Wine (Myth) Making

August 5, 2016

(A little change of pace today, for all you oenophiles out there who thought the California wine industry started with Ernest and Julio Gallo. From our Los Angeles correspondent, Ned Teitelbaum, Executive Director of Plant The Vine, an urban landscape history and public memory project intending to create a greater awareness of L.A.’s wine-making past through the establishment of small community vineyards. Viticulture?! Everybody knows L.A. has no culture.)

* * *

guestcommentary

 

I had been researching a public-history project about Los Angeles’ first truly dominant industry, that of winegrowing and winemaking, when I realized that I’d been running across quite a lot of what I can only describe as an open and obvious bias against Los Angeles terroir. This bias, which I’ve encountered in conversation as well as in what I’ve read, appears to come from what I’ll call, with a shout-out to Norman Klein (The History of Forgetting: Los Angeles and the Erasure of Memory), a Northern California wine imaginary that views Los Angeles, it’s past as well as its present, through the smoggy lens of its post-war, car-first history. According to this imaginary – you could also call it a construct or myth — the wine industry left Los Angeles, where it had been ensconced since the days of the Spanish missions, because it had found superior terroir in Sonoma and Napa Valley.

But if the terroir – a French term coming from the word ‘terre’, meaning earth, but more inclusive of climate conditions – was of such inferior quality, how then could Los Angeles have become the center of wine production in California for much of the 19th Century? Yes, the padres at the missions certainly had the benefit of lots of “free” Native American labor. But this wasn’t unique to Los Angeles. The padres in San Francisco had peons too. But no matter how many they had, they still couldn’t get the grapes to mature around the chilly, fog-bound mission by the bay.

In fact, and contrary to the myth, what made Los Angeles a wine-growing Mecca was that it had the perfect terroir for the heat-seeking Spanish varieties brought by the padres from home. firstcitysealOne can imagine how filled with hope these early settlers must have been when they first came upon the hot, dry growing conditions of Los Angeles, so similar to those of places like La Mancha, home of the drought-tolerant Airen grape, which is used for Brandy de Jerez (a version of which was made in copious quantities at L.A. missions); or the sherry-producing areas of Montilla-Moriles, which grows the Pedro Ximenez grape; Xeres, where Palomino Fino thrives, and Malaga, whose Muscat of Alexandria grows to this day at the San Gabriel Mission near the L.A. suburb of Alhambra.

No, there was no problem growing grapes in Los Angeles, and of the finest quality, from what we read in accounts of the time. And yet the myth of inferior terroir persists. Why? One possible explanation is that it is part of a larger story, one that goes back centuries, to the struggle for empire and cultural supremacy between Spain and England. In her book, Empire of Vines: Wine Culture in America, Erica Hannickel points out that viticulture has always been a means of establishing cultural as well as political hegemony over populations and over place. Contemporary examples of this abound. A walk through the vineyards of Sicily reveals a succession of differing viticultural inclinations, each of them tied to a different period of foreign rule. LAseal In the former Soviet-Bloc countries, Russian grapes are now being replaced with indigenous varieties. And in drought-plagued areas of California, including L.A. County and Napa and Sonoma, thought is now being given as to the culturally driven wisdom of having planted the thirsty varieties of Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhine, when the drought-resistant varieties of southern Spain would certainly have been a more sustainable choice.

So, if it wasn’t the inferiority of the growing conditions that caused the wine industry to abandon Los Angeles, then what was it? A related myth suggests it was because of vineyard blights such as philloxera or Pierce’s disease. But these afflicted Sonoma and Napa as much as any other part of the state. No, the main reason the industry left L.A. was quite simply the city’s growing hunger for land. With the expansion of its port at San Pedro and the arrival of the intercontinental railroad in 1874, Los Angeles was increasingly integrated into the global economy. The vineyards, which occupied choice real estate between the river and the center of town, were sold off for housing and industrial subdivisions. donquixoteBut In the process, a centuries-old, site-specific Spanish viticulture, one that had flourished along the L.A. River for over a hundred years, was destroyed. With the strategic use of the Northern California wine imaginary, it did not take long for it to be erased from memory as well.

