Thursday, May 15, 2008

Good Morning, Thursday

This morning, I left the house at 5:24 to catch the 6:05 train. I have to drive downtown to the station – there is no westside train service -- which is about 20 minutes from my house in early hours. I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how I can get downtown without driving. If I ride my bike the six blocks to the express bus, I can catch the 6:15 #10 line and make the 7:20 train. Then another hour by train, or I could walk the six blocks, but the problem is that the 6:15 is the earliest bus downtown – and on. It goes on and on. Welcome to my mind. All aboard!

So, I drive to the station at 5:24. The sky looks like a quilt of peach fabric; a quilt not stitched in squares, but in long creviced columns that billow from north to south. They are nearly touchable. When I make the wide loop onto the onramp and when I see the church spire affixed with a Mormon trumpeter facing southeast against the dawn quilt, I say what I always say – it bursts out of my mouth – “Good Morning Thursday!” Or Tuesday. Those are the only days I brave the 120 mile round-trip commute. I spy into other peoples’ cars. I feel affection and camaraderie for them because they’ve gotten themselves up at this hour too to toll away at jobs. I’ve decided that everyone on the road at this hour works hard and I love them all because of it. I peep out the guy with a pressed white shirt in the black Mercedes. His hair is clean and pressed too and his tie hangs near his collar, untied. His elbow rests against the window. The wedding ring catches the overpass light. Three day laborers cram on a pick-up truck’s front bench. I can’t see the driver’s face, but they all wear baseball caps softened by perspiration; the white salt line looks like an outlined mountain ridge above the brim. The guy in the middle eats a donut and drinks coffee from styrofoam; a plastic tab brushes his nose. The guy sitting nearest to the passenger door leans his head against the window and sleeps. His mouth is open. I see a young woman in a beat up Corolla. She’s smoking and roughly wiping her cheeks with a brush in the visor mirror. Back and forth with the brush. It’s going to be too much, I think. It’s too dark too see how much. She’s really laying it on. But I love her because she’s up and out, going to her job, doing the best she can. I give them all that at dawn.

I exit the highway at Broadway. This is the eastern boarder of downtown LA, and this area has a pulse more so than the cold shadows of the high rises and federal buildings just blocks away. Homeless are rising off the sidewalks out from under planks of cardboard. Cocooned sleeping bags move. A homeless woman is sitting up and she folds and refolds a blanket that is too small to cover her whole body. I love her too. Union Station, an ominous creamy Spanish building with tiled archways, comes up on the right, Olvera Street to the left. I am sandwiched by two of LA’s most grounded icons. They’ve bypassed pretension. They serve the city and they’ve remained fairly unchanged over decades.

I love them.

On the train, just out of the station, I stare at the LA River instead of reading my book even though I swore I’d be more productive during the commute. I try to spot new tags and old tags that have been tagged over. I see a huge new one, a phrase in four foot lettering that reads: PIGS CREW AT LARGE. I speculate its meaning for most of the day. I try to identify what’s floating down the river. There’s a red Target shopping cart today, and a huge pile of tangled clothes clinging to the bank, having not quite tumbled into the water yet. I still never see anyone down there when I’m coming and going on the train. As always, I find the river gorgeous. I think the trashed and over graffiti’ed banks and the murky filthy water are tragically stunning. You can’t convince me that the bursts of frustrated spray painted color and even the protest of shit catapulted into the river aren’t hopeful. You just can’t.

We pass the river and I read my book until we stop at the Fullerton station where I notice an Asian kid standing on the platform in his early 20’s with that white-pressed -shirt-tie look. He's sleeping on his feet. He’s sleeping! He is standing erect and his good shoes are splayed out in a near second position. His hands are deeply buried in his pants’ pockets; his spiked-haired head down like prayer. His eyes are closed. And he sways a little. I watch him the full three minutes that it takes my train to come and leave. The kid’s head bobbed up once, blazey-eyed, to look for his northbound train.

I wait at the doors as my stop approaches. I wait behind another business-type guy, a business-type woman and a woman with a rolley mini suitcase and a short, frosted hair style. Behind me a man stands. I don’t turn to look because I can smell him. He’s dipped himself in some kind of gut rot. He blurts to me, “You’re about the prettiest little thing I ever saw!” He is well over six feet and his wild curls are a tornado of grey and blond. His beard inches past his chin. I smile genuinely and say, “Thank you.” “Yes, you are!” he yells. He strokes his beard and his eyes roll around wide like they’ve lost their traction in the socket. “When you smile, the sun comes out!” I say thank you again and the people in front of me grin tight lipped and shift on their feet, eyes fixed on the closed doors in front of them. “I’ve just been in the mountains gold mining! I haven’t been around a lot of people. Boy, you’re pretty! Is your mama pretty? I bet your mama’s pretty!” “She’s very pretty,” I say. “I’D MARRY YOUR MAMA!” He yells loud enough to make the other people wince. I laugh. “I’m Jerry and you tell your mama I’d marry her!” I laugh, “Ok, Jerry.” He loses his balance a bit as the train slow-lurches towards the platform. “I’ve been goldmining in the mountains! All I’ve been hanging out with is Sasquatch. In a cave! You know Sasquatch? That big hairy guy?” Yes, I say. The doors slide open and the people in front spill out quickly and shuffle to the stairs. I turn, “Bye Jerry.” Jerry looks in my face, mouth open, the tip of his tongue laying on his bottom lip. “Bye Pretty Girl,” he says, softer, “God bless you.”

