I’m A Lifetime Resident of Los Angeles and I’ve Never Had A Car: Why?

A common occurrence in America’s second largest city for the past sixty years: parking lots that are supposed to be freeways, this one the 405 in West Los Angeles. Photo courtesy of  la.curbed.com

 

THE VARIOUS REASONS I NEVER HAD AN AUTOMOBILE IN A CITY WHERE THE AUTOMOBILE IS KING

 

I know that in the City of Angels, I’m something akin to a freak of nature, a space alien who’s on the wrong planet.

Or seen by at least a few people as a “loser”, or someone who is somewhat less of an adult, because of this:

I have lived in the greater Los Angeles area for over forty years, and I’ve never owned a car – nor do I ever plan to own one.

Let me go right into the reasons why…

 

1. TRAFFIC, AS IN L.A. HAVING THE WORST IN THE U.S.

Of the over ten million people who reside in Los Angeles County – and in neighboring Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura counties – no one enjoys the gridlock traffic jams that have been part of the Southern California landscape and culture since the 1950s, when the automobile became the virtual symbol of L.A.

For me personally, it’s more than merely being annoyed while stuck in parking lots that are supposed to be streets.

A personal part of this Asperger’s Syndrome that I have is that my anxieties grow to a pronounced level, a 12 on a scale of one to ten, whenever I feel like I’m in a hurry to get someplace (which is much of the time) and the bus I’m riding in – my main form of transportation – is either stuck somewhere in traffic or stops because the driver is ahead of the bus route’s time schedule.

Yes, I know that plenty of aspies drive cars just like neurotypicals, but If I were driving a car, those anxieties could lead to me doing something that’s not good, like get into an accident because I’m trying to go somewhere too fast, or get into a road rage situation.

For me, it’s just easier and simpler to let the bus, Metro Rail, or taxi driver do the driving; it would save me and everyone else some potentially bad disasters and incidents.

As for Uber and Lyft, that’s an option that I’ll probably be using in the near future.

2. DWB – DRIVING WHILE BLACK

I’ve heard too many stories in the news about how African-Americans like me have been stopped, searched, handcuffed, arrested, and killed while driving by white police for no other reason besides the color of their skin.

Getting racially profiled like that has happened to me more than once while riding my bicycle in Santa Monica when I lived there in the early 1990s; while I wasn’t handcuffed, I would be stopped by motorcycle cops and given tickets for reasons I don’t know to this day.

Experiencing what those fellow blacks have experienced is something I want absolutely no part of, which is why for me, driving my own car is not worth that risk.

 

 

A major part of driving a car as a black man that I want NO part of. Photo courtesy of justicenotjails.org

 

 

3. AFFORDABILITY

I don’t want get into any details about my income as I feel that’s no one’s business, but suffice it to say that it’s not at the level where I can afford to buy and (particularly) maintain a decent car.

And as for financing and monthly payments, that’s likewise something that would induce a level of stress in me that I do not need at this point in my life, as I want to live more simply.

Worrying about money for gas, and fixing my car if it broke down and needed new parts like an engine or transmission is something that I don’t want to do.

4. BETTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

I definitely don’t need to contribute to the dirtying of the air (despite changes to cars that have offset that) that the exhaust from cars brings.

One can say that by not driving, I’m doing my part to improve the environment and slow down the global warming that’s getting to be more and more of an issue.

 

THE BOTTOM LINE…

It’s just simpler for me to take public transportation, an area where Los Angeles has improved as there are things like the various Metro Rail lines and a planned “Subway To The Sea” going from downtown to Santa Monica that didn’t exist twenty years before.

Besides, when I had my bicycle I recall crashing and wrecking it at least three times in a twelve-month span, scraping myself fairly badly on one occurrence.

I can only imagine the ramifications of going through the same thing while driving a car.

I know that having never had one has led at least some folks to see me as a loser, or something less of an adult.

If you are one of those who are of that opinion because I don’t drive and have never had my own mode of transportation other than a bicycle, go ahead and think such.

It’s OK.

I have to do what’s right for me, no matter what.

 

A part of Los Angeles culture that I likewise want no part of. Photo courtesy of abc7.com

 

 

 

 

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Some Personal Thanksgiving Thoughts

Photo courtesy of people.howstuffworks.com

 

Just Being Honest Here:

While I like Thanksgiving as much as the next person, what with all the comfort food, the various parades and football games on TV, and being thankful for all the blessings that I have,

Which I am very thankful of and always will be, don’t get me wrong,

Thanksgiving Day – one of the three days out of 365, along with Christmas and Easter, that the homeless and others down on their luck are guaranteed a full meal, by the way – has never really given me the same exact type of warm, fuzzy feelings that Christmas Day has.

