I rode the train down to Hollywood and Highland the other day, my way to enter the city that is part protest and part convenience.
Los Angeles is fast becoming a city. It is true that millions live here on mountain and plain extending from Palm Springs to the Pacific, but to disembark from a Hollywood subway and walk up into a dense conglomeration of bars, restaurants, stores, apartments, and theaters; that has eluded the City of Angels which prefers to offer up asphalt and sunshine and days spent inside looking at the TV in air-conditioned isolation. But things are changing.
Near Hollywood and Whitley, there was police action. A Mexican bicyclist had accidentally clipped off the side mirror of a Bentley and the owners, two black men, beat and bloodied his face. The bruised Latino sat on the sidewalk, while several cops filed reports and dozens of witnesses watched.
Across the street, another young man on a bike, Derrick, told me that he just came here from San Antonio, TX and was staying at the Roosevelt but had been robbed and had nowhere to stay so he just rode around the city all day. He had come to LA to get away from bad people in Texas and now he was living the dream here.
Hollywood Boulevard, incidentally, has some of the ugliest clothes in LA seen north of Melrose. Everything tacky from five years ago: graphic t-shirts, baggy jeans, garish jackets, they all are presented with vast indifference by smoking shopkeepers. The sidewalks outside of the store smell like urine. The north side is baked in sun and smog, and the south side in perpetual darkness and shade.
I was down here on one of my “jobs”, photographing a model who, in his demeanor and looks, emits privilege, elegance, health and happiness. And on his Twitter stream, asks for dog-sitting jobs, begs for car rides to Silver Lake, and tweets of eviction, depression, exhaustion, sinus infections, flu and seeing Jennifer Anniston on the street.
You want to warn young hopefuls not to be, to advise them to get out of here before they get old and fat and move to Woodland Hills to work for Anthem, but it is futile when you have a mouth full of white teeth on an unlined face and your body fat is only 3 percent.
On the train back to North Hollywood, there was a bicyclist, holding his new thin-tired machine evocative of Italy and leanness. He told me how he rides from Van Nuys to Hollywood and got hit by a car last year. He was sanguine and not-at-all bitter about his injury, and seemed to be a genuine chipper urbanite of the new, denser Los Angeles who looks beyond his car, engaging the urban life with feet and rapid heart beat.
Later that night, we went to my favorite cheap sushi restaurant in Valley Village. As I sat eating, a young man walked by the window. He had greasy long blond hair and sad eyes. He looked, not with lust but in need, directly at me.
After we left the restaurant and got into the car the haunted young man walked up to my window and asked me if I had any change to spare.
And I didn’t have the kindness, I admit, to give him anything.
So I was back in the Los Angeles, not in Hollywood, not in the train, but in the land where nobody has money but people with money.