I’m subjected to quite a cultural groin pull between life on skid row and life in West LA or Orange County (where I spend the bulk of the rest of my days). For one thing, I’ve noticed that affluent folks say “Have fun!” when you leave and folks on skid row say “Don’t work too hard!” Skid row folks are loud. Really loud. Sometimes I’m thinking they are fighting and then notice the smirks on every face. They put my sarcasm to shame… and if you knew me, you’d see that was near impossible. My sarcasm is bullet proof.
Paul had to escort a man in a wheelchair off the property who was threatening to kill him and trying to start a fight. From a wheelchair. At least the self-confidence is intact. And Paul is a real soft spoken, God fearing person. I mean, the guy in the chair would’ve literally killed anyone else. The cops came to get him.
The cops came to get a lot of people today. They walked on the property even. They were out in force on the street, arresting people. Had a woman pushed up against the fence in handcuffs for what I can only assume was prostitution. At least women have an asset to sell and fund their addiction. Maybe that’s why there are so many transvestites?
One woman came in and got all dressed up in a donation dress that was mostly see through, but alas, no slip was donated with it. She told Wendy she was going to go look for a job and asked if the shelter had any hair products for her to fix herself up with. At first Wendy told her no, but then pulled her aside and said,
“I can give you a little baby oil fo yo hair. But you gots to promise me you won’t be thinkin all highly of yerself and go out there an knowin no man out there for pay, you hear me?”
The woman agreed and so Wendy helped her do her hair.
Later, in the laundry room, Charlie and I were folding sheets when one of the female clients stopped in the doorway. She turned sideways and smoothed her hips with her hands. Her chin lowered submissively and her eyeslashes batted at twice their normal repitition. She asked Charlie if he had fun the night before.
Charlie looked a little flustered and began to drone on about how he is from the south and in the south folks don’t go out and have fun. They keep to their work and like to stay keeping to themselves at home.
She asked if he had a phone and told him she wanted his number so she could call him.
He stammered and said, “I’ll give it to ya later.”
As she walked away, he turned to me with a very familiar frustrated look. “That woman be coming afta me. But I don’t want her. I has a woman I be chasin and she don’t want the distraction. I don’t know what to do. She won’t be taking no from me. But I don’t want her. I don’t lay down with just anybody.”
I told him about the few southern gentlemen I’ve known and how much trouble they have convincing a woman that they really aren’t interested.
“Thas right. They got that southen flava. They know the way of a gentleman. The women out here, they be sorely mistreated. They be thinkin just cus you be bein nice to them, that you want to lay down with them.”
As I was getting ready to leave, I caught sight of two white faces. They looked so incredibly white that they seemed to glow. I don’t think I’ve seen a white person that is not a client the entire time I’ve been here. Turns out the two white folk came with a group from The Dream Center to feed the clients. They do so every Friday afternoon. Funny, The Dream Center is still the only church I’ve seen active in the darkest parts of Los Angeles. They used to clean trash from my street when I lived in Echo Park. The kids and I walked past their building on the way to school every morning.
It was good to see some sort of outside touch within the walls of the courtyard. Interstingly, most of the clients being served lunch were people I didn’t recognize. It seemed like our normal clients left and people in the neighborhood who know there’s a weekly free meal lined up.
I am appreciating the day to day interaction I’m getting doing the work I do. One of the staff from inside the office saw me sweeping and said “Are we having fun yet?” I was able to honestly say, yes.
I’m going to miss the staff and their brutal honesty when the time comes to hang up my scrub brush and broom.