February 13, 2006

Urban Dwelling At It's Finest

I'm telling you, there is nothing better than living in the city [unless of course, you don't like lots of people, you prefer "acreage" or you're in the farming industry]. Now, when I say city, I'm not talking about just any populated metropolis, I mean living in the heart of it all. After all, most of Los Angeles still drives to the grocery store.

I always had dreams of urban dwelling. We sort of had it in Sydney. The train system was a common mode of transportation, and I often walked to work, but that doesn't come close what I have here in LA. So, let me divulge SOME of the delirious joys of city life:

Walking As A Way Of Life :: And by everywhere, I mean everywhere. I've averaged 23.95 miles a week of walking or biking over the last month -- that's 3+ miles a day of excercise. The act of walking is beautiful in so many ways. It slows you down (2mph vs. 50-70mph). It usually involves conversation (rather than a car CD player). You meet complete strangers and encounter local spots not visible from the car. Plus you get the added bonus of completely avoiding parking lots. Outside of the random eBay pick-up or a road trip, I honestly can't think of anywhere that I go that requires a car. Check out the distances to these every day places from my apartment building:
  • Grocery Store: 0.4, 0.7 or 1.3 miles away. Take your pick.
  • Post Office: 0.4 miles
  • Theatres: 0.4, 0.7, 0.8 or 1 mile way. Here you can take your pick from one mainstream, two independent or a cheap theatre.
  • Bank: 0.3
  • Metro Stop: 0.6
  • Church: 0.1
  • Gym: 1.1
  • Favorite Hangout: 0.8 to the bar/pool hall
  • Restaurants: All > 1
  • Favorite Bookstores: 0.4, 0.8
  • Thrift Stores: 0.6, 1.8
Friends Unplanned :: Our closest friends live 0.1 and 0.6 miles away. Our other friends live within 2 miles of us. Since College I've mostly had to "plan" times with friends. We had to look at our calendars and point to a date and time somewhere off in the near future. We had to "make time" in our life for friends. But in the city, when you live within shouting distance, it's different. Instead of planning the next event, we say things like, "I'm sure we'll see you tomorrow." It's no longer always a planning issue, instead we strive to do life together, which means getting together last minute and random times throughout the week. Need to borrow the car or some ketchup? I'll walk over in a minute. Need a babysitter for an hour? We're there. Need help moving? We'll bring some boxes. Wanna have a quick lunch at Tiffany's? I'll start walking in 2 minutes. Local, Local, Local :: . I always envied New Yorkers who could place every location nicely into a "village" or "district" or even give certain localities a nickname. South Houston St? No, I live in SOHO. But I'm less envious now. I've got Old Town, Paseo and the Playhouse District. I've got South Paz and the Lake and California corner. I used to know where places were like Walmart, Wendy's and the Gas Station. Now I know where streets are. Instead of meeting at Walmart, we meet at the corner of Euclid and Colorado. Where's that little secret Thai place? It's on Holly St. between Fair Oaks and Marengo. When I'm riding West I always take Union. When riding East, I take Green St. I know where the parks are, where the homeless hang out and where to pay my parking ticket. I've never felt more like a local than I do here...and that's after five months. Corporation Avoidance :: Okay, okay, not all of them are evil, but I used to depend on corporations for my survival. Walmart for groceries and everything else under the sun. Fast food for cheap meals. Restaurant chains for nicer meals. Popular retail stores for clothing. Giant electronic stores for anything electronic. If I wanted a book, Barnes and Nobles was it. Sure, I may spend a little more, but now I get to help the guy opening a new restaurant and support the small scale fruit market on Lake. My money used to primarily support "suits" and shareholdersis, now it primarily supports wages, rental space and moderate incomes. The only fast food I ever eat is from a small chain that has a reputation for high wages, generosity, employee appreciation and buying meat and potatoes from local farms. Sure, we still have a Hooters and The Cheesecake Factory, but at least now we have options. It's great knowing that the majority of your money is helping solidify and further the local economy. While my life and my money still have ties to corporate america (mostly through the internet), its not like it used to be.

So cheers to the city. And if any of this sounds appealing, our building always has a unit open. And I'm (seriously) serious about that.


Brian Cooper said...

Glad your enjoying the city life. Heather and I would like to move to Pasadena after I graduate in the summer of 07. It's one of our favorite cities in So.Cal. I was curious, do you have many families around where you live? Are you in an apartment complex? Townhome community? We will probably search out a house in a more residential area of the city. Love Old Town and Colorado street.
Have you been to the ArcLight in Hollywood? They show a lot of early release films as well. We saw The New World there in late December.

Emily said...

I'm trying not to be jealous....needless to say that isnt working.

Josh said...

Brian - Yea, we've found Pasadena to be one of the better urban districts in LA (you could probably make a case for WeHo, Echo Park and Los Feliz). We live right off Colorado in between the Playhouse District and Old Town. Our 3-story apartment building has an East Coast feel and is full of artists, chefs-to-be and struggling actors. I would guess most of the families are on the other side of the 210 Freeway where it's more residential.

But over there you're forced to get in the car more (and be careful of wearing certain color bandanas). :)

::athada:: said...

I'll be keepin' it pimp by riding my bike (to Wal-Mart, unfortunately).

Stupid bypass.

I'm searching for redemption in medium-town Indiana: scoping out sustainable farmers and local honey, canning and dehydrating foods.

Urbanism... hmmm...

How close is your community to being "new urbanism"?

P.J. said...

Aside from having to layer a bit more in the winter Bend Oregon is very walkable and bikeable. New paths and lanes are added annualy. The city (uh,er town) hails many citizens from Portland and Seattle, so local residents come in all shapes, sizes and character.

