Sightseeing buses are for those who deeply dread the places they're visiting. You can't really see a city or town from a motorized anything, so if you claim to have driven through Los Angeles, for example, you haven't seen it. The speed and protection of a car prevents you from being anywhere except inside your car, with what's outside rushing by so fast that each face, tree and building is rudely dismissed by the next, next and next. You can't pause, come closer, examine, converse, sniff or step on something, so what's the point of visiting Los Angeles like this, except to say that you've been there.
Like television, the private automobile was invented to wean us away from our own humanity. From each, we've learnt how to amp up our impatience and indifference towards everything, and with life itself. Anything that's seen through a screen or windshield becomes ephemera, with its death nearly instant. You don't have to switch channel or run over it, it will disappear by itself. All screens and windshields have been erected to block us from intercourse. Of course, I'm writing this on a screen, and you will read it, patient reader, while staring at a screen. Screen-bound, then, let's visit Los Angeles.
UC Berkeley hosted me for a month, and I used my time in Northern California to explore a bunch of places, but with my academic responsibilities done, I decided to take a megabus to Los Angeles, a city I had only visited a handful of times, and knew hardly at all. Evelyn Waugh wrote, "There is no place that isn't worth visiting once." I'll amend that to say, "There is no place that isn't worth visiting a bunch of times, with each subsequent visit richer than the last."
My coach rolled into Union Station at 3AM, and right outside, I encountered the homeless, with their belonging stored in trash bags or beat up suitcases. I then crossed LA Plaza, where many more homeless slept around a statue of a priest brandishing a crucifix. From afar I assumed it was Saint Francis Xavier, the dude who brought the Inquisition to India, complete with slow and methodical mutilation of children, with their parents' eyelids removed so they could not shut out the blessed spectacle, and women raped by rapiers, and men's penises hacked off, you know, the entire package, but thank God, up-close I discovered it was only Father Jupinero Serra, who merely beat his Indians, as far as we know. American Indians, East Indians, whatever, all you can do is convert to them to Catholicism, blue jeans, knife and fork, happy hours, Monsanto, a lousy cheeseburger or Neoliberalism. It's all good.
Crossing Main, I then saw perhaps a hundred people lying on the grounds of Nuestra Senora Reina de Los Angeles, a beautiful church founded in 1784. Some folks were in tents but most were just under a blanket, prone or curled up on cardboard, with shopping carts, bags and the occasional bicycle parked near them. Blue, green or yellow tarps were tied to fences to make up half-assed leantos. In the dark, a handful of souls were arising. One man quietly pissed. Waiting for a free breakfast at 5:30, another gent asked me what time it was. On Spring, I encountered dozens of tents on both sides of the street. In late 2009, I had been precisely here but hadn't see any of this, so these tents had only accrued in the last few years, with many more coming, I'm sure, unless the authorities decide to raze, with their occupants chased to another part of town. Magnificent City Hall was only two blocks away.
Across the country, I've seen many small flags stuck to tents, as if to declare that this, too, was America, and of course it was, and becoming more representative by the day. Though they flaunt no political signs, these tents on concrete or city grass are no less of a statement and indictment than the Occupy encampments. In fact, I'd say that they are more so, since you don't have to read anything to understand exactly what they mean. No joking or contradictory messages distract from the fact that hundreds of thousands of Americans have been reduced to living like savages in this self-proclaimed greatest country on earth.
In Oakland, a man in his early 60's said to me, "Human beings are not supposed to live like this. Look at the birds and squirrels. They can go where they want and sleep where they want. These animals can piss and sh*t where they want and still look civilized. Man, I'd rather be an animal!"
Many of our homeless are also on wheelchairs, so this is how we treat our lame, feeble and sick, even the horribly injured or diseased. In Berkeley, there's a diaper-wearing homeless man with a huge blood and pus-caked wound on the right side of his head, yet he's forced to be outside from before dawn until early evening. Around the Downtown Berkeley Station he hovers each day, to be ignored, mostly, by the thousands who walk by him, the way one instinctively averts one's eyes from a piece of sh*t on the ground.
Our criminal bankers, meanwhile, are kept in high style with billion-dollar bailout after bailout, as served up, shuffling and grinning, by our criminal politicians, with the entire criminal enterprise sanctioned by American voters, whether conservatives, liberals or progressives, and explained away or ignored by our moronic or dishonest intellectuals. It's no wonder we're bankrupt.
Critical thinking is dead in this country, at least in the public sphere, for the most serious and urgent questions are never asked, or only briefly aired to be ridiculed. Take the Boston bombing incident. It is known that the FBI has lured and guided many fanatical idiots into participating in fake bomb plots, with each step of the process meticulous planned by their FBI handlers. Duds planted, these framed fools can be triumphantly arrested by the US government as it points a finger at its chosen enemy. Now, I don't claim to know what is happening in Boston, which is still ongoing as I type, with the second suspect still at large, but I have a strong hunch he will never live to see a court room, for a serious investigation into his network of backers might just turn up Uncle Sam himself, for this terror incident benefits American global and domestic agendas, and not, by any stretch of the imagination, Chechens or Muslims in general. Further, if two dorks want to massacre Americans, they can just as easily pick a supermarket, shopping mall or even airport check-in area, instead of the heavily guarded finishing point of the Boston Marathon, swarmed that day with hundreds of cops and undercover agents, not to mention bomb sniffing dogs. Also, I don't see the Boston Marathon as having special significance for those who hate Americans, for it is an international meet routinely won by foreigners. For the US government, however, any major event allows it to bring in agents to facilitate the planting of duds or bombs, as it sees fit. Finally, let's not forget that our terrorist government has often aligned itself with, and manipulated, lesser terrorists of every stripe and level of competence, from Italy to Syria, and many, many other countries. Without question, we are the most prolific generator of terrorists the world has ever seen, and we actually like it that way.
Back to LA. Iconic City Hall is something to behold, all right. Erected in 1928, it was retrofitted in 2001 to be "base-isolated," that is, it can now withstand, supposedly, an 8.2 earthquake, so as Los Angelenos freebase from Burbank to Gardena, City Hall itself is hovering over nothing while running on fume. Bankrupt by the crooked banks, it has also seen its manufacturing, residents and even porn stars fleeing to less arid pastures. LA's unemployment rate is among the highest in the nation.
It was still pre-dawn when I made it to 5th and Broadway, and who did I run into but the appropriately named Eric Hurt. Born in Compton, Hurt went to San Jose State and was signed by the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent. A cornerback, he played four games on special team, and returned four kickoffs for an average of 17.8 yards, with a long of 24 yards. Several injuries ended his career after one season. Hurt is now 55-years-old and homeless. To prove that he was an NFL player, Hurt carries, at all time, a Cowboys team photo from 1980. Hey, at least this still confident looking man got to cradle that fabled pigskin four times before he got knocked stupid into 2013.
Across the street from Hurt, I saw two people sleeping in front of Rite Aid, then half a block away, an old, white bearded guy lying in front of a shuttered store, and what was his name but "Storm."
"Yeah, like the weather. That's my name."
Not to sound superstitious, but, parents, please don't tempt fate by naming your child Earthquake or Mudslide, especially if you live in LA, and if you're an aspiring athlete and your first or last name is Hurt, Spavin, Concussion or Lame, then maybe you should consider changing it. Of course, just calling your offspring Richard or Jewel doesn't mean that he or she won't end up on Skid Row.