Criss-crossing DTLA by bike, you see and hear lots of stuff up close and personal. Things happen in your face, whether it brings a smile or disgust. If you’re in a car, they’re unnoticeable. The good or the bad, I'd rather be on a bike, but hey, that's just me.
The typical things are the most mundane. Traffic, construction, city noise, crowds at intersections and big events around the city.
Most everyone is in their own world, no interaction with others unless necessary. When they happen, most seem to be based on the default state of impatience we all have while trying to quickly get somewhere that's - of course - more important than wherever you're going.
And, yes, there are the street people. I have grown to sympathize with their plight. There are so many now. It's just easier than being a snob. The bulk are regular folks without a place to sleep. Many have jobs. Among them are the trash combers. Sidewalk sleepers. Intersection stragglers. The loud talkers and yellers. The permanently-parked-car people and the tent-city dwellers.
The mishmash of humans, concrete, steel and systems in motion is mostly an indifferent environment where things exist within a routine of efficiency and isolation. But occasionally something unfolds that's sort of magical and wonderful, breaking out of the norm.
I was caught up in such a thing on a typical Wednesday afternoon.
Gliding up to the red light on West Pico Blvd at the corner of South Hope Street, the signal turned red. It's one of my typical routes and a direct way for me to get across the city in time to catch the express bus out of town and home to the foothills.
On this day, while waiting at the intersection, a homeless guy, sort of a zombie type, walked up from my right and ambled a sort of left-hand turn and past me going the opposite direction. No shirt. Loose pants. Matted hair. Shoes without laces.
From either his pants or maybe one of his shoes? . . . I never did figure this part out exactly, but a dollar bill separated itself from this guy and caught the afternoon breeze. Like any other leaf or piece of litter, it scraped and flopped along the sidewalk and planted itself directly on my right foot.
I looked down. I looked at the guy, now just beside me. I looked back down. I pinned it securely under my shoe. I looked back at the guy while he made distance. "Hey man, you lost your dollar!" Able to lean down over my bike and pluck it from the ground, I held it up. He glanced back and grumbled something mostly inaudible to the effect of: "I don't want it."
I looked back at the signal. Still red, but not much longer. "Come on man, it's yours!" Not responding, he kept going.
Down the right side of the intersection not more than 30 feet was a food vendor with a few folks hanging around. And from that small crowd, a young kid in a school uniform comes bounding up to me. I'll never forget his fresh face and wide excited eyes. He couldn't have been more than 12 years old and had a very concerned look.
"I'll take it to him! I saw what happened. I'll give it to him, I promise!"
I glanced back at the light. Red for a few seconds more. I look back behind me. The street guy hadn't made it too far, really.
In a split second, the creation of a magic moment waved over. Time seemed to retard to half speed while it folded me in. My instincts told me this kid was completely honorable, kind, and I couldn't help but grin ear to ear. I handed over the bill. "OK but I'll be watching."
I was just trying to make a joke, but he took it very seriously. "I won't keep it!", the kid yelled as he takes off down the sidewalk.
Green light. Just before pushing off, I took a final look behind me.
I'll never forget the sight of that kid with the dollar in hand, waving it about, running to make things right with the homeless guy. It was wonderful. An island of kindness in a city of indifference. A little bit of hope on the corner of South Hope Street.
The kid was riding a wave of concern and determination that somehow, I knew would protect him. He approached me - a stranger - so he could approach another stranger - a street person no less - to do a good deed. Many would have cautioned to play it safe. To not get involved.
I proceeded through the green light and was on my way, not able to witness the final moment, but that's OK. I knew the kid with that dollar was attempting something priceless. That bit of magic was just fine with me.
Had any magical moments lately?
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