Monster and cookies. It’s amazing I didn’t actually break my leg when I would try out my injured friends’ crutches.

I was raised vegetarian, and the first time I had meat was in the 5th grade. I can remember it very well: it was lunchtime, and some of my friends were teasing me for never having meat. I was popular, but this weird aspect of my eating habits definitely raised a red flag in my friends’ minds as to why. So when someone handed me a few round pieces of pepperoni, I obliged and ate them. I then spent the night heaving over the toilet, not to eat meat again until the 8th grade.

On the topic of food, I grew up on the east coast and in the south, and I never had an avocado until California. Avocadoes aren’t really a thing back there. In fact, when I visited the south in high school, I went to a Subway and asked to have avocado on my sandwich. The sandwich maker looked at me like I was on drugs, and informed me they didn’t have it, and questioned why I wanted avocado on my sandwich—that was weird. My parents love that story.

I’ve had braces… twice, which is wildly un-cool, particularly when you pair it with the fact that I also had glasses and a perm. Additionally, I was obsessed with having the bands match the colors of the seasons; for example, I had orange and black bands in October. February saw red and pink bands on my mouth metal. The first time, I had braces in Boston, and when we moved, my dentist took them off. I think it was something to do with insurance. When we moved to California, my teeth had shifted, so surprise, I needed them again. Thankfully, my second time around, I realized having colors was extremely lame, and opted for gray bands every time (the clear ones show food more), to the disappointment of my dentist, who was hoping I would go for neon colors every time.

Since I was exposed to “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” at a very young age, one of my greatest fears is robots. I don’t think I even saw that much of it, because I’m sure my mother shooed me out of the room when my dad was watching it. However, I was “lucky” enough to glimpse the scene where the terminator regenerates from a liquid, silver-y puddle and chases after Sarah Connor and John Connor. It still scares me. I also have a strong aversion against robot vacuums (they are evil) as well as pool cleaning robots. I was in a friend’s aunt’s pool a few summers back and the tail of one pool cleaning robot managed to wrap itself around me. I am convinced to this day it was trying to drown me. However, I love R2D2 and Wall-e, so I’m not sure what’s happening in the wiring of my brain.

When I was in high school, I was obsessed with dyeing my hair. I have what you might call “dirty blonde hair,” which means I’m not truly blonde, but not truly brunette either, which left me very confused as to whether I was Marilyn Monroe or Jackie Kennedy. I decided to be both. I tried dark brown hair, I tried super blonde hair, and then I wanted red hair. For a while I had beautiful red locks, (however my mother compared me to Ariel, so I’m not sure I was as glamorous as I thought I was) but then I was bored again and wanted to be a brunette, so I dyed it back. To my horror, my hair literally turned carrot orange. It turns out most peoples’ hair doesn’t take to red, and the color generally fades very fast. Mine? Loved the red and didn’t want to let it go. I dyed my hair the night before a big choir performance, so I rushed to Target to buy more brown dye, and made it worse. I suffered through the performance as Carrot Top, one of the most humiliating events of my high school career. A few days later I paid a visit to a salon, where they stripped my hair, bleached it, and then tried to dye it back to its normal color. My scalp felt like it was on fire, and I haven’t dyed my hair since.

If I haven’t already cemented the fact that I was a very odd child, I didn’t get my driver’s license until I graduated high school. I took a few hours of driving lessons, and I did have my permit, which I renewed several times but then let expire. Considering I lived in a small town where the majority of things were within walking distance, I was never too inspired to get my license. I was then graciously gifted my beautiful Honda Accord,  “Pierre,” by my grandparents as a graduation present, and suddenly I was very motivated to get my license.

I also don’t have any known allergies, and I haven’t tried in a while, but contrary to popular belief, I can lick my elbow. Also, my first kiss was in a library, which I find really weird. I’m sure when I explain that one to my grandkids, they won’t even know what a library is because everyone will have Kindles and probably be robots.

The State of Our Collected Affairs

16 Dec

 

Oh 2011, may you bring us things other than Justin Beiber!

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While I was at work this afternoon, I received a text from my husband that said, “There is a major police chase going on in La Crescenta. I can hear choppers and sirens and the police on the bullhorn telling the guy to come out. It is scary.” If that doesn’t remind a person they aren’t in the Napa Valley anymore, I don’t know what will.

(Note: There is currently no update on the Glendale Police Department website regarding the incident. Their activity log hasn’t been updated since October, which is not comforting.) An excruciating two hours and twenty minutes later, my husband finally texted me, only saying that he had completed a drawing of the legendary Cole Panther for his website. When pressed for more information about his safety and well-being, an hour and thirty-three minutes later he texted back, “It’s been pretty quiet for an hour or so now. They must’ve got him.”

