THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Former Music Capital of the World

I love the after-work jazz series at the LA County Museum of Art on Friday nights beginning in the spring, but I haven't been there in years. I can't get there from here, here being the remote realm of the Westside. Okay, I could, but it would take idling well over an hour along the SM Freeway. As we all know, you can't drive east of the San Diego Freeway after 4 p.m. on any weekday, when every eastbound thoroughfare -- including Olympic, Santa Monica Blvd., Wilshire, Pico, Venice -- is a parking lot.

There are plenty of music and cultural events I'd like to attend, except for the one small matter of being able to get there before the next millennium. One of the effects of gridlock that never comes to mind for our city nonplanners is the toll it takes on the arts and cultural events. Music venues used to be plentiful in our former capital of the music world, but they've been going the way of the dodo for years. How many music or cultural events have you passed on because of the traffic? What clubs, galleries, or museums would you go to more often if it wasn't for the traffic? How is it possible for any venues to survive in this town when business is shut out by the laws of gridlock? According to Building LA's Future, a group advocating for transit sense, the congestion on our roads costs local business and residents $10.7 billion a year.

I got a glimpse last month of how it could be in Rio de Janeiro, where I feasted on an exciting music scene that made LA look like Hemet. A city with crime problems, traffic and fiscal challenges, Rio had nonetheless put together a very efficient transit system. I rode a super clean and safe subway system night after night to great venues around town and to a host of bustling samba clubs in the city's revived Lapa district. There was more going on musically in a six-block square area than there is in most of LA on a weekday night.

Back in deadsville, it's not a pretty sight. The Jazz Bakery still homeless. The Temple Bar in Santa Monica gone. I can't help but feel that we'd have a lot more great art to experience in this city if the brave souls that run clubs and produce events didn't have to operate with one hand tied behind their backs, thanks to the gridlock handicap.