Sunday, May 17, 2009

Tales from Abroad, Pasadena Edition - Part 4: Drama in the LBC

Week 1 in the archives is in the bag. Four more days of work start up Monday, giving me a two-day break known to most of the working world as a "week-end". Normally this concept doesn't apply to us students who have seven days a week to work or procrastinate as we choose, so I'm excited to give this "week-end" thing a try.

Today (Saturday) I went to LA. I was thinking of writing about Chinatown, Little Tokyo, the once-regal theatre district of Broadway now turned into a giant Mexican free-for-all (but I love it that way). I could write about how I had the greatest tacos of my life in a tiny restaurant on the corner, or about how I pondered the move subtle matters of love and life sitting on the sand of Long Beach amid a setting sun (and pounding music of what appeared to be a giant gay dance party - a Pride event with admission).

There's a lot to say about all of these things, but coming back I realized something: I spent over four hours today riding the train. From Pasadena to downtown, from downtown to Long Beach, and back home. Damn! That's a lot of train!

Tipping my hat to this wonderful (and cheap) form of public transportation, I've decided to share my train experiences with you.

The trips betwen downtown and Pasadena were slow, uneventful, and boring. The trips on the Blue Line, which goes through Compton to Long Beach, on the other hand, were worth the cost of a ticket in and of themselves.

I get on the southbound Blue Line where it starts, at 7th Street/Metro Center, and it all begins. For fifteen minutes or so I get a earful of these two guys swapping stories of the Eastlake Juvenile Hall and a whole bunch of cops/judge stories.

"He searched my whole bag, cause the dog was barking, right? But all he found was my dirty socks! He said what's in these, and I said "nothing man, they're just dirty, that's all!" Damn cop gave me nine more months just for having to go through my stuff, man."

"I swear, man, one time, this guy I know, he's homeless, right? And you know how homeless people sometimes are with other, right? So he wakes up on the street, where he's sleeping, y'know, and there's some guy going through his pockets! So he's like "damn, get the fuck outta my pockets!" and the other guy - can you believe it- smacks him with a two-by-four and takes his shit. Fuck, man!"

These guys go on and on about the fuck-the-police stuff ("So I told the cop, I just gotta call my mom - and he's all "why's a grown man have to call him mom for?" and I'm like "cause I gotta call my mom!" and he doesn't want me to call my mom, but I'm all "I've gotta cal lmy mom"...) not ever cluing in that mahybe cutting back a bit on the bling, baggy shorts, and general not dressing like someone who's destined to get picked up by the cops might help. Anyway, there's a bit of a ruckus going on in the middle of the train, which shuts everybody up.

A scruffy, 200+ pound middle-aged man who looks like he's been using cardboard for mattresses is sitting in the aisle seat of the train, and it looks like a skin-and-bones old one-eyed man is trying to get in, or maybe get him to move over. That's what it looked like, anyhow, but it impossible to tell what the one-eyed guy was trying to do since by this point since they'll yelling at each other and making absolutely no sense. The old man has turned to face the guy with his remaining eye and seems hell bent on getting his way - whatever it was, until a huge, ripped guy with a hand full of what looked like incense sticks from the back of the train (he would try to sell them on the train later) moves in fast and gets between them. Finally, someone to break this nonesense up. But no. Instead he claims the old guy is his dad (later he said he was his uncle - the relation, if any, was never made clear) and gets all in the fat scruffy dude's face, threatening to kick his ass.

Meanwhile the train's stopped (the Blue Line was full of delays that day) and there's a totally done-up woman behind me (who, despite her fine manicure, attenetion to makeup, and huge gold-plated heat-shaped earrings, apparently forgot to shave her hairy-legs) yelling "Y'all gotta stop! y'all are better than this!" None of the belligerents were listening - you can't come between a predator and his prety - and the fight-to-be was becoming accompanied by a chorus of dissuasion, which might have stopped the scruffy guy getting beat up on the spot, but didn't do much to make the scene not like a fight waiting to happen.

Anyway, the train resumes and eventually we get to a stop and the scruffy guy high-tails it out of there. The son/nephew/whatever sits down across from the old one-eye and they talk for the next ten minutes - about what I have no idea. All I caught was a bunch of platitudes passed off as ancient wisdom ("If it wasn't for bad luck, I'd have luck as all!") and the old guy's assertion that he doesn't back down - he's just not like that. I don't know if it was his slurring his words or his general incapibility of transmitting a coherent thought, but I never managed to catch why that one-eyed old guy was ready to throw down. Neither, I suspect, did anyone else.

Whatever. Drama over. At least everything was quiet for the blind beggar who was missing a good portion of his teeth (then again, so was the old guy) who picked up two bucks and change for a speech and touching both his eyeballs to show that he was blind (not that that proves anything - Newton once experimented on his own eyeball by sticking a rod between it and the socket and moving it around).

The ride back wasn't as eventful, but it did start out with the train being late and I spent at least twenty minutes eavesdropping on one old guy complaining to another how his retirement home treats him like shit and even charges for coffee, which they don't even serve past noon. The guy behind me on the train decided to have a conversation with himself which occasionally made sense to a third party, but mostly not. A guy with a huge garbage bag full of used empty bottles wheeled onto the train with a bike. When he rode off he had the bottles in front of him and the bike barely under control. A woman who you could've sworn was a guy was talking to someone on the phone. She was wearing a baggy long-sleeve shirt neatly tucked into her baggy suit pants and had tattoos of a naked woman on her neck/face and numbers across her hand. Whoever she was talking to must've either not spoke English well or must have been straight-up stupid since she kept on saying the same over and over question a half-dozen times ("You sound like Suzy!" "Yeah, you sould like Suzy!" "I said you sound like Suzy!")

There's something about the Blue Line that brings out the right kind of crowd for oddness - a combination of South-Central LA and straight-up crazies who seem to have a thing for Long Beach. Certain smells enter the train that no one would normall expect, and there's enough bling to give those cash-for-gold guys an immediate hard-on - assuming they can't tell the real gold rings from the fake "diamond"-studded letters swinging aroud guys necks.

So an eventful couple of rides. Under Siege 2 it ain't, but what do you want for a buck twenty-five? I can hardly get to sleep tonight, eager to await what wonders will come tomorrow when I take the bus. Wish me luck.

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