Petula Clark was never trying to get there Summer 2015, Los Angeles.
We’re going Downtown! to see one of the most beautiful public libraries in the world, I told my son.
Noon, weekday, summer. It’s not rush hour. The Dodgers are not playing in thirty minutes. It’s a parking lot on the freeway though. After twenty minutes of bumper-to-bumper traffic, I start to think about going back home. After twenty-five, I tell my husband to pull off at the next exit, which by the way, is only two exits from our home exit, but little would you know that from the time we’ve spent not traveling. “We’re taking the metro,” I announce.
Bryan, that’s the husband in the story, doesn’t do well with spontaneity and starts hyperventilating.
“What do you mean?! What are you talking about? You’re not making sense.”
I’m driving. All he has to do is look at the phone and enter “metro station.”
It’s like two blocks south of the freeway. We’ve arrived without incident. He’s still looking around like a rabbit lifted out of its cage and placed into a field of grass.
“I don’t know where I am because I’m looking at the map.”
We’ve arrived, I assure him. We are going to start making this city work for us, or I’m going to have to file for legal dissolution from it. This city is too crowded, too smoggy, too filled with people-quick-to-honk-a-horn, and too expensive to keep me away from the beauty and benefits it has to offer.
We download our metro app (step one on the big Metro Board) — “What about those who don’t have a smartphone!”I decry on behalf of The People. How can they make that step one without even qualifying it with an “if you have a smartphone. . .”
No one answers me, not son, not husband, not God.
Step two is tickets, purchased. Three, map it out, and just like that I have saved the day, the city’s offerings, lo and behold, the entire State may still be ours for the taking.
The guys in front of us all have t-shirts and key clips on that say “Call of Duty.” Big. Fat. White guys. The Electronic Entertainment Expo is going on downtown. Then there stands the black teenager by the door wearing a t-shirt with a picture of a needle that has bicycle wheels which reads ‘Cycling is dope.’ And a full length shiny tattoo on his arm. I wonder about his life, schooling, his drug use. His friend gets on. His friend is beautiful. Skin as black as Bernie Mac, long legs and arms, strong and sure, as he rolls his bicycle down the aisle on its rear tire, greets his friend and shakes his hand. He wears a cloth backpack that appears organized, serious and going places.
I think about my assumptions — that the youth’s pun means he’s up to no good. They look young and healthy next to these fat gamers. They ride bikes. They are our better future. All of these thoughts pass by my mind almost as quickly as the waft of pot that smacks me in the face and my eleven-year-old’s text. “Smell that pot?”
Yeah. I smell it. The black boys lit up. Bummer. And the fat white gamers upload their bulk and brains from the Metro to go share their “extremely violent military first-person shooter” games where players “engage in graphic combat that involves constant killing using realistic weapons, with blood and gore pouring across the screen…and cinematic sequences can be even more dramatic and graphic, with both soldiers and civilians dying in horrible ways.” Or so Common Sense Media tells me. Downtown.
Well, let’s head to the museum. My son is doing this strange thing where I think he’s trying to dislodge a booger stuck from his nose, forcing out air again and again through his nostrils. In actuality, the child is trying to prevent smell molecules from entering his nose. “Well, I learned in science If you take a good whiff of a piece of chicken, small molecules of that chicken fly into your nose — the actual particles!” So he’s attempting to keep the urine smell that hits us on every block–nay, the actual urine particles–out of his nose.
We arrive. The library doesn’t disappoint. Do yourself a favor and visit it. Books. Architecture. Art. People. Los Angeles history.
I shared the restroom on our way out with a homeless woman who was hocking up a juicy loogie and bathed in the sink.
Waiting for the Metro line home, we run into Danny who, it turns out, is the very science teacher who taught him about the smell molecules. What?! Are you kidding?! If it were placed in a movie scene or a book you’d holler too forced or trite. Sometimes, my friends, life is just like that, I guess.
“. . .You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares/So go Downtown things will be great when you’re/ Downtown, no finer place for sure/Everything’s waiting for you.”