Archive for December 10, 2017

A screenshot of the mugging in progress…

© 2017 G.N. Jacobs

Siri finally mugged me last night, or rather conspired to get me lost in Burbank…same thing. Bear with me that saucy minx has always gotten me where I’m going and so for me fears of entering a hacker movie where hostile forces send me to hell and back for whatever nefarious purposes most suits the narrative is a new thing that bears comment. Evil Siri with the map is easy to beat…until she isn’t.

I have friends with a pretty good rock band that throw shows in Burbank at Cody’s Viva Cantina, a Mexican place more well known for providing stage space for good local bands that might not ever get off the club circuit (blame your nearest A&R man). Certainly the otherwise good burritos cry out for Tapatio in their blandness and the salsa to go with the chips…never mind, not a food review.

My friends think of Cody’s Viva Cantina as a second home and they arrange three or four shows a year when not touring anywhere that wants to hear an all-female Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute. The big show lands in the middle of December, what with birthdays, bandiversaries and such…all good excuses for cake. So I’ve been a friend of the band for quite some time and, of course, I RSVP on Facebook.

Now, Dear Reader, presumably you’ve paid attention to your news feed about the fires in my fair City of the Angels? Normally, I go through the Sepulveda Pass and I know my way to Riverside Drive near the Los Angeles Equestrian Center and the northeast corner of Griffith Park. I follow the visual cues to find my way there to a venue I’ve been to several times a year for a lot of years now.

But, the news tells me for several days about a brushfire astride my regular route and said news and official sources aren’t staying updated for the weekend. Yes, they saved me much hassle and time for the Wednesday peak of the fire suggesting I’m not going anywhere near the Sepulveda Pass. I need to know if the freeway remains closed on Saturday with 50-percent containment, but official sources aren’t saying hey, the 405 is closed nor do they say hey, the freeway is open. I suppose one lesson here is that official sources saying nothing is the same as saying the freeway is open.

Erring on the side of caution and in the absence of any journalistic reason to see a fire I plan on going the back way around through Downtown. I know my normal way. I know most of the back way (see below about navigating LA), but I need Siri to hold the map for the last leg of the trip where I don’t know the side streets towards the end because I’ve never needed to go this way. And for the first time Siri, bitch that she is, mugged me.

I pack a bunch of odds and ends into the pockets of one of my coats: iPhone battery, cable, battery powered LED light, earbuds, reading glasses, foam ear protectors and a notebook. I usually don’t and won’t need this stuff, but I’m nearly always prepared for a boring stretch with no one to talk to where I whip out a few more words. People comment on this habit of applying the Boy Scout motto to writing all the time. I shrug.

As I get ready to turn my engine over, I know I need music to keep my mind from overthinking and freaking out that thar be traffic, Boy on any high-density route in LA. Due to the specific things about my Bluetooth connection in my car, I switch over from the radio because the iPhone will only interrupt the actual radio for a phone call. I need there to be music between Siri’s “helpful” turn advice tips. I try KUSC’s mobile app, but the classical station hasn’t caught up to the rest of the cool kids that make nice with Bluetooth.

I call up Beethoven’s Symphonies on Spotify and start from the First. Then you tell Apple Maps (Siri with the Map) where you’re going. And here begins the mugging in slow motion as soon as the car pulls into my driveway. I just don’t know it, yet.

Siri with the Map assumes that I since I live on the Westside that my normal route through the Sepulveda Pass is the best way. But, it’s three days after a peak fire day rogered that route and I’m not trusting that the official sources took the day off as a good thing. I head east on the Santa Monica Freeway heading Downtown.

Traffic moves a little slow on a chilly (60-degrees F) night on the road. Beethoven fills the car. I groove to the music. I’m sure there’s a future post on my currently dormant Composer’s Counterpoint column about the ability of Beethoven, or any good music to make the commute fade into that Zen archery place where you feel the music, pay attention to the red lights ahead of you without getting worked up. Maybe, if I can find more than this caveman sentence – “Beethoven good in car! (GRUNT)” – to say on the subject.

The music metaphorically hums and pops as I pull over into the left lane on the Santa Monica Freeway (10-East). I drive with an eye towards already be in the lane you want so it’s the other yahoos making the last minute lane dive across your line of sight (I operate with the belief that dive bombing an off-ramp at the last possible moment increases your at fault-ness when we trade paint). A driving style that really only rewards home field advantage, any other city on the planet I regrettably trust Siri just like all the other tourists.

When going around the back way to Burbank and the northeast corner of Griffith Park, the idea is to pull left onto the Pasadena Freeway (110-North) go past Dodger Stadium and then pull left again after the tunnels onto the Golden State Freeway (5-North). If going to places I know how to find nearby, I don’t even turn on Siri with the Map. I just need her help making the last couple miles, but I’m adding a bit of extra dangerous and stupid if I try to work Siri with the Map while in the car without keeping at least one hand on the wheel.