BTW nice blog...

Anonymous said...

good that youre finding community living in the community you are actually in. i wonder what aussie would have looked like, or even marion, or michigan, or quad city, or wherever. exploring your town is the greatest thing ever, and discovering its character and it's uniqueness is even better. No matter where you are, there you are. and,(at least wherever i have lived-several different places) there are creative people, locked mailboxes, small stores, and places to bike/walk, and a local economy to support. It just depends on how and when you get to know your community...in five months or in ten years. or some never see it and move away to the next 'best place ever'. branch out, stretch, get to know where you are and those around you. you make your life what it is--not the 'urban location'. I'm not jealous of LA--how could i be? i dont need an 'urban' life to have what you describe. i have it, in my 'noname' city.

Christin said...

Walking everywhere sounds so wonderful. Unfortunately, the flip side of LA, is that it is the largest city in the US to be built after the creation of the automobile. Hence freeways, traffic, and a county that spreads out and out like an octopus, which is why a bunch of us spend two hours a day in our car -- just to go 10 miles to work.
Places like Pasadena, Silver Lake, and Brentwood are the exceptions.
You are lucky.

Josh said...

Tin -

That's why we picked Pasadena! I'm thankful I never have to mess with traffic. It's possible...just takes luck and some deliberate choices. :)

Samuel Bills said...

Tin -
Pasadena is still acceepting applications :) Note that it was not the fact that LA was built after the automobile that we have freeways but that a consortium of auto makers bought out LA's public transport and sort of forced the Angeleno into a life built around the automobile.

::athada:: said...

SBills -

See the documentary: "The End of Suburbia". They talk about how GM, Standard Oil, and Firestore were actually convicted of conspiring to destroy / buy out and dismantle the rail system that was so prevelant. The alternative, not surprisingly, relied on cars, oil, and tire.

Dwayne Taylor said...

You mean that the local goverment didn't act in our best intersest?
Who is the bad guy the automaker for making the offer, or the city for selling? If you are going to blame someone for the taffic blame the shortsighted politicians.

Christin said...

Sam and Adam,
People are still mad about the rail system. I spent 8 months trying to make the current metro work for my urban lifestyle. It was 15 minutes longer than taking my car. The upside was I had 2 and a half hours of reading time everday.
In the end, I couldn't handle the unpredictable train schedule, prolonged waits at the bus stop, and creepy men who would try to start conversations with girls travelling alone.

::athada:: said...

Dwayne -

Who is the bad guy?

It depends. Everyone can be a bad guy. Corporate execs are not excluded because they act in "self-interest". (Read that line again).

Dwayne Taylor said...

The bottom line is that the local goverment had the power to end the deal and didn't.
The city had a reponsibility to the people of Los Angeles BUT they FREELY chose to take money from the oil companies in exchange for the mass transit system.
I am not suggesting that we are better off for this desision,
but that the vilians in this story are the politicians for making a shortsighted and personally advantageous decision.

Samuel Bills said...

Adam- I saw End of Suburbia at a screening at Fuller - great film!
Dwayne- I agree that the politicians with short sight are the villains - but I think recognizing the scheming tactics of the auto corps is helpful in making better decisions in the future. They acted out of self interest which is the basis of the free economy with no regard for the health and stability of the city - okay that's fine - but atleast saying it gives me some context when I am watching the next car commercial.
Josh- thanks for the conversation starter

::athada:: said...

SBills -

I'm gettin' End of Suburbia shown at the Globe Theatre here at IWU in March. I'm stoked!

Anonymous said...

Outdoors Magazine rated Pasadena as one of the top ten best places to live in the U.S. in their September issue I think. However, I hope that I am never so obsessed with the place in which I live. It's really about the people. The place is somewhat, not totally, arbitrary.

Josh said...

Sam/Adam/Dwayne/Tin -

Great thoughts (and questions).

**Overall, it seems the 1950's were a bad time for public transportation and a good one for to car/oil/tire industries. According to Kenneth Jackson, 1% of all post-war generation goverment money went to urban mass transit. On the flip side, 75% and $26,000,000,000 (that's 26 BILLION) went towards the building of 41,000 miles of highway. [1]

**Los Angeles wasn't the only city to suffer from a collective mess of bad decisions. Over 100 streetcar systems were torn up in the middle 20th century - all across the United States. And the culprits go beyond Ford and GM - the oil, tire and concrete industries added to the consortium as well. At least GM was convicted of criminal conspiracy! They were fined a whopping...$5000. [2]

**It seems the breakdown of public transport over the last 50 years can be blamed on all kinds of people and groups. I'm with you guys -- it's the government, the private industries and the city (among other sociological factors: read - the american dream) that all took part in making short-sighted decisions that are making our lives more hectic, the city less beautiful and our air much heavier. And just as it took groups and decisions to get us into this mess, I'm sure it will take a collective force of cities, governments and private industries to get us out of it. I hope I can find my part in it.

[1: Kenneth Jackson - Crabgrass Frontier]
[2: James Kunstler - The Geography of Nowhere]

Cheers, Josh

Bob Carder said...

Josh, please don't encourage all of our 20-30 somethings to move your way. We have nearly 5 million people in Kansas City and St. Louis who need Jesus!

I'm praying against your encouragement for people to move your way and for God to send them our way.. We need committed young leaders (couples) to plant 30+ churches in the next 6 years.

We are praying for the Lord of the harvest to send workers into this harvest field.

I'm just praying someone will read this and be called to my area of the world. We are hiring....

pk said...

Plan on coming back from vacation soon? ;-)

niza said...

thanks for commenting on my blog. actually, i presently live in pasadena but might have to move out for a while unless we find something.

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