When Tami left for Idaho, she sat me down and got all serious face with me. “Now, no parties when I’m gone,” and then, “Be careful when you’re working in the yard. I don’t want you getting hurt when I’m not here.” You see what she did there? She doesn’t think for a moment that I’m planning a 6 day house party. The dog whistle was--keep your wits about you old man. You are not always as young as you think you are! Shoot. There went my plans to free climb the Chase Tower downtown and wingsuit myself back to Sunnyslope.
I settled, instead, for a leisurely Sunday walk. Usually, I traverse the canal on Sundays since it is easier to cross big streets and I don’t get hung up on traffic. Although there are pedestrian underpasses, they aren’t always the safest routes when you mix homeless guys sleeping in the path with out of control weekend speed cyclists. I like to stay on the surface and keep moving.
I have just made my summer transition, due to the excessive morning heat, to use the gym for walking. Not a lot of Walkabouts waiting for me there. I can only write so much about roid monkeys getting their nut on the free weights and then slamming their iron onto the floor and grunting like they just passed a kidney stone the size of a tennis ball. But I was up early this morning thanks to Kitty Baby’s new meth laced diet and I decided since it was cool early, to walk the shaded and much cooler Bridle Path that runs down Central Ave. from the canal to Bethany Home.
As I passed the parking lot at The Spoke and Wheel, I saw an older couple that I have befriended who show up every Sunday in an old beat up Chevy station wagon. I don’t know their names, but he is The Loper, because when he runs he sort of leaps into the air. In super slow motion. I call his partner, The Dancer. She’s really trim and has what I interpret as the older body of a dancer. She runs. He lopes. They waved and asked me where I was going. I pointed south.
I have driven Central Avenue for over forty years, but each time I walk it I see beautifully landscaped, huge old houses that I’ve never seen before. The whole vibe on the bridle path is different than the canal. Open. Fast moving water. Fishermen. Homeless guys in their skivvies bathing in the shallows by a ramp. The possibility of encountering a pack of feral dogs. The possibility of encountering a pack of feral humans. Very little eye contact or passing salutations.
The Bridle Path is a different story. A lot of brightly colored Lululemon. Gucci running shoes. Well-heeled soccer moms in flashy outfits coordinated by personal assistants with master degrees in color theory. And everyone is so friendly! By the time I got to Glendale Ave. I was hoarse from responding to Good Morning! Every ten feet. Young, old, men, women, solo or in packs, it was a total greet fest this morning. Even the dogs do it! Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes I think older women with cute little dogs purposefully let their dogs get in my way in hope that I will stop, pat their dog, strike up a conversation, and before I know it, I’m husband number seven. I just keep moving.
At Bethany Home I turn back and head home. I pass the same people, and the same dogs, saying, Good Morning, Again! Repeatedly. I’m Mr. Friendly.
As the mansions and trees begin to drop away as I walk north, I’m back in Sunnyslope. Up ahead, I see an old guy with a long pony tail pushing a bike with a trailer with mismatched wheels, loaded with plastic bags and tarps and all of sorts of items. There are several distinct types of transients that I have encountered in my travels. There is the man or woman who moves around with virtually no possessions. Maybe a pack or a bag that holds their stuff. Then there are the cart people. A person can cram a whole lot into a purloined shopping cart. Interesting, but not as interesting to me as the men and women who live on the street but own bicycles and who carry their possessions on trailers. The trailers can be actual bike trailers, they can be baby carriages, strollers, jogging buggies…if it has wheels it can somehow be fashioned into a cart to be hauled behind a bike.
I find them fascinating, both conceptually and visually. I have wanted to start photographing them but I haven’t found a way to do it that would be respectful to the owner and not get me killed. As I passed the old fellow pushing his bike, I took a chance.
I love engaging strangers in conversation. The challenge for me it to pull it off, be cool, learn something, and know when to back off and move on. The trick is to not encounter someone who is batshit nuts. This fellow looked approachable and I floated an observation. Man, that looks heavy pushing your bike! He responded by saying that riding it was just as hard. An opening. A conversation. He is on the street. His name is Terry. Lost his job. Went to Washington High School (Go, Rams!), and spent four days in the hospital for sepsis from an infection from a thorn from a bougainvillea bush. I shared I almost died from sepsis story. He showed me the raw wound on this finger. I talked to him about how cool I thought the carts were that guys pulled behind their bikes. After a bit I asked him if I could take a photo just of his bike. He said sure. Knock yourself out. I thanked him and took a photo. I made a monetary donation to the cause. I consider it tithing. He said, “God bless, you” and I shook his good hand. Sometimes you go to church. Sometimes church finds you.