Sunday, September 11, 2011

City of Angels: Riding the Bus with Hollywood Jesus

Driving with my best friend, we waited to turn left to let a man run past us to catch the bus, his black cape flapping about his thigh-high boots. I LOVE that these are your people, she said, as we turned and watched him safely board the bus. Your bus people.

Last night was a beauty of a bus-ride, if like me, you're looking forward to the crazy. Waiting in Hollywood at Sunset and Vine, I stood near the curb, my eye on the traffic, near the bus sign but a few feet from the covered bus bench, giving space to the homeless man sleeping there. A few minutes later, he awoke, walked outside the lean-to, looked at me a few times, turned his back on me and proceeded to piss on the corner of the bus stand, his urine streaming down the sidewalk to the gutter.

My first thought? Well, where else is this guy gonna pee? Not like any of the bars on the block are going to let him use their restroom. My second thought? The Japanese TOTALLY know what they're doing when they remove their shoes before entering a room. You never know what you're walking on, but I can tell you, in L.A., it ain't sunshine.

Fully roused from relieving himself, he walked back behind the bus partition, and started hollering, ranting and raving at passersby, drivers, and the world in general.

It was getting closer to midnight, and our bus was late. A blonde Russian girl in her 20s arrived, asked me how long I'd been waiting, and staked out a spot further from the stop. A safe distance. An older woman with a peaceful, round, expressionless face said something about traffic being bad on a Saturday night.

The man's rant died down for a minute, and there was just the sound of tires turning and engines revving as people gunned through the yellow lights, hurriedly turned left on reds, and generally obeyed the laws of the land. Suddenly the man stepped out from the covered bench, a white sheet tied around his neck flowing over a bulky backpack, and looked me straight in the eye.

You think I don't have a car? he asked me. Of course I got a car, first thing I got, so my girlfriend wouldn't stand alone at a bus stop, getting hit on by strangers. Don't want her taking a taxi, either. I've got guns, he nodded toward the building at our backs, indicating his cache was kept in the newly-abandoned ghost-town of the Border's Bookstore behind us. AK-47s, 9mm, ... he proceeded with a laundry list of firearms, pretty much everything but a musket.

I wasn't sure my best move. If I walked away, would he follow, angry? If I ignored him, would be come closer, forcing me to look at him, to really see him?

What is it like, to be so out of control, so beyond the boundaries of civilized society, yet completely unseen? I don't know if, off his meds as he obviously was, he ever thought about that, but I all I could wonder was how invisible he must feel, people constantly averting their gaze, putting greater space between them and his odor, his rants, his very being.

I seemed to have found the right balance, making eye contact briefly, every few sentences, standing my ground. His rant at an end, he paused, looked me in the eye, and asked in a small voice, But I'm a good boy, aren't I?

He sounded like a child, confused, and it crushed me a little to realize he is someone's son. I wonder what his story is, and who might still know it.

Our bus having finally arrived, I sat by myself near the front, and watched as another woman, either drunk or off her meds (or both), poked at the 20-something guy in front of her. Poked him squarely and repeatedly between his shoulder blades, asking him his name, why he was wearing a blue t-shirt, and if he would wear the red one next time. Every time someone walked on the bus, she called out to them, asking their name, and was ignored. What was her story? Whose daughter is she? Does she realize she's not really seen?

At the same stop that the guy and his friend decided to disembark from the crazy-train, lo and behold, Hollywood Jesus joined the ride.

He stepped on board and from his robe, pulled out his bus pass? exact change? (I curse the British guys blocking my view with their camera phones). Hollywood Jesus took a seat, his white robes and golden-brown locks flowing in the breeze that came in through the window above him. He blessed us with his presence for just two stops down Sunset, then, giving a warm goodbye to the driver, exited and crossed against traffic.

I'd heard of him, but had yet to share a Metro line with him. It makes me wonder, though, what his story is. If he's off his meds. But knowing that he too, is someone's son, and he too, probably just wants to be seen.

(Photo: Hollywood Jesus riding the bus via Oh My ... What a Shame.)


Rachel said...

I like everything about this story except the fact that you're out taking the bus from Sunset and Vine at midnight! :)

Rebecca Snavely said...

Ahh.. but would you be worried if I were on the subway in NYC? L.A. needs to step up its public transportation game.

Shannon said...

Love the post... I can visualize everything so clearly. :) I especially like your comments about these supposedly crazy people... and how they are someone's son or daughter... and how they just want to be seen... to be known. Isn't that what all of us want in life. I'm trying to be mindful of this fact especially at this point in my life... as I myself sometimes feel unseen and unknown... and I try to make it a point to make sure the people I encounter know that I do see them... sometimes all it takes is a flicker of acknowledgement. With crazies, maybe different :)... but as a rule, I think so...

alex said...

a lovely post. Here to there people are mostly same, behave same with just little diffrence, i think it's the human being beauty. Here due to population Bus ride is not always cool. ...somewhere i took the help of dictonary..but doesn't matter....i love your this post...a post with the touch of emotions..

Rebecca Snavely said...

Shannon - lovely thoughts about being aware, both of your own needs and the unspoken needs of others. sending love.

Alex - Thanks for reading! I appreciate meeting new people near and far - look forward to reading more about your life in India.