March 02, 2008


By Betty Underground © 2008

You either love it, or you hate it. Makes no difference if you are living at the beach or the pit of the San Gabriel Valley.


It is spread out. Public transportation is still a joke, even with the recent addition of light rails from some outlying areas. It is still the most embarrassing display of a subway system. Not to mention, the whole thing could sink with a good hard November rain.

So, get used to it. You live in LA county, you are going to have to drive. Even when you get home to your "close to everything" overpriced apartment in a planned community, you are still going to have to drive.

Mapquest says that a trip from Manhattan Beach to Long Beach will take 35 minutes with traffic. Not with LA traffic! Double that time and bring a book. Murphy's Law of LA traffic; "When you allow for plenty of time, you will get there with a ridiculous surplus of time and nothing to do." Fall into the trap and cut that time down and you will be late. Sitting on any one of the dozens of LA freeways that look more like parking lots.

And parking. Forget it in certain areas. I was the World's Worst Parallel Parker. The. Worst. I would park super far away just to have enough room to pull my Ford Escort alongside a curb. I am not any better at it now.

I also avoided left hand turns like the plague. Would drive around the block to be pointed in the direction I wanted to go.

My apartment in Santa Monica Canyon had this ridiculously steep driveway. Simple right hand turn into it but then I had to quickly cut it hard to the right again to avoid plowing into the lower apartment. Getting out required backing out, blind, onto a major thoroughfare connecting Santa Monica commuters with both PCH and Sunset Blvd.

Accidents happening all around you on the freeway. The world's biggest spectator sport! Traffic is not because of the carnage in the road, it is from the rubberneckers trying to catch a glimpse of the blood and guts, only to be disappointed when it was a minor fender bender.

You drive in LA, you gotta be aggressive. Quick like a bunny with lightening reflexes. It is the only way to survive. Yeah a manual transmission gets better gas mileage, but there is no way you would get me worrying about an extra pedal when my life hangs in the balance as a Mack Truck barrels down my ass in the fast lane!

It takes skills, people. I had a friend who was terrified of driving in LA. She missed out on a lot and was tied to a job in the Promenade that she hated just so she could walk to it. Held hostage by LA drivers. Not that being a pedestrian is any safer. Seriously, the Car vs. Pedestrian accidents were some of the best gawking opportunities.

My father taught me to count to ten before I made a move when my light turned green. Whether I was walking or driving, you have to build in a ten second cushion to avoid loosing a limb.

I have been hit in crosswalks and wrecked my car plenty of times to offer up these warnings. Look both ways. Wait ten seconds. Look again and RUN.


While not the Number One most expensive place to live, it is in the Top Ten. Running around Number Seven last I checked.

One of my bestest friends left LA and moved to Alaska. Gave himself a 8.5% raise because Alaska has no sales tax! That is close to three times the annual salary increase nationwide. Granted, it is ALASKA.

While housing is plentiful, a neighborhood can go from good to bad just by crossing the street! I lived in the ritzy Hancock Park area of LA but because of my proximity to the largest crime street (Western) I was mugged and my boyfriend's car was stolen.

Ellen DeGeneres lived three blocks away and I was a victim TWICE in less than a year!

Crime pays, pays big! The threat is everywhere, everyday but if you live like a victim, move about like a small frightened woodland creature, they will get you. Devour your innocence and spit out the bones. Hold onto your kids!

If you do find parking, you will pay for it. Either pumping a meter or a monthly paid parking rate. Commuting? Awesome for you, that will be $50 on parking at the station in addition to your rail pass. Oh, and don't go thinking you can get drunk after work and crash at a buddies house. You don't move your car from that lot, they will tow it away. No overnight parking. $500, thank you. Don't forget to watch the street cleaning signs. A stack of those tickets because you forgot to move your car on Franklin before 5 AM on Tuesday, $45 dollars each, adds up to a months rent. Thanks!

The water is horrible in LA, so you will be paying to have it delivered in five-gallon jugs. Cha-Ching.

You name it, it will cost you more and take you longer to get to it!

Movies. Dinner out. Cocktails. Gasoline. Yes, they even charge you pick up your recycling.

LA is like a bad relationship. "But I love him (it)." I just can't stop myself from going back.

I learned how to drive in LA traffic.

Learned how to manage money based on the LA standards.

Know the best back alley route from Santa Monica to Venice.

The shortest route from the Valley to Hollywood.

I can make a left hand turn at Sunset and La Brea at 5:13 PM on a Friday without flinching.

Hold my own in stop-and-go traffic over the Sepulveda Pass.

Know all the back roads. The main drags and the location of every 24 hour 7-11, even a few 24 hour Home Depots.

And Pink Dot - need I say more?

For me, LA is comfortable. What I know. A nook that I can snuggle into. Inhale the smoggy air and exhale with a smile.

My first true love. Los Angeles. Wait for me, I will be home soon.

Betty Underground is a writer from Northern California.

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