I had a rare day off in Hollywood today after a particularly unmemorable audition for some voice over work at my agent’s office on Wilshire. Lately, I find myself becoming less cynical about so much in my life, including the fact that the sights and sounds of Hollywood are something of a facade; a play put on by a cast of willing characters, including myself on this afternoon.
I parked my car at the Arclight on Sunset and bought a ticket to the 2:20 V for Vendetta. There was a time not so long ago when I would have skipped the big-budget Hollywood movie out of a vague resentment for a town that does not wait for anyone with open arms and then does not apologize for being on the receiving end of a one-sided relationship. I would have cursed the transients and Hollywood vagabonds that I passed on the way across the street from one of the greatest movie theatres in the world. No more. On this day, I embraced the dichotomy of Hollywood and actually smiled as I passed the homeless man carrying the funny sign; a character playing a part in a play that I have missed being a part of lately. I walked past him on the way into Amoeba Music, thankful that I had my Sony Cybershot with me. I noticed a crowd of people gathering to see an in-store performance by Belle and Sebastian, and I wished briefly that I had heard any of their music, ever, to join the growing crowd in anticipation for what I’m sure was probably a rare, intimate show. Because I am ambivalent about them, instead I imagined the band playing the part; dressing for the gig; putting on their fan faces for an hour and a half of gladhanding. It’s all a play that we each play a role in, I kept thinking to myself.
On the way out, I passed the bank robber again on the way to an ATM just beyond the Arclight, and the irony was not lost on me when I noticed that the Brinks guys were standing guard with guns out as they loaded up the bank with cash. One had a silver gun with his finger on the trigger, and I thought about taking a picture. Somewhere inside, a voice reminded me that maybe they didn’t know we were all part of a play that Hollywood puts on each day. Perhaps their guns were to protect them from the cast of characters, or to prevent them from getting sucked into the pulse of the city aound them. I took my cash from the ATM and crossed over to Baja Fresh, already forming the plan for getting the street character’s picture with a five dollar bribe. I may have been playing a part in the endless production on this day, but I still recognize good blog fodder. I wondered briefly if the man was even homeless, and decided that his costume was too good for that to be so. I imagine he lives fairly comfortably (for a pan-handler), and as I crossed back towards him, I readied the five dollar bill. Another, more homeless looking man sat on the ground with a box of Lucky Smacks (which I imagine must be a generic grocery store hybrid of two brand name cereals) and a bottle of vodka, and it occured to me that he probably needed the money more than the bank robber. Not my problem. I didn’t write the script, and the other guy had a better outfit. Hollywood is tough, kid.
I pulled out the five-spot and handed it to the man with the sign.
“Can I take your picture?” I asked him. His clothes looked like a costume, even up close, and they seemed a little too clean.
“Sure,” he said, as he took his mark in front of the neon Amoeba sign. I thought about directing him to move left to get the whole sign behind him, but I did not. As it was, I felt like a tourist, and for some reason, that was not a part I felt comfortable playing. I liked walking around as “knowledgable local,” or “possible hipster,” and did not want to shatter that illusion by directing a homeless man with a funny sign.
I thanked him and could not avoid walking by “Lucky Smacks” on the way to see my 2:20 movie.
“What about me, man? Lucky Smacks and Vodka!” he slurred as I passed.
I chuckled and told him, quite honestly, “Your costume isn’t as good.”
“Fuck off then,” he should have said, but he didn’t. I missed what he mumbled because I double-timed it after my heartless comment, to escape the wake of my callousness.
I ran into two people I knew on the way in; two people also visiting an oasis in the middle of a harsh city, with a cast of characters constantly changing and disappearing and flitting in and out of relevance. it is a city of many facades; a city of extreme dichotomy; a tragic and beautiful city that is neither thankful for your attention, nor disappointed when you lose interest.
On this day, I felt like I saw through it. I was both an integral part of it and completely separate from it as I walked on sidewalks lined with buildings and billboards that looked like a set in some production that never ends.
And for whatever reason, for the first time in a long time in Hollywood, I felt at home.