Tag Archives: homeless

“Where Are You Going, My Little One, Little One?”

It was her skirt that I noticed first:  one of those floor-length gypsy numbers, with wide parallel stripes of different colors all best found on a yarn of some baby blanket, or in a pack of dyes for Easter eggs.  The skirt looked vintage and slightly tattered at the bottom where it touched the ground.  It may have been a tidbit too long for her, but she strutted in it well.

She wore a simple gray turtleneck on top and from a few times I saw the toes of her Uggs peak out from underneath the skirt, they too — were bluish-gray.  The tossed waves of her strawberry blond hair ran down the back of that sweater.  I wondered if she had freckles, like girls with such hair often do.  I wondered if she was prone to blush a lot; and when she slept, I bet she could disarm the world’s most ruthless villains and defeat her mother’s monsters.

I slowed down.

Her three brothers were walking a few steps behind her.  The oldest one could not have been older than five.  But the boys were already of that age when they understood that no matter how much younger she may have been, hers would be the last word, in the family.  To them, it was still child’s play and video games; but she already knew how to stand-in, when mom was busy.  And I imagined she had a stool that was brought out every night, into the kitchen — specifically for her; and there she stood, becoming a woman as she adoringly studied her mother’s cooking.

A couple of times she turned to look at the young boys, checking if all three were still in tow.  If one was walking too close to the road or climbing up a dirty hill, he would immediately get back into a safer place.  But she’d keep walking ahead, a few steps behind her mother — a tall, lean woman with the gypsy-girl’s hair and the strut that her daughter was trying on these days.  (These would be the privileged days still, I hoped her mother knew; the days when in her little daughter’s eyes, she was still her deity.)

Truth be told, I could never pull off the little girl’s style.  I wear skirts like that, for sure.  But to double them up with a sweater was more like what those cool hippie chicks would wear, in the vicinity of NYU.  Her hair was messy, but not from a lack of care.  I wondered if she had just began to learn the lengths and hairstyles she liked the most and wearing hair ties around her tiny wrists.  In the manner of her mother, she’d learned already how to tie her hair back with lightening speed, in moment ready for play or bedtime.

I’m not the one to walk around here much; and I would prefer to never park in these alleys late at night.  There used be a giant homeless man who lived here, sleeping always in the same spot — along the gray wall of some sound stage; and he would guard these streets.  Like everyone in Hollywood, he had his own story; and that story had to do with broken family, a quick rise to fame, then loss of everything — and after that, survival.  So many times, he’d been arrested and led away, only to reappear at his same spot a few days later. With him, standing in dark corners or sitting on the curbs, I somehow felt protected.  But now, he’s gone; with nothing but a vigil by his wall.

The girl began to let her brothers pass her.  Her mother had, by now, located the family’s silver van, and she opened the door on the passenger side, closer to the curb.  The boys took their time conquering the vehicle.

The tiny gypsy-child looked around — and then, she let out a twirl!  Just one 360-degree twirl!  It was the same move I’d seen girls do in their brand new dresses, often times around other girls or when dancing at a wedding.  And while they turn their feet in one place, they lose themselves in the fabric rising underneath their eyes.  They still see magic.  To them, the world is still extraordinary.

She finished twirling, gathered her loose locks again, and threw them over the right shoulder.  That’s when she noticed me, smiling.

She gave me an askance look:  That was twirl was meant to be between her and her imagination only!

I got embarrassed, but even as I lowered my eyes and sped up to my own car, parked on the other side of the street from the silver van, I kept her image living underneath my eyelids.

She was a girl on the verge of growing out of her childhood.  But how I prayed that some of it — would never leave completely!

“I Was in the House — When the House Burned Down.”

Trembling.  Waiting for clearer thoughts to come in.

Here comes one:

“How is it that I’m shivering in a 110-degree heat?”

That’ll do, for now.

Gently!  You must handle yourself — gently.

Standing on a street that to a bystander’s eye would appear idillic and “homey”, she wonders about the horrors that could be happening behind the closed doors of these same “homey” homes, with pretty white doors:  the quiet, muffled horrors of domestic violence.

“Beware — of pretty,” another thought comes in.

There is a reason why she has always loathed the sight of the white picket fence:  They reek of false advertisement and broken promises — of broken hearts.  And the heart that break due to the broken promise — takes longer to heal. She is now cradling her heart, in her heaving chest; but it would take her years to learn just how long the healing would take.

Her thinking is fragmented.  If only she could get a grip on this shivering:  If only she could catch her breath.  But the body takes its time.

There is a violence that lives in every body:  A violence that strikes at another — or at itself.  It always comes from the darkest corners of one’s soul and it prefers no audience.  But those whom we love the most often fall victim to it.

