Tag Archives: pedestrians

“People Talking Without Speaking… People Hearing Without Listening…”

Today, I studied my city with memories captured in a single, tired glance.

It’s all I can spend on it sometimes:  One look — and I’ve gotta keep on moving.  Which may be why Los Angeles discovered on foot never resembles the place I think it actually is.  It looks different, in walking actuality; and unlike in more pedestrian-friendly places, it doesn’t pulsate with a life.  Instead it buzzes.  Sometimes, it screeches; and it honks, zooms by like an impatient, swearing driver who nearly runs me over, while making a right on red.

And when I can no longer stand such a mechanical pace, I plead to meet my friends in places that remind me:  that there is life, and there is love; and that somehow, in end, we may just all turn out alright.

Today, while I driving across town, I granted other passing faces a single, tired glance:  as much as I could hold without averting my eyes in shame at sudden lack of my compassion, once I’d discovered they weren’t accidentally the faces of those I loved.  Besides, I only could linger for as long as it was safe for those drudging through the traffic behind me.  Then, I’d gotta keep on moving.  We all had to.

It started with a girl backing her black SUV out of a driveway on the West Side.  At first, she didn’t see me; and normally, immediately outraged, I’d honk and swear, demonstratively delivering my point about being wronged, in her rear-view mirror.  Today though, I could use a slower pace.  There was no traffic lingering behind me, so I just stopped and waited for her clumsy merger to be completed.

Still, she wouldn’t see me (or, maybe, she merely pretended); and when I drove around her giant car, glossy like the wet back of a killer whale, I saw her left profile.  She had a tightly pulled ponytail on the back of her head, perfectly ironed and sleek, with not a single hair out of place.  Her lips were glossy and pursing.  And then, above a diamond stud, I saw a tiny mechanism jammed into her eardrum.

She was talking, gesticulating at what seemed to be the pace of her speech.  Although her windows were tinted, in the back seat, I saw a forest of stiff handles of shopping bags and a few tubes of wrapping paper.  Just watching her, I got so tired, I made up my mind to take the slowest lane all the way home — for the next ten miles.

When the front line of cars on my side of the road began rolling under a freeway bridge on Venice, my lane slowed down at a wide intersection.  Quite normal, I began to think, especially a day before Christmas:  For I’d already witnessed a plentitude of abnormal behaviors this week, which had to be the reason for feeling so completely drained.  I lingered for a handful of seconds.  I studied my city. The palm trees shimmered above my open sunroof like an old backdrop in theatre no longer doing magical productions.

From in front of the car, leading all of us across, I finally saw a woman bicyclist emerge and slowly make her way through moving traffic.

“Not very smart,” I thought but waited somewhat patiently.

But then I saw a baby trailer attached to the back of the bicycle.  A blond head of a child was visible through its netted side wall.

“That woman — is an idiot!” I thought.  And normally, I’d keeping on swearing and scoffing, and call the silly mother some terribly unworthy names.  Today, though, I looked away; for I myself began to feel exhausted by the lack of reasonable behavior on her part.

A black woman with a drag queen’s eye make-up was ringing a bell in front of my Trader Joe’s.  A cross-section of hippies were rushing in inside, then coming out with loaded brown bags.  I didn’t see the woman speak:  Her call for charity would be completely silent if it weren’t for the arhythmic, tired ringing of her bell.  The shoppers seemed indifferent (although one woman faked looking at the pavement, as if she’d lost something).  I, too, continued driving, somehow more exhausted by the lack of my compassion than by the disappointment at that of others.

To my gray-faced and tired teller at the bank, I barely uttered a word.  The skin under his eyes seemed yellow and ready for the end of the day.  It was the height of noon.

“I wish you lovely holidays,” a gentleman at the window to the left of mine completed saying, and by the time I glanced over, he slowly began to walk away.

He was gray haired, in a pair of black suit pants and a tweed jacket, sharp dressy shoes and blood-orange-colored cufflinks picking out from underneath his sleeves.  He was old Hollywood, moving at a much more graceful speed and treating time like down payments toward better karma.

“Allow me,” I said, once I had caught up to him and opened the door.  I had to!

Despite the obvious exhaustion marked in the lines around his eyes, the man’s glance was mellow, aware and kind.  And it was not enough to resurrect my own compassion, but to remember that this time of year — I could better yet.

“Told You I’ll Be Here Forever, Said I’ll Always Be Your Friend…”

Someone had once said that there were no closures, in life.

