“That was an epic drug deal, nice.”
Those are the first words that were directly addressed to me in Los Angeles. I’ve been here before but this time its slightly different. I’m by myself, I don’t have a car and I’m here to nosh on any morsel of hope that I might find for my supposed acting career.
It was a very good looking boy sitting on the street corner. The SuperShuttle had dropped me off at a dodgy looking alley flanked by a parking lot and a night club. He had seen a blue van stop, an Indian guy in glasses and a button down come out carrying a tote. Then a bald white guy with sunken in cheeks had gotten out, walked to the back, pulled out a suitcase. The Indian guy then handed him some cash.
The boy seemed either stranded or recently homeless. His description while a joke was aptly dramatic. That’s what people do in Los Angeles. They dramatize ordinary events. They do it rather well. They understand drama. Yesterday on the bus #217 I saw two ladies talking. They seemed to be regulars and the kind of friends that you only make when you meet someone on the bus regularly. They were both over 50 for sure and dressed in clothes that may once have been glamorous. They discussed Lincoln and Les Mis. The white lady in the black suit and matching hat said she believed it could have been 15 minutes shorter. She said she had read the book, seen it live in Paris. She thought though that Hollywood had done the best job of all three.
Everyone is a critic here. Almost everyone is an actor, a writer, a director.
Ordinary life in Los Angeles is drama enough for a movie. On this same bus, a man got on along with a helper who I later discovered was just a stranger. The gentleman was wearing a black Elvis-like wig, his hands were frozen stiff like a corpse, he was emaciated but wearing a fitting denim jacket and skinny jeans. He was pale as a ghost and was wearing thick black eye liner. He had two piercings. On the lip and on the nose. He sat down next to me.
His voice was weak and extremely polite. Like someone who is glad to be alive. He then took out his smartphone.
“Call mum.” He instructed the phone.
During the course of the long conversation that was probably irritating for mum he kept having to repeat himself since he had such a weak voice and the bus was noisy. He told her he had good news.
“My eyesight went from being 20/100 to 20/80. Its all over the hospital how good I’m doing.”
More conversation ensued. He then lowered his voice.
“Also…I bought my butt today. Uh…my butt.”
At this point I had to intensify the pretense of not eavesdropping. I looked away but I was eavesdropping harder than ever.
“Its like a thing, you put it inside your underwear and then it feels real. I don’t have to keep yanking my pants up any more.”
Eventually his battery died. I felt really bad for him. A recovering addict, I decided. An unfair assumption to make but I had to go with it because of the piercings and outfit. I’ve been to Los Angeles several times before but always behind the safe seclusion of a vehicle. You have to be on foot and bus here to really see. To see the drama. To see all the broken dreams, the frayed hope and the intense loneliness. You have to be one of them. And for these four days, I am. I am glad that I am.
LA Metro, Union Station