Saturday, March 03, 2007

LA Whinin'

This is my eleventh year living in Los Angeles. Traffic has always been a problem. It's the number one complaint of just about every LA resident, except maybe those unfortunate individuals who reside in the direct flight path of LAX. Or Van Nuys. For some reason, I have known, like, eight different people who have personally related horror stories of life in Van Nuys. I have no idea what's going on over there in the Porn Capital, but if you can manage to avoid settling there, I would highly recommend doing so.

Anyway, I know that it's difficult to be impartial when gauging such things, but I think LA's traffic problem has grown considerably worse in the past year or so. It used to take 45 minutes to an hour in heavy traffic to get across town. I can distinctly recall, as a UCLA student, leaving Westwood at 5 pm to get to a 6:30 screening at the Paramount lot in Hollywood, and having enough time upon arriving to get through the front gate, park and walk to the screening room. If I were making that same drive today, I would leave no later than 4 pm to make sure I had adequate time.

Don't believe me? The other day, I had to travel from my new office (all part of the SMPWCNBN, which I'll actually be able to de-M-ify here in a few weeks) in Santa Monica to the Arclight in Hollywood for the Zodiac screening. 1 hour, 45 minutes it took. The 10 was completely shut down and every single surface street I tried (large and small) was at a standstill. There was no way to go North, South or East.

Lewis Black does a comedy routine about visiting Los Angeles. Eventually, he predicts, the traffic will be so bad, the roads will simply shut down. You will just sit stationary in your driveway forever waiting for nonexistent space to clear for your automobile. He's joking, but it's actually not that far off. It's 6 pm right now and I'm essentially locked in my immediate neighborhood until 8. It's not that it would take a long time or be generally irritating to try and venture any further. It's simply not possible. I would just sit, essentially stationary, in my car on Venice or Overland or the 405 or the 10 until around 7:30.

Last night, my father and brother went to go see the Mighty Ducks play in Orange County. (Don't ask me why, but they're both quite taken with the spectacle of large, toothless Canucks slamming into one another at high speeds in frigid, tightly-packed arenas.) My brother left Santa Monica (I may work there now, but I'll never use the familiar form, San Mo) at 4 in order to make a 7 o'clock hockey game. Now, bear in mind, that's 3 hours. To go less than 50 miles. 3 hours, folks. With open roads, you can get to Vegas in around 4. He was still considerably late to the game, by the way.

My question is...what's the flaw in Black's humorous logic? If the population continues to explode, not only in Los Angeles but every major US city, will we not eventually reach a point where there's just no more room for the excess people? And I don't mean figuratively, like we'll all get a bit more crowded and it will be noisier and more unpleasant and living conditions will worsen. I mean, won't we physically run out of room soon? Will we all just have to start sharing rooms? Is now a good time to invest in bunk bed futures?

And before anyone tries to twist this into a lame right-wing anti-immigration thing, I don't blame an influx of Mexicans into California for this problem. They have as much a right to be here as anybody, and this is a problem all LA residents are facing, not just the poor and disenfranchised.

So here's what I suggest. We have to be practical about this thing. Why do so many people move to Los Angeles? Here are my theories:

(1) The entertainment industry

Not only to talentless morons hoping to be the next Gwen Stefani move to LA, but so do all the Business School and Management assholes hoping to be the next Ari Emanuel or Sherry Lansing. It's fucking scary out there. You can usually tell these people immediately because they will only discuss workout routines or film industry gossip. Often at the same time.

The solution? Legally mandate 1/2 of all entertainment-related companies to Holbrook, Arizona. I've been to Holbrook, and I can tell you, that is a charming little community. While there, I ate at a small diner and met a desert dweller breathing out of an oxygen tank who had come inside to escape the dust storm that had completely shut down the only road out of town!

Anyway, what with Blackberriess and such, all these industry assholes don't need to occupy the same 10 square blocks any more (plus the unwashed masses who have been banished to Burbank). Why not ship half of them to lovely, sparsely populated AZ? let them video conference about the first-weekend grosses of Primeval instead of meeting for six-hour lunches at The Counter?

(2) The beautiful weather

Give climate change a few years and this isn't even going to matter any more. For forward looking investors, might I recommend Duluth and Fargo? A decade or two from now, they'll be downright balmy.

(3) The vibrant culture and sense of community

Nah, I'm just kidding

(4) Scientology

Let's face it...Hollywood is not an appropriate headquarters for a major world religion. If the Hubbardites want us to take them more seriously, they should relocate to somewhere that feels more sacred and holy. Jerusalem, perhaps? Medina? I'm just throwing ideas out there.

(5) UCLA and USC

This is what brought me to Los Angeles (though I grew up just south of here in Irvine). I had a great time at UCLA, and I learned a few things I suppose, but I couldn't in good conscience recommend the school now to an incoming freshman. UCLA (and, to a lesser extent, USC) are simply too crowded.

And not even in a "you'll get lost in the shuffle" kind of way. I sort of think that the need to make a mark in order to separate myself from the teeming crowds drove me to do more with my time at UCLA than I might have otherwise. Right away after arriving there, I joined the school paper, just out of a need to meet some people and develop some kind of stable, familiar strucutre for my life in that chaotic maelstrom.

No, I just mean that it's too goddamn crowded. When I was a student there, approximately one-third of my waking life was spent parking my car, walking back to my dorm from parking my car or worrying about where I was going to park. The student population has exploded since I graduated in 2000, so I can only imagine how much worse it must be now. Likewise, I can recall many days in which I would be unable to find a seat in a common area or student union during a break between classes. Morning walks to class, that might otherwise be pleasant strolls, instead become grim mass marches, with thousands of students proceeding down the same narrow paths in lockstep. Forget finding the library book you need, or even any space to study in the library. And students live absolutely on top of one another. When I was a student, over a decade ago, the school ran out of dorm rooms and forced groups of students to live in open, common rooms that had been set aside for socializing. Six, eight people, squatting in what is essentially a den.

The solution? These schools should accept less kids. Hey, I'm sorry, I know lots of kids want UCLA diplomas and want to come to Los Angeles to study. I did. But no one's getting the most out of these universities under these conditions. I'm sure UC Davis could use a little uptick in admissions. Send some of the underachievers there (particularly if they're passionate about, you know, cows).

Finally, I think it's clear that LA needs some kind of futuristic, super-mass-transit system. Perhaps the magnetic highway from Minority Report? You're telling me that shit's not possible? We've had magnets for centuries already! Or what about some kind of underground bullet train dealie? Just as long as it doesn't run under Paramount studios. That's where they keep the hideous radioactive bloodthirsty cannibal freaks.


Jonathan said...

It's just the Ducks now. No "Mighty" anymore. This ain't your granddad's Disney Hockey team. The Ducks managed to overcome an offensive rush by the San Jose Sharks in the 2nd and 3rd periods to escape with a 3-1 victory, thanks to a late goal by Chris Pronger and 30 saves by all-star goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere. With this win, the Ducks get a 6 point lead on the surging Dallas Stars to maintain first place in the Pacific Division. Tomorrow's game against the Western-Conference-leading Nashville Predators should serve as a suitable testing ground for the Ducks position as legitimate cup contenders. With any luck, someone will stumble upon this comment and link to your page as a new Ducks fan blog. You'll thank me when your readership surges from white teenagers in Huntington Beach.

Jonathan said...

By the way, I think Congressman Les Whinin should do more thinkin' and less whinin'!

Lons said...

Glad you guys made it to the game in time to see some of the exciting colliding Canadian action.

And now that I think of it...There's no Councilman Les Whinin!