I had read that yesterday afternoon, while I waited for LA-LA’s haze to clear.  It never did.  Because by the time I saw the anticipated clarity of the sky — something we all think we’re entitled to, around here, on the daily basis — the smog had already crawled in, like just another cloud; and it was time to call it a night.  Or, it was time to call it an evening, at least.

So, I kept on reading, sprawled out on the floor among my books and collecting random bits of opinions by others that have come — and written — before me; in possible hopes that someone would do it a little better than them, down the road…

But then, someone had once said that there were no closures, in life.

That life — didn’t really work that way.  That it consisted of choices — poor choices and those that were slightly better — all conducted in reaction to complete chaos.  And then, of course, there would be consequences to those choices as well; and more choices — poor and those that were slightly better — would follow, in reaction to more consequences.  And on, and on, and on:  Life would carry on, with the better of us learning to commit slightly better choices.  And a life with the biggest majority of better choices, I suppose, would make for a life, best-lived.

Pretty bleak, that thing that someone had said once.  And it would keep me distraught for the rest of the day.  I also knew it would keep me awake, when it would finally be time to call it a night.  Or, to call it an evening, at least.

So:  By the time it became clear that LA-LA’s haze would never clear yesternight, I left the house for the other side of town, speeding through its residential streets, in search of a catharsis if not an adventure.  Occasionally, I would wave at other drivers to let them have their right of way; and most would appear slightly surprised — at my better choice.  When the exhausted joggers and the defensive pedestrians waited to be noticed at intersections, I would make eye contact with them and nod.  And at some, I would even smile:  Like the sporty Jewish mother in her Lulu pants with a pretty but androgynous child inside a baby carriage, on Robertson.  Or the tired Mexican man, in dusty clothes, pushing along his cart with leftovers of souring fruit, from his selling island on Venice and Fairfax.  Or the two young lovelies, who despite the never cleared LA-LA’s haze, decked themselves out in delicious frocks; enticing me with their tan legs and taut arm exposed, on Abbot Kinney.

I nodded, I smiled.  I waved, on occasion.  In some odd state of calm resignation, I found myself in adoration — with the never cleared city.  That mood, ever so close to surrender, would be my slightly better choice, for the evening (even though I wouldn’t think about it long enough to realize its further consequences).

But then, someone had once said that there were no closures, in life.  That life didn’t really work that way.  That is was all chaos, random choices with their even more random consequences.

Later, while I waited for a rendezvous with a man so luminous and kind he would make me want to forgive all others that came before him, I lost track of time in a conversation with a friend.  A friend that had been a comrade at first, then a lover; until we would make a poor choice to put an end to it; then a slightly better one — to preserve what was left.  He had once asked me why I kept in touch with those that had come before him.

“For the stories,” I would respond, immediately surprising myself with the clarity of my choice.

At the time, he would find that choice slightly poor.  But yesterday evening, he had to finally see it — as a slightly better one.  (Redemption, at last!)  Because in my stories, I had become a researcher of consequences.  And perhaps my act of defiance had come from the fear of being forgotten — the fear of being inconsequential — but I would choose to remember, him and those that had come before him, and I would keep track of our stories.  And also, I would keep track of our choices — however poor or good — in possible hopes that at least one of us would do it a little better, the next time, somewhere down the road.

And no matter the choices, no matter the consequences, all along, I would insist on kindness.  That way, in the end, in addition to the intimacy that could soothe a broken heart, there would a new sensation:  Something, that for the first time yesternight, to the two of us, would feel like grace — some sort of stubborn choice to be slightly better.

Yes, someone had once said that there were no closures, in life.  That life didn’t work that way.

But last night, in the midst of the never cleared LA-LA haze, I dared to differ:  Although others indeed could not always grant closures for my own life — or for our mutual stories; I would always make the slightly better choice for forgiveness.  And isn’t forgiveness — just another name for closure, anyway?

Hit the Road, Jack!

A heavy heart.  She believed it to be a condition of the true. 

“Not now…” her girlfriends in bad relationships pleaded, their faces looking like sad dogs or startled babies, right before they howl with grief.  “Maybe tomorrow, you can tell me the truth.  But not now.”

They were hurting, like so many:  An epidemic of the living.  She understood that.  But she always thought it was better to hit the road.

Her losses — there have been many.  Plenty of little defeats.  But maybe it was her father, who as she remembered always stood so very tall; maybe it was he who taught her to get up and hit the road, again and again, even if merely out of habit.

