There is a park close to where I live in downtown Los Angeles. The park, Pershing Square, was a place for communal gathering during World War II. It was used for organizing rallies and recruiting. Now, its underground parking facility draws more footfalls.
To a New Yorker like me, the park bears some resemblance to Union square. It is an open space—part green, part concrete—surrounded by the city’s skyscrapers along all four sides.
Like most parks in this part of town though, it is deserted. Few dogs come to the pet area and you will never see children in the playground.
Pershing Square is mostly home to the homeless. It has a few trees that protect from the scorching California sun during the day and provide shelter through the night.
Paintings by G.B. Auerbach are lined up like art hung in a gallery. There is nothing uppity about this art show though. The works are accessible, free of cost, to the common man(woman) walking the streets.
Unlike most abstract pieces of art—they will bring to focus reality right next to it—faces you want to unsee, flesh melting to bone, the stench of body odor that makes it difficult to stand where I do. And so, I walk away.
I can write about homelessness that I see splayed out on the streets of California. Like most Angelenos though, I am quickly growing immune to a feature of everyday.
I am a hypocrite who tells herself it’s someone else’s problem to fix. I simply walk away faster from areas where I feel unsafe as a woman. Like this morning, when I rushed out of the square into a crowded coffee shop.
A man in tattered clothes was waiting for coffee in front of me. He looked like a resident of Pershing Square. I could tell by the way the staff of the barista was looking at him.
He turned around to avoid their gaze. I could see that he was smiling now. Not at me though, at my dog. He bent low to start a conversation with him, ignoring my attempt to smile back. My dog responded, giving the man his paw.
“Aww!” The man said. “You make my day dog. Did I tell you—I love you? Of course, I did.”
My dog offered him his second paw, next.
“Oh my god, dog, I wish I could take you home!” The man rambled on. “Can I tell you a secret? Promise you won’t tell anybody?
I don’t like people. Nope—people are scum. They are number five on my list. You know who is number four on it?
Yep, insects rank higher than people. That is the truth dog. And now you know the rule I live by.”