Posted by: Brad | 17 September 2008

All of Us in the Gutter?

If you can just ignore the homeless people near your feet, LA is a pretty-lookin place

If you can just ignore the homeless people near your feet, LA is a pretty-lookin' place

I’ve been struggling to come to terms with Los Angeles. It is, whichever way you look at it, a deceptive city. Beauty is everywhere – the palm trees, swaying majestically as they overlook Hollywood – but so is the poverty; I may have been flippant when I spoke about the man urinating on himself in the last post, but the reality is something completely different. Just depressing. He did. And I didn’t know what to do. Broad daylight and my eyes downcast as I walked past. I still glimpsed his eyes as I did; they didn’t lack dignity, they just looked… sad. What could I do? Am I a bad person?

Like any big city, LA has a homeless problem. But it’s the sheer gap between the wealth and the poverty at which the mind really boggles.

Humvee Limosuines parade the streets as beggars huddle together for warmth.

Maybe there’s a kind of rose-tinted view that Angelinos – well, that’s what they call themselves – delude themselves with. Four days there and I heard the “[Insert now successful actor’s name here] was homeless in LA for years before they hit it big, sleeping in their car, can you believe it” story more times than I could count. That is romantic. Jim Carrey is hardly cursing his days as a miser when he’s now a multimillionaire.

But that’s not the real homeless.

The real homeless are pissing on themselves. Or selling crack to kids who will grow up to sell crack to kids. Or begging for change just to buy some wine. Call me crazy, but there’s a difference between living on the streets because you can’t afford to eat, and living on the streets because you’re gonna be a superstar in a few years’ time.

I hate these contradictions. I don’t know if I can quite say I hate LA, but at least I’ve figured out why I don’t love it.

For what it’s worth I took this photograph about a minute before I saw the guy piss on himself, sitting in the dying day on Hollywood Boulevard, hordes of people crossing his path. It didn’t seem to fit.



  1. it was great to hear about some of your travels-i love the palm tree photo. really sad about the homeless people-you described it very well-i actually shed a tear as i read it. such a huge difference of lifestyles. mum x

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