As much as anything else, it’s been a welcome four days off from the routines of school as a kid and work as an adult.

The fact that for the Native Americans, Thanksgiving is a day of mourning, has influenced these opinions as while if not for Squanto, Samoset, Massasoit, and the rest of that Wampanoag tribe from New England, Thanksgiving Day would not exist, has contributed to my feelings about this holiday that Abraham Lincoln officially designated as such in 1863.

It was particularly Squanto who saved those Pilgrims from dying at Plymouth Rock by teaching them how to fish, plant corn and hunt turkey after half of that Plymouth colony died off in the winter of 1620-21.

And what did those Native Americans got for their kindness and generosity?

Let’s put it like this…

While plenty of folks can claim ancestry from the Mayflower, there are absolutely no descendants of Samoset and the rest of the Wampanoags.

In other words, that tribe was completely wiped out, the Pilgrims eventually showing that those Wampanoags were no friends of theirs.

 

Linus telling Charlie Brown and the rest of his friends about the significance of Thanksgiving. Image courtesy of disneyabcpress.com

 

 

As for personal memories,

My three main Thanksgiving memories as a kid were:

1. Watching “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving”,

2. Watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and the CBS All-American Thanksgiving Day Parade, where they would broadcast different parades from across America; I especially remember them showing a parade from Hawaii that I thought was cool.

and…

3. Watching the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving morning as a high school and college kid, and a few years after that.

And I wasn’t , nor am I now, a Lions fan; it was just something to do for a young guy who liked football, I guess.

As far as watching the parades, I stopped watching Macy’s, or any other parades on TV, years ago; the only parade that holds any interest from me is the Tournament of Roses Parade from Pasadena on New Year’s Day.

In fact, I think the “Up With People”-like presentations that dominate the Macy’s telecasts are lame and unwatchable.

And in my view, you can only see giant Underdog balloons so many times before they get old.

 

And as for A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving…

While it has its merits,

And while it was one of my favorite things to watch as a youngster, particularly during my elementary school years as it premiered in 1973 (I was in the first grade),

It doesn’t hold as much appeal to me as its Christmas counterpart does as a middle-aged guy. And I’ve felt that way for most of my adulthood.

I still watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving as Peanuts will always be the greatest comic strip of all time in my book, but I can’t help feeling that Charles Schultz sort of mailed it in compared to A Charlie Brown Christmas and It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

I mean, Peppermint Patty was just being rude to just invite herself and her friends Marcie and Franklin to Charlie Brown’s house, not even caring that that round-headed kid and his family weren’t going to be home.

And it would have been all I could do to avoid smacking her, grabbing her by the scruff of the neck and throwing her out of the house when she complained about the spur of the moment meal of popcorn, pretzels, toast, and jelly beans that Charlie, Snoopy and Linus put out, as she expected them to cook a full Thanksgiving dinner of turkey and the works.

I think you can see why I don’t get the nostalgic, “Greatest Animated Feature of All Time” feeling over A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” the way I do over “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.

 

 

I can’t write a post about Thanksgiving without including a picture of people preparing dinner for the homeless, as these folks are doing in Boston. Photo courtesy of gettyimages.com

 

 

Speaking of turkey…

Because of my gout condition and the fact that turkey has the purines, which turns to uric acid, which causes the extreme pain in my foot area,

I haven’t eaten that delicacy in nearly seven years, opting for roast chicken, which has fewer purines.

So I can’t even partake in the food that makes Thanksgiving the national holiday that it is.

But that’s OK; chicken is a good substitute.

And of course I eat plenty of mashed potatoes, stuffing, and the other dishes that are so part of this holiday.

As such, I’ll do some relaxing and vegetating tomorrow, like I pretty much have done on this day.

And oh, before I forget…

 

Photo courtesy of midlifecrisishawaii.com

 

 

 

 

WALKING ON EGGSHELLS: Excerpts From Chapter Six

I can certainly relate to scenes like this, because it happened to me many times throughout my school days. Photo courtesy of wisegeekhealth.com

 

My experiences as a high school kid with Asperger’s were so many, I had to divide them into two chapters.

