Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Gas Tank Made Me Do It

On Friday, June 13th I went to fill up my Honda Accord and the price was $4.75 a gallon for regular. I live in a distant suburb of Greater Los Angeles. Actually it’s a pinkie toe into Ventura County, the Conejo Valley. I have to drive 2 miles for a carton of milk. When my parents moved us to LA 45 years ago, gas was about 25¢ a gallon. Clearly I have to change how I live because in the ensuing years LA hasn’t gotten any smaller. If anything, we’ve sprawled out even more.

To Live Local will be about how I find and build community closer to home. The lure of living in SoCal has always been that you’re only a few hours from anywhere by car – the beach, the mountains, the desert, the entertainment centers. If you wanted an authentic ethnic dinner at a restaurant an hour’s drive away, you just jumped in the car without thinking.

Nowadays more of us are thinking twice before embarking on long drives for a casual night on the town. If necessity is the mother of invention, we’re all going to have to get pregnant and give birth to an answer to the energy problem pretty quickly before the economy goes even further into the gas tank. Not that I’m panicking yet, but LA by foot is a scary thought.

So this blog will be my journey to learn and care about the place I’ve called home for all these years, to finally become ‘native to my place’. But ‘my place’ can be the home office I work in for 8 hours a day or the world that I live in 24/7. So depending on what I’m hoping to learn or accomplish, I’ll define place as the neighborhood, the city, the valley, the county, Southern California, the Golden State, the US of A or the earth.

What are some of the things I hope to learn or incorporate into my new local life?

o Can I eat locally, recycle consistently, cut back on electricity and water usage, plant a garden and build a compost pile?

o Can I read locally, listen locally and attend local theatre performances, music concerts and art museums?

o Can I attend a local city council meeting and find out what the issues are?

o Can I get beyond big box stores and explore ethnic markets and neighborhood merchants?

o Can I find green businesses to frequent?

o Can I find a farmers market?

If I can’t forgo shopping at chains, how can I personalize them and build a neighborhood for myself when said ‘hood has to stretch for at least 20 miles in all directions if I want to get most of my needs and those of my family met.

According to the charter for the Congress for the New Urbanism, a neighborhood should be a ¼ mile from center to edge and it should take 5 min to walk there. Each neighborhood should have stores, houses of worship, homes, workplaces, schools and recreational areas. And they should be able to walk to a transit stop.

Looks like this California Girl has a long journey ahead of her. But first, can someone please define ‘transit stop’?

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