So, she is catching herself wonder about the suffering that others endure when love betrays its goodness.  It is much better to be thinking of others, in moments of extreme pain.  Because the end to her own pain — she cannot possibly see from here:  In the “homey” neighborhood that has broken its promise to her and found her homeless, in 110-degree heat.

Besides, the suffering of others should remind her that someone is always having it worse.

“How can it possibly be worse?!” another thought flings itself inside her throbbing head.

The chest is heaving.  The heart is beating fast:  It is not broken yet.

“Do people die — of broken hearts?” she thinks and sits down on the curb to catch her breath.  Is that what happens — in heart attacks?

A Heart:  Attacked.  That would be the name of her cause, if she were to stop breathing right now.

She stares at her feet.  The pedicure on her toes is of her own manufacturing.  She’s had a hand in that.  The chosen color is pink:  They have just passed Easter, on the calendar.  The pair of shoes, that she’s had very little time to peel on before leaping out of the house, are multicolored:  Each strap bears a neon shade.  When she first laid her eyes on them, on a shelf at Payless, she thought.

“When in the world would I wear those?!”

Now.  She is wearing them now.  And in a juxtaposition with her black tank top and blue bicycle shorts, they fail to make any sense at all.  She chuckles to herself:  Yes, she actually chuckles — while shivering — because she is thinking that she must look like a burnt house victim, right now.

And isn’t that what happened, anyway:  Her “homey” home has burnt down on its promise?  It has collapsed on itself, and no matter its false appearance from the outside, behind those pretty white doors and the white picket fence — one can only find ruins.

She shivers and looks over her shoulder at the sight of the house:

The perfectly groomed, neon green lawn — FAKE!

The deceivingly white and pink exterior — FALSE!

The beautiful rotunda window of its office space — LIARS!

A distorted face of a man has been watching her through that window.  She has just realized that.  He is puffy and unshaven, bewildered behind his thick-rimmed glasses.  His mouth begins opening once he notices her looking back.  He is that bug-eyed bottom-feeding fish that outlives the smaller bastards in a shared tank.  The existence of his type is necessary, in nature.  She knows that.  Symbi-fuckin’-osis!  But again, it would years before she sees his purpose in her life.

“GET THE FUCK OUT!” she can lipread on his gaping, bottom-feeding mouth.

“I hope I took my glasses with me,” another thought happens.

That’s when she realizes she’s actually not seeing the man:  She is remembering him, at this very moment.  The brain is taking in the memories:  The bits that it will then try so very hard to forget.

The shivering hasn’t subsided, but it has transformed into an all-over warmth that happens to the survivors of car wrecks.  This is:

The Body:  Coping.

That is the name of her current disease.

No, she wouldn’t die of A Heart:  Attacked.  Not on this day.  Her body has chosen to persevere, to survive the violence.

The shivering is violent.  The body is confronting brutality with its reserve of sudden energy.

This is what it takes — to survive:  To outlive the broken heart.

She wants to go to sleep but then realizes that it’ll be a while; for she has just leapt out of a burning home:  a “homey” home. The thought of anything too far ahead refuses to happen; and strangely calm, she is grateful for that. She thinks no more than five minutes ahead.

Not feeling her own body, she picks herself up off the curb and reaches for the giant black bag packed in the middle of the night.

And:  She.  Starts.  Walking.

It should be hard, in theory, to not know where she’s going.  She’s got no home.  She knows no shelter.

But she is only thinking of one step at a time — and only five minutes ahead.

Gently!  You must handle yourself — gently! — when you survive.

She’s chosen to survive.  It would begin when she starts walking.

Away.

“Click, Click, Click, Flash…”

There are faces on the streets of this town that make me want to whip out a camera and take them home with me:  not the people — but always their faces, like yellowing Polaroids in my back pocket.  Every day, I drive by them, on routes that must lead to my dreams — or at least to survival in between the dreams’ happening — and I fight the urge to leap out of the car, leave the engine running, and steal a shot or two, preferably unnoticed by my subject.

But if they do see me, I hope they aren’t offended much.

“You’re beautiful,” I’d probably say, shielding myself with kindness, as if they were my lovers telling me of their final decision to depart.

(I’m such a fucking hippie.  Forgive me.)

There is a homeless man, in one of my regularly visited parking lots, who always reads a pamphlet, in a plastic chair by that neighborhood’s laundromat.  He rests here, maybe even lives, with his cart parked right around the corner.

Keith.  This is his spot.

The truth about Keith:  He is homeless — not a pauper (and you better know the difference).  He’s made that aggressively clear by the cleanness of his clothes and the presentable look of his laced-up shoes.  I had tried giving him money before:  I might as well have slapped Keith’s tired face with a wet towel full of sand.  But food, he’ll take food.  He’ll nod, humbly; thank you, and pack it away, so methodically and slow, it breaks your heart.  Because if ever you have known poverty yourself, you comprehend the deficit of dignity in it.  Organization and routine become your only saving graces.  And that’s exactly how you get by:  sweeping off crumbs of dignity from the kitchen table and into your hand; and methodically storing them away — for later.  

