Saturday, July 21, 2012
Refugee from the City of Angels
I haven't moved a million miles from Los Angeles. I'm 70 miles away. I can drive there for lunch and be home in time for dinner. I can take the train, as I did on Thursday, for my regular gig on Skid Row at the DWC. In fact, there's an Amtrak train as well as a commuter train called Metrolink. I could even sail to L.A.--- if I had a boat.
But it's a different world here in Ventura County.
On Thursday I skittered along the narrow ribbons of shade through L.A.'s Little Tokyo. The village walkways and plazas are brick, and I felt like I'd been cooked in one of those clay casserole dishes by the time I got where I was going. Back at home in Oxnard that evening, when I stepped off the train I wished I had worn a polar fleece scarf instead of a cotton one.
L.A.'s smog is legendary. Any native Angeleno will tell you how much worse it was when they were kids. When I moved to Los Angeles from Minnesota in 1975 the contact lenses I wore in those days revolted, and I had laryngitis off and on for six months. The sky here in Ventura County is blue and clear and prone to the sort of white puffy clouds I used to draw into landscapes when I was a kid.
But it's not the lack of heat and smog or even the absence of gridlock that blows my mind. It's the parking.
I went to the WESTSIDE ARTWALK in Ventura today. It's a big event. People have been talking about it all week. I planned to get an early start on the fun. Nab a prime parking spot and forego the frustration of circling through traffic or the hike from some distant outlying lot. But errands slowed me down, and by the time I left, it was just past noon. Oh well, I thought, if the parking is too far away, there'll be a shuttle bus.
Despite the crowds, there was so much parking, I didn't stay parked in the first spot I chose on a side street just across from one of the galleries on the route. I was paranoid. There must be a "No Parking/Tow Away Zone" sign somewhere where I couldn't see it. So I moved. I found a city lot even closer to the heart of the action. "Free Parking All Day," it said. That can't be, I thought as I hunted for a posted notice that might proclaim, "NO ArtWalk Parking." But I left my car there, looking nervously over my shoulder for a parking enforcement officer as I walked away. After a couple of hours I began to worry. Maybe the sign said "fee" not "free." So I went back and moved my car to a different free parking lot. At the end of the day, I couldn't find my car. Towed, after all, I thought. But no, there were two free city lots so close together that I had confused them.
I have a new syndrome: PLAPA. Post Los Angeles Parking Anxiety. Maybe if I get a little boat, learning to park it without crashing into an expensive yacht will take my mind off the incredible surfeit of automobile parking spaces. Free parking spaces. Seriously, the gods must be playing with me. Or it's some kind of Ventura County initiation ritual, right? There really can't be all that free parking--can there?