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By Dear Dirty America
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A Sad City Swarming With Reckless Human Beings

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Los Angeles

Matthias Gerung

Oh! the poor people. All the impoverished people. Where are they going? How long with they survive? Why has God allowed the universe to cast these weakened souls into such terrifying, despicable situations? Why has humanity allowed it? Why has our federal government allowed it? Why has the city allowed it?

Oh, these miserable people.

That should be the mantra of Los Angeles. A city swarming with sad, reckless human beings. Not all of them look that way, at least not at first glace. The very gay man I met the other day didn’t look homeless. His tie was brown with bright orange checkers and dashes of yellow. His pants were not tattered. His shoes looked adequate. He didn’t smell bad.

He didn’t look like he squatted in the bedroom of a small foreclosed house in Hollywood. A house that was falling apart. Yet, I found out that was his reality. Had his car taken from him. Was still looking for a job, a year later. Had no computer. And the adolescent boys were closing in…

The man I met had a very negative attitude. I sat with another friend and we enjoyed the sun breaking through the dark rain clouds. We had coffees, and the aroma of the coffee shop wafted out the front door every time a customer came or left.

The gay man loathed his friend for leaving Los Angeles and going on a life journey. The man’s jealousy was almost palpable. The way he told the story and the words spit off the end of his tongue in splashes of saliva that tickled my cheeks.

That attitude might have been the reason he was so poor and out of luck. Or, maybe it had nothing to do with his downturn in life. How will I ever know for sure? He was a spiteful character. A real fiery lisper who used words like cunt and cocksucker.

He was also on a spiritual path, but the type of yoga he did was one that terrifies me. It involves lifting the lower energies (the sexual energies at the base of the spine) upward, into the head. The only result, if the meditation works, is an enlightened schizophrenia. I kept my mouth shut about it, though, because I am not a yogi nor a guru. I’m just a writer. A recorder of time and space. Or maybe nothing so lofty. Maybe I’m a bullshitter, like Mitt Romney and Barack Obama and the other great storytellers of our era.

I had no idea people squatted in foreclosed homes. It seemed, in our present police state age, impossible. But the house this man had found was crumbling, and he’d known the previous owners, so when they left the house, he slipped in and made it his temporary space.

He used to sleep in his car. He’d been burned after an exhausting sexual escapade in the Midwest left him stranded in the Lone Star State. “I put all my chips in for love,” he said, and hung his head. “See how that turned out?” His lover had eventually wanted nothing to do with him (because of the bad attitude?) and left him for dead.

The man spent the rest of his money on a car and drove to Los Angeles. When he couldn’t make the payments on it, he called his mother in a final attempt to save it. Could he borrow some money? he asked her. His thin, pale face tightened as his lips pushed out, then pressed together, then burst back out again in an audible pop. “Nope,” he said. “She said, ‘nope.’”

His cartoonish tie clashed with his knitted orange blazer. His skinny legs were crossed. He sipped on a mug of tea outside the coffee shop. “I’ve got to update my resume at the library,” he said. Because he needed another job.

“And three days ago,” he said, “a bunch of kids broke into the house. Just to break shit. Not to actually live there, like I’m doing, but to ruin the place.” The man shook his head. A tooth jutted out in front of his bottom row of teeth. Like it had been an extra forced to the forefront. Tilted forward at an ominous angle, toward anybody upon which he fixed his glazed eyes.

“I’m not afraid of junior high kids,” he said and closed his eyes. “I’m not fucking afraid of young punks.”

Well, you should be, I said, if there are a lot of them. Pack mentality. Undeveloped minds. Kids are ruthless and violent and these days have a stunted sense of empathy.

“They tried to get in the bedroom,” he said, “so I pounded on the door as hard as I could and they ran away.”

It’s only a matter of time before they come back, I said. I pictured him being beaten to death by a bunch of stomping feet wearing garish sneakers they’d seen dozens of times on TV. I didn’t like the image of this man sprawled on the dusty floor of a cold, abandoned home with blood oozing out of his head, but I felt it was an accurate one. Only a matter of time before he succumbed to some sort of violence.

Los Angeles is not a city where you want to find yourself without approved access to at least a small room with a good lock on the door. In other words, how long did this man have to survive before the kids clobbered him to death, or the police swept him into the street, or another vagrant person more brutal than him decided to take over the space?

Oh! the poor people.


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