A Short Visit in Los Angeles – A Reflection on Walking

As I walked up Beverly Boulevard this morning, I learned I was something of an oddity. Nobody walks in L.A. The shops and other places of business are one story, or rarely, two stories. Neighborhoods stretch out for miles and miles. The residents here drive wherever they have to go. Valet parking is available at restaurants and clubs, sometimes free and sometimes at great cost. Cars dive into open parking spots, as if they have found gold.

There are, however, the invisible walkers. Like ghost ships on a foggy night, the homeless shuffle the sidewalks, pushing their laden grocery carts in front of them. Each seem to be following their self specific round from one spot to the next, on auto pilot. The carts are mounded with home. Sheets of cardboard, ratty blankets rank and brown with dirt, bottles of water, overcoats over the top, tied down with belts or rope. A doorway, an open alley, a crawl space next to a garbage scow; all destinations. Only someone new to town, like me, seems to see them. They don’t make eye contact, they don’t ask for money. They sit, lay, or shuffle.

The drivers in cars see me, however. I am the lone person, apparently walking with purpose, along the sidewalk. Cars wait when I step into the crosswalk, to allow me to reach the far curb before they turn. So unused to people in a crosswalk, they don’t know how to judge the amount of time needed for me to cross. They could turn in front of me three times before I arrive at the point of walking in front of their car!

Now and then I did come across another soul, apparently walking with purpose, like  me. I learned, however, that some of these walkers were actually not like me, either.

A woman in a fashionable outfit, neat and clean, swinging her phone in one hand, walked twenty paces ahead of me mid morning. I noticed her only because we were both walking alone on the long stretch of sidewalk. Suddenly she stopped and spun, waiting for me to come abreast. I smiled, about to say good morning, when she pointed at me and began to chastise me, “…walking there…talk about me…. you have issues…” She then waved me past her. When I was two or three paces ahead, I heard the angry slap of her sandals on the pavement. She quickly overtook and subsequently passed me, shaking her head.

At the next crosswalk I waited through an extra light so she could move away well in front of me. I don’t know: maybe she didn’t want to share her sidewalk with me.

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