These two excerpts of my (hopefully) soon to be self-published book, WALKING ON EGGSHELLS, is from the chapter I call “ROUGH TIMES AT SAMOHI, PART TWO”:

 

It was like there were so many areas of my life where I was behind seemingly everybody else: kids were partying up a storm complete with the obligatory drunkenness and debauchery with me never being invited to any of those shindigs. Kids were getting driver’s licenses and cars and God, seemingly, was telling me no to doing that same thing.

Not to mention kids, particularly in that moment in time, pairing up and hooking up like crazy…

In my mind at least, people were leaving me out of things because they generally didn’t see me as cool, which I fully admit I wasn’t, and that hurt. Every time I found out about some kegger bash which I was obviously not invited to, like this one huge blowout that the band had in my junior year in the Santa Monica Mountains, I felt humiliated, degraded, and like my peers regarded me as nothing but a waste of space.

But getting back to the prom:

There I was, without a date and feeling more than ever like a dorky loser.

Mom, who was dead set on my attending this rite of passage, made a call to one of my cousins who was not only a teacher, but the coach of her drill team at her high school.

The next thing I knew, I had a date to the Samohi prom.

Just in case you’re going “Yay, that’s wonderful!” right about now…

Don’t even bother.

This date was the classic nerd-getting-fixed-up kind, complete with a girl who, looking back, I suspect was compensated by my cousin either with money or in some other way; I sensed the why-did-I-agree-to-go-with-this-goofy-mark vibe when I talked to her on the phone a couple of days beforehand, and again when the big night arrived.

She wasn’t very outgoing or friendly; it was as if she was working a shift at McDonald’s, particularly as we rode in the town car on the freeway back to her house. As I tried to tell her what a good time I had and to hug her goodbye, she kind of pulled away from me, her body language saying “Yeah, whatever, just let me out you goofy-ass mark!”

At least, though she may deny it, that’s what I’m convinced that she wanted to say to me.

After that big soiree, I told everyone that I had a fun time, essentially lying to myself as I quickly saw the light of my situation and faced the reality of it all, which was this:

I should NOT have gone to the 1985 Santa Monica High School Prom.

 

 

Except for the gender, skin color, and hair texture, this was me in high school. Photo courtesy of  yourlittleprofessor.com

 

 

EXCERPT #2 FROM CHAPTER SIX: One Last Rejection and Humiliation

It was a couple of weeks before school ended, a gorgeous late spring morning…

That previous evening, the phone rang. Mom answered it, and a few minutes later she was in my doorway telling me that I was going to be “kidnapped”, along with all of the other band seniors, at around 6:00 a.m. and taken to breakfast, which was an apparent tradition, Mom telling me, “be sure you’re ready for when they come.”

As I went to sleep later that night, I thought, “This will be fun!”

So when I woke up at around 5:30 the next morning I made it a point to shower, shave, and put on some sweats and a t-shirt to look like I was in bed as it was supposed to be a surprise “kidnapping”.

As it turned out, the surprise was on me as 6:00 came, then 6:30, and no kidnappers; by 7:00 it was clear that they weren’t coming as I got dressed and walked to school as usual, feeling mighty low as one can imagine, this being the latest humiliating rejection in a series of humiliating rejections, three years’ worth to be precise.

When I got to school, in fairness to the “kidnappers” I was told that there was no time to pick me up, which was why I was stood up, but I was told that in a matter-of-fact was like they felt that it was no big deal to do what they did. I don’t remember hearing an “I’m sorry”, and they definitely could have called me and told me to meet them at whatever restaurant they were at if they really wanted me to hang with them.

That was what hurt more than anything else.

It was like when they realized that there wouldn’t be time to pick up everyone, they saw me as the easy odd man out, a case of “Well, we don’t really like Derek anyway, so why should we do something for him or spend any more time with him than we have to?”

Not that I was the simple helpless victim as over the course of me and my band mates’ three years together, my aspieisms, verbal and otherwise, aggravated too many of them more than they would have liked and certainly turned too many of them off to me as far as friendship was concerned; I wanted to be fair in emphasizing that.

So to quite a few of my music mates, I was seemingly nothing but a geeky jerk that did and said inappropriate things, consequently not deserving to be given the time of day.

The worst part of it all was that thanks to my autistic tendencies, I often thought that people were being mean to me for no reason, just like at Will Rogers and John Adams, and just like it would be throughout college and beyond as whenever somebody reacted badly to something I did or said, my first reaction would almost always be,

“What did I do?”

I sometimes still react that way.

 

This was likewise me in high school; just change the color of the hair and the skin, add a few inches, and take away the glasses. Photo courtesy of mysaspergerschild.com