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The BoomerPdx Transportation Award Goes To…


A wilderness area sits behind the house with the San Gabriel Mountains near by.

Ask a New York City native how they get around without a car and they’ll say they know at least three ways to get where they need to go without hailing a cab.

1. Walk.

2. Bus.

3. Subway.

When a New Yorker talks about the subway they make it sounds like they did their share of digging when it was built.

Between the local trains, the express, and the transfers, the subway map is ingrained in their DNA.

Does the same condition exist in native Los Angelenos and their freeway system?

The short answer is yes. Southern California natives can rattle off every freeway they’ll travel if you give them a start and finish spot.

Where the New York subway asks you to drop a token, or use a MetroCard, the LA freeway asks for more.

Instead of boarding a train then stepping off, you need a car in LA. Make that a car with gas, insurance, tires, a license, the works.

Drop a tanned Californian in Manhattan and they’d catch on right away. Do the same to a pasty New Yorker in LA and they’d be lost until the day they leave.

Making it to a destination in LA is an adventure, one that includes wildlife beyond all expectations.

I moved to NYC during a garbage strike. They piled black trash bags a story high on wide sidewalks. The noise I heard walking by, the rustling around, showed itself in the form of rats. Big, big, rats.

Besides the dogs and horses, rats were the only animals I saw. If people had cats and birds, they kept them inside. Whatever used to roam Manhattan was long gone.

Not so much in California.

After a recent trip, got home last night, I saw more wildlife and domestic animals than I remember seeing on my Grandma’s country farm in Washington. Oregon is a big state with plenty of critters too, but they live ‘out there’ for the most part.

A short hop off a subway brings nothing like a short hop off a freeway. No New Yorker worries about their dog being bitten by a snake not once, not twice, but three times.

No urbanite will walk out their door to see a momma deer stomping their dog to protect their fawns.

If you live near Central Park you won’t find the same bear and cubs in your garage as people living next to wilderness areas a short hop off the freeway.

While our group sat in a classically designed outdoor patio one night relaxing and talking about the neighborhood, the conversation took a turn. Vicki told about the bears she saw cruising the ridge line behind her house.

“When we see a bear we grab the dog and get inside the house. If the dog barks, the bear could get here fast.”

I measured the distance to the ridge line visually. It was close. I mentally catalogued the patio weaponry in case a bear did show up. Human shield? Then I noted the condition of my companions. They could all probably outrun me.

Oh no.

The day after our visit something happened. From WR the next door neighbor:

“Horrible guttural Big growling/snarling. Leap up, hit the floodlights. Cougar attacking a little bear cub outside my back door, rolling it up against the cliff base. BOOM, less then a second, big mom bear crosses 25-30 feet and knocks that big cat 10 feet and goes after that cougar with everything she’s got. Baby near is mowed down and bowled over, cowers at the base of a tree. Another BOOM – a HUGE bear plows into mom and the cougar battle, mom grabs her cub by the neck and Zooms up to the pad to the west, and Mr. HUGE rips the cougar to bits. Cougar is up the cliff heading north in two seconds flat. I had NO idea any male bear gave a toss about females and their cubs. Holy COW.” 

The evening we were talking outside, Peanut the snake bit dog ran wild in circles, something he’s never done. He probably got a whiff of the cougar and started warming up to race us all to the house.

The next time you hear a comparison between NYC and LA, keep the animals in mind. Wild life might mean a great party, but it could mean what’s for dinner.

In LA you’re included on the menu, and it’s part of the excitement.


The view twenty minutes off the freeway. See any deer?





About David Gillaspie
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