Tuesday, September 21, 2004


Everyday, on my way to work I drive past this colony of homeless people on Cahuenga Blvd., just north of Santa Monica. It started out with just one guy who appeared to be in his early 50s, but it's hard to tell the age of the homeless because living on the street is hard. So initially it was just this one guy who was sitting with his back against the fence and his pile of belongings beside him.

About a week later he was joined by another guy, a thin man who was small and wiry and often stood by the lamp post holding his leg up kind of like a stork. His belongings were against the fence though with the first guy who was still sitting, leaning up against the fence. Soon they were joined by a woman and now there was furniture - a small table and a chair and they had draped some kind of material, maybe canvas up against the fence to give them shade. At least that's what I assumed it was for because it was very hot out there on the street and they had no shelter. Now there was even more stuff piled against the fence so that it was flowing out onto the sidewalk creating their own little homeless world.

When I would drive home at night they would be sitting together talking and I got the impression that they had created a sort of family. These people interacted with each other in a way that people who like each other do. I could see the camaraderie and the toothless laughter and it made them seem so much less tragic than the three homeless men who live on Wilshire Blvd. a block up from my apartment. Those guys don't talk to anyone but the voices in their head and occasionally me when I address them by name - if they're lucid enough.

But this little camp of homeless bring to mind the hobos that were depicted in movies from the 30s about the depression. Specifically a movie called "My Man Godrey" where William Powell is picked up by Carole Lombard, a madcap heiress on a scavenger hunt. On her list of things to find is a forgotten man. That's what these people remind me of - forgotten men and women - people who no longer have homes with walls, or jobs, or cars or even the families they were born into. They've fallen on hard times and I cannot drive past them and think to myself that it could so easily be me. Or people I know.

This morning as I drove past I noticed that there was a new woman at the "camp." I noticed her because she was standing there in her filthy clothes that she'd probably been wearing for days straight holding up a compact and looking in the mirror as she combed her hair. And while many might look at her circumstances and the fact that she probably hasn't had a bath or brushed her teeth in a while and think "why bother," I was very impressed and it struck me as noble.

I wish I'd had a camera because it's a picture I'd like to look at whenever I need a kick in the pants to keep going. It was really quite the picture of perseverence.

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