The other day, I was down by the river, participating in one of the frequent clean-ups organized by FoLAR (Friends of the Los Angeles River). As we pulled plastic bottles and other detritus from the caked mud and plant life, a refreshing breeze from the San Gabriel Mountains kicked up, passing through the Glendale Narrows and brushing by us on the way to the sea. I sat down under a willow, took off my hat and wiped the sweat from the back of my neck. A red-winged blackbird called out from a nearby cottonwood, and as I tried to decipher its song, the sound of passing cars faded into the background. I looked down-river, toward the city, and let the heat ripples play with my imagination. I thought of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, that unlikely duo of La Mancha, and became convinced that if they had happened upon Los Angeles in the late 1700s, they might well have felt right at home, pitching their tienda along the river bank and drinking the local version of Brandy de Jerez.

connoisseurly submitted by Ned Teitelbaum


Trump On The Bus

March 22, 2016

guestcommentary

I have been thinking about the bus as a kind of plaza on wheels, the town square that requires an almost communal cooperation in order for it to work. In contrast to the smooth predictability of a subway ride, the bus trip, with its dips and turns, its brake jams and unexpected accelerations, forces you to acknowledge the stranger, either as someone you must work your way around in order to get to the exit, or literally anything else. It is much more intimate than a subway ride, in ways both agreeable and not. On a good day, though, and I swear this is true, it can start to feel like family.wheelsonthebus

Let me explain. The other day, I was on the La Brea bus, stopped at a light, when a serio-comic drama played out that we could all watch together from the comfort and safety of our seats. We saw an older driver at a gas station who had forgotten to replace the pump handle after she’d finished pumping her gas. The handle clanged loudly on the stained concrete tarmac as she the drove off, and remained there for only as long as it took the silver-haired man who was topping off his Mercedes to pick it up and place it back in its holder.

Only that’s not what happened. Rather, after a quick glance up from his I-phone, the man with the Mercedes went back to texting and topping off his tank.

We did not see what happened next, but apparently, disaster was avoided, and as the light turned green a spirited conversation arose. One person shook her head that certain people should not be allowed to drive. Another thought the man with the Mercedes was a dumb-ass because he would have been blown up too. happybusStill someone else (me, in fact) thought that it was just the latest embarrassing confirmation of L.A.’s own particular suit of self-absorbed la-dee-dah.

The conversation continued thus, and as happens, my attention drifted to other things. Where else but on a city bus, I thought, could a person find such serendipity? If I had witnessed the event while by myself, it would have weighed on me, made me cynical about the city and all its inhabitants. But because I’d witnessed it together with my homies on the bus, it was no big deal, and I was grateful to them for being there, for responding, for talking about it, and not pretending like they didn’t see it or that it didn’t matter. They were there for me, and I was there for them, my bus family. It was one of those rare moments when I loved my fellow man!

But then a guy got on the bus who totally harshed my Kumbaya.

“Good morning!” the energetic, middle-aged guy shouted at anyone who would listen. I wasn’t one of them. Despite my effusions about a bus-ride being like family, there are unspoken rules of conduct and one does not get on a bus or train and start greeting everyone. trapped

Anyway, not knowing what the dude wanted, I looked for the telltale candy bars and ear-buds that you see young men selling on the Blue Line to Compton. But no, this fast-talker wasn’t selling candy. He was selling Trump.

“I know you’re all for Bernie and Hillary,” he then set out. Guilty as charged, I thought, but still, why were my political leanings being questioned by a disruptive stranger on a bus? I tried to engage him with humor in order to defuse the situation. But that only served to provoke, and he launched into a menacing blitzkrieg of obscene political incorrectness that made my jaw drop. This had never happened to me before, and it was more than uncomfortable, it was frightening. Despite my growing sense of disbelief, I was nevertheless fully aware of the precedents – Hitler’s Brown Shirts, Mussolini’s Black Shirts, and the Brooks Bros.-clad Bushies shutting down the Florida chad count in 2000. Yes, I went there.

I wish I could say I was some kind of hero, but while I was shaken, I did not stir. I wanted to throw him off the bus, but didn’t, because a part of me refused to believe this was actually happening. pigeondrivesthebussPlus I’m a coward. Nevertheless, the man did get off the bus at the next stop. But for the rest of the day, I carried around a complex of uncomfortable feelings, from guilt that I had thought of violence, to shame that I had not been more clever, to anger at what the man had said and, equally, to embarrassment for being angry.

At the end of the day, I contacted one of my conservative friends, hoping to find some kind of reassurance that not everybody on the right thought this kind of behavior was okay.

“The first amendment is a wonderful thing,” my friend texted to my dismay.

