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Here’s what you need to know before I begin this story. (A) I’d spent the week prior to all this camping out at an arts festival at which I’d inundated myself with an alphabet of drugs along with every color and composition of alcohol. The arts festival I attended is held in the desert some hundred miles from Reno, Nevada, and the mood of the festival encourages outrageous costumes; mine was a tablecloth cape and tighty red underpants. (B) I had a broken foot, and along with my tablecloth cape and tighty reddies I wore a black plastic boot, about twice the heft and size of a work boot, on my right foot.

So, it was in this part-medical, part-childish superhero outfit that I stepped from my airport ride, a yellow cab, returned to my beloved home of San Diego. Covered in dust from the desert and plagued by miniscule chrome butterflies zipping around in my vision, from the seven days of booze and chemicals I’d filtered through my face, I waved a thanks to the cab driver, who flipped me off, peeled out, belched a cloud of exhaust onto me and my suitcase, and yelled from her window, “Get a job, hippie!”

I clopped on my plasticized busted foot to my apartment door and dug through my suitcase and purse (yes, I’m a man, and yes, I was carrying a purse) for my keys, which I then remembered I had left 600 miles away on a camp table in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. Because I fit into the psychological-profile spectrum somewhere between “moron” and “idiot” — what my father calls “special” and what my childhood pastor called “touched” — and because I carry a bucket of crippling ADD around with me, six inches above my shoulders, it was in my broken-foot, starved, dehydrated, hallucinatory, hungover, keyless, locked-out, and idiotically dressed state that I thought, “I’ll bet I could go a month without driving my truck, and wouldn’t right now be a great time to start?!”

Since I’m crafty, I formulated a plan to get into my apartment. I had just smashed a narrow window next to my front door and attempted a cat-burglar-like ingress, when my lesbian neighbor stepped from her apartment and said, “Why’d you smash that window? I have your spare set of keys, dumbass.”

“Hand ’em over, sister.”

“Where are your pants?”

“Never mind that. Give me the keys.”

“Why are your eyes doing that spinning thing?”

“Are you going to get me those keys?”

Arguing with a druggie in underwear and cape rarely leads anywhere. My neighbor’s a smart lady. She collected my keys from her countertop and deposited them in my palm.

And that became my first task to complete without the aid of a motorcar: replace my set of house keys. Right after I taped cardboard across that busted window and put on a decent pair of shorts and a T-shirt emblazoned with a Space Invader, I hobbled on my big black plastic Broken Foot Boot of Doom up to where University Avenue and 36th Street meet.

I’m reminded of a story I read last year of how this is a “special” block of San Diego. There exists a zoning regulation that requires 1000-foot buffers between adult businesses and residential zones, churches, schools, public parks, and other adult businesses. In other words, you can’t erect (ahem) a nudie bookstore or nudie club next to a church, school, houses, a park, or, interestingly, another nudie bookstore or strip joint. That zoning regulation is wholly ignored at 36th and University. I take a seat at the bus stop. Behind me is a “gentlemen’s club,” to my right is an “adult book” store, across University Avenue and down to Wilson is a Pentecostal church, and I can hear kids squealing as they run to their nearby homes, having just let out of Edison Elementary School on 35th Street. Nowhere else is this permitted, and it’s only allowed here because the two buildings that house the naughty enterprises (bookstore and strip club) were grandfathered in before the zoning requirements (Chapter 14, Article 1, Division 6 from sandiego.gov, Municipal Code section). Oh, yes, we’re quite lucky to have this “special” corner down here in the border town between North Park and City Heights.

Soon, the Number 7 bus zoomed me and several drunk derelicts away — the chorus of their coughs and loud beer belches sounding not unlike “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” glory, glory, hallelujah indeed. Crossing over the 805 freeway, I peered out the front window to check the gas prices of three stations we passed. The lowest price for a gallon of regular was $3.59, the highest price per gallon — a flavor of gas called Super Wham-o-dyne, now with Advancenol!, or something like that — was $3.84. With my tongue sticking out, a borrowed pencil, and an old receipt, I figured my commuting costs for a month.

Lucille the Wondertruck, a tired 1995 Ford Ranger, can get down the road at a fuel rate of about 18 miles per gallon. Because in my youth I enjoyed the combination of ketamine and martinis coupled with long Sunday drives and subsequently banged into a variety of objects that claims adjusters frowned upon, insurance on Lucille the Wondertruck costs me $50 per month. Let’s say registration, taxes, and maintenance (the ol’ girl’s definitely in her declining years) costs another $40 per month. With my California Public Education mathematic skills, I figured out that commuting just 5 miles round-trip each day for work, 20 days of work per month, would run me roughly $350,000 American, give or take, depending on the price of the peso. I showed my jottings to the college kid next to me, who called me a dummy (damn you, California Board of Education), and he said that the real cost of commuting, given the figures I’d written down, would be $109.95 monthly. And that’s 5 miles round-trip, just 2.5 miles each way. Double the distance of the commute to 10 miles, from about North Park to Horton Plaza and back (not a long way), cost of commuting jumps to $130 per month. And that’s just between work and home, not counting trips to the liquor store, taxidermist, or wig shop.