This meant that I turned her on as soon as I left my house and she cuts into an important point in the Beethoven to tell me things I already know – “take the next right…” Siri with the Map dispels nearly all fears that she will morph into HAL ready to kill the hibernating science team and refuse to open those fucking pod bay doors. Why? She doesn’t even have the flexibility and horse sense to go in through the back door displayed by a five-year-old on a mission to get cookies when Mommy isn’t looking.

The one downside to turning east on the Santa Monica Freeway while slowly getting over to the left to be where you need to be well ahead of time is that Siri is having conniptions trying to get me to turn around and get back onto the 405. She assumes the road is clear. I don’t.

“Take the off-ramp on the right for National…” “Take the off-ramp on the right for Robertson Boulevard…” Good thing I have Beethoven on the box or I might want to hunt down Siri’s voice actress. I’m already paying attention to a van tailgating me even going about sixty-five. And just because I start from the Westside the bitch won’t get it into her digital head that I’m intentionally taking another route.

I approach Downtown. The van gives up tailgating and pulls around to the right. Siri with the Map finally catches up to what I’m doing, but steadfastly wants me to pull right and go completely around Central Los Angeles to catch the 5-North adding even more time to my drive than going around the front way on the 110-North with just enough traffic to notice. Finally, she begins to tell me to stay left and go left again.

Meanwhile, I’m not really getting pissed off. Beethoven is blasting through the Second Symphony by this time. Downtown LA has dressed up with a few extra lights for the season. Yeah, it’s a thing, but only for people safely stopped with cameras.

So far, this ain’t even close to a mugging (hyperbole, I know). Traffic clears up on the Pasadena Freeway and I make the left turn onto the Golden State. Now the bitch goes awry…and I’m too busy with the music and those red lights to notice.

My destination as I remember it has an address on Riverside Boulevard tucked away in an equestrian neighborhood where horses have lanes more physically blocked off than bike lanes. It sits next to the main gate of the Los Angeles Equestrian Center. I know what to look for.

Siri gets really creative sending me two off-ramps past Western Avenue, later described as the one I wanted, all the way the way to Olive and sending me back around back across the 5-North. I follow her instructions to the letter finally I get the – “arrived!” – message. I’m nowhere near where I expect to be looking at a beige faux-adobe structure on the corner with the horse gate next door. I’m in what looks like residential housing.

I’m in Burbank trying to be somewhere at 7pm knowing full well that nothing important will happen before 8pm. I’ve been using mugged with lots of hyperbole here; I’m in no danger. But, nothing stops me from rewriting it this way for the movie with a bloody beating, carjacking and promiscuous gunplay, which I suppose is the tenuous hook I need to put this rant about a potentially spectacular nav app failure into a writing column.

I tap End Route and start over at least twice to get a better reading on my destination. Siri with the Map is telling me to turn around and go the other way, when what I remember of Burbank’s urban geography is that I needed to go more or less straight ahead that the app sent me north and then south back towards Riverside Drive. Basically, Siri with the Map had picked up a shift of half a mile north and didn’t have the goddamn common courtesy to give me a reach around afterwards.

The Beethoven is on the Third “Eroica” and I stop to the curb switch Siri with the Map’s instructions to the Los Angeles Equestrian Center that I know to be right next-door. I follow these instructions and…hold my breath (not really spreading both hyperbole and bull hockey in equal measure here) find my way to the destination. I park in the bowling alley lot across the street only giving up about fifteen minutes to this mugging. All’s well that ends well.

The coda is, of course, I go inside checking to see that it is still in fact a Mexican restaurant willing to host bands. No, they didn’t relocate. I enjoy the party. Somewhere between the second and third beer, my friend gets to ranting about the owners of the establishment.

The old owner had been relegated to minority status and the general partners might want to sell out the business for a project that requires Burbank to rezone the neighborhood. The neighbors NIMBY-ed up and protested. This allowed me to speculate that during this process the owners may have filed some kind of documents to move the business to another nearby location (maybe not, it was a residential street where the bitch said – “arrived!”) and that this confused second address led to navigation results about like how Nazis shot missiles at London, aim for St. Paul’s be happy hitting the Embankment.

There you have it, the first time in my life that a nav app actually fucked me in the ass, or at least tried to. I’ve done this enough predating Siri with the Map going back to the Thomas Guide. Here’s the secret to driving in LA…you always get lost close to your destination. It shows in how we give verbal directions – “Freeway X, freeway or major boulevard Y leading to minor street Z.” It’s the Z that kills you, unless you’re that rare soul always fated to find the exception that proves the rule. If so get away, you’re dangerously unlucky!

It was in this thinking that I only wanted the bitch to tell me about the bit off the closest off-ramp, a total fail all around. But, now I have the life experience to fake my way through the existential nightmare of Siri with the Map intentionally leading the unwary astray. It’s a writing column, after all.