LA Metro

By Levi Clancy for לוי on
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Reflections, 2012

The Red and Purple Line both begin at Union Station and share their first five stations, those in downtown Los Angeles. They diverge at Wilshire / Vermont Station.

The Purple Line is sometimes a bit less crowded, as it ends shortly after the lines diverge. But the Red line keeps going far through mid-city, Hollywood and on to the Valley. In downtown, the distinction between the two lines is irrelevant to most passengers: those headed to 7th Street Metro Center catch the Blue Line home to South LA; tourists criss-cross downtown, going one or two stops; middle and high school students, usually three or four middle and high school students, usually three or four in a loud, laughing, clique, pass cell phones back and forth.

En route to Union Station, the sunburnt, immigrant men have started daydreaming, maybe even fallen asleep, by this time. When they appear, rarely, musicians prefer the Red and Purple Lines' shared stretch. There is a young accordionist with a woman and toddler who solicit donations. There is a man with his three sons, the oldest about sixteen, the youngest about ten, who rivetingly sing and play guitar; but they rarely appeared past mid-2011.

Differences between the Red and Purple Line become apparent after the massive transfer of passengers at 7th Street / Metro Center.

Folks take the Blue Line to and from poor, hard cities in southern Los Angeles. The Red and Purple Lines diverge at Wilshire / Vermont Station, where downtown ends and Koreatown begins. This is also a station of many transfers: people switching between the Red and Purple, having realized they boarded the wrong train but waiting until the last minute to enjoy their comfortable seats a little longer; and, especially during rush hour, the mob to go catch the 720 bus down Wilshire (by Western, it is impossible to get a seat). The Purple Line fizzles out as it terminates two stations later in the core of Koreatown. It is thus preferred by elderly Asian ladies. On the other hand, the Red Line veers north as an artery through distinct districts, each with its own beating heart and personality.

There are Latina women headed to Beverly, Santa Monica, Sunset and Hollywood: illustrious, famous streets that this far east retain none of their glory. Outside these stations, streets are gritty, graffitied and littered with ads for cheap call rates and money transfers. But among these tired local women are starry-eyed tourists en route to glitzy Hollywood at Vine and at Highland. Thickly accented, camera-strapped families; organized groups of Asian youth; a family speaking Arabic, the eldest mother in full hijab and the youngest girl barely scarfed. It is in Hollywood that youth, or not-so-youth, emerge with archetypal punk clothes and glazed eyes. Between Hollywood and Universal City is a long, long corridor. The train is emptier now, mostly tourists and those taking the Orange Line; and the Red Line ends at North Hollywood, a hub for faraway commutes.

Hollywood and Vine Station

Tough people that even a shiny new W can't displace from their bus route. Standing, loitering, young and middle-aged African men and older Latina women clustering into their respective small groups, chatting because they share something in common -- recognized by their clothes, their posture, a uniform of their place in society. Nearby, Hollywood and Highland station serves the high(low?)lights of Hollywood tourism: Madame Tussaud's, Grauman's, Disney. In the morning and afternoon is a peak of Asians each a suitcase (or perhaps two suitcases if they are returning home) -- "我々は、ハリウッドに滞在!"