Wine (Myth) Making

(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.)

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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. Continue reading

Trump On The Bus


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

“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