D.J. Waldie speaks to a full gallery in Santa Monica

They say nobody walks in L.A., but at least a galleryful of Angelenos would like to walk in L.A. — enough to spend their Wednesday evening listening to a couple panels about the topic. Car-free and car-free curious Angelenos packed the 18th Street Arts Center last night to talk about living and moving in L.A., sans car.

Those panels were organized in conjunction with Diane Meyer’s photo exhibit, Without a Car in the World: 100 Car-less Angelinos Tell Stories of Living in Los Angeles). And the “Walking in L.A.” panel — featuring Holy Land author D.J. Waldie and a number of L.A.-area professors — showed that walking’s actually quite the hot topic and subject of study here.

In fact, Nigel Raab, a history professor at Loyola Marymount University, went so far as to walk 70+ miles over 4 days — all the way to San Bernardino — to discover Los Angeles! Herbert Medina, a math professor at LMU, has put together a series of walking excursions from the university to various spots in the city. UCLA professor of urban planning Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris talked about her work studying the politics behind sidewalks, and LMU art history professor Damon Willick examined the historical iconography of L.A. from both a driver’s and walker’s perspective.

D.J. Waldie closed the panel by urging people to locate themselves in the city without having their experience of space mediated by the automobile:

I would also urge you to wander in the city and wander in your neighborhood. I would urge you to become an expert flaneur. I would urge you to acquire not only pedestrianism as a vice but flaneurie as a vice as well — the ability to walk into your community and expect something to occur to you as you found your way to some undiscovered part of your neighborhood.
Before the “Walking in L.A.” panel was the “How to Live Car Free or Car Light” panel — which I was on along with Chris Balish, author of How to Live Well Without Owning a Car, and Paula Hess, real estate magazine editor. I felt a bit weird being on the panel because I’ve reacquired a car — but really enjoyed hearing from Paula, who lives car-free in Koreatown with two kids, and Chris, who’s not only car-free now as a Santa Monica resident, but also lived car-free in St. Louis before he moved to SoCal a few years back.

And thanks to Santa Monica Urban Forest Task Force member Linda Piera-Avila, who was at the event, I discovered that I’m on the cover of last week’s Santa Monica Mirror. The weekly zine chose my portrait to go with its story on Diane Meyer’s exhibit!

Siel on the cover of Santa Monica Mirror

If you're in L.A., don’t miss the next two exhibit-related talks. Be there on Sat., Nov. 14 at 2 pm for a panel on Transportation Alternatives and the Future of Los Angeles, then come back on Wed., Dec. 2 at 7 pm to see a Comedy Slideshow by Kristina Wong. Both events happen at the 18th Street Arts Center, 1639 18th St., Santa Monica, where you can also see the Without a Car in the World exhibit until Dec. 11, 2009.

And if you’re ready to hit the streets, put The Great Los Angeles Walk — happening Sat., Nov. 21 — in your calendar. The annual walk put together by Franklin Avenue gets Angelenos together to experience walking down one major street in L.A. — though this year, we’re doing two streets, Adams and Washington. Last year, I only walked the tail end of Santa Monica Blvd. — but plan to walk the whole walk this year!

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