But was this really just a case of a man exercising his first amendment right? Surely, there are limits to all rights. Wasn’t what he did akin to yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded movie theater? What if the driver had been bothered or provoked when the guy leaned over and murmured Trump catechisms into his ear? kumbayaYes, it could have been quite dangerous.

I went to bed that night thinking that maybe a bus isn’t really a public square after all. It’s too hard to get away from someone who chooses to provoke you by yelling Trumpisms in your face. Thank God for the unspoken rules of public transit, I thought to myself, getting into bed. And as I drifted off to sleep, I thought once more of my family, the one on the bus, and hoped that they were all doing fine. Kumbaya.

submitted by Cityslikr


The Bus

March 8, 2016

“What brand of shoes are those?”italianshoes

While the question wasn’t directed at me, I looked up from my book, curious. Was this a typical conversation that you might overhear during a bus ride in Los Angeles? The two gentlemen proceeded to talk quite extensively about the need for having a good pair of shoes, where to get a good pair of shoes at insanely cheap prices (downtown L.A., if you’re wondering, 7th and Los Angeles, to be exact, Little New York, one of the guys called the area), and how measuring foot width is as important as length. I silently regretted my choice of more sensible shoes for this outing. Man, I so could’ve been in on this conversation had I worn my Fluevogs!

I have become a regular bus rider during my time here, plopped down as I am on the suburban westside of town. The nearest rapid transit line is about a 23 minute bike ride or 80 minute walk. Nobody walks 80 minutes to take transit unless, you know, Fitbit, am I right?

So I take the bus. Like nearly 3/4s of all public transit users in Los Angeles. It’s a fact of life if you’re getting around this city without a car.metrotransitmap

Buses aren’t glamorous. Buses aren’t spiffy. Seldom do you think of buses as sleek or any other car commercial descriptive that comes to mind. Buses rarely beckon politicians to ribbon cutting ceremonies.

What buses do, however, for almost every North American city that didn’t get in big to the 19th-century subway craze, and grew up and out with the post-war automobile age, buses provide the backbone of their public transit systems. If your bus service isn’t fully functioning, your transit system isn’t either, regardless of your shiny subways and light rail. The quickest way to improve public transit is to improve your bus service.

But buses. So, 2nd-class.

My painter friend, Donald – not actually a painter, not actually named Donald, actually named Ned, All Fired Up’s L.A. correspondent, it’s just a phrase I like to use because Lou Reed did – Ned and I took a trip out along the Orange Line across the San Fernando Valley. It is a dedicated bus lane that connects to the Red Line subway terminus at North Hollywood. metrobusorangelineA real life, honest-to-god bus lane, protected from mixed traffic and with either signal priority or incredible luck with traffic lights. We zoomed westward, stopping almost exclusively only to pick up or drop off passengers, through places anybody even vaguely familiar with pop culture would recognize. Laurel Canyon. Van Nuys. Reseda. Tarzana. Canoga Park.

As we went, Ned told me that back in the day, this was originally planned to be a rail connection to the subway, appropriately it would seem, since it was running along the rail bed of the ol’ Southern Pacific Railroad line that operated in these parts during the first couple decades of last century. But wouldn’t you know it, and in a refrain familiar to those experienced in transit debates, there was local resistance to anything but a subway being built on the route. Too costly an option and, again for anyone aware of Toronto’s Scarborough subway debate, not an ideal mode to build for the type of urban design, built form the Valley was and remains.

The debate got lengthier and wackier. Residents didn’t want rail unless it was underground or unless the alternative was a bus lane. metrobusWhat?! Buses? OK. Let’s make it rail, even if it’s at-grade. Problem was, in their previous anti-rail zeal, state legislators made a law banning all non-underground rail in the Valley, a law which has now been overturned, paving the way for an LRT to eventually replace the Orange Line bus lane.

There is no transit planning that is not politicized transit planning, it seems. Which may just be an unfortunate inevitability of living with other people, we are political animals, after all, all of us in our own ways. The real problem though, as I have seen it, is that those really politicizing transit planning tend to be people who don’t take transit very often, if it all. How will this transit project affect my ability to get around in my car?

Non-transit users tend to like the idea of buses because they see them operating in mixed traffic, big lumbering vehicles that have to pull to the side of the road to pick up or drop off passengers, easy, sooner rather than later, to get around and get along your speedy way. That is, until you propose, taking a lane or two of road away and building a dedicated lane where buses can go about their transit business, free of snarled car traffic. metrobus1Then, all bets are off.

