You ever just sit down and talk to a man about how crack cocaine ruined his life and despite being proud of his 4 years sobriety, he was now addicted to crystal meth? Really, you haven’t? I got you....
I’ve spent this week working ridiculous hours, getting home late and unable to sleep. I’m writing this right now at 4 am after about 3-4 hours of a good nap.
Usually, after I return home and finish my work on a 15-16 hour day, I go for a run or walk around Hollywood to just get out. This week, I found myself meeting up with Leo almost every night. Leo is a guy that can be found on the corner of Western & Maplewood a lot of the time. Either sleeping against the laundry mat or the chain link fence. I spotted him when I first moved to the area cleaning the sidewalk with a toilet brush. He wanted to keep it clean because he sleeps there. Like anyone would do for their home.
So it was then that I first gave him some money for his work. Every other day I’d see him and we’d chat little by little but not to an extent. This week I saw him every night. In a new set up. Every. Night. Now I’m a creature of conversation, I’ve probably even annoyed you at some point with the amount and speed at which I want to talk and ask questions via text alone. Hence why I really try to ignore texting people and post more bullshit articles or make annoying social media posts instead....LOVE MEEEEEE
Tonight I saw Leo and he asked me the normal question of if I had any food, cigarettes, or weed.
Questions back to someone that is homeless can be pretty fucking loaded. I feel like a schmuck. I shall now use one of my favorite Bill Murray quotes from one of the greatest movies, Scrooged.
“The Jews have this word Schmuck.... I was a schmuck... and now I’m not a schmuck”
I am still very much an occasional schmuck, everyone is. But It’s always a dumb question to someone homeless - How are you today?
They are fucking homeless. But if we are being honest, how often do you think they are truthfully asked that? They are humans after all.
So I asked Leo how he was feeling tonight. As soon he started getting into a bit of a rant, I told him to pop a squat and we sat to talk. I won’t lie, I pulled out my phone and recorded the conversation.... AFTER I asked him. Just the audio with a visual of the sky.
If I’m being honest, it was to keep a record just in case he stabbed me in the throat. He was scraping something with a tool before we chatted and was obviously coming down from some high. So yeah, when deciding to sit on the sidewalk of any empty street corner to talk to a man, I may need to just keep some sort of record... but I also wanted to hear his story.
I asked him if I could just record the audio of the conversation and he obliged.
As we were talking he opened up. He was a talker for sure...center of attention... a real Leo......I realized I just wanted skeleton bites of questions because this is something I want to continuously talk to him about. He touched base on his prison sentence that began in the early 90s that released him late 2009. The same year he became homeless after a falling out with his brother and niece. He was 50....
50........ and becoming homeless. You think about what you want to strive to become yourself. Where you want to be when you’re older. There are 50 year old men posting instaceleb stories with exotic trips, fancy cars, and beautiful women.
Leo is almost 60 now... homeless on the street of Hollywood and talking to some white schmuck.
It’s a ridiculous perspective to even fathom.
He talked about being homeless in downtown LA in 2009 and the crack epidemic that killed a lot of his friends and almost him. How he battled to get bus fare just to move to Hollywood in 2012 so he could get off crack, but how he has unfortunately fallen into a meth addiction. The meth addiction has become so bad that he was robbed and lost a lot of his shit recently after being strung out for a few days.
He actually admitted that he just smoked some meth earlier in the day and he was coming down a little while we were talking. He said how he used to smoke pot and liked it but since being legalized, no one really sells it. So to get a fix and escape he smokes meth......fucking meth.
He has been living on the streets of Hollywood since 2012 without supposedly ever being in a shelter here. He has been in them before but a lot of them carry curfews, which well, Leo doesn’t do well with.
Regardless... we talked. We had some laughs. We grabbed a bite to eat and a coffee and sat to chat for the evening. Thursday night in Hollywood.
Mind you this is my little blog and I truly crave conversation. This isn’t for any praise or some bullshit. Again - I don’t text people a lot mainly because I get gut feelings that I am ultimately annoying them so I back down. I have been craving conversation all week and this evening I felt the universe pushing me to talk to Leo. But in those moments last night, Leo was calling me Pete and I, Leo. We were..are..friends. People walked by us and stared. Some even handed over provisions. We all have demons. We all at times feel like a ghost. This was a moment... between just two humans.
Life, like being a creative, is beautifully depressing. Stripping down our conversation - a black and white guy talking. Different generations coming together and relating. Waves of laughter. We even broke out some Michael Jackson songs because Leo is a huge fan of the King of pop. It was quite beautiful. But as our night ended and we said our goodbyes, I went back to my apartment. My shower. My bed. And Leo......just turned away from the passing cars and closed his eyes.
The journey continues....