Sunday, September 9, 2012

First Day on Foot


My starting point: Venice Blvd. and South Robertson Blvd, Culver City

I returned my rental car yesterday. My car is still being fixed. I have chosen to be carless for an undetermined amount of time.

I was wildly agitated upon my arrival to Enterprise in Culver City, vocally aghast at the lack of parking spaces, at being asked to move my illegally parked car (twice), and at the disappearance of the attendant. I was behaving badly, reminiscent of the last time I had to face the possible separation from my vehicle.

"Oh you're not picking up your car from the dealership?" the clerk asked, when she finally attended to me.

"No, I'm walking five miles home."

"Well, I'm open 'til 6 p.m. if you have some errands you want to run first..."

I tsked and sighed, explaining that Allstate had instructed me to return the car by noon, and then staring blankly at her.

"Just...take the car now..." I had already mentally prepared myself for its return as best as I could. When someone breaks up with you, you don't want them to linger, you just want them to go, so you can start figuring out how to go on with your life without them.

As I walked away from the rental office, receipt in hand, I burst into tears, wincing from behind my aviator sunglasses. As a hiker, a five mile walk home wasn't so daunting, but I immediately recalled my days in junior high and high school, begging for rides from my teachers, friends and their parents, taking the bus when I could, but mostly being stuck at home. More than once during college Christmas breaks, I was nearly stranded at Shoppingtown Mall, working extended holiday hours past the time the Centro bus stopped running.

One June day in 1993 or 94, I was grounded for the entire summer, and my sister had refused to let me participate in her birthday celebration. So, with nothing to do, and no one to come home to, I decided to walk home from work in Downtown Syracuse, about four miles. It was summer, with plenty of daylight left, but as I left behind the dowtown derelicts, I secretly hoped to be attacked or abducted. I felt punished and helpless. That was one of the loneliest days of my life.

All those feelings of abandonment and desperation came rushing back to me in an instant. Everything I've done over the last 20 years to liberate myself from the shackles of my youth and the grip of my parents seemed to dissolve in the ether.

Not yet ready to embark on my journey home - because what would I do once I got there? - I stayed in Culver City awhile and went to the movies. I got brunch, skipping the booze because it costs the same as a day's car rental. I got coffee. And finally, at 2:30 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon, I set off on my journey.

It's actually a straight shot up Robertson from Culver City, under the 10 Freeway and through a neighborhood I've discovered has been coined "SoRo" (South Robertson), then Beverlywood, Beverly Hills and Los Angeles (across the street from each other), West Hollywood, and back to Beverly Hills. At first, my trek seemed, in some ways, wilder than any of my hikes. There were few other trekkers on the urban trail of concrete and blacktop, and nearly everyone I passed who wasn't in a car was either on a bike or headed to or from their car.

Walking up South Robertson - a street I've driven up and down several times to and from Culver City - provided constant discoveries of abandoned storefronts, stretches of thriving industry (upholstery!), historic-looking buildings (a Masonic temple!), and tiny ethnic eateries. I soon forgot about my distress and enjoyed the adventure as though it were just another hike, but one of a very different kind: not a loop, not an out-and-back, and not a one-way with a car shuttle. Just a one way.

I thought about the next few days - with nothing really planned for Sunday and Monday, and plans for Tuesday night in a familiar area that seems easily reached via bus - and the task of surviving in LA without a car seemed surmountable. Not easy, but doable.

I got through the first day, at least, unscathed: no blisters, no sunburn, and only one solicitor tried to sneakily sell me magazines. "I got no money..." I said, as I walked away.

Did I feel safe? Not really. But I never really feel safe on the trail. And at least I knew I wouldn't get lost. This time.

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