Streetsblog Interview: Browne Molyneaux
When I first stumbled on the Bus Bench it was during their “Dead Escalator Series” where Randall “Bus Tard” Fleming basically took pictures of all the escalators around Metro sites that didn’t work. The Bus Bench became a regular read for me because it provided an alternative viewpoint of the Livable Streets movement because, to be frank, so much of the blogosphere that write about transportation issues tend to be white males.
Browne Molyneaux has become a recognized voice for change around the Los Angeles transportation community. Not wanting the Bus Bench to get pinholed, she recruited new occasional writers Simon Ganz, Art Gonzo, and Sirinya Tritipeskul…And it’s paid off. The Bus Bench now appears on the “unofficial” transportation headlines blog, is a member of Streetsblog.net, and is recognized as a clear voice for change around LA.
Streetsblog caught up with Browne to do an e-mail interview to discuss her Murder Your Car Art Project, the Bus Bench and whatever else came to mind.
Streetsblog: Ok, so the title doesn’t leave a lot to the imagination for what your theme is…but what will the final project actually look like?
Browne: The Project hopefully will be me destroying someone’s car on stage, but to me the project is bigger than just that. To me my anti-car stance and I say anti and not pro alternative transportation, because I want it to be known that I’m firmly anti-consumer driven lifestyle. I know in some parts of the city a car is truly a necessity, but in Hollywood, Santa Monica and donwntown if you are child free you don’t need one. I want to challenge that person to get rid of the biggest chain of consumerism in LA: The car. There is no way that public transit is going to get better until that person decides they don’t need to spend their disposable income on a car. I would also be willing to destroy people’s brand name clothing, shoes and credit cards if that’s something people would be up for. Bring the literal item of anything that is making you a consumer junkie and I will happily destroy it for you and send you a wave file or mov. file of you freeing yourself from whatever your consumer addiction is.
It’s going to be a party. A celebration of anti-consumerism. The car will simply be a symbol. I may have to create a symbolic car if I can’t get any volunteers. I put a listing on craigslist. We will see how it goes. It’s all about the process.
(editor’s note, anyone looking to donate a car for the show can get instructions here.)
Streetsblog: What happened to your last car? Is there any cool story to your car-free conversion? Did you beat it to death on stage with a sledge hammer?
Browne: There are no cool stories (that are true) about the end of my driving days unfortunately most of the car free advocates in Los Angeles are not as creative as me, so there wasn’t anyone innovative enough to come up with the idea of blowing up people’s cars (well getting people to volunteer to have their car blown up) to end the car culture, which is really strange this being the movie making capital of the world. I know I’ve seen lots of movies with scenes of cars being destroyed. I would have liked to have my car blown up. That would have been fun, but what I did instead was sell it for way more than it was worth and took six months off from working to write a book of poetry. A violent book of poetry.
Streetsblog: Going back a second to the art, are there any other details from the The Loft Gallery’s Post-Post Apocalypse show in January that you can share that we might find interesting?
Browne: The show is ongoing. It is a group collaboration.Marshall Astor and Edith Abeyta are the curators. Edith is an amazing conceptual artist who did my Street Wear outfit that I wear to beg for "change" at local art walks. The Post-Post Apocalypse show is a group show where each artists takes their definition of the "perfect" destroyed world and interprets that through their various artistic talents.
Here’s a link to one of the performances in still picture format.
Streetsblog: Changing gears for a second, let’s talk about The Bus Bench. The site has changed a lot since I first saw it, what are your plans for the site in 2009? Are you going to continue to recruit more writers or change anything else?
Browne: We plan a mini redesign for The Bus Bench. I want it to have a more magazine feel. I also would like to broaden The Bus Bench’s scope. Transportation will always be a major focus, but I also want to bring gender equality, racial justice and working class issues more into the fold. The basis of The Bus Bench is in social ecology. I’m not a big proponent of compartmentalizing lifestyle issues. I think economics, class, race, gender and sustainability issues are all interconnected. I’m also trying to get enough discipline to have a semi-weekly podcast as well as a video commentary on the issues of the day.
As far as recruiting other writers, well I would like to be able to pay people (if you do four posting per month at the Bus Bench I pay an honorarium.) We at The Bus Bench are also very into original stories. We don’t do too much cutting and pasting or plugging of events, so if I could get a grant to at least pay people something I would like to have some more people come on. To me the blogsophere is becoming this party of people who don’t need to get a paycheck and that’s bad when we have this form of media where only "rich kids" or people who have the kinds of jobs where they have computer access can play. There is also this thing that the internet has where it’s viewed as this odd thing if you expect money. Why is it odd to expect compensation for what you do?
In the US unless you are a person of leisure or a college student you need money in order to eat and things. If I can pay a bartender 20 dollars plus tip for a cocktail, I can give you a little something for contributing to my vehicle.
Though for now since my budget is all out of my money making job I can’t have a staff nearly as big as I want.
I am not too into advertising (not that it would be an effective way to raise revenue not with our model.) The problem with this new media is that once you start getting advertising and swag how can you help but not be a little bias. I want The Bus Bench to stay as sincere as possible.
I want The Bus Bench to be viewed as an editorial media.
Streetsblog: It’s magic wand time. If you could change one thing about Los Angeles with just a flick of the wrist, what would it be?
Browne: If I could wave a wand and change one thing about Los Angeles I would make it more accessible. And that would include education, mobility, housing, employment and free-time. I think LA the way it is now it’s not accessible. There was a time when you could move out here from the middle of nowhere and do something with no connections and a dream or at least that’s what people said and that time seems to be gone. It seems like to me LA is becoming one of those big city type places, where you need to know people and you need to come from money to get somewhere. And to me that’s not LA.
In LA we had good public transit through the Red Cars.
In LA we had public space.
In LA kids rode their bikes.
In LA our first newspaper "The Star," was bilingual.
In LA we were part of a state where the governor Pio Pico was a biracial person of Latino and African descent.
In LA on the Eastside in the neighborhood of Boyle Heights we had Chinese-Americans, Jewish-Americans, African-Americans and Mexican-Americans living right next door to each other and being buried together in the Evergreen Cemetery.
In LA we had affordable higher education.
In LA we had jobs.
In LA you could come from Des Moines, Iowa or Mobile, Alabama or Guadalajara, Mexico or Tainan, Taiwan and you could come here with a dream and you could make that dream come true. A dream that included your own business or a union job and a little house and some saving so that you could go on little vacations and maybe send one or two of your kids to college.
We need to bring accessibility back to LA.
Photo: LA Observed
Images: The Bus Bench