Yesterday I took the subway in Los Angeles for the first time.
Granted they only put a line in my neighborhood last year. And only in LA within the last twenty years and I've lived here for sixteen of those. But it was an odd sensation to bid adieu to my car in the lot from the high rail and I was reminded of how dependent we are on our cars here. Getting into my car is like breathing. It is like a second home and feels like an extension of my body sometimes. I tote food, water, earthquake supplies, beach stuff, art supplies, school supplies and more daily. I know a car isn't a complete necessity here, but most days it feels that way in this expansive sprawl.
I felt afloat in the city and oddly apprehensive today getting on the train with only one small bag. When I got to the museum and met my class, my T.A. asked me alarmed, "Where's your car!?" Only three people out of the 20 or so students that I talked to at our museum visit told me they had taken the subway in LA. Everyone will tell you that the public transportation isn't easy here. And it is true for most people. It's not close to anything you need to get to or come from, the distances are far, the trips slow...
But today, what I took for granted in every other city I have lived in, felt novel here. I had to figure out the ticket machine, look at maps, and actually walk in LA. I felt a little silly. I was a stranger today in my own beloved city where I confidently drive the long streets to the beach, the hills, the canyons. I love driving in LA. I always have. I was the youngest of my family and my parents never let me drive when I was growing up in rural New England. I lived in New York and Boston afterward and rode my bike and the subway for years. Something about moving to LA and driving myself has always meant freedom and adulthood to me. Much of my work incorporates images I see while driving. Representing that liminal space is something I go back to again and again.
When I went overseas this summer for the first time, I walked and took public transportation all over Paris and London. But it was only when I got to Finland (a country where I could not even read a single road sign), and needed to drive 4 hours north immediately, that I relaxed and breathed a sigh of relief as I got into my rental car.
I enjoyed turning over the wheel today and seeing my city from an different angle, on rail and foot. Although it was disconcerting to me that I was just a little bit uncomfortable as I started out and I am reminded of how we must always break our own boundaries and challenge our sense of place.