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Walking in LA in the 1980s


When I lived in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles in the 1980s, there was a popular song "Nobody Walks in LA", and it really was true. Because if you listen to the lyrics of the song, it says "only a nobody walks in LA". And I was a nobody. Walking there was awful.

I can only hope that things have gotten better, because Los Angeles, California is a wonderful place to walk. The sun shines, it hardly ever rains, and overall it's just gorgeous weather. Where I lived, in Canoga Park, which is on the western end of the San Fernando Valley, the weather there is pretty much the same as in Calabasas, where some of the wealthiest people in the country live.

I've always liked to walk - I call it "urban hiking". Usually I'll have some small reason for it, walking to the store to buy a Coke is my favorite, but mostly it's about just strolling along, looking at stuff. Of course you have to realize that real estate is valuable in California, and it's mostly dedicated to buildings and cars. People can walk there, but that space is an afterthought. I've always been pretty athletic, so dodging around obstacles I just took as part of the experience. But I remember seeing people who were just trying to walk, maybe elderly people, and it made me sad. Like me, these people were nobodies, because they were walking.

My job was only a couple of miles away from my apartment, and one day my car wouldn't start, and I walked. I hadn't intended to walk the whole way, I figured that a bus would go by (I lived on a major street - Saticoy), but it never did. The feeling of walking along the sidewalk of a major street there felt like walking along the edge of a freeway. Even for me, it wasn't pleasant. I know that I walked for at least an hour, and never saw a bus, never saw one go by, in either direction. And this was a major street, on a workday. I really had never considered that nobody walks in LA, and there was no bus service, either.

When I go back to Los Angeles I see that the streets are still mostly empty of people walking, although the public transportation system has improved. Even the more upscale neighborhoods don't have accommodations for pedestrians, just a curb and a driveway. The design is for cars, not people walking. And that makes people suspicious of anyone who's on foot. I'm a pretty respectable-looking guy, but I can tell that there have been eyes on me, wondering why I'm walking, in LA!

Thank you for walking in LA with me!

Image at the top of this post: Me walking in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles in 1987.

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