After a midnight shoot in Hollywood at The House of Blues, I packed my camera gear and headed back to my car that was parked two blocks away on Sunset Boulevard. Stepping off the curb to cross N. Olive Drive, I had to dodge a fast moving black Escalade making a left hand turn off of Sunset which was followed by a contrail of ganja. A block away from my car I came upon the Saint of Sunset sitting on a small swatch of old red carpeting with his back resting against a chain link fence. As I approach he looked up and with bright eyes and a smile he said, “Good evening my friend.”
“And a good evening to you my friend and how is life treating you this fine evening?” I asked.
“Better now that you are here”, he said, “would you like a blessing?”
“yes”, I replied
Closing his eyes the Saint bowed his head whispering, “My friend and I are but actors in a theatre called earth, our stage is small but it is here where we rehears our play of life before the curtain closes.
Now, let’s deal with the real issues of our veterans. Instead of buying a one dollar bumper sticker that reads “Support Our Troops” at the local convenience store or a two dollar American flag at Wal-Mart that’s made in China. Maybe, just maybe writing and calling your congressman/woman or senator might stop the ill treatment of our veterans. Twenty-two veteran commit suicide a day and VA hospitals have become a embarrassment as veterans die waiting. Yes, I love America, I love it enough to recognize the wrong doing to our veterans. Write, call, email, text, post, blog your government officials – Do Something ! . Happy 4th of July.
Asleep and protected from the desert heat and drunk predators, Donna finds refuge on a city bus in Las Vegas. She wears gold shoes with a white jump suit that is divided by a belt with sea shells glued to it. Donna’s hair is resting on the top of her head with a gold comb parked in front. She has grown accustom of sleeping over the sound of the diesel engine, air brakes and the frequent stops. Her head rolls from side to side with every turn the bus makes as it travels the back streets of Las Vegas. At first glance, Donna looks as if she has been shopping but the plastic bags are full of clothing and personal hygiene items which props her up right to a vertical sleep. The bags are her only worldly possessions.
A black man sitting next to Donna stares out the window to the lights of the casinos and hotels. He clutches a paper bag. He has no rings on his fingers or a watch on his wrist. His attention is focused on the world outside the window. Here, they are both protected from the elements of Las Vegas and lost in their own world.
After having lunch across the street, Larry and Doug get back to business in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre proselytizing to tourist in Hollywood. I asked Larry, If a woman with large breasts works at Hooters, then where does a woman with one leg work IHOP? Larry refused to acknowledge my question and raised his bullhorn and bellowed out his message. No tourist asked to have their photo taken with Larry and Doug.
A Canadian tourist recounts his experience on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. “The costumed characters are a step below the homeless population in the area. The homeless may be asking for money and wallowing in their own stank but at least they are not confrontational and demanding like the costumed characters in the area. Don’t dare take a photo of a character without remitting payment.They will chase you down.I watched Elmo get crazy backed up by the Cookie Monster. Superman just stood there …doing nothing. It was sad.” On the night of the 83rd Academy Awards, 82,000 people will be sleeping on the streets of Los Angeles.
On a Sunday afternoon Chris takes a break from panhandling and the heat of the day. His favorite spot for shade is at the front entrance of the Capitol Records building where the marble stays cool all day. “The popular belief is that it was designed to resemble a stack of vinyl records topped by a record player’s spindle” Chris tells me. His attention turns to a tourist walking by, “hey buddy! Can you spare some changes ? I like you shoes they match your outfit, nice legs too.”
Bob had the kind of face that would compel you to volunteer any loose change your pocket held without him ever asking for a handout. His home consisted of a metal shopping cart supported by well-worn wheels, two paper bags, an old plastic container of water and a rolled up gray blanket. The corner of Central Boulevard and Windsor Road in Glendale, California was where he called home. This move was a sage-like decision on Bob’s part since the Salvation Army was positioned across the street which provided food, clothing and care and half a block to his east was the Windsor Al-Anon club that furnished free coffee, occasional shelter and most importantly, some welcomed comradeship with fellow tribe members.
It was up to you to get Bob talking since he was never known to initiate a conversation. His english was laced with a thick Yugoslavian accent and it was because of this that he was christened with the street name “Bob from Yugoslavia”. In his youth, he was trained as a pianist but as the years passed by his hands grew to be swollen and arthritic which made tying his shoes or buttoning his coat as painful as a Beethoven sonata. Bob’s private moments took place in a utility alley behind the Armenian market where he would seek refuge by smoking discarded cigarettes and watching reality slip away.
We had a very short history in our acquaintance but Bob from Yugoslavia became my navigational marker that signaled my return home from overseas. As strange as it may sound, it was comforting to see him sleeping under the tree, his tree, at the corner of Central and Windsor. One day, I noticed that the only thing holding his threadbare jeans together was the grim beneath him. I managed to sneak a pair of new levis and socks into one of his paper bags while he was napping under his tree. I couldn’t help but watch from a distance to witness Bob’s reaction to his good fortune; he proudly held the trousers up to the sky with a toothless smile and turned to look around as if he would find a magical garment fairy. The following day I expected to see him wearing the new pants but to my surprise he was wearing the same grubby jeans. Bob had traded the jeans and socks for two packs of Marlboro cigarettes to a local gardener.
I asked Bob one day, “If you were to write a letter to God and be guaranteed that God would read your letter, what would be your the first sentence?” He looked up and spoke as expressively with his eyes as with his words, “God keep me warm and never let me get cold again”
We continued our brief interludes over the years until one day conspicuously absent from the corner was Bob and his shopping cart. A member of the Al-Anon club told me that Bob had peacefully passed away underneath his tree while napping. I can only hope it was on a warm sunny California day.