Besides terrifying me, this incident also placed me in a contemplative mood, causing me to reflect as though, as the cliché goes, my life passed before my eyes. Or at least my husband’s did. I began to mull over past events, particularly the past year. It was a biggie for me: quitting my job of 3 years, getting married (finally!) and not having to worry about wedding planning any longer, moving to LA, having my own house and decorating it, sharing a house with a boy, getting a new job that utilized my skill set, etc. But I started thinking. What was life like for the rest of the world this year? What were they interested in? (I realize this post is a tad premature for reflections on 2010, but what can I say? The spirit moved me.)

According to the Yahoo! 2010 Year In Review, the top ten searches on their search engine were: the BP oil spill, the World Cup, Miley Cyrus, Kim Kardashian, Lady Gaga, the iPhone, Megan Fox, Justin Bieber, American Idol, and Britney Spears.

If you are wondering why I did not use Google Zeitgeist 2010 as my source, I don’t like their categorization of “Fastest Rising” searches. And if you are wondering who the @#$% uses Yahoo, consider this: Bing recently announced it has 90 million users, so perhaps the armor of the almighty Google has been dented.

In a quick sweep of my mind, my Facebook, and my Twitter, I have determined I have only commented (online) to 1 of these 10 top search topics. On June 29, I tweeted: “1,000+ birds & 400+ sea turtles have died from the BP oil spill. as the turtles from finding nemo would say, DUDE. http://dfnd.us/dgT2sI” I suppose I should take pride in the fact that of the 10 topics, I commented on the only one that has any sort of relevance. However, it does make me question whether I am alternative to the social norm, or if I am merely out of touch.

As 2010 comes to a close, here are the rest of my thoughts on the other 9 top searches for the year.

The World Cup

During the summer of 2006, when Italy beat France to win the World Cup, I was there. However, that has nothing to do with this past World Cup, and I had to Google “who won World Cup 2010” to learn that it was Spain. My sports-loving family will no doubt be ashamed of me when they read this.

Miley Cyrus

I am not embarrassed to say (OK, I’m a little embarrassed) that I have a few Miley Cyrus songs on my iPod. Like many pop stars before her, and many after I am sure, Miley does not have much of a singing voice, but her producers sure are clever. Regardless of your age or sex, I think it is hard to deny that “Party in the U.S.A.” is catchy. I should say I know of a 33-year-old man (he will remain anonymous for his protection) who is obsessed with the song, so I don’t feel so guilty for my sometimes poor musical selections.

Kim Kardashian

No.

Lady Gaga

I am ambivalent about Lady Gaga. The songs I know I like, but I honestly don’t see what the big deal is. Her voice isn’t particularly enthralling, but I suppose that isn’t the point. My favorite 2010 Lady Gaga moment involves my dad. One morning when I was getting ready to head to work, I had a familiar sound coming from an unfamiliar place. “Ra ra ra ra ra!” rang out across the house. I followed the sounds to my dad, who was watching the music video for “Bad Romance.” In utter disbelief, I silently watched my dad watch Gaga. He informed me he was watching the video because “They’re saying Lady Gaga has revived the music video industry.” Dumbfounded, I nodded. At the video’s conclusion, my dad simply stated, “Lady Gaga is an alien.”

The iPhone

Don’t have one and doubt I want to pay a ridiculous price for one. I am the only person I know without a smartphone (besides my parents, but my dad can’t check voicemail, so I feel I am still more technologically advanced), and I do want one, but I don’t want to pay for one. Bah!

Megan Fox

She is pretty but she is also scary. Since she’s been kicked off “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”, I am sure she will fade into oblivion soon enough. Yawn.

Justin Bieber

I suppose it does reveal something about my age when I say if I was asked, I couldn’t name a single Justin Bieber song. All I know is that he has hair that everyone likes, which is confusing because I thought the surfer look was totally over. When I saw the “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never” trailer, I thought he sounded like a little girl. When that guy hits puberty, something tells me his career is over, which is discomforting to think that millions of little girls are obsessed with a boy who sounds like… a little girl.

American Idol

Do people still watch this? Really? I’ve only ever tuned in to watch the show once, and that was the finale of the first season, when it was Justin vs. Kelly. It was blindly apparent that Justin did not possess even one iota of talent, and when Kelly won, it restored my faith in humanity, if only temporarily.

