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|Santa Monica Blue Bus Should Get Its Color Straight|
By Jorge Casuso
C'mon baby, take a chance with us
June 26, 2012 -- Santa Monica has its first chance in 13 years to stay true to Jim Morrison's famous lyrics and paint its Big Blue Buses blue again.
The City Council is expected to approve a $1.8 million contract over three years with California-based Carlos Guzman, Inc., to do bodywork repair and paint the City's famous bus fleet. Nowhere on the consent calendar item is there a mention whether an entire bus will be painted or only the sections that require repair.
Color experts note that there are currently two shades used to paint the fleet's buses -- the old powder or sea blue and the periwinkle blue that verges on purple chosen when transit officials switched colors in 1999.
"It depends on the bus," said Joe Nicoletti, president of Chameleon Paintworks based in Santa Monica. "Some are more purple and some are more crayon blue. The new buses are more periwinkle. They have more purple in them."
The periwinkle buses raised some eyebrows when they were unveiled 13 years ago. Some traditionalists called for keeping the old blue, but transit officials assured the council that it was not periwinkle but "cool blue," perfectly matching the cool blue in Nintendo games.
In 1921, Santa Monica's jitney drivers incorporated as the Bay Cities Transit Company and rolled out buses that operated across the city, according to the Big Blue Bus' Website.
"Seven years later, the City of Santa Monica launched its own bus line and over 16,000 passengers rode the new buses the first week," according to the site. "They chose a blue color scheme for their buses and called their service Santa Monica Municipal Bus Lines."
It is unclear when the municipal system became known as the Blue Bus, but by the 1930s, "they called it the Big Blue Bus," said Roger Genser, a member of the Landmarks Commission and an art and antiques dealer who collects Santa Monica memorabilia.
In his 1940 novel, Raymond Chandler was already referring to the "big blue bus," although he did not capitalize the name as a proper noun, as is done today.
"A big blue bus blared down the street to the little circle where the street car used to turn on a turntable. I walked that way," Chandler wrote.
But it wasn't until The Doors' eponymous 1967 debut album that the "blue bus -- mentioned in two separate passages of the apocalyptic 11-minute epic song, "The End" -- became a cultural reference deciphered by fans of the LA band.
While fans came up with metaphysical interpretations for the meaning of the “blue bus,” the band rode from Venice to their gigs in Santa Monica, making the reference more pedestrian.
Forty-five years after the song's debut, fans are still debating the meaning of the "blue bus." Following are samples from the Website Songfacts.com:
(Charles) Manson drove a blue bus which he used on missions to recruit members into the Family.
It may also be about Oedipal feelings and a 7-mile highway to Santa Monica on the blue city bus, but mostly I think it depicts a drug trip.
"The blue bus" is about Depression.
The blue bus is something that they all did. Every night, they'd watch a blue bus pick people up and leave with them. Something that happens all the time. But it symbolizes true knowledge.
The Blue Bus" is almost certainly a reference to Indian mystic Meher Baba's "Blue Bus" tours of the 1930s. However, it may also be a reference to Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus public bus lines.
Please don't try and tell me that a blue bus is a metaphor for something...
Edward F. King , the City's director of transit services, could not be reached for comment, and the staff report only specifies that the winning bidder will "provide bus paint and body repair as required by the Big Blue Bus in accordance with City specifications."
It is unclear whether a particular color is specified.
Nicoletti, whose company has painted the ornate ceiling at LA City Hall and Rod Stewart's home, believes the City needs to pick a color and stick to it.
"Every time the City has to redo a color, they never get it straight," Nicoletti said. In 2080 when they get it all together, it will be all periwinkle."
And that might require changing another famous line from The End.
The (blue) periwinkle bus is callin’ us.
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