The man moved along the sidewalk, stating to no one in particular, "It wasn't until I moved downtown that I started talking to myself. Don't know why. So many people and no one to talk to."
A man whose wide eyes were a bit too bright, too glassy, offered me a DVD. Three DVDs, to be exact, each a different xeroxed picture of porn stars. I politiely declined to purchase, and he looked straight in my eyes with his wild ones and said, "You're over 18, right?" and offered his collection again. Not exactly the problem, I explained and stepped away.
Seeing he couldn't make a sale, he asked for a dollar for a sandwich. I didn't think it wise to open my wallet and rifle through bills, so I declined again, clutching my $1.25 bus fare in my other hand. He held out his hand to introduce himself, and I gave him mine, involunatarily pulling away when he raised it to his lips. I stepped away again, not sure what I should feel, leaving him foolishly kissing the air, eyes closed, bent at the waist like a gentleman bowing, his set of porn still in the other hand.
How different a setting from just blocks west, where every night I wait for my evening bus ride home outside a high-rise retirement center in downtown L.A. The next night, I watched as families dropped off their parents or grandparents, helping them out of the car and with grocery bags or a purse-puppy in tow. As I strained to see the 714 pull up, I heard a flute playing, weaving in and out of the sounds of traffic. It wasn't mournful, or happy, but just the right tempo for that warm November night. I strained my eyes up toward the sound and saw the flutist standing seven floors up, a music stand on the balcony in front of her. I dug through my bag for my recorder, on hand for a postponed interview, and captured a bit of what that night, waiting for the bus, sounded like.