Ghost Train…

here’s a little feature about the LA Subway that i wrote for XLR8R Magazine a few years back. enjoy.


Choo Chooooo for who?

Los Angeles huffs gas. Its people zip to and fro in personal isolation bubbles on multi-laned barrio connection grids. Yet, a ghost train zips beneath tires of preoccupied sedans. Gh-gh-gh-gh-ghosts?! Yes, phantom boxcars straddling steel skid through picture perfect tunnels.

Dig the facts.

Public transportation once sparkled like bling-bling ice in LA. In the early years of century twenty, Pacific Electric Red Cars carried passengers from point A to Z and everywhere in between. The Balloon Route stretched from the hustle bustle of downtown to the lazy waves of Santa Monica. 109 million passengers rode the rails during its peak year but eventually the Red Cars choked on engine fumes. Auto lust won and 1,150 miles of track were erased from collective memory. A costly revival of trolley clangs came in 1993 when the city broke ground on the new Red, Blue, and Green metro lines. Controversy cracked liked lightning as tunnel digs collapsed city streets and construction barricades made local cash registers bleed.

Five billion bucks later people can ride the sparkling new subway but most don’t. Less than one percent of the city’s 9.8 million residents ride the metro on any given day. The primary Red Line’s sixteen stops dot the urban landscape, connecting points that mean little without a full network. If your daily travel path matches perfectly with the train’s trajectory you are in luck. It is a fast, clean, and roomy way to roam. Taxpayers have treated you to a delightful commute. Let’s explore the City of Angels’ sole train.

Urban spelunking we shall go.

Warm air blasts cheeks and ruffles bangs upon descent into the subway station. It is a cavernous yodeler’s paradise nestled deep in the valleys of a crumpled 1986 party napkin stuck to a Delorean hood shimmering under Miami Vice city lights. Confetti, neon, and chrome all have equal representation within the metro system’s artistic vision. Sure the stations may be empty but they are flashy like Jordache.

Deep breaths reveal neutral, non-offensive odors. Gazing eyes spy not a single rat and barely a grease spot under the tracks. Cleanliness might be next to godliness but in some cases it seems unnatural. A dive bar minus thick layers of cigarette ash, a carnival without Judas Priest blasting on the “tilt a-whirl,” or a petting zoo missing steaming piles of poo. We want our subway to swirl with all the vapors of a wino’s sweet hangover. We need one-eyed penguins banging glowing barrels of toxic funk for chorus lines of Rockette kicking radioactive raccoons. The LA subway feels suspiciously sterile.

Once in the train, familiarity clicks: flashing blue and white lights connect in a single hypnotic trace past glass windows, muffled shrieks of steel against steel echo from end to end, vibrations lull bright bushy tails to near slumber. Are we there yet?

Woop-woop! That’s the sound of da police!

Cameras scan hollow stations in hope of sending Metro coppers on their next great caper. The word underground is, police deputies can be summoned within thirty seconds by the all seeing eye. The fuzz hone in like Battlestar Galactica drones with horizontal pupil bounce to slap $250 fines on pedestrian villains for: “radio playing, food, beverage (it nearly happened to this shifty scribe for sipping water), smoking, littering, no valid fare, or wheeling a bicycle during forbidden hours.” If you need a chill day gig, apply for a position with the LA metro police. Like most Los Angeles residents; murderers, rapists, arsonists, and hamburglars have no clue the subway exists.

Don’t need no credit card to ride this train.

In a city stocked with sunshine and earthquakes why travel in underground tubes devoid of natural light? Don’t question, let’s ride. A few quick hops on the Red Line and you are dropped on the doorstep of Hollywood’s revival. A consumer snare of corporate glitz rivaling Giuliani’s Times Square moneymorphosis. Or ride a few more stops to Universal Studios theme park where a subway car is snapped in two and set ablaze for wide-eyed shutterbugs on the popular “Earthquake” ride. Next, reverse the caboose and head downtown. Grab a bite of Jello casserole at Clifton’s Cafeteria before an afternoon stroll through the cardboard shantytown that is skid row. Yes, the metro brings you to LA’s bright spots.

End of the line.

Subway travel is a great idea but who would ride underground in Los Angeles? The cell phone reception sucks.


****a little something extra for the kids****

frosty gets friendly : let’s meet riders on a Sunday afternoon.

Rollerboys – a group of young skateboarders making the trek to hit civic cement angles downtown. this is their first subway journey.

Miss Carless – a young woman connecting to Amtrak after an LA weekend out.

Gary Scary (a 63 year old partially blind man) – “Egads! Is that building a hotel? My hobby is to ride the metro to different hotels and go inside. I have an army of killer hos. I pay prostitutes to cuddle with me. I slobber over jailbait Disneyland ride operators. I want to go undercover for the police. I was raped by a man when I was seventeen” Thanks for sharing Gary.

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