Josh and I made our way down the Walk of Fame. Our goal was Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and the pickup point for our bus tour. My digital camera was low on batteries so our immediate search was for a corner drug store to pick up some batteries and a quick snack. A few blocks from Grauman’s we finally spotted a little shop and went inside. I looked over the candy and spotted coconut M&Ms. If you’ve never had them and you can find them, buy them. I haven’t found them since but each little M&M with coconut shredded in the chocolate was like a happy dance in my mouth. We also grabbed some batteries, reloaded the camera and headed back out to the street.
The light just changed as we stepped out onto the corner and Josh led the way across. I was only vaguely aware of a large, black man standing at the corner turning slightly right and then left as he stood saying the same thing over and over and over. I was halfway through the crosswalk when his softly spoken words registered on my conscious brain, “Can someone please tell me what corner I’m on? Can someone please tell me what corner I’m on?” I stopped right in the middle and turned back and this time actually saw the man at the corner. He was about 6 feet two inches tall, wide as a ‘fridge and he wore dark glasses and carried a thin, white cane with a red tip.
I hesitated. It’s amazing how a million thoughts can cross your mind in less than a second. Josh was unaware of what was happening and had reached the other side of the street. In the span of that second I recognized that people were just all walking past this man, dozens of them, as if they couldn’t see him standing there. And I thought to myself, “I wonder if this is how people get mugged in L.A.?” In just a second I considered an entire scenario where the large, “blind man” suddenly grabbed the unsuspecting, weak, old white guy and pulled him in an alley to take what he had and beat the crap out of him with that white cane. And then I thought, “You know, he just might be Jesus in disguise.” All of that and time to run back to him before the light change and traffic cut me off from Josh on the next block up.
I stood in front of the man who was still asking calmly and softly, almost like a chant, “Can someone please tell me what corner I’m on?” “Sir,” I said, and looked up at the signs on the corner, “you’re on …” and read the signs off to him. He smiled, held his hand out, we shook and he said, “Thank you, I appreciate it!” And then turned and headed off perpendicular to the direction I was headed. I turned back to the corner and the crosswalk and saw Josh looking at me from the other side, past the traffic, with a look on his face like he was trying to figure out how his old man hadn’t been able to get himself across a street. Finally traffic stopped and the light said ‘walk’ and we started off again across the names of the famous under our feet.
A few blocks up we spotted some souvenir shops across the street, selling t-shirts and trinkets on the cheap so we crossed over there. Over on that side we also found Marilyn Monroe, looking hot and Josh wanted a picture. I told him his mother was definitely going to be thrilled with that. So Josh walked up, introduced himself and the two got cozy. After I snapped the picture he offered to take one of me but I laughed and told him his mother would be even more thrilled with a picture of me and Marilyn. I stopped long enough to tell her she was aging well and then retreated to the souvenir shops.
These shops, several in a row, all open to the street and blasting air conditioning, all boasted of having the lowest price t-shirts in Hollywood. Almost anything you can think of that can printed on was there with Beverly Hills, Hollywood, L.A., Surf City and more silk screened in a range of fonts, colours and graphics. Ashtrays, belt buckles, shot glasses, coffee cups, key chains – keeping Chinese orphans busy and tourists excited about the great deal they got on 3 t-shirts for only $10. Each shop we stopped in, and there were quite a few, seemed to all be operated by folks whose relatives the U.S. was either fighting or liberating in the Gulf. Josh and I both picked up a couples bags of gifts to for family and friends back home. We were tourists, that’s what tourists do.