Non-transit users may also express a preference for buses because they can’t ever envision themselves ever getting out of their car and using public transit. Ever. So why spend all that money on fancy trains that they’ll never use. Never. Ever.

Public transit decisions made by those who have a transit choice.

I imagine if you ask even the most dedicated or dependent public transit user, what mode of public transit they’d prefer to use, the bus would be down their list. The ride is rarely as smooth as a rail glide. It can’t possibly go as fast as a subway. They can be bumpy, shaky and rattle-y.

Buses are the last option for those without many options.

So what’s with the buses already? Mothball them. Start building shiny stuff, fast stuff. metrobus2Let’s pimp our public transit rides.

Even if the barrel of money to build transit was bottomless, and we all know it isn’t, you couldn’t dig subways to everywhere you needed unless we all were prepared to Manhattanize or go full on Hong Kong. There isn’t the street space or capacity to run LRTs along every route you’d need to generate the ridership you’d want to make for an effective transit system.

The simple truth is, to design, build and operate a fully-functioning, robust transit network, you need buses. Buses are like the capillaries of the system (if I understand my anatomy correctly which I can’t guarantee), feeding riders into and onto the bigger capacity lines that take them to their final destination, work, school, the mall, home. Buses best provide local service while at the same time, if done right, treated well, delivered with a sense of purpose instead of resignation, buses can build and strengthen ridership growth. Like the Orange Line has done in Los Angeles’s San Fernando Valley.rodneydangerfield1

We need to stop dismissing buses, treating them as symbols of failure or reluctant compromises, or using them as a cavil in politicized transit debates, either in favour of spending buckets of cash on unnecessary high orders of transit or doing the exact opposite. Better buses, better bus service means a better transit system. More people happy and willing to ride the bus rather than choosing to do so as a last resort means fewer people driving their cars.

And fewer people in their cars mean more people knowing where to get good shoes cheap.

round-and-roundly submitted by Cityslikr


Vernacular Of The Vine

March 2, 2016

guestcommentary

(With yesterday’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee’s unanimous vote of approval for the Hybrid #3 option to keep the Gardiner East expressway elevated, a timely post from our L.A. correspondent, Ned Teitelbaum)

*  *  *

For some time now, I have been playing a game in my head whereby I compare the freeway system of L.A. to a system of vines in a vineyard. losangelesvineywardHow, for example, would a particular vineyard be helped if a little strategic pruning were done? Would the vines allow for a more effective transport of minerals and nutrients to the grapes? And how, analogously, would the city of Los Angeles be helped by a judicious pruning of its freeways? Would cars move more freely into our pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods? Is that a good thing? A bad thing? Some wine-growers like to stress their vines, but could that very stress lead to grape rage?

Okay, so the analogy isn’t exact. But this particular act of analogizing is not so far-fetched, because while we don’t usually think of L.A. as wine country, that’s exactly what it was for the first hundred-plus years of its existence, with the earliest vineyards being established in 1781 at the Mission de Los Angeles. At first they were planted primarily to the drought-resistant, low-acid Airen grape from La Mancha, in Spain. Soon they were joined by other vitis vinifera and spread throughout the area. cheonggyecheonMany vineyards were added in the early 1800s and the industry was well-established by the time the Forty-Niners hit northern California with a rapacious thirst for Los Angeles wine.

The vineyards, unfortunately, were torn up long ago, but palimpsests of that key period of L.A.’s wine history abound, from the random ubiquity of grapes growing in private gardens and backyards to the streets named after early L.A. winemakers like Vignes, Kohler, Wolfskill and Requena. And then there’s the world’s most iconic street corner, Hollywood and Vine, which marks the transition from a town tied to the land to a city hitched to the stars.

L.A. Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne had not dissimilar thoughts on “trimming” (his word) what he calls the “stub end of the 2 freeway as it bends south and west from Interstate 5 and dips into Silver Lake and Echo Park.” Upon reading the article I wanted to celebrate. cheonggyecheonafterI had been waiting for this moment in L.A. history, when the city would decide, or at least decide to decide, that it was time to start pruning.

The plan for the 2 freeway doesn’t call for tearing it down (or uprooting it, in the language of the vine), but for re-purposing it. Traffic lanes would be reduced and narrowed, and housing and storefronts would go up along its sides. A park would be built down the middle, which would connect to the L.A. River, where another park is currently being planned under the direction of Frank Gehry. There is even a notion to run a resurrected light rail through it, from Downtown to Glendale, summoning the memory of the Red Cars of two generations ago.

