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Lost -- and Found Again -- in Downtown L.A.

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Sometimes it seems like this city is out to beat us up, put us down, and lead us terribly astray. Even those of us who have lived here for years can't help but feel let down sometimes by L.A.'s impersonal and often contradictory nature. And we're just talking about transportation. But more often than you might expect, if you just open up and let the city happen to you, you'll find that L.A. is actually your most reliable -- and most exciting -- old friend.

I was pissed. Pissed, frustrated, and on the verge of tears. Downtown, my old foe, looked like it was getting the best of me -- again.

It was about six p.m. on a Thursday night, and my plans to check out the Murakami exhibit at MOCA Contemporary (free on Thursdays!) were going down the drain, thanks to a few stupid mistakes on my part. My "Downtown Curse" had struck again! Almost every single time I have ever gone Downtown, something annoying or panicking or infuriating has happened -- getting lost, fights with boyfriends, fouled-up parking situations, near-death driving experiences -- and now, just thinking about those one-way streets makes me a little short of breath. It's turned into such a THING in my personal psyche that it's become a self-fulfilling prophecy -- if I really believe going Downtown is going to be a pain in the butt, then it probably will be.

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But this time, I thought I was prepared. I looked again and again at maps online, wrote down directions, printed out more directions, got my geographical bearings through Google Maps, confirmed plans with friends, even took cash out of the machine. Cash! I was serious about getting there worry-free.