85. I'm walking

I didn't walk or take a bus to the 18th Street Arts Center on Wednesday evening to participate with other carless Angeleños in presentations connected to Diane Meyer's photo exhibit: Without a Car in the World: 100 Car-less Angelinos Tell Stories of Living in Los Angeles.

I didn't have to. Diane Meyer had arranged my ride to Santa Monica. She brought me back to Lakewood.

It would have been possible to walk-bus-train- bus to the art gallery, but the 34-mile trip from my office would have taken me almost two-and-a-half hours. There isn't any easy way back at the hour the panel discussion ended.

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I could have "? as some of the carless in Diane's exhibition do "? spent the night in Santa Monica and returned in the morning. I could have spent $40 or $50 for a cab ride to the Blue Line station downtown. I could have asked a former L.A. Times transportation reporter, who was there, to take me to a bus stop in Belmont Heights in Long Beach, where he lives. He might even have been given me a lift all the way home to Lakewood. It's sort of on the way. If I could see well enough at night, if I were fearless, if I were properly equipped, I might have ridden a bike back home.

Some of the carless in Diane's show do just that, and they explain how and why in brief quotes that accompany their photograph. The attitudes of the carless range from earnest to desperate: Not driving is liberating. Not driving is a curse. I'm saving the world. I'm lost in L.A. I'm better than all of you who drive. I don't belong here because I won't ever be like you, who drives.

The carless are great improvisers, even of their reasons to remain carless. They are a spectacle of contradiction in Los Angeles, but no one notices. They alone hear the sound of their footsteps on our empty sidewalks.

My bit came at the end, after a panel on not owning a car (More bikes! More Zipcars!) and after presentations that covered the iconography of walking in L.A., the history of sidewalks, and the accounts of two academic pedestrians who have crossed L.A. on foot like a modern Lewis and Clark.

I just said that you should learn to wander. I said become an expert flâneur and acquire pedestrianism as a vice. I said acquire the desire to walk into your neighborhood with the purpose of expecting something "? Wonderful! Offensive! "? to occur to you as wandered into an undiscovered place.

The image on this page was made by Flickr user cobalt123. It was used under a Creative Commons license.

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