He himself had long been self-discounted to the camp of the defeated:  Those who got through a listless crawl of days that were mundane most of the time — at their best — and chaotic for the rest of the year.  (Once, he confessed that he preferred the chaotic ones; because at least then, he couldn’t ponder his way through them.)

He had stayed behind, in a country that she fled before she too joined the defeated.  Because she wanted so much more than survival.  Because she got sick in the lobbies of its office buildings, hospitals and dorms, all smelling alike — like chlorine and mildew — waiting and waiting for someone to come and get you, only to give you another dose shit.  Daily resignation to injustice just wasn’t enough:  She wanted to strive, to flourish; to chase ideals, like a cat does mirror reflections on the wall.  She wanted the truth; and she had hoped, for the world.  

So:  She hit the road.

But the heavy heart followed.  (She believed it to be a condition of the true.)

“Truth’s okay,” a wise woman once recommended.  “But you have to say it with a smile.  Otherwise, you’re all sharp edges.”

“Look!  A roach in your salad,” she said; then remembered the woman’s advice — and smiled.  Better?

Every night, when heading home, at the end of all that striving and flourishing — the hour of the heavy heart would rapidly descend.  Because she knew that in between the white walls (which her lease prohibited her from painting), there would be no distractions.  Only pondering.  Only the truth.  (Oh, is that why she always preferred to be in the midst of a love affair:  Because she could reach for the voices of her lovers like others reach for a midnight snack?  But then again, she never knew how to end it.  How to wait for the end.  So, she’d either found herself “in the midst” — or hitting the road.)

Sometimes, she’d take the longest routes home, through the unpredictable neighborhoods of her city that she was beginning to memorize by heart.  Her sometimes heavy heart.   

“How do you not get lost around here?” her mother, always the passenger, asked her every single time.

“I’d rather be fucking lost, trust me!” she responded; then remembered the woman’s advice — and smiled.

Some nights though, she just couldn’t bear it.  After all of her failed attempts to get lost, she’d return to the white walls; leave the bags in the kitchen, then turn right around and leave.  Oh how she wished to live in a city with tolerance for pedestrians!  Still:  She hit the road.

And so, she would drive through her city, over and over —  through it, around — hoping to discover a new street.  To get fucking lost.  She hated those “Dead End” signs — always so brutal and non-negotiable! — and preferred one-way streets.  Those ditches on the road — she kind of liked them:  They always jolted her to an awareness and justified a complaint.  She liked shortcuts, through alleys and parking lots, especially when it was unclear if she was heading the wrong way.  The poorly lit streets of immigrant neighborhoods thrilled her and she rolled down her windows:  to get a whiff of their contented survival.

She studied other drivers, most of whom always seemed unaware of their living behind the glass walls.  She hated being stuck behind trucks and buses, even though most forewarned her of making frequent stops and wide turns.  So she’d zoom around them.  Prii — always brought bad news.  (She liked calling them “Priuses” anyway.)  So, she’d go around those too, while shaking her head and avoiding eye contact with the owners.

When following police cars, she never knew if she was allowed to go faster than them; because truth be told, she rarely knew the speed limit.

“WATCH THE ROAD” their stickers recommended.  Not:  “WATCH THE SPEED”.

So, she’d speed around those as well.

“Ooh, gurl,” one night, a driver of a bus she had just passed, attempted to talk to her through his cracked window.  She looked over.  Very much the jolly type, he probably never suffered from a heavy heart.  He was grinning:  A happy wanderer.

“Come wit me?” he said with some sort of a mishmash of Caribbean accent and street talk.

“Okay,” she responded, surprising herself with the sudden lightness of her own heart.

“Meh say:  Come WIT me!”  The man was in the midst of a sermon.

“OKAY,” she laughed.  “Where are we going?”

“Whedeva ya want, gurl!”

She considered:  “India?”

“Let’s — go!”

“Now?”

“Yeh, gurl.”

“Don’t you have passengers?”  She looked back at the monstrosity she’d zoomed around:  No wonder it makes wide turns.

“Ya make me wanna pull dis ting ova’!”  He grinned at her, with not a hint of creepiness, just joy and admiration.

“Well.  Then, let’s hit the road,” she said.

Of course, at the green eye of the traffic light, she’d sped past him, and past the orange monstrosity he was lugging around town, with seeming contentment.  Straight home she went, for the white walls of her apartment which she was prohibited to paint.  And when she stood in the midst of her kitchen — alone with her heavy heart — she thought:

“This isn’t so bad,” — and reached for the fridge, at midnight.