Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Walking In LA

At least once a week, I try to walk a couple of miles in LA in one day.

Not on a hike through the mountains, taking pictures and navigating trails, but on the city streets - or, rather, the sidewalks.

They are seldom used, the sidewalks, here in LA - at least for walking. For the last three Tuesday nights, I've been walking to and from the LA edition of the cold reading series where I've been workshopping my Tunisia story, and my round trip route is desolate. On the way, around 8 at night, there is the valet retrieving one final set of car keys from his metal case, which looks like an electrical box affixed to the side of a luxury boutique. There is the woman waiting for the bus with her cart, so overflowing with goods I wonder if she's homeless. There is the group of three young men, clearly tourists, crossing the street confidently with a sense of purpose, and eying me curiously. On the way back, there are the men smoking outside a restaurant. There are the doormen from the swank hotel. And there is a single ambulance passing by, lights blaring, silently.

The Beverly Center looms in the shadow of itself, its stores empty but its restaurants bustling with patrons who do not emerge onto the sidewalk. The Cedars Sinai hospital hangs brightly in the sky, its beacon lights unflickering behind the city's street that does not move. The traffic lights change, regularly, but the cars passing through them seem confused when I pass, stopping and starting as though losing all memory of road rules and of how to operate heavy machinery.

I amble, headphones in ears, hands in pockets though sometimes gesticulating wildly to the side and over my head, in response to a song or a lyric or a beat or the rhythm of my own gait, the freedom of being alone on the sidewalk, on the streets, on the road. On my walk from Beverly Hills to West Hollywood, I traverse a stretch with no homeless vagrants, no cab drivers, no drug dealers, no skateboarders, no prosthelitizers, no pickpockets, no whistling men. No one is interested in what I've got.

These are my wide open spaces, the sidewalks and intersections occupied by no one at night.

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