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A dank breeze of that of a dumpster engulfs me with a wordless invitation. My name, as a description of a sunburned rambler wearing a heavy backpack, tumbles through the air as I approach the local cinema on a sidewalk in West Hollywood. A quick glance askew finds a crying alley. Though most might decide to pass on the sobbing trail of filth, I accept the invitation like an overheated sailor lured by the bosom of a flirtatious siren. I excitedly enter the unknown. My eyes are my scouts and my camera is my notepad. My nerves react like ambitious interns and my legs complain like the underpaid. This alley, unknown and begging for attention, is one of the many ignored sites I explored. The streets, museums and studios will be my playground as I wander and make artistic observations of a city I have yet to explore…Los Angeles.
Weathered paint peels as an early heatwave blows through the city alley. Steadfast poles splinter to the touch and slimy trails of back door filth gurgle through deep cracks. Layers of paint blanket years of territorial scribbles. Dirt stretches skyward like a free weed and a knot of cold conversations and hidden relations streamline above. Cars speed as I crawl. Newspaper-stands and corner light-poles are covered with stickers like freckles on a fare skinned kid during a summer beach day. The sun is high and my lower back, heated under my backpack, begins to sweat. I cringe and the sun attempts to halt my bare eyeballs. I lower my brow and continue in route for the upcoming gas station for a drink. As I pass an old rundown wood building, I spot a thick black silhouette smeared on the cream wall of my destination. With master paintings by Van Gogh, Manet, Monet and Cezanne, from the Getty Center, still fresh in my mind, I approach a painted figure by the East London Street Artist Banksy. Around the corner, another of his works from a recent trip to LA stands tall and thick, guarded by each passing car and strolling local. I pounder which is more sought, Van Gogh’s Irises or Bansky’s Caveman. I realize each style of art runs its course, eventually making way for the next movement. Today’s hype might be tomorrow’s trash. Is it possible that this art that I stare at in the streets might one day be secure on the high cliffs of the Getty… or will it be forgotten?
Off the worn path, I stumble into the upper scale residential areas where sites are limited and probing stares are abundant. My truck sits alone somewhere within the labyrinth of nicely manicured homes. I chat with an arrogant man watering his lawn. He informs me that locals are only allowed to park on the streets. Does this mean that tourist get to park in their driveways?
I make my way to the clothing boutique and expensive restaurants of Melrose Ave. Giant owls hoot from high billboards and a local constantly takes photos of me. I am assured that Life is Beautiful and carry on. My eyes are sore and my stomach nags. I find a Mexican restaurant with a small corner table on the patio. I sit, nibbling chips over a pint and enchiladas as tourists scan for celebrities. A swollen man wearing a UCLA Bruins shirt sits at the adjacent table with his trophy. Three chicken tacos with no sour cream fly through the air and land on his ironed jeans. I chuckle and hide my face under my hat.
My truck is located under a shadowy tree and I begin my journey for downtown. I pass through grassless parks scattered with uneven soccer games and small lakes. Clouds of dust blow down the streets as the sun becomes sleepy. Shadows from tall buildings grow as I enter downtown. Schedules and responsibilities haunt me as they try to invade my day of aimless adventuring. The city comes and goes as I seek the less desired streets of Skid Row. I stretch for the emotion which grieves nearby. Homeless huddle on soggy asphalt aside their belongings. One reads a book. If only I knew what he reads. Another yanks his greasy cheeks as others sob. I snap photos but feel wrong for doing so. I stop and imagine the stories behind each pair of hallow eyes. The streets are grim and the buildings surrender. Dark Alleys cry and their tears are the homeless that sleep in their gutters.
I manage through the gray blocks of skid row and find myself driving towards the night’s final stop. I get lost, but eventually come to terms with West Sunset Blvd. I locate the Subliminal Projects Gallery which will be opening a show of Blek le Rat’s Art. I enter a long line of trendy artists and wait my turn. The day’s meanders have fatigued my body and drained my mind. I slowly enter the show. My stomach aches and my eyes burn. The clean walls of the studio clash with the art of the street and I decide to abort my plan of meeting Blek. I exit and begin my drive home.
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