Well, Keith’s got his dignity in spades.  I can tell it by his face with carved out wrinkles and his not so poorly groomed beard.  In a striking juxtaposition to his African features, a pair of lime-green eyes overlooks from above.  Sometimes they freeze in a gaze of departure; and even though I’ve wondered a few times about where Keith goes when he goes like that, his eyes give out no hints.  I don’t trip out about that too much though:  Because the ownership of his story — is one of the few things a man should be allowed to possess.

His right eyebrow gathers into a poignant awning.  Not much of a frown, it ever so slightly changes the man’s face from solemnity to something grievous.  Just like that:  a little shift and the departure of his lime-green eyes — and the man’s face becomes a story.

“You’re beautiful,” I’d probably say.

Another man — another story — lives just a few blocks away from my street.  I am never sure where he sleeps, or where he stores his things.  But he is impossible not to notice as I run to the subway station, always late and always immediately embarrassed, when I notice him.

On a cold day, the man stands underneath an electronics store sign long closed down for sale.  In heat, he looms in the shadow of a bus stop nearby.  The accidental passengers waiting on metallic benches seem to not mind him more than they mind the exhaust fumes from the never-ending traffic.  Years ago, when I first moved here, the man used to ask them for money, while shifting on his feet.  But now, he just sways there, in silence, waiting for dumb charity by someone with a guilty conscience, like my own.  But mostly, he lets his life waste him away with the corrosive elements attacking his skin behind this bus stop.

Painfully thin, he sways too much when shifting on his feet, as if at any moment he can tip over and break into a thousand shards of something irreparable.  But whenever I can get past my embarrassment and actually look at the man’s face, I realize it belongs to someone long departed.  He seems calm, surrendered; almost smiling, with his eyes.  And if he can feel the scratch of my dollars in his palm, dried up to chalky whiteness, he shivers his head a little.  Those aren’t nods, but a dozen of little ones — like shivers.

Another story — another ghost — trails in the footsteps of a local woman that always sits by one of this town’s guilds.  She’s irate:  There ain’t no bloody surrender in her face.

On the stone fence of the building, she usually sits with her bags parked underneath her feet; and she mutters while scratching the matted hair, usually wrapped in a shredding scarf.  Her clothing is nonsensical, as if she’s rummaged through a vintage shop or a drag queen’s closet, that morning.  But you better be sure there’ll be some sequins somewhere on her body.  And it’s not the angry face that gets my attention every time:  It’s those fucking sequins!

She must’ve loved them as a little girl, as all little girls do.  And as all little girls, she must’ve found them magical, like fairy dust or sparkly refections in the water from the mirror mosaic on the bottom of a pool floor.  And she may have long departed — in her mind and in her face — but this child-like addiction is the only sliver of sanity that separates her from those of us, insane enough to give it up.

They are never dangerous, these faces; no more dangerous than the minds that hide behind them, storing away their stories of horror and loss from which the only sane thing to do — is to depart.  Alas:  The faces of the departed.  There are so many of them, in this town!  

Who knows what has brought them here, and why they never left.  Is it because hope dies last; but when it does, it leaves a person too exhausted to depart?  Or is it because they, like me, have nowhere else to go.

Because they are already — the departed, and this — is where they have departed for.  And this is where they continue to depart, dragging behind their carts and their beauty —  like cautionary tales for the rest of us.

“Cali’s Where They Put the Mack Down.” DO They?

Okay, my New Yorkers:  Avert your eyes here.  I’m gonna bitch a lil’:

Where the fuck is my sun, LA-LA?

This tan-o-rexic is seriously freaking out here!  How in the world am I going to carry on with my image of an ethnically ambiguous honey who attracts the gazes of dem white boys and brothers alike, if I let my skin lose the shade I’ve been working on so hard this summer?  Besides, everyone gets a much more mellow version of me after I’ve seared my skin under the cancerous rays.  So, really, my tan — is good for everyone.

(Hmm.  Where is my Not Like button ‘round here?!  Not Like.  Not Like at all, LA-LA!)

As if the life of a single girl in this city wasn’t hard enough!  First of all, everyone in LA-LA, regardless of their occupation, acts as if the entertainment industry is their money-maker.  In order to afford a life in this expensive city, we all work insanely long hours (even and especially those of us who choose to be self-employed); and it takes an equal amount of dedication to we wedge in some sort of a social life in between those 16-hour days that reek of production jobs. 

