Last Thursday, my friend, Jaleel King, was returning from speaking at the One Life No Regrets photography conference, in Australia. Jaleel and I had talked, on the phone, many times, but had never actually met. Since he had a layover in LA, prior to going home to Philadelphia, I gave him a little tour — Venice Beach, and a drive up PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) through Malibu — and who can resist lunch in El Segundo 🙂 ?
Having lived in Venice for two years, when I first came to California, I know that it can be an eclectic place: Colorful and full of fun, dreary with many lonely and desperate souls, interesting and dangerous. I don’t know what happened, on Tuesday night, but on Thursday morning, when parking a few steps from the Cairo Cowboy Cafe, on Market Street, I notice half a dozen TV news vans, their antennae reaching toward the sky. Then I saw the chalk marks on the street and sidewalk, and the flowers. According to bystanders, a homeless man and two LAPD officers had a confrontation. The homeless man, reported by witnesses to be drunk, was shot by one of the officers.
Early mornings are different that weekends of summer afternoons, in Venice. Before the tourists mix in with the locals, and before the vendors, artists, and buskers arrive, there are only the people who spent the night on the beach, in a doorway, or under a plastic tarp strung between shopping carts — the transients and homeless.
Jaleel and I struck up a conversation with four twenty-somethings who were making a sign “Testing Human Compassion”. Two brothers left Toronto, Canada in July, and rode their bicycles to California. They met up with two travelers from Michigan, spent some time in Slab City and East Jesus, and were now trying to raise money to build a playground in Slab City.
Friendly, but totally into the design of their sign, they were happy to talk about their adventures, but mostly concerned that the playground have equipment without sharp edges, so that the kids wouldn’t get hurt.
From Venice, we drove around Santa Monica, then up the coast to Malibu, then across the coastal mountains to the Ventura Freeway, and back, south, to LA, and El Segundo. Jaleel, even though jet lagged from his overnight flight from Australia, kept commenting how everything reminded him of the game Grand Theft Auto. In fact, he couldn’t wait to get home to play. 🙂 The other major impression was how dry the hills were. In the best of times, LA’s grass gets brown by early summer — and Pennsylvania is very green, but we are in a long drought, so even in Spring, the Southern California lawns and hill sides are very dry. After lunch, we were only one hour from flight time to Philadelphia, so I put the wheels on Jaleel’s chair, pulled him over the curb (on the second try), and off he rolled, toward U.S. Airways, and home, to sleep in his own bed for the first time in a couple weeks. So happy to be your tour guide, Jaleel, even if just for a few hours.
Oh, and I’ll bet that not many of my Western Pennsylvania friends know that, like Jaleel, I was born in Philadelphia — not the Pittsburgh area. I didn’t move to Latrobe, PA until I was two weeks old — my parents moving back home as the war (WWII) ended.