This all comes against the backdrop of other cities removing their urban highways, from the Embarcadero in San Francisco, to the Whitehurst Freeway in Washington,DC, to Harbor Drive in Portland to Cheonggyecheon in Seoul. Could L.A. join this illustrious list of cities? hollywoodandvineIt’s beyond imagination – and, most probably at this time, beyond the imagination of city leaders as well.

Mr. Hawthorne knows it won’t be easy. But even in the letters to the editor critical of his idea (which most of them were), one could sense that the status quo is to nobody’s liking. Being aware of that is a good first step. Los Angeles will surely not be able to support the number of vines (or cars) that it once did, but that shouldn’t prevent it from pruning, as well as uprooting, in order to save the vineyard.

vino veritasly submitted by Ned Teitelbaum


Borrowing and Burrowing

September 30, 2015

guestcommentary

(All Fired Up in the Big Smoke’s L.A. correspondent, Ned Teitelbaum, chimes in with some thoughts from a city that is bidding on the 2024 Olympic games.)

***

I have to admit, when I heard about the possibility that the Olympic games might be coming to Los Angeles in 2024, my first thought was that this could be the perfect excuse to accelerate construction of the Metro Purple Line to UCLA. latransit2030Back in 1984, the campus was one of the principal venues for the games, and given that L.A. is much more congested today than it was then, completing the subway to the campus might be not just the best, but the only, way to carry off the behemoth undertaking.

As you may know, the Purple Line, which includes a proposed stop at UCLA, was supposed to be the Subway to the Sea. But then methane gas caused a shopping center along the planned route to blow up, and as a result, the line sat in limbo for 22 years. Meanwhile, the Expo Line, the light rail to the Westside, made steady progress in the same direction, but along a more southerly route. It should begin service to Santa Monica by early next year, providing the dreamed-for access to the sea.

But that still doesn’t solve the problem of Westwood, where the campus of UCLA sits, increasingly choked off from the city, and where the Purple Line is not scheduled to arrive until 2036. Using the Olympics to accelerate this project makes a lot of sense. fixieAfter all, borrowing is still cheap, and burrowing would come at a discount as well, the theory being that it is cheaper to leave the tunnel boring machine in the ground and just keep going. Also, while we’re at it, we might as well accelerate the airport connector. And lest I forget, if we could connect by High Speed Rail to San Francisco, just think of all the new counter-cultural Olympics events we could stage, such as the Fixie Downhill Slalom and the OlympiCon Naked Bar Crawl!

This, in any case, was my first fevered reaction to the news that we might get to host the Olympics again. But the next day, my fever broke. Capital infrastructure was all well and good, sexy even, with your high profile public transit projects and grand palaces to world class athleticism. blackpowerBut what about our human infrastructure? What about our homeless? What about our schools, and environmental justice? Are these not infrastructure issues even more worthy of acceleration for the Olympics?

In 1968, the Olympics were held in Mexico City, and the thing I remember most was watching Tommie Smith and John Carlos raise the Black Power salute during the awards ceremony. I thought it was awesome. In my blended North-South family (mother from Alabama, father from Brooklyn), the Civil Rights Movement was often the subject of ugly, impassioned argument. But that day in 1968, those brave men who held their fists aloft as our National Anthem played introduced an unfamiliar phenomenon into our home: silence. Neither of my parents spoke. And me? To paraphrase Michelle Obama, it was the first time I had ever been proud of my country. Plus we took the gold and the bronze!

Today I am thinking of that event not only because it is my first memory of the Olympics, but because Los Angeles is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Watts Riots. watts1965Those riots, which occurred in 1965, must have been fresh in the minds of Tommie Smith and John Carlos. Now, as we prepare to make our newest bid for the games, we should use those riots, and the conditions that caused them, as a yardstick against which to measure the progress Los Angeles has, and has not, made. LA has its own history and its own legacy of racism, a legacy which is impossible to separate from the harmful decisions the city has made throughout the years regarding infrastructure. And we need to do it fast, as the Olympic committee will make its decision in 2017.

Olympic-sizely submitted by Ned Teitelbaum


De-Pave Paradise And Tear Down That Parking Lot

September 14, 2015

guestcommentary

(A post-concussion follow-up to yesterday’s post from All Fired Up in the Big Smoke’s Los Angeles correspondent, Ned Teitelbaum. Another in our series, To Live and Drive In L.A., The Battle for Road Space edition.)

