Last week my uncle Johnny and auntie Sheila from Chicago came to visit. They had not been in Los Angeles for 45 years and, though they both thought it was a bit corny, they really wanted to see some of our city’s famous tourist spots.
“I know it’s for kids, but we’d really just like to go sightseeing,” said aunt Sheila, 72, almost apologetically.
No problem, I told them. Heck, I wouldn’t mind seeing some of the spots that have brought tourists to the town of my birth myself.
Make it, I don’t know, left turns allowed from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. on certain streets? How about no left turns at all? Make three right turns. Suffer a little.
So, I took them to the Chinese Theater – that I still call Grauman’s Chinese - and Uncle and I put our feet in Humphrey Bogart’s, Paul Newman’s and Steve McQueen’s shoe imprints while Auntie tried out Ava Gardner and Natalie Wood.
Then we went to the La Brea Tar Pits and marveled at the mastodons and mammoths and that saber-toothed tiger, (now, politically correct, called a saber-toothed cat) still the coolest name of any animal. Ever.
Then I took them to see the storied “NO LEFT TURN 7 AM - 9 AM 4PM - 7 PM” sign at Beverly and Normandie. That’s a classic I never get tired of seeing and love to take out-of-towners to gaze at it. It’s such a sweet thought back to memory lane. Those wonderous days when the morning rush ended at 9 a.m. and the afternoon rush didn’t start until 4 p.m.. Imagine that. Back then, from 9 am to 4 pm - seven hours! – drivers hummed along in Los Angeles streets like they were Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton zooming around the Nürburgring racetrack in Germany.
My uncle and aunt stared at the sign wistfully. “Wow, what a, well, I guess, in a way, a melancholy sign,” said Aunt Sheila, who was born in Manchester, England and grew up hearing fairytales about Los Angeles allowing left turns from non-“left turn only” designated lanes. “So back in the day, the evening rush hour didn’t start until four? And only lasted three hours? That’s crazy. What a delight that must have been to drive in those days.”
Since we weren’t that far away, and I had an hour before dinner, I continued the tour. I drove west on Beverly, past the Wilshire Country Club, hung a right on June Street and another right onto Melrose and headed back east.
“Get your cameras out,” I said as we drove past the intersection where Rossmore Avenue transforms into Vine Street ( that’s a whole ‘nuther story). “Now watch as this two-lane road becomes only one lane because three or four people get to park on Melrose.”
I lucked out. Only one car was parked on Melrose a block west of Larchmont, but it was enough for 100s, more likely 1,000s of cars to have to squish over, honk, nearly side swipe each other all for one car to park.
My uncle was impressed. “So, let me get this straight. A thousand cars pay the price for one car to park. A two-lane street becomes one-lane all because of that silver Camry. Now that’s democracy.”
Democracy? No, this is more like stupidity. Two lane roads turning into one lane so a few people can park? People legally turning left up until 4 p.m.? Hey Garcetti, hey Transportation Department bosses, wake the blank up. The rush hour in Los Angeles does not end at 9 a.m. or start up again at 4 p.m., Times have changed. Change the damn signs.
Make it, I don’t know, left turns allowed from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. on certain streets? How about no left turns at all? Make three right turns. Suffer a little. The left turn is the most dangerous thing most L.A. residents do all day anyway. Ban it. Let us going-straight folks go without having to veer into the next lane.
The point is do something about the traffic on the streets. .
Every time I drive on these roads – two, three times a day – I think “Do the people that run this city ever actually drive?” They couldn’t possibly drive here and think this is okay. These rules are 30, 40 years old.
Where is the Coltrane, the Miles Davis of the transportation department? We need some outside the box thinking. Or, rather, outside the lane thinking. This current way is not working. Try something different. Anything.
The rush hour is no no longer 7 am to 9 am and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.. It’s a lovely thought but it’s just not true. It’s fiction. It’s make believe.
Whoever is in charge of traffic, please, like Frank Sinatra sings in “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, use your mentality, wake up to reality.