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hogfat March 6, 2009 @ 11:55 a.m.

My wife and I bought the monthly passes after fuel costs hit the ceiling. It worked where we saved more on vehicle wear and tear, then monthly cost for fuel.

As to the article, it was full of foul and bad language, gave great details about being an alcoholic and druggie, smacked of the "Hillcrest Homo" clan and was produced and supported by the Metropolitan Transit System; which Ollie rode the roof of a bus to stardom.

All these things for our young and impressionable.

We quit riding when MTS raised rates and shook our heads in dismay, when it was contradictory to why mass transit was pushed, in the first place.


Torasan March 6, 2009 @ 11:30 p.m.

This articled showed that there is a lot to be said and written about public transit and those who ride it in San Diego. However, the article also showed that the author should not have been the one to write about it.


MsGrant March 4, 2009 @ 3:51 p.m.

My husband was the trolley profile along with the chief of police in the January 2000 trolley magazine. All four pages of it. I was in the pictures along with my in-laws riding to the stadium. There was a great picture of my husband getting on the bus to the trolley station. It was to show people that riding the bus was not just for "degenerates". It also saved us $200.00 a month in downtown parking fees. But it did take a long time, which he passed reading the paper. By the way, VERY nice to see you back in the Reader, you funny fellow, you.


clockerbob March 9, 2009 @ 10:37 a.m.

On the cold winter morning of Monday March 8th while watching ESPN'S sportscenter a TV ad for San Diego's transit system MTS aired. Later while sitting on a milk crate at my bus stop, I was thinking, that MTS's tv ad money hasn't increased transit usage (fuel prices do) but has been used to silence San Diego's TV and print media about the abuses in funding that people who ride transit suffer under. The main abuse being that

San Diego's MTS and Sandag and North Counties NCTD should merge.

I congratulate the "San Diego Reader" for broaching the subject.


Fred Williams March 4, 2009 @ 4:35 p.m.

What amazes me about MTS, with it's massive budgets, is that they don't get the basics right.

Go to an average stop to catch a bus and you'll obviously ask four basic questions:

  1. Where does the bus go?
  2. When does it come to this stop?
  3. How much does it cost?
  4. How long does it take?

Good luck finding this information. Instead, at the vast majority of the stops all you'll see is the number of the bus.

-- No indication of where it goes. -- No clue about how long you should wait for it to arrive. -- No price. -- No idea about how long it will take to get somewhere else, or how it connects to other buses or the trolley.

After a bus arrives (you still don't know where it's going) you can get a schedule ON THE BUS after you pay your fare (exact fare only, no change).

In other words, the MTS gets a lot of things right. The drivers are courteous and professional, the buses are mostly clean and safe, and some of the routes make good sense.

But it gets the most basic things wrong.

Why would anyone board any vehicle when there's no way to know where it's going or how long it will take?

If you don't have someone to show you the system when you first start out, you'll struggle. There's no chance of people giving the bus a try when it's got this kind of entry barrier.

While the online system is welcome, it's not much use if you're waiting for a bus at a typical stop with no other information than a bus number.

Another reform the MTS could easily make is allowing the purchase of tickets through mobile phones. These simple and popular systems have been working in Europe and Asia for years now. Compared to the STILL NOT WORKING Compass system they've wasted tens of millions on, buying tickets through a text message actually works, and doesn't require everyone to sign up for another ID card.

For all the money we spend, we're sure not getting the transit system we deserve. If they'd at least fix the simple things, like giving passengers basic route information at every stop, and providing modern payment options, they'd do a great deal to improve the situation.


michellepatton March 6, 2009 @ 5:02 a.m.

Thank you for this wonderful article! Really enjoyed it. Hope to read more from you- you are too funny.


singsing March 8, 2009 @ 7:16 p.m.

What was this article about?? As far as I could tell, it was about 15 pages worth of NOTHING. The author took a topic that was worthy of real exploration and wasted it by making banal jokes. Why not actually discuss why San Diego's public transportation system is so terrible, explore ways this could be changed, or offer alternatives? How can any story on alternative transportation not include bicycling, especially in San Diego which has the most optimal weather? I think you miss the point of reporting when your cover story contains phrases like "bum curdling goat's milk in his belly button." Come on, man. That's pretty lame.


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