Roger writing the LAWmag
06
Nov 2010

L.A. Law: A Lawyer's Survival Guide to Los Angeles

First impressions were good. The airplane was taxiing to the LAX terminal and a huge plastic bag flew out in the path of our Air Canada bird. Great, I thought, trash already. But then, there it was: an airport security police car chasing the bag and cornering it and the driver jumping out, without drawing guns, bringing it to the ground hard.

And then I did a double-take when my taxi drove past a pharmacy called RiteAid.

There it was - I could not believe it - the pharmacy also sold "liquor".

A few days later, I went inside and there it was. Right next to the pharmaceutical products was a row of hard liquor and even refrigerators displays with cold beer inside.

The Vagabond Inn on Vine Street in Hollywood, by Canadian standards, was a 2 star.

Yesterday, the cleaning lady left my window open exposing my luggage to Los Angeles, corner of Vine and Santa Monica. Sounds movie-like? Well, I hate to sound like a Twilight fan but when the sun goes down in this part of LA, you get inside asap. Homeless are sleeping everywhere but the greatest concern is the small gang that approaches and swarms you quickly, exuding charisma and jocularity (if not intimidation) as one distracts as the other goes in for the grab.

Rite Aid and liquorThe hotel receptionist's hair was shining from gel and sharply combed back, a style all LA Hispanic men seem to prefer. He said: "Well, you have a screen don't you?"

"Dude, it's LA. If anything had of been stolen, you'd of been responsible!"

"No sir. It's all here in the contract. We're not responsible for theft."

"Management will not be responsible for accidents or injury to guests or for loss of money, jewelry or valuables on any kind."

"Fine, I'm out of here. I'm checking out early. Goin' to Redondo Beach. Can I have my last night reimbursed?"

"No sir. It's all here in the contract. We're don't do refunds."

I was also struck with the sidewalks in Los Angeles. They are a hazard, broken up everywhere, just like in Mexico. This must be a real concern for those who are physically disabled. There hasn't been a big earthquake in LA since 1994 yet whole slabs are folded up. Even the Michael Landon Hollywood star of fame is cracked in half.

Michael Langdon Hollywood walk of fame starI had to help one very old Hispanic lady as she navigated one climb teetering on collapse and waving her cane while mumbling something in Spanish about her knee, I think.

The City of Los Angeles must have a good liability practice group; either that or a very wealthy - or very ignorant - insurer.

The law library at Southwestern University Law School is gorgeous. I got a Visitor's pass based on my University of Victoria alumni card. Unbeknownst to me, the security guard had taken it to be an SWLaw alumni card even though the words University of Victoria figure prominently.

When I get to the front desk I ask a very grouchy looking clerk if I can have a wireless pass.

"Who are you? What for? You're not allowed in here."

Alrighty then.

She continued: "Only students and alumni are allowed in here."

Zero customer service; what a louch. I should of got her name for the record. And what about my Miranda warning?

As any good lawyer would do, I figured I'd go over her head.

"Can I speak to the librarian?", I asked.

She fingered to a corner office. No smile but a cold look of "get out of my space"?

alumni cardI knocked on the door of a 50-something librarian. It was 11 AM and there was the LA Times strewn out over her desk with bits of her lunch here and there. She was well dressed and was wearing stylish eyeglasses.

Nice job.

She gave me that unmistakable trespass look, with a thin veneer of civility as Justice Harvey Groberman of the British Columbia Court of Appeal would say. She never missed a beat with her lunch as she said that even local lawyers can't get in without paying a fee.

What?!

Outside the building, I walk by a huge sign that trumpets USW Law's community outreach efforts.

Uh-huh.

Right.

Next stop: University of Southern California, Gould Law School. Typical nutty Canadian lawyer, I actually walked there, 12 kilometres (8 miles) from the Vagabond. I think the Apple logo on my Macbook is forever imprinted into my back after that hike, all facing the sun in 100 degree weather down Vermont. My forehead was as red as a lobster.

USC: now there's a law school! The reception was fabulous.

Access: no problem.

Wireless: here's the code.

Pictures of law reports: no problem.

And what a campus, a far cry from the Fort Knox feel to USW Law.sagging

"Watch out for LA," one friend had earned me explaining that his sister-in-lw had been held up when her family had stopped the car to deal with a throwing-up child. I, too, had been mugged in New York City in 1983 so I had some street smarts.

But LA is a beautiful place with an eclectic mix of white Hollywood-wannabees, African-Americans and hispanics. Taxi drivers tend to be Russians.

The young males, white and African-American,  wear their pants down so that the top edge is at the bottom of the buttocks. I'm told the style is called "sagging". Style or no style, there has to be a better expression of culture available.

Hollywood is not all the glamour it is made out to be. It's a collection of bland warehouse buildings which, if ornate at all, are only so on the outside. As you drive by in Hollywood, the effect of so many warehouses with little "production" signs is bewildering.

Seven miles away, there's a stretch West of Union Station, behind City Hall but below the Disney Concert Hall, where there's a plethora of court houses. I'm not sure if they separate their courts by federal and state jurisdiction but that would explain two courthouse: not the ten that there are. There are courthouse for specified jurisdictions as well: Superior Court, Metropolitan Court, bankruptcy courthouse, juvenile courthouse, family courthouse ....

But the hi-light of the trip, as it would have to be for any real, genuine Canadian lawyer loose in a large American city, was to watch the LA Kings play from front row seats that only cost $81. The beer was double the size of a Canadian pint and cost $11.

There is a low but constant chatter at the Denny's Restaurant on Sunset Boulevard as I ready myself for the LA Metro ride to Long Beach. The wheels on my wife's luggage will take a beating as I snap over bump after bump on the sidewalk. But as I get there, I have no fear of getting mugged or knifed.

The law - peace and order - is alive and well in LA.

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