How I move through Los Angeles

Awesome decking of halls, something I never would have noticed if I wasn’t walking on a random street near Beverly and Vermont

Last night was another incredible evening of GOOD December as transportation activists and foodies (really, one in the same) gathered around the table to talk about subways, bikes and bus shelters. While we chewed on public transit, Michael Hebb (the notoriously renegade chef profiled by my friend David Hochman) presented a gourmet meal cooked in a bare bones kitchen with only five crock pots and a Weber grill. We sat at two tables and dined family-style on grilled endive-radicchio-octopus-Meyer lemon salad, then an incredible lamb tagine slow-cooked for five hours served over some kind of grain I believe was called Fraggle Rock, and finished with Meyer lemon bars and these heavenly hazelnut chocolates.

In a few months, Hebb is organizing one of his legendary One Pot dinners as a 35-mile walk from the 5 freeway to Pomona, foraging ingredients along the way for a meal at the end. (“Roadkill?” someone asked. “Well, there are 7 Elevens,” he laughed.) So as our dining entertainment we were instructed to introduce artifacts we had all brought that addressed this question: What does it mean to move through Los Angeles?

People had some great stuff. Michael Lejeune, creative director at Metro showed a beautiful installation someone had made with their day passes (as a fellow day pass artist I was thrilled—in case you don’t know that’s what my Gelatobaby header is made from). James Rojas from the Latino Urban Forum brought this awesome vintage tin windup toy of the old Red Line streetcars that used to run (everywhere) in LA to show that transit should be fun. And the director of C.I.C.L.E. brought a Starbucks apron he had found on the street while riding through the city (one of the perks of not being in a car is that you start to accumulate lots of odd crap). Almost everyone had stories about how they biked, walked, rode the bus or had made significant changes in their lifestyles. Afterwards we had a completely informal and totally insighful discussion where I learned that bus shelters are not monitored by the city and are actually controlled by private corporations like Gannett, which actually are more interested in advertising to the people driving by than providing utility to people who actually need shelter and shade! Those bastards!

Camera not pictured as I had to use it to take the photo

Moving through Los Angeles for me means planning ahead, something I don’t think a lot of people are willing to do. But the biggest complaint I hear when I tell people I biked or rode the bus somewhere is that people (especially girls) tell me is that they’d do it but they’re too worried about being late/uncomfortable/dirty/unkempt/unfashionable/sweaty. So for my artifact, I opened up my Public Transit Survival Kit (which looks a lot like my Writing a New York Architecture Walking Guide Survival Kit, and is also known as my purse) and showed off some of the things I always have with me as I move through LA to help me look and feel great.

A really big, beautiful bag
: All the celebrities are carrying them, although god knows what they’re carrying in them. You can use the square footage to store usefull goods. I carry a custom-screened Kate Spade tote.

Keds, TOMS or my mom’s old cowboy boots: Thanks to LA’s casual dress code, cool sneakers, flats or boots are comfortable shoes that are accepted at pretty much any event in town.

Peds: Should you need to wear something a bit more fancy, simply slip on a pair of these tiny socks to prevent blisters if you need to walk or pedal. Or stash your shoes in your big bag and wear flip flops.

Leggings: I almost always wear dresses so I especially when I’m biking, I wear these (I like American Apparel‘s colors) to prevent those unplanned “street shows.” Hey, you can always peel them off when you arrive at your destination.

Scarf or hat: It can get cold while waiting for the bus at night or while riding your bike so you should probably bring something to cuddle up with (or why not knit your own, now you’ll have time!).

iPhone: People complain to me that they don’t understand how to use the bus or are afraid of getting stranded somewhere on a dark corner. With the iPhone not only can you use to plan your trip, you can locate yourself with the GPS, use Google Maps, and call a cab if you get desperate. Oh, and watch TV! Technology rules!

Flip Ultra: I always bring along my teeny-tiny video camera just in case I catch a made-for-YouTube moment. It’s so small and easy to use it works just as well as a voice recorder if I’m in a pinch.

Casio Exilim: This is a great little point and shoot camera that takes pretty decent low light shots, too. Soon you’ll find yourself taking photos of everything from hidden Victorians to obvious bougainvilleas, just because they were there.

Rhodia notepad: You’re going to come across some awesome quotes from your fellow passengers, tidbits of information and sweet restaurants you’ve never noticed before. Better have this little notepad on hand to jot it all down.

Makeup: Don’t wear it! But if you must, carry the essentials in a small bag (mine is from LeSportsac), and simply apply on arrival! No one will notice if you dash into the restroom to freshen up before you say hello.

Sigg bottle: I love my Sigg for both its water-carrying ability and its great graphics. It can get hot when you’re in the sun all day, sure, but everyone knows the secret of great skin is the youthful glow that comes from gulping down gallons of water every day.

And most importantly: So many women I speak to say that their #1 reason for not taking public transit or riding a bike is that they get “all sweaty.” Ladies, let me ask you something. If you ever arrived somewhere looking a bit moist and someone asked you why, and you said you had taken public transportation there or rode your bike, would you want to be associating with them if they didn’t think that was the coolest thing in the world? I didn’t think so. Sweat is sexy.

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