Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Finding Dog in Hollywood: Sunset Boulevard

Sunset may get its name because it's the sun's final stop or perhaps it’s because of the neon signs.  The blazing hues of red, orange, yellow and pink that come alive at dusk shouting LIQUOR, TATTOO, DELIVERY and even NUDE illuminate the sins that can be found on this boulevard where the sun never really sets.
In this small stretch an entire world comes to life at sunset.  Diners, fluff and folds, Chinese take-aways, Shalom delis, liquor outlets with free delivery, nude bars, pop-art clothing stores, run down motels and even fancy new ones - you can find it all on Sunset.  But it’s the characters on Sunset who really illuminate it.  
Most bus stops have their own resident who doesn’t ever get on the bus.  Some are friendly and will share their self-claimed bench.  Others aren’t.  Like Mean Jack.  He’s always mad about something and if you catch his eye he’ll get mad at you and chase you away from his bench.  But then there’s Clifford who is the sweetest soul on Sunset.  He spins yarns all day to an invisible audience about his most recent ailments.  A gun shot wound, a sprained ankle, an amputated leg (he still has two), and even a broken heart.  Two blocks East is Austin who will always invite you 'in' to his stop for a mint julep and slice of cornbread.  Then there’s Kathy, who looks like old Hollywood.  Still glamorous and still using her ‘good’ looks to swindle a buck or two.  Kathy is confined to a wheelchair but uses her feet to push herself around backwards.  When she senses a target she swings her chair around in graceful ballroom style.  Her bright pink lipstick somehow makes it to her chin and cheekbones.  Locks of silver hair are pinned haphazardly in tattered bows and broken clips.  She’s always smiling and laughing.  I’ve nicknamed her the grandmother of Sunset - but would never tell her that for I’m sure she still thinks she’s 21.  Flashdance hangs out in front of the high school.  She wears knee high striped socks, a silver scarf and ear phones that aren't plugged into anything.  She's as still as a a statue, until you pass in front of her.  Then she breaks into full dance - without ever standing up.  And anyone trying to find Jesus need look no further.  Jesus is here.  On Sunset boulevard.  He starts his rounds around 9:00 pm and can be spotted until around 2:00 am.  Can't miss him, he's about seven feet tall, looks just the way he does in paintings and carries a bible.  I haven't seen him walk on water but I have seen him dodge traffic while j-walking on a Saturday night - which is just as impressive. 
I thought I may be culture shocked coming here after Africa but it turns out this little stretch of Sunset isn't too different after all.  Predators and opportunists are everywhere and the need for survival evident.  Territorial challenges exist whether it be a bus stop or a rhinoceros’ patrolling his boundary line.  Take-downs happen all the time: the LAPD busting a drug dealer or a pride of lions hunting a zebra.It’s an eat or be eaten kinda place, if you’re weak you won’t last a day.  Skinny towering  palms line this boulevard and like the giant rubber trees in Africa - both are imports.  Even the neon signs look like an African sunset.  But in this tiny stretch of Hollywood, as in the bush, a perfect balance exists.  


  1. If u survived encounters with lions, sharks and rhinos u will do fine on Sunset.

    U sure it was Jesus u saw... I thought I saw him in Times Square last week. I guess he is everywhere.

    1. a perfect balance makes for a neverending ....