the ghetto blue

megs pointed me to a feature in the recent la weekly about the metro blue line - known to it's riders as "the ghetto blue".

The Ghetto Blue is also a moving swap meet, where passengers hustle to sell watches, pairs of white cotton socks, incense, Kool cigarettes, lotions, batteries, tapes, CDs and chocolates. "What you want? What you need?" Bus tokens, which come in bags of 10 for $11, become a form of currency here, like food stamps. People peddle them for a small cash profit. "Tokens?" one woman asks anyone on the train within earshot. A couple of Mexican youths rush over and pull out bags of them. The transaction goes down like a drug deal, both participants looking over their shoulders for authorities as they quickly exchange the goods. It's a scene reminiscent of Alvarado and Wilshire near MacArthur Park, where Salvadoran homeboys issue fake IDs, birth certificates and micas (green cards) to drive-by customers.

i ride the ghetto blue about two to four times a month between rosa parks and the 7th street metro center while going out to visit my girlfriend in the valley. it's an unforgiving stretch of track that could chew up and spit out someone at a moment's notice. it's a horrible place to be - espically if you're the only white boy on the train and you're carting around your laptop bag.

in the time i've been riding it i've seen people pulled off of trains and given beatings for not giving up their discman. i've seen homeless people use a beat up acoustic guitar to busk for change while traveling from car to car. i've been offered pirate copies of "kill bill" and "the hulk" on dvd. i've seen a sixty year old wino down a whole fifth of generic vodka in the time it took the train to travel five stops. i've seen a lady passed out in the corner of a train car covered in her own vomit and urine.

i could probably fill a book full of the things i've seen in the time i've been riding the blue line. most of the stories would seem absurd unless you were witness to them. an urban tall tale, spun by a wide eyed kid from suburbia.

"there's a man to my left / who's got a stump for a hand / i'm staring into a giant cyst / growing on the face of a chinese man" s.n.f.u., "reality is a ride on the bus"

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