Wednesday, December 17, 2008


$1.25 a ride

As I've mentioned before, I ride the bus instead of driving, which is unusual here in L.A. Well, not unusual at all if you're part of the city's underclass. That sad translation is that I'm one of the very few non-Mexicans (nannies, cleaning ladies, construction workers) on my route. Some African-Americans. A couple of incredibly elderly Holocaust survivors. And me. I love taking the bus because the thing I really miss about New York is walking everywhere, which is to say coming into physical contact with strangers just to get from A to B. I'm up on a hill, and when there's no-one else at my stop, I sing and dance to Purple Rain. It sounds best at the crack of dawn on my way to dance class. If other people are there I usually chat (sidebar - the really great actors and writers I know never stop asking strangers their stories, no matter how successful they've become. The ones with less to offer use the opportunity of meeting new people to talk about themselves).

Anyway, I'd become friendly with Mike, who is homeless, and rides the bus down to sunset to beg near the fancy hotels. A smart guy in his fifties, we talk politics and life, and he once gave me a dollar when I had left my purse at home. I really like him - I wrote him a cameo in my newest screenplay in fact. But Mike has two problems. 1. Diabetes. The medicine is hard to come by and a long bus trip away to get. 2. Crack cocaine. Which is easy to come by and a short trip away. He'll be clean for a while (I know because he'll have shoes on). Then he'll fall off (then he only wears socks).

My sweet dad used to have a homeless man called 'Hughie The Hat' living in his doorway at work. Hughie had a thick Glaswegian accent and no right leg. He collected packages for Dad, who'd send him postcards from trips abroad. The first time I ever voted Dad had me walk Hughie to the polling station to make sure he'd vote too. Hughie was falling over drunk and I was in my school uniform.

Yesterday I was on the bus when Mike got on at sunset, super fucked up. He had the crackhead's telltale white ring around his mouth, and was aggressive to the driver, to the point of deciding he didn't want to ride this bus, he'd wait for the next. I tried to wave at him but his eyes were unfocused. As he got off, he noticed me.
"I KNOW YOU!" he barked. Then, "I LOVE YOU!" He fumbled in his pocket. "Happy Christmas baby!" It's such an old fashioned expression, no-one has called me "baby" in a long time, and it jolted me. Then he threw a $5 bill into my lap. "Mike," I said, "I can't accept this from you" and tried to hand it back.
He went mental. "YOU DON'T EVER REFUSE MONEY FROM ME!" Then he reached into his pocket, grabbed another $5 and threw it at me again. "I GOT MONEY! YOU DON'T SAY NO WHEN I GIVE YOU A GIFT!" "Okay, okay, I'll take it".

As the bus pulled away with the bills on my lap and Mike still yelling from the curb, I thought "Drugs are bad, life is sad." I gave the money to the next homeless person I saw. But my heart still felt the water rising in it. Life has so many portals through which we can fall - to drug addiction, to madness, to homelessness. Who was this man before? When he has his shoes back on, I'm going to ask him.

Life can be bloody sad indeed...and yes, there are many pitfalls...disease, poverty, loneliness...etc etc.
Regarding homelessness...we tend to think of "us" versus "them" when we think about those that live on the streets of our towns...the truth, there's only "us" - there's no such thing as "them". I whole-heartedly believe that this can happen to anyone...maybe that's why we don't want to "see" them as we walk past them; perhaps because they remind us of all these pitfalls, these portals around us (or below or feet).

PS: dance class - sounds intriguing...what kind of dance?

PSII: Glaswegian accent - do you mean that he was from 'Glasgow'?
Very interesting story and what stood out to me is that you want to know who he was before. Seeing the homeless does not bother me because of where I lived in the Bronx. I'm saddened, yes, but I don't turn away or fear for my life when they are around. My dad's sis was a homeless crackhead who just didn't want to go home! She even had kids who were born healthy for the most part.

I had a feeling you took dance...
This is completely off topic - but has anyone heard from Kai who used to comment here as well?
She's shut down her blog, but it seems that she has completely vanished from the surface of this planet...that's weird...
Kai, are you out there? Somewhere?
That was amazing to read. It makes me sad to see people on the streets, and the worst thing is that you don't know how to help them and if they even want to be "helped". That's the problem. No-one's looking out for them.

A year ago I gave a homeless man in London ten pounds. Before that, he'd told me his life's story. He cried when he got the money and said (while crying) "I'm going to get lunch with this right there!" he pointed at a cafe. The thing that kind of made me sad was that I had questioned where my money would go (drugs or food). I don't care where it goes, you can't control where it goes, all you can do is try and be a good person to other people.
I met a homeless man back in 2007 who's best friend was his dog whom he affectionately named 'Baggage'. We sat in a park at midnight for two hours or so and spoke about everything from Joe strummer and his Newport City links to Wilhelm Reich and Vegetotherapy. I gave him my phone number and he called me the next day from a phone box and came over and used my shower and we had sandwiches and squash together. Then one day I missed his call (I was k.o'd on valium) and I never heard from him again...:(

*I met a homeless man back in 2007 whose best friend was his dog

Sorry Emma = OCD
$1.25, huh? It's $2 in New York and they want to raise it! It's always screw the poor, feed the rich, since Bloomberg took over.
My sister works in Social Housing, a woman of 35 with three young kids came to her work yesterday looking for somewhere to stay. Irene said her husband had left her and that she had recently lost her job. You would think that friends/family would help.

Irene, who has a two bedroom apartment almost brought them to her house.
I have a friend who when we were 16 decided to trip on acid...we are now 30 and he is still tripping. He never came out of it. He was an intelligent boy who was even in the high school band. Scary how one choice, one second can change our lives FOREVER.
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