“Going on Safari” is what I use to call it in New York. I would put on my Walkman and venture into the concrete canyons of Manhattan. I’d look for a target. Sit down next to them and turn off the Walkman. Keeping my headphones on I’d listen to their conversations, their arguments, their insight into the world and learn about things I knew nothing about. Sometimes, if I was lucky they would talk to me and tell me their stories. Amazing, scary and heartbreaking they’d be, but more importantly they were real!
Los Angeles is different. You can’t “Go on Safari” here in the same fashion. No one wants to talk to strangers on the street. No one goes downtown to wander the streets for fear of being stabbed and robbed. There’s no one way to do it here. I have to use new and improved methods, but as opposed to NYC once you get passed the fear factor here, EVERYONE WANTS TO TALK. What I found is that L.A. is really a time machine that once you let it happen to you, you are transported to a world of the seventies or the forties or the fifties because people can get stuck in their time zone here and sometimes never escape.
Setting up shop here wasn’t easy. I got off the plane with a stack of cash, a promise of two jobs and an Ikea catalog. I had already set up, six months prior, a rent controlled apartment, a studio with a real Murphy Bed in what was North Hollywood, but is now Valley Village, a separate zip code on Laurel Canyon Boulevard to better the neighborhood and raise property value. I had two jobs lined up, being a Police Service Representative for the L.A.P.D. and a Dispatch Operator for an Alarm Company. Indoor, clean work that would keep me in cash and benefits to make my move on Hollywood. L.A.P.D was still in the throws of a hiring freeze when I got here so it was off to the Alarm Company for an interview. I landed on Saturday and I was working by Tuesday. That’s when I learned the key to L.A., “What’s on the surface is all bullshit!” People set themselves up to appear one way, but they are really something else! They appear to be normal and they are junkies. They have a wife, kids, five bedroom house and go to church regularly, but have a mistress or two on the side. They have a legit business, but are also an actor, writer, producer and sell Amway.
East coasters grow up in fear that should they move to L.A that they would die in an earthquake. I got to L.A. and learned that what you have to fear are the people. There are more hustlers, users and opportunist here than on the gritty streets of New York, but get past their defenses and their stories are amazing. So, I learned to sort through their bullshit and dig into their realities. I took what I learned on the streets of New York, kept those skills hidden and let these people talk. I found that slowly and systematically, the real people of L.A. are slowly disappearing, vanishing from the city limits due to inflated real estate, soaring rents and ridiculous gas prices. What happened to New York in the Nineties was still happening in L.A. and pretty soon, it will be too expensive for the “real” L.A. people to live here. So, this is my collection of the stories of the people I met over the last few years, people that I still talk to, people that sometimes vanish from life, people that are the last remnants of Cops, Robbers and Hollywood Cowboys in Los Angeles.