There are people spilling into the street; the sidewalk is overflowing with kids smoking Camels and drinking Miller High-Life. I say kids, but they could be my age, maybe they’re older, but I doubt it. It doesn’t matter; they’re having the kind of fun that has an undercurrent of frenetic youth. For some reason I don’t feel comfortable ordering an Uber on a street like this, full of people with multi-colored hair drinking cheap beer, this is how Troma movies begin. I tell Tyler that I’m going to walk a few blocks and order a car.
“Are you sure?” He asks quickly before turning his attention back to a group of women wearing brightly colored turbans. I don’t understand the question and I walk through the crowd, like a hipster Noah parting the Red Sea.
When the mob begins to thin on 7th I decide to cut down a side street to get a few blocks closer to home. I’m greedy, I want to shave a few cents off my car fare, but every street I aim to pass through is dense with tents, suddenly I’m standing on the corner of San Pedro and I realize that I’ve managed to pass through the invisible curtain that separates the rest of the world from Skid Row. For the last few years Los Angeles has been doing its best to flush the homeless from their homes, and now this ghetto of people sleeping in tents and littering doorways is more of a mind set, a moveable feast.
My phone is old and slow, in the time it would take to open the Uber app and input the necessary information I could walk to a more relaxed location and shave another fifty cents off my fare, maybe even a dollar. I shove my hands into my jacket pockets and begin walking. Tents, people sleeping on disintegrating pizza boxes, and what looks and smells like human shit fills the sidewalk so I amble in the street. At any other time this would be impossible to do in Los Angeles without risk of bodily harm, but at 11pm on San Pedro ad 6th I own the city. A man on a Japanese motorcycle rides around me before cutting his engine, jumping off the bike, and running through a red light on foot, leaving the bike teetering on a curb. A motorcycle cop passes me, someone is fucking in a tent – We are all different kinds of ghosts.
For the second time of the night the crowd begins to thin. There are only a few tents lining the streets, and a business casual couple titters about the “secret” bar they’re walking towards; the one with the bright blue neon arrow pointing towards the door. From around the corner of a parking structure hobbles a man balancing himself on one crutch, like Tiny Tim if three ghosts had never visited Scrooge. For a moment he blocks my way. “They’re stabbin’ white boys tonight,” he says in a voice that’s lighter than you’d think. I nod and walk around him, entering Little Tokyo. I sit on a bench outside of a bank and attempt to summon an Uber, but only receive cryptic messages from the app.
“The fare has expired please try again.” Okay.
“The fare has expired please try again.” Third time’s a charm.
“The fare has expired please try again.” Or not.
It’s only another mile and a half to my apartment, I plug in my ear buds, queue up a playlist of appropriately sad songs, and walk the rest of the way home. As far as I know, no one was stabbing white boys tonight.