1. Permit parking. Is anything more un-American than having some middle-class jerks ban you (through the city bureaucracy) from parking on their benighted street — that your taxes help maintain? And while I’m on the subject, it seems that whenever it needs a little extra money, L.A., the biggest city in a state too spineless to raise property taxes to pay for services, simply paints another stretch of curb red, upping the revenue from parking tickets.
2. Local TV news. The Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble, but you’d never know it from watching Channels 2, 4 or 7. (Don’t even get me started on 11.) The only way you see it on our news programs is if there is an L.A. tie-in (or better yet, a Hollywood star) involved. Lead stories invariably involve the weather — how nice it is, how it just might change a degree or two. One “top story” last November opened with a shot of a puddle in San Jose — the implication being that a “storm” might — just might — be headed our way.
3. Hollywood conversations. Try as you may to avoid these, it’s impossible to drown out the inventory of euphemisms and hollow pleasantries exchanged at bars, restaurants, gyms or over cell phones. One line, recently overheard about a TV actress, from a member of the show’s team: “She lost 50 pounds and looks fantastic. Before? She was less than perfect and great, but now she’s perfect and really great.”
4. Lake Avenue exit from the 210 freeway. Who needs Suicide Bridge when you have to cut across two heavily traveled lanes of merging traffic to reach downtown Pasadena? The only thing that could make this ill-designed rite of travel worse is one of those distracting electronic billboards with jingles encouraging us to wear seat belts.
5. Downtown. Some things just weren’t meant to be, and downtown Los Angeles is one of them. After years of pretending I was standing in a real city with significant buildings, I’ve given up and now admit that this barren Alphaville east of the Harbor Freeway is mostly populated by zombies and pigeon people, a “downtown” that’s usually impossible to navigate because of films being shot on its backlot streets.
6. Pedestrians. Forget the canard about Angelenos not knowing how to drive in the rain — people here can’t even handle the simple responsibilities of being pedestrians. Whether they are dawdlers who stand stupidly at crosswalks without pressing the walk button, the louts who love to talk in the middle of public doorways or the waddlers who lope into the middle of traffic only to stop dead still to answer cell phones, Angelenos just don’t know how to move on pavement. I’ve actually walked along a deserted sidewalk only to be bumped into by a lone pedestrian who must have seen me coming from a block away.
7. MTA ticket machines. The Treasury Department’s counterfeit currency division has nothing on the MTA, whose hyperpicky ticketing machines are programmed to reject any bill with the tiniest crease in it — especially during rush hour.
8. Vermont Avenue above Hollywood Boulevard. A once-socially diverse stretch of shops and restaurants has, over the past decade, turned into a hipster inferno where even sidewalk cafés offer attitude and valet parking. One of the few places left worth saving from a 9.0 earthquake is Mako, the delightful and delightfully cheap Japanese restaurant tucked between Skylight Books and the Los Feliz Theater. If and when these three landmarks go, you may as well paint the whole town’s curbs red.