East of Eden, South of the 101
Alexis, a Local Trans Woman, Describes the Motion Sickness of Homelessness in the Hollywood Streets, and the Garden She Has Now Built, Next Door to Flaunt HQ.
I was deep in the bowels of depression when the emotional transcendence took place. When I first discovered N McCadden Place it was riddled with debris, littered with the unwanted remnants of Chick-fil-A discarded in the glistening broken glass pockets of the streets. Impromptu graffiti spattered the walls, beside hypodermic needles with exposed tips like spires on a tiny city of glass, hidden in the weeds and inviting the unexpected encounter. The streets echoed with screams and shrieks of discontent from amphetamine-soaked addicts who aimlessly ambitioned in the area. The fights were routine and at times deadly. The neighborhood was exhausted with the lack of police response, and numb to the socially unreasonable.
Everyday droves of homeless would crowd the sidewalks begging change and holding strategic signs for manipulating the caring hearts of those who might feed them or bless them with money, bring them blankets, and attempt to communicate tolerance and acceptance. All too often this was wasted and unappreciated on such a scale that the abuse of random kindness was a business practice. They had taken the community hostage and wonderful, hardworking people were being forced to witness others' self-destruction. A person unraveling in front of the homes they worked hard for, and where their family dwelled. The nihilists were winning a turf war while suffocating a neighborhood.
This perpetual motion of chaos was nothing new to me—many of the avenues I frequented during my years on the streets were of this variety—what set this one apart was the heart of the citizens and their determination to care for the seemingly helpless individuals, despite the collateral damage they might suffer along the way.
It is crushing to be out here amongst the ever growing masses of homeless, watching the erosion of compassion and vitality—the face of social misdirection breathing its stale breath right into your weathered face. Something about doing nothing never felt right to me.
It was my sixth time being relocated from an area of town that I had successfully cleaned up and had given back to the community. The police