Britney Spears

I loved her during her “Toxic” days (that song is still one of the greatest songs ever) and it was sad watching her shave her head and go insane. Maybe because I loved her in high school I have a soft spot for Ms. Spears, and I wish her the best. Or perhaps because I can relate to an over-the-hill popstar whose glory days are behind her (that was a bit dramatic, I admit. I do not actually feel that washed up).

This rant reminds me that I am getting even more curmudgeon-y, cynical, and old. (See “Happy Birthday to Me” if you need to be reminded of this fact.) I suppose it is an inevitable part of aging, but I’m going to stick with the belief that I hold alternative views than those of society’s. (Further proof of my delusion in my old age?)

Another One Rides the Bus

14 Dec
Where exactly is this guy driving?

source

This past weekend, I deepened my newly formed LA roots and took another step in becoming a true Angeleno: I rode an LA Metro bus.

I had already ridden an LA Metro train a few weeks earlier when my husband and I went to see the Clippers game at the Staples Center (see “I Am Not Ashamed to Say I Like the Clippers”), but this was my first adventure on an LA Metro bus.

Actually, I haven’t had many bus or train exploits. I vaguely recall riding the T in Boston when I was very young, and I have ridden BART and Muni in SF a few times to go to concerts and such. I always found myself very disoriented at busy train stops, with what looks like thousands of people bustling about. Everyone always seems like they are on a mission, and a top secret one at that. There are no smiles. If you aren’t careful, someone will run you over with their briefcase or bicycle. It’s dangerous. Anytime I attempted to decipher bus stops and train routes to figure out how to get where I wanted while in the city, I was acutely conscious of what I was: a country bumpkin. I am aware that there was a bus system in Napa–the Vine–but I have never ridden it. Come to think of it, I don’t know anyone who has. I suppose I am very American in that I have (unintentionally) avoided public transportation in my life, preferring to take my own vehicle instead of squishing into a smelly bus with my fellow citizens when the opportunities (in my defense, they were few) presented themselves.

Update: My husband reminded me when he read this post moments ago that I have ridden the Max in Portland many times, and I will say that Portland’s public transportation system is excellent. However, whenever I have been on Max I have encountered many hobos, so they do get a few demerits for that.

Back to my LA Metro bus experience. My husband and I were going to spend the weekend out in Santa Barbara with a friend but were reluctant to take our car, a beautiful, but very ancient Honda. We decided we would take Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner by way of the Glendale Amtrak station to glorious Santa Barbara. However, we were also hesitant to leave the car at the Amtrak station for the weekend, which is why we decided to take the bus. We awoke bright and early at 5 a.m. (on a Saturday!) to walk up our excessively vertical hill to the bus stop for the 90 91 LA Metro bus. We were going to catch the 6:20 bus, and as we walked, we watched the sunrise. (Note: if you are ever up early enough to see sunrise, you are up too early. Go back to bed.)

To my pleasant surprise, the bus arrived exactly on time. Even more surprising was that there were people actually on the bus. I believe when we got on there were 9 other individuals making use of Los Angeles’ public transportation system, and more joined along the route. Sadly, the majority of them were elderly, and I assumed they were taking the bus to their job, since our country’s crap economy has prevented many people from retiring. I sincerely hope when I am of retirement age I am not stuck riding the bus to a weekend job, but we’ll see if things change. Thankfully I have a few years yet before I am genuinely “old” so the government has plenty of time to fix things.

I was also impressed with the cleanliness of the bus. Perhaps because the LA area seems permanently dirty because of the smog, I assume everything is filthy, but the bus shockingly wasn’t. The seats were nicely cushioned and none had their padding ripped out or torn. I also didn’t notice any graffiti, which means the LA Metro may deserve a medal.

According to my husband, whenever he’s ridden an LA Metro bus, the TV at the front has a trivia game, and you have an opportunity to text in your answers to win prizes. I was really disappointed that the TV was off during our trip and I didn’t have a chance to gain useless knowledge that would be embedded in my brain forever (unlike anything I learned in school).

The bus ride was very uneventful, unlike the times I’ve ridden BART or Muni. I one time literally watched a crack deal go down when on Muni, and nobody on the bus was fazed by it. I, on the other hand, was freaking out.

Anyway, before I knew it, the bus dropped my husband and I off at our stop, directly in front of Forest Lawn Cemetary at 7 a.m. on the dot. We briefly considered swinging through to see the grave of Michael Jackson, but decided that would be too tourist-y of us and continued on. We had a train to catch.

By the way, that’s another very Angeleno thing to do–escape LA. Seeing as I hope to do this often, perhaps I am more Angeleno than I thought.