***

Still emerging from the fog of my concussion, the city starts to come back into focus.

I see how the City Council passed the Mobility Plan 2035 by a broad margin, with all but two of our city council members voting in favor of it. rowenaavelaThe plan is a series of goals that includes such boiler-plate objectives as expanding bicycle ridership and providing frequent, reliable on-time bus arrivals. It looks great on paper. But implementing it without pissing off drivers? Well, that’s another matter.

Take Rowena Avenue, for example, in our Mayor’s own Silver Lake district. The street was one of the first to be put on a road diet two years ago, and there has been nothing but controversy since. Traffic is backed up, and nobody seems to be using the bike lanes. Drivers are frustrated, and frustrated drivers go where frustrated drivers go, namely onto our residential side streets. But the change looks likely to remain since it helps the city move toward its Vision Zero Initiative of reaching zero traffic deaths by 2035.

Bravo, I say.

But the acrimony over the Rowena fight has now wafted over to the Hyperion Bridge fight next door. hyperionbridgelaThere, another re-striping war has been engaged. Once again, activists want to reduce the car lanes, this time from four to three, with the extra space going to both sides of the bridge for walkers and cyclists. A template of a letter that people can e-mail to their City Council representatives was put out by the advocacy group LA Walks and urges the city to back this plan so people can enjoy “the bridge’s beautiful and historic belvederes,” from both sides. And indeed, one major difference between Rowena and the Hyperion Bridge is the latter’s almost irresistible invitation to stop and gaze, to take up the river breeze and just breathe. The letter asks, “Why do we want to prevent people from enjoying one of the city’s best views of what will soon be a revitalized LA River?”

No arguments from me. But the Board of Public Works has already balked once at the idea, and even the Mayor’s own rep at the time of the vote, Matt Szabo, refused to back the plan. Said Szabo, referencing the Rowena traffic clog, “I can’t in good conscience vote for anything that would compound that situation.”

toliveanddieinLA

Perhaps Mr. Szabo should take another look. Yesterday, I was on Rowena, and I noticed a distinctly calmer traffic flow. I even spotted a cyclist. I said ‘Hi’ but I don’t think he heard me.

sunshine hazily submitted by Ned Teitelbaum


Driving in the Age of Distraction

September 13, 2015

guestcommentary

(Another post from our All Fired Up in the Big Smoke Los Angeles correspondent, Ned Teitelbaum, in a series we’ve taken to calling, To Live and Drive in L.A.)

***

Even as the Jeep Grand Cherokee ploughed into the back of my car, I remember wondering if this could be payback for the time I myself had rear-ended someone about a year earlier. But that was in slower traffic, in Venice, and not, as was this, somewhere near Encino, south on a 12-lane superhighway known as the Ventura 101.

The driver who hit me was doing about 50, and though I was wearing my seatbelt, the impact was enough to give me a concussion, some herniated disks and a broken tooth. Still, by today’s standards, this was just a banal traffic accident. whiplashNo explosions, no deaths, not even any road rage.

The young tattooed driver who folks tell me was obviously texting apologized for, well, tattooing me. Yet I was confused. Weren’t young people giving up their cars so that they could stay connected to their mobile devices? I’d seen the phenomenon myself, on trains and buses and walking down Wilshire Boulevard. Maybe this guy just hadn’t received the memo. Or maybe it was because LA’s rail network hadn’t yet reached this deep into the San Fernando Valley, a part of the city which grew into its current form based on the primacy of the private automobile. And in fact here, as well as in other parts of our far-flung urban arrangement, distracted driving is still the norm. Which is how it came about that I was introduced to my new friend.

I can’t remember his name. All I remember were his tattoos. And the apologies. Because in the end it really was just an accident. toliveanddieinLAIt could have happened to anybody. Like the one I caused last year (no one was hurt). Or the one 10 years before that, in which I had a head-on collision with another distracted driver in another out-sized SUV (I was hurt, but survived to drive another day).

I guess these traffic accidents are just part of life, the price of doing business in a town that decided decades ago to embrace the automobile to the exclusion of all other forms of mobility. The chiropractor I am seeing says I should mend in a few weeks. Will I mend all the way? He doesn’t answer me. He tells me to relax, cracks my neck and sends me on my way.

submitted by Ned Teitelbaum