(For the single ladies on the hunt:  The men who work those bloody production jobs are quite easy to pick-out.  Beware:  They’re overstressed workaholics with quickly graying hair, chronic jitters acquired from serious dozes of caffeine, with a special talent of juggling several mobile devices and alcohol drinks with Red Bull.  They also tend to be overly dramatic when they don’t get the answer they want; because unlike for the rest of us:  Their time.  IS.  Money.)

But when we do get out for the sake of recreational — or procreational — activities, we are confronted with further challenges of this vast city.  No matter who you are or where you come from, everyone’s immediate beef with LA-LA is:  The distance.  Because this city spans for over 500 square miles that include mounts and valleys, ghettoes and beaches.  It can be a pretty mother fucker though; but we all would enjoy the ride a bit more, if it weren’t for the world-famous Los Angeles traffic.  (This traffic, by the way, is the very reason I’ve chosen to be self-employed; because when trying to get to my receptionist gig with its 8:30 in-time a few years back nearly gave me a heart attack and forever ruined my profanity censor.  Oh yes, sire:  Driving in my passenger seat — is not for the weak of heart, or for the tender of ears.)

It takes a special amount of expertise and temper to get to places on time.  But when in pursuit of a social life, one does have a choice to evaluate whether or not the event — or the person — is worth going the distance.  Brutal, ain’t it?  Yep.  I would never say it to a player’s face, but if he resides in the Valley, he and I — are just not meant to be.  Especially with these current gas prices!  Yeah.  Nyet:  I don’t do the Valley.  (I barely do Burbank, yet even then I cringe.)

And don’t even get me started on our City’s parking regulations:  It’s an exercise in deductive reasoning!  I’ve been known to deconstruct those poles with three-to-four plaques about permits and street cleaning and towing zones — for ten mins, easily!  Nowadays, if I’m ever late to a date, I don’t blame it on traffic.  I just roll my eyes and wipe my forehead:

“Phew.  Those parking signs!”

Anyway.  So, say you’ve arrived to your date safely and somewhat on time.  You’ve shared a meal.  The player has walked you to your car (which hopefully has NOT been towed by then).  What do you next?  Ahem (insert an cringe):  Not taking a walk, that’s for sure!  We don’t walk ’round here.  Because there is no better way to attract trouble than taking a stroll in pretty much any neighborhood.  Sure, you could drive yourselves to a park, but there aren’t many of those here either.  Besides, in the eve, most of them become a camping ground for this city’s homeless; and something tells me, you don’t wanna disturb their sleep.  So, why don’t you just grope each other against that safely parked car of yours; then, say, “Night-night,” and drive off while texting sexy messages to each other?  Fun.

With all of these factors considered, dating becomes a tricky and quite a stressful thing in this City of Angels.  But the one thing you cannot do — is leave your plans up in the air.  Because there are way too many factors that can distract both of you and detour your coffee date so far off, you’ll never get to it.

Last night, for instance, a cutie was making plans with me via texting; and oh, how intense he sounded!  (Call me old-fashioned, it would be my personal preference for him to pick-up that same phone and call me.  But then, I’ve lived through so many failed date plans and flaky arrangements, that I wasn’t getting my hopes up in the first place.)  But the player was very persistent — and quite specific:  He established the time, the date, the place AND the duration of our coffee date.  When I cracked a joke at his expense, this LA-LA native texted:

“I may be young, but I’m still a man.  I am very specific about what I like.”

Mkay then!  Sounds like someone’s been thrown for a loop a coupla times in his dating life; but yes, sir!  I’ll see you on Friday, at 17:36 Pacific time, on the South-East corner of Doheny and Sunset.

Now, I don’t want to ruin your party any further, my kittens, but this is not just a matter of my cunty-ranty opinion.  Apparently, official studies have been conducted on the topic of our strife and their conclusion is:  Dating in LA-LA — sucks!

I personally still have some hope, but according to this bit (forwarded to me by a bicoastal comrade), our city is actually the worst for any romantically recreational — or procreational — activities.  Why?  Learn about it:

“Anthropologists have noticed a statistic that correlates nicely with the social and sexual permissiveness of a population.  It’s called the sex ratio — the number of men for every 100 women.  In places where the sex ratio is low (i.e. excess of women over men), social morals are relaxed, women go out a lot, and everyone has a ball.  Where the sex ratio is high (i.e. excess of men), people go out less and attitudes are more conservative.”  

According to this blog — not written by yours cunty-truly, but by a man (!) — LA-LA’s excess of men makes our dating life quite hard to navigate.  (And you’d think that for a single girl this imbalance in sex ratio would be a good thing.  Damn.  Can’t a kitten get a break?)

So, instead of waiting for our now officially sucky dating scene to improve, I personally choose to entertain myself.  Hence:  Where the fuck is my sun, LA-LA?  Seriously.