Living an Intentional Life on a Random Day

I like each day I live to have a little bit of adventure in it, and today was a perfect example of making that so. In fact I am writing this piece on a bus headed down Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, doing exactly what I would want to be doing at this moment, but not what I expected or planned to be doing at this time.

We had an offsite gathering for my work down in Irvine today, about 50 miles south of my work site in Burbank. They scheduled a bus from our office to the site and back, but the return would get us back to the office at around 4:30pm, way too late for me to hop my 222 bus to Hollywood and then the 2 bus to the Palisades. Initially I had resigned myself to forgoing my normal Thursday ritual of having dinner with Sally and her folks at their house in the Palisades.

But I went on the Internet last night and researched some mass transit options that could get me to the Palisades by 6pm. (Research on the Internet has become a near daily occurrence for me… it helps me plan so much!) Counting on the fact that other folks attending the event would be driving home to points all over the city, I scoured the transit map (one of my favorite pastimes) and found two possibilities.

If I could get to LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) by 4pm, I could take the Santa Monica “Big Blue Bus” line 3 from the airport to downtown Santa Monica and then switch to line 9 and get to the stop by Sally’s folks at about 5:50pm. As another option, if I could get to Los Angeles Union Station by 4:30pm I could take the 4:40 Commuter Express bus to the Palisades and arrive just before 6pm as well.

At the meeting I made the effort not to sit at the same table with all my regular team members and ended up next to one of my co-workers I knew less well. Turns out we had a lot in common. We were both dads who had been stay-at-home parents when their kids were young. Also turns out he lived in the Mount Washington neighborhood of LA and would be willing to drop me off at Union Station, which was not far from his house. Leaving Irvine a bit after 2pm, I knew we’d have plenty of time to get me to Union Station well before that 4:30pm bus.

Traffic was lighter than normal driving north on the 5 and 101 Freeways back up to Los Angeles from Orange County and as we approached the exit for Union Station I could see that we would get there a bit before 3pm, leaving me a 90 minute wait for my Commuter Express bus. I borrowed my co-workers iPhone and used the map application to determine that Cesar Chavez Boulevard became Sunset Boulevard just north of Union Station, and I could probably catch the 2 bus to the Palisades anywhere along that stretch.

I told my coworker my strategy and he made a left on Cesar Chavez as we approached the station. As we headed up the street we happened to drive by an Orange Los Angeles Metro bus. I looked back and its marquee said “2 PCH”, the very bus I needed to get to the Palisades. So he zipped ahead of the bus to the next bus stop a few blocks down. I quickly got out and thanked him for the ride and then boarded my bus at about 3pm, now giving me a more favorable 5pm arrival time in the Palisades.

For you this might sound like a hassle and a long boring ride on a crowded bus. But for me, it was great, the kind of little daily adventure that makes my life fun.

Daily mass transit adventures, on the train or the bus, are part of the intentional design of my life. Nine years ago I made a pledge to myself that I would not drive a car to work, but find some other means, some combination of train, bus, bicycle, or on foot – to commute. Nine years later, though I am now working at a job in a different part of the city, I am proud to say that I am still honoring that commitment.

I don’t like any of the routines in my life to get too routine. So commuting and moving about the city, using a range of mass transit options adds daily spice to what could otherwise become a boring daily exercise (even listening to NPR on the radio can get boring after a while).

But on my daily Metrolink train to work, I see other regulars and we chat a bit about what’s going on at our workplaces. And every so often I get a surprise. A couple weeks ago on the train home from work I ran into my old boss from a previous job several years ago. That kind of random stuff (“random” being one of my daughter’s favorite words) can happen when you roll the dice and board a public multi-person conveyance of one sort or another. Some people might call it nerve-wracking and unpredictable, but I call it a fun “mass transit adventure”.

So in today’s episode, I write this as I cross my amazing City of the Angels, riding the length of Sunset Boulevard with a bus load of Latinos, Asians and even a few Anglos, from Chinatown through Silver Lake, Hollywood, West Hollywood, the Sunset Strip, Beverly Hills, Westwood and Brentwood to the Pacific Palisades, my destination du jour.

Though I need a “day job” to make a living, at least I have found (let’s say designed) one with a wonderfully positive and supportive boss and talented, great to work with co-workers. I have also designed what they call a “compressed” work schedule (with my bosses consent) that allows me to work three long days Monday through Wednesday so I can leave early on Thursday for my bus ride to dinner with my wife’s folks, and put in just a couple hours telecommuting on Friday so I can spend the bulk of that day writing.

The point here is that I’m doing the best that I can in every way that I can to live my life my own way by my own rules, while addressing the realities and obligations of my life but not trying not to get caught up in all those conventional conventions that others I know complain about having to put up with. The lyrics to the Beatle’s song “Getting Better” come to mind…

I used to get mad at my school
The teachers who taught me weren’t cool
Holding me down
Turning me round
Filling me up with their rules…
But I’ve got to admit its getting better

Just the whole challenge of designing a life, finding the right job, the right work site, the interesting commute, the weekly rituals that add variety, finding space for my “life’s work” as well, is an adventure in intentional living. It is my intention to spend as much of the time as I can giving back to the world what I hope to pass as wisdom, for all the wonderful experience the world has given me in my first five decades of this incarnation on planet Earth. It is my intention to make every minute of my waking hours at least somewhat interesting, with a nice thread of randomness woven in. It is my further intention to make the work for pay that I still have to do (to finance this life) not so burdensome that in overwhelms the other aspects of my life. (That all said, I am blessed to be skilled enough to do work that pays well!)

So that’s the deal… the thoughts that are going through my brain as now I am getting close to completing my two hour bus ride down this awesome street (Sunset Boulevard), in my adopted home that it took many, many years for me to finally come to love, but is definitely now where I intend to be.

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7 replies on “Living an Intentional Life on a Random Day”

  1. Peter Zale says:

    A very LA story, except that it’s public transportation which is unheard of in my understanding of the LA mythos. Nonetheless you embrace your interest in tactics as you always have since you were planning trips to the north country of England.

  2. Cooper Zale says:

    I guess your right Peter! Whether planning trips to the north of England when we lived their for the summer in 1970 or in some friend’s windowless basement staring at game board of the map of Europe trying to figure out how to move Patton’s army into position to cross the Rhine river.

  3. Peter Zale says:

    You do like maps. 🙂

  4. Cooper Zale says:

    I guess I am a context junkie. I can enjoy just about anything if someone can frame a compelling context that surrounds it. Within any system or institution there is a compelling narrative that I can get caught up in… even a map I guess. In this case it is the implied context of the adventure of getting across town without ones own car.

  5. Christian says:

    Nice blog, Cooper!

    Check out my wife’s blog:


  6. Cooper Zale says:

    Christian… Glad you liked my blog. I checked out your wife’s… very cool as well. It looks like both of us are wrestling with a lot of the same issues of self-worth and self-reliance, and developing the agency and compass to make things happen and run ones own life. Tell her good luck with her exams!

  7. George says:

    <a rel="follow" . yes

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