This morning on my walk to the office I was greeted by four inhabitants of downtown L.A., and not one of them asked me for spare change.
I'm a little reluctant to refer to them as homeless because there's a good chance they're not; most of them probably have a home somewhere, even if it's little more than a room in a $150/week hotel. Yes, they exist, and no, you probably don't want to stay there on your next vacation, as cheap as it may seem.
Around 4th & Los Angeles I encountered a lady and a gentleman having a chat across the width of Los Angeles St. The lady was on my side of Los Angeles and walking toward me while the gentleman was crossing Los Angeles from the other side. As I approached they seemed to conclude their chat, and the lady turned, saw me, and wished me a good morning, and I returned her greeting. Unexpectedly, she did not ask me for spare change.
The gentleman had finished crossing to our side of Los Angeles, and having witnessed the brief exchange between the lady and I, while I was still about 30-feet away called out to me.
"Yo! What's up?"
"Hey! How you doin'?" I called back, then added. "Cold one this morning." (Which it was.)
He said something in return which I didn't catch but I knew meant that he hadn't quite heard or understood what I'd said. As I got closer he repeated, "Whazzat?"
"She's a cold one this morning," I said.
"Ooh yeah," he agreed.
And on I walked, again without being asked for change.
As I approached 5th St. I saw it was a hive of activity, much like last week. For some reason everyone seems to be out early on Friday morning. Maybe it's the excitement of the approaching weekend, I don't know, but at 5:30am on a Friday morning the place-to-be in downtown L.A. appears to be 5th St. and Los Angeles.
As I crossed 5th St. a large, middle-aged black woman standing on the opposite corner snarled loudly at a passerby, "What are you looking at?" Then she turned, saw me, and greeted me with a cheerful, "Morning, baby. How you doing?"
"I'm doing well, thank you," I replied. "How are you this morning?"
"I am going to make it," she said. She had such a positive outlook that I knew whatever curveballs life threw at her she would take it all in stride.
"That is really good to hear," I responded, with as much sincerity as I could muster.
Just a little further down was a young, quite stylishly dressed black man who, if the lady I'd just spoken to was a lady of the night, and I'm not saying she was, may - or may not - have been her agent. Or he may have been a gentleman of the night himself. He was quite well dressed. He had clearly overheard my conversation with the large black lady and he caught my eye and grinned at me as I approached, and then he smiled and wished me a good morning.
The incongruity of a white boy like me in that neighborhood at that time of the morning probably contributes to the warm reception I received. That I'm not just a white boy but a white boy from a small country town in rural Australia walking through downtown Los Angeles at 5:30 in the morning only serves to further enhance the absurdity of the situation.
This is not to say downtown Los Angeles is erroneously portrayed in the media and is actually a delightful place for an early morning stroll. I'm an Aussie country boy in Los Angeles. I am who I am. YMMV.