The Out of Towner

In the movie, “The Out of Towners” Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis play a hapless couple from small town Ohio who come to New York City only to encounter every nightmarish cliche possible about the effects of big cities on ordinary people.

I’m sure our own fair city has had a similar effect on visitors every once in a while.

But it ain’t necessarily so.

The New York Times writer Seth Kugel, who writes the “Frugal Traveler” column for that paper recently came here with the goal of only spending $100.00 a day. He succeeded in grand style because he rode a bike and used public transportation, two things not normally associated with this City, especially for tourists.

But it got me to thinking about why I had to have a guy from New York City (New York City!!??!!) tell me about how to get around my own town. But I did.

He managed to get from his hostel in Santa Monica (okay, he’s a bit of a wimp, but people from out of town think that the beach is our main attraction) to downtown, the Huntington Gardens and even a UCLA game at the Rose Bowl all without having to rent a car or worry about parking.

Much as I am amused by tourists wandering about in states of increasing hysteria as they try to navigate a trip from Hollywood to Venice and find a place to park the rental, they really aren’t here just to keep me laughing and, more to the point, they are actually using one of the least effective ways of getting around.

Sure, the bus can be a hassle, but if you’re looking to hit major attractions, between that and the train, it’s a better way to go than sending Aunt Nettie from Iowa off to Hollywood and Highland in a car.

I had to discover the joys of public transportation in other cities before I began using it here. I used to travel to Boston a couple of times a year to go to school. (This was in the nineties and is an adventure in late-in-life education that won’t be covered here.) I’d get out of Logan Airport and spend twenty bucks or so to get a cab into downtown.

Then I discovered the train. Turns out you can walk out of Logan and onto a commuter train to downtown faster than a cab can get you there, not to mention cheaper.

On trips to New York I now look forward to grabbing the train down to the Port Authority from JFK and that saves fifty bucks in cab fare.

I have friends who were recently in Manhattan taking cabs every where they went. It was great for seeing things as they toured the town but when they discovered the subway, it was like magic. You just get on and go, then, suddenly you’re just where you want it to be.

I had this conversation with my friends as I was introducing them to the Gold Line. They were thrilled with the trip to East LA, a new world for them, greatly impressed by the speed and efficiency of the trip and thrilled to pieces with the senior fare on our own commuter train ($1.80 f0r a day pass).

Mr. Hugel’s charming article can be found here: http://travel.nytimes.com/2010/11/14/travel/14losangeles.html?hpw

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