..[Los Angeles without a car, work permit or superpowers]

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Exposition Boulevard

I forgot to wash any clothes this weekend; really, my housewifing standards are getting very lax. Sometimes Dr Strangename is reduced to quark-wrangling in yesterday's socks. On Presidents' Day I leave the house dressed, for lack of any other choices, in United Nations blue: blue blazer from California, blue t-shirt from Germany, blue jeans from England and blue plaid scarf from Japan. In my handbag I have a blue beret in case it starts raining again, but the storms are over; our building's swimming pool is a bright aquamarine, rippling to koi-gold in the sun.

On the streets of Los Angeles, in the Westside, the walking wounded are out again. A tall, thin man in an old-school business suit -- pinstriped with matching waistcoat, and I'm sure there's a watch in those pockets -- comes along very slowly, more slowly than anyone with business. His face says nothing. Another middle-aged man pootles past on a mobility scooter, exercising a cheerful dog that is raw and pink with a skin condition. 

Sepulveda Boulevard, as I walk northbound, gets dirtier and dustier.

Bungalows offering Psychic Readings and Garage Sales turn into construction warehouses and lumberyards, with a handful of South American laborours lingering outside. They're there every day, wearing trucker caps and thick jackets, leaning against the fence, not talking; I assume this is a bad day, as it's already mid-morning and work would have presented itself by now. Cornerstone Mantels has eight Stars-and-Stripes fluttering from its roof, and a FOR LEASE sign. Nearby, The Best Little Doorhouse in Town is doing brisk business.

At my destination, I wait in an empty, high-up, doctor's office. Its inland-facing picture windows show a city panorama -- more tall mirrored buildings, SunAmerica and MGM and the Die Hard tower, and glittering lines of traffic, and usually the snowy mountains beyond. Today, even though the sky is a clean arctic blue, the horizon fades into a white blur and the mountains are invisible.

(Last week, at my volunteer job in West Hollywood, I was enjoying a similar view from a picnic table in the playground while I waited for my student. A small boy came up, stood in the herb garden and -- kicking wildly at some lavender -- remarked

- I need someone to keep me SAFE I ate too much SUGAR and now I think of SCARY THINGS.

Then he ran off shouting


After ten minutes with a laptop-tapping doctor, I'm walking back down Sepulveda. I have to pass under the freeway to get home; two freeways, actually, the north-south 405 and east-west 10 that meet here in a compass-pointed rose, forming one of those looping cloverleaf patterns so beloved of LA aerial views.

But, underneath the intersection, nothing is clear, and all you know is a terrible moaning cathedral of concrete joists, shade and strange detritus: a pair of trousers snagged on a tree, a water-bottle of piss, fluttering reams of toilet paper. Abandoned vehicles are parked at the curb, with cars full of stacked trash, and a duct-taped RV covered in hand-written signs.


says one, and I hurry past before the fat man sleeping at the wheel wakes up.

The only cheerful point around here is Exposition Boulevard, regarding which I've prepared a laboured witticism: I would take Exposition, but it's long, pretty dull, and I'm not sure if it leads anywhere particular.

(Except I do know, at least, that it passes the astonishingly shabby local Postal Depot -- but why let this ruin a bon mot?)

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