A couple of weeks ago I was on the phone with Nick and he told me he thought people might enjoy reading more about what I don’t like about Los Angeles. The problem, I told him, was that there wasn’t a lot I didn’t like about Los Angeles; while it makes me feel like a traitor to my beloved New York City, I’ve found Los Angeles to be a pretty reasonable place to live, even without a car. It’s not a great town by any means, but it’s not the worst place I’ve ever been (that would be either Romania or Albuquerque. Maybe it’s Schenectady). There are even things I like about it – it’s hard to complain about living in a place where it’s in the high 60s on Christmas Day and that’s considered chilly.
But maybe I was being too kind to my new hometown. And maybe I was wrong for believing that LA’s mass transit, weak as it is, could be enough for me. Today I got a ticket while riding the train.
I was on my way to Long Beach, which is about 30 miles south of where I live. My best friend and her fiancee are down in Mexico for New Years, and I had volunteered to take care of their diabetic cat again. It’s not a bad gig; I left behind two cats when I moved from New York, and I miss having animals to cuddle* (maybe this is why I keep finding myself getting involved with women who have adorable pets), so spending a few days with insulin-dependent Eerie Katt is a nice vacation.
Anyway, getting to Long Beach is pretty easy from my place. I just take two trains – the red line and the blue line – and have about a mile and a half of walking total. It takes less than 90 minutes. I’ve done it a couple of times, and I appreciate the fact that I get to sit on a train just like the old days and catch up on some reading. The blue line takes me through some of Los Angeles’ most… historic neighborhoods, like Watts and the city, city of Compton, but I spent my New York City life taking trains through sketchy ass areas late at night; good old Watts ain’t no thing. So there I am, riding through Compton and reading Time Magazine** when the cops get on the train. I’ve been through this before – you pull out your ticket, they look at it and go on. One of the things about Los Angeles is that the city hasn’t reached the level of civilization where they have turnstiles at the subway entrance and you only have to prove you have a fare when they ask you for it. It’s pretty stupid, all things considered, and feels like a waste of everybody’s time.
The cops come to me and I show them my ticket, not even taking off my headphones. Then I see that she’s talking to me: ‘Do you have a blue line ticket?’
Huh? ‘This one. I bought this when I got on the train.’
‘This is a red line ticket. You need one for the blue line.’
I looked at her like she had just asked me to drop trou. What the hell could this mean? They expect me buy another fare when I transfer to another train line? When I changed trains I wasn’t forced to go through an area where there were fare machines, and there were no signs. I’m from New York City, I told the cop, and that’s a city where one fare will let you spend the rest of your goddamned life hopping from train to train, traveling hundreds of miles. How should I know that I had to pay again when I got on the blue line?
‘You’re from New York?’ she asked. ‘Can I see some ID?’
It turns out that I still have my New York State Learner’s Permit, which has my old Brooklyn address on it. That would prove to this mass transit Mussolini that I was not hip to the local fare paying customs. Surely she would cut me, a hick from a backwater burgh, some slack on this one. She took the Permit and began writing me a citation.
‘You can tell the judge you didn’t know any better,’ she said as she handed me back the yellow carbon copy that said I was in violation of California Penal Code 640(b)(2). ‘And you can get off the train and buy a ticket.’
And that’s how I found myself on the train platform opposite the Del Amo Swap Meet fuming and angry. The penal code tells me I could be in for a fine as high as $250, and be in for 48 hours of community service. The citation tells me that I get to visit the Compton Court House – I’m hoping that Furious Styles will serve as my defense attorney (seriously, he’s the Atticus Finch of 80s hood movies). For a moment I figured that since they only had my Brooklyn address I could just blow this nonsense off, but then I did what I so rarely do: caught myself in the middle of making a terrible decision. I’m just going to make Eerie Katt’s owner drive me to Compton.
As I sat there, pissed off at the gross civil injustice visited upon me on a sleepy Saturday morning, I took comfort in knowing that at the very least something ridiculous will probably happen to me when I go to the Compton Court. Maybe that’ll make a better Advocate than this one. There’s always a silver lining.
In the mean time, I have a message to Los Angeles: suck my dick.
*This does not make me a wussy, but simply someone who is in touch with their cuddly side.
**And listening to The Grateful Dead’s American Beauty. This might make me a wussy.