Of course I love Jerry too.


Maven said...

You're so good.

Cristina said...

Ditto. Ditto. Ditto.

I love reading your posts. Most I find inspiring. Some I find motivating. However, I find them all brilliantly written, and most importantly, heartfelt.

Rachel said...

Good afternoon, Madness.
I love these descriptions. I can see and smell along with you. Who goes gold panning anymore? Who Knew? I'm in the car two hours a day commuting, too. This inspires me to be more present along the way.

Rebel Girl said...

xo ---

Julie said...

You know, I love how you love street art. Here in New York, the city is ripe with it, a subculture I follow like a teenage girl in 1942 tracking news of her flyboy. Rumors of a sighting of an elusive artist here, speculation if a particular new work is this one, or that one. For me, it started a few years back. I was walking to the train in my neighborhood in Brooklyn one morning when I saw a tag that made me laugh out loud. It read "NECK FACE" in bold white uneven printed letters and was coupled with a hairy monster arm floating on the brick. I was like... Neck Face? Does that really say... Neck Face? It stayed, and smiled every time I walk by, at this artist who made such a distinct mark with simplicity when all the other tags in the neighborhood competed to be too cool for school.

A few weeks later I was taking a cab home and we were riding down the BQE when I saw, on a billboard across the highway, scrawled two feet high in the same scratchy white letters, "NECK FACE IS SATAN'S BRIDE" along with a funny outline of a monster in a wedding dress. I started to pay attention, and I saw his tags everywhere, always a little self depreciating, always funny and simple and sweet. Finally, I went online and discovered two VERY wonderful websites devoted to tracking both Neck Face's work (who, btw, has tagged everywhere across the globe from NY to China to LA to France) and many, many other wonderful street artists. Some are whimsical and artistic, some send out messages of anti-consumerism and real human connection. All are wonderful. I'm actually planning a little street art venture of my own in the coming weeks. I've been following this stuff for awhile.

You might enjoy these two websites, and find some inspiration there. I do:

and here:

and finally, diy:

and one more, because the beat goes on:

andrea said...

oh lady, I have missed you and your good words. I really have. and:

1. the new ink on your back is the gorgeousness.

2. happy belated mamas day to you! endlessly inspired by you and that is the truth, ruth.


SUEB0B said...

You tell the best stories.

Anonymous said...

Madness, I can't even remember now how I found you way back when, or even how far back that particular "when" may have been. In any case, though I rarely comment, you're a regular read of mine, and I'm a huge huge fan of how you empower your wonderful little girls and strive to live so gently in the world. Of all your posts, this one has the ring of a sure fire winner in someone's essay contest. Stunning. Beautiful. Gorgeous. Just like you, pretty lady :-)

Carroll ("Anonymous" at the moment, only because Blogger comments is miffed at me for some reason)

madness rivera said...

Thank you so much, my friends. All these comments have great timing.

Rachel, I thought the same, Gold mining? Awesome.

Julie, thanks so much for the great comment. I will definitely check out those site immediately.

Andrea, I was thinking about you the exact day you commented. Seriously. Love you, girl. Thanks so much.

Thanks Carroll. Nice to hear from you, inspite of Blogger!

Marigoldie said...

XO, kindred spirits.

Antje/germany said...

You are so talented in writing. I could imagine everything you described - very beautiful!

Wow you have a long way to work.... do you work full time and every day?

Have a nice week!!!!

Greetings from Germany!

Betsy Kimmel said...

everyone is right-this is a very good/well-written story. felt like i was right there. jerry is classic.
love you!

madness rivera said...

Marigoldie: Yes.

Thank you, Antje. I do work full time every day, but I only commute the long distance two days a week. I work from home the other days. I wouldn't be able to commute everyday.

Love ya too, B!

Antje/Germany said...

Working from home is a great option for 3 days of the week - you are lucky - and it's great for your kids and dogs too!!!!
Traffic must be very nuts in L.A. - I remember a tv show with the title "It's like - you know" and it played in L.A. and they made fun of the traffic situation there every time.... I am glad that I only need about 30 minutes when I take the bus and walk the rest, so this does not steal too much time from me. Plus when I am at work (downtown Mainz (near Frankfurt) I can run errands by foot, going to the Farmers Market with my trolley and stuff like that), so it's okay - but of course I would prefer working from home too....

madness rivera said...

Yes, I'm very lucky. And yes, traffic in LA is crazy, but I really try not to drive much at all. Check out this new video that just surfaced with skateboarders on the freeway now. It's not as exciting as the cyclists, but you get a good idea about LA traffic from it:

Poundpapi said...

Listen, Girlfriend:

This comment actually has no relation to this post, but I knew this would be a good place to catch your attention.

I've been making my way through your archives this evening- I love when I find new blogs and can just binge, nawmean? Anyway, within the first few entries, I'm thinking, OMG, homegirl is once again saying everything I'm saying or plan on saying. (For example, just today, before I started digging through your archives, I lamented to myself about how I'm totally and unreasonably addicted to sugar and cookies, and I also decided that instead of getting a gym membership, I will join a dance studio to take salsa classes. Booyah!)

But then I got to the article about your Father-in-law and the trip you took to Patillas with him. I had to write that instant, because Patillas is where my grandmother lives. Are we distant cousins? Then again, scratch that- my dad and uncles were such ne'er do wells that I'm careful about claiming that side of the family, just in case I get shanked on some vendetta-type ish.

BTW- luvintheblog.