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Bus number four

Note: I’m a columnist for the Reader Weekly, an alt-weekly newspaper in Duluth, MN. Every Tuesday I post a new column.

The number four isn’t a good bus. The seats are covered with graffiti, the drivers are rude, and the people who ride the bus are a little crazy. Number four travels the entire length of Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles, transporting some of the oddest freaks the city has to offer.

“I once saw a homeless woman pee on that bus,” said my co-worker Ron, quite proud of his story. “Yup. She sat down in the back, dropped her pants, and peed right on the floor. I had never seen that before.” Ron has also seen a homeless man poop on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. “But that’s a different story,” he said.

Number four begins its route far to the east, in the Silverlake neighborhood. Beck and the Red Hot Chili Peppers used to live in this artistic urban neighborhood. Nowadays, more generic hipsters and burnouts ride the bus here, but not this early in the morning. Hippies and druggies tend not to get up before 10am, so the bus is empty during the morning rush hour. This is the only quiet part of the commute.

Driving west to the next neighborhood, things get a little weirder. The eastern edge of Hollywood is where immigrants and transsexuals reside. It’s a low-rent neighborhood, which attracts the immigrants, but it’s also a sleazy neighborhood, which attracts the trannies. Most of the trannies are extremely tall black men, which doesn’t make them very convincing as women. If you’ve never seen a Mike Tyson look-alike boarding a bus in a sun dress, I’d highly recommend it.

The number four bus’ route gets even grittier as it pushes to the center of Hollywood. The streets are filled with trash, homeless people abound, and the entire area looks like it’s been hit with a bomb full of urine. Surprisingly, this rotten-looking area is full of trendy people: Socialites in expensive outfits, art students with indie rock cred and brightly-dyed hair, and a few old timers who never recovered from the Sunset Strip’s heavy metal heyday in the 1980s. Welcome to the club scene.

At 8am, the people from all these cliques are hungover. Don’t scoff. You would be too if you lived at the corner of Hollywood and Vine. Falling on the sidewalk is not just contagious in this area, it’s almost a bit of a mating call. I find it charming that homeless people wearing rags and trendy kids wearing Prada can share a few mutual vomits, if only for a few moments.

The landscape turns upscale as the number four rumbles into West Hollywood. This is a gay neighborhood, and I’m not mocking when I say everything is ridiculously gay. The street signs are a pretty blue color, many stores have rainbow flags and banners in their windows, the sidewalks are absolutely spotless, and everything is very tidy and well designed. They have bike lanes, for God’s sake. Trendy bastards!

I once heard someone refer to West Hollywood as “WeHo”, so I started calling it that as well. A gay friend of mine heard me use the phrase and got a tear in his eye. “Aww, that’s cute,” he said. “You’ve learned gay speak.” He was less enthused when I referred to the neighborhood as “GayHo”.

Nearing the end of its route, bus number four limps through the heavy congestion into Beverly Hills. The traffic here is a sea of BMWs and Mercedes’. Occasionally you’ll see a Porsche or Aston Martin. Last week I saw two Lamborghinis. Oddly enough, you become immune to it. A cherry red Lamborghini doesn’t even cause me to put down the book I’m reading anymore. Not unless it runs over a jogger.

By this time, the only riders left on bus number four are middle-aged Hispanic women. In fact, the bus is packed full of them. They work as housekeepers and nannies for the rich people in the area. In all my time riding the bus, I’ve never seen an actual resident of Beverly Hills use it.

The number four is filthy, broken down, and completely unreliable, but it’s great because it’s like a zoo for people watchers. If you’re lucky, on any given night you might see a cokehead jittering in his seat as if he were having a seizure. You might see a tranny who looks strikingly like NBA star Kevin Garnett. You might meet the guy who cleans up Paris Hilton’s dog’s poop. Or you might see nothing much at all. It all depends on your luck.

Either way, you’ll learn a lot more about a city (and leave much more fascinated) by riding bus number four than you will by visiting Disneyland. The real parts of a city and the real residents are always the best attractions in town.

 No Responses to “Bus number four”

  1. Yvette says:

    Sure, it’s interesting but you’ve got to fear for your life!

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