I was out for a walk to the shoe store, trying to have some restorative me time, but it is always a coin toss in my neighborhood. I left my apartment, excited about a potential new pair of shoes and a frozen yogurt; I am a woman of simple pleasures.
I live about half a block from Sunset Blvd. and just a couple of blocks east on Sunset, there is a grocery store aptly named, Rock and Roll Ralph’s. I walk to this Ralph’s almost every day, and definitely encounter some strange things between my apartment and this grocery store, but on my shoe store outing, I noticed that things get especially colorful east of Rock and Roll Ralph’s.
I crossed the street, entering the east of Rock and Roll Ralph’s zone and immediately, things got weird. In the middle of the sidewalk stood a middle aged woman waving her hands in the air and cursing what appeared to be the bus bench in front of her. She was about five feet tall, with sagging limbs and hair that was matted and looked sticky. Her long denim skirt skimmed the tops of filthy bare toes and her arms were scratched and sunburned. I approached her assuming she wouldn’t even know I was there, but she turned to me with bitter fury eyes and whispered, “no”.
I was starting to re-think my decision to leave the house, but the prospect of new shoes propelled me onward.
My next obstacle, I was ready for. It is my local library (about which I have written in previous blog posts), and it is a common meeting ground for unsavory types. They are mostly men, lounging on the brick walls that mark the library entrance. Some have blankets and are fast asleep, others are looking for a fix or some cash for booze. Many of the men have bicycles parked within touching range and glare warnings at passers by to stay clear of their wheels and their territory. I often find myself holding my breath as I walk briskly through what I call, Library Village.
Across the intersection from Library Village is the first of many Strip clubs with adjacent motels. The minute that the motel came into focus, I knew something was up. Leaning against a wall in the driveway entrance, I couldn’t miss the tall thin man in a dirty white baseball cap, ragged navy blue sweatshirt and baggy white pants two inches too short. His feet, adorned with pristine white shoes and black socks, were crossed casually and his frail frame bled into the wall as if he had been standing there for days. He stood in profile to the street and talked in hushed tones to two nervous men in hoodies. I passed him, trying to seem oblivious to what we both knew was happening; he looked toward me slowly with just the hint of a threat in his eyes, when a familiar person slipped out from behind his group, smiled at me and proceeded to walk almost in step with me down Sunset Blvd. Of course there is no such action for an RPer as looking out of the corner of your eye, so I couldn’t verify, but I knew he was a regular on a television show I watch called, “Scorpion”. You know you are in Hollywood when you see a TV star buying drugs at a sketchy, rent by the hour motel.
The “Scorpion” guy and I walked together until we reached the bus stop at the corner of Sunset and La Brea, where a skeleton had taken up residence and displayed all of his treasures on the ground. He smiled down at a torn shoe with no mate, a collection of smashed Pabst Blue Ribbon cans and a chipped porcelain angel figurine. He giggled with glee and pride and had no idea he wasn’t alone.
I crossed La Brea, toward 7’11 and more insanity. A man in soiled grey sweatpants and matching pull over sweatshirt, fished through an overflowing trash can. He looked padded, as if he wore layers and layers of clothes under his sweats. His face was burning red and he panted loudly under the heat of an 85 degree sun. Thinning dull brown hair hung down to his shoulders and fell across his face; he seemed to be trying to hide behind the veil of hair and made no move to clear it away from his eyes. I continued my walk, overwhelmed with how sad I suddenly felt.
I could see IHop and In and Out Burger in the distance, so I knew the shoe store wasn’t far, but I was naive to hope that my adventures were near an end. A tiny man stood outside the closed street service window of IHop. His blonde hair was formed into a single wig like dreadlock; he was shirtless, tanned to a crisp and wore shorts that were held together by decaying strings of fabric. He shouted obscenities at the reflection of his hair, accusing it of hiding his soul and stealing his dancing shoes. The shouters always scare me, so I wasn’t paying attention to the space around me; out of (seemingly, I know) nowhere, a scowling man with rage in his eyes was right in my face. He looked like he really wanted to punch me, so I ducked out of his way and hurried across the street toward the shoe store. I thought I heard the rough sound of boots following me, so I picked up the pace and raced to the shop’s door. When I turned around, there was no one there.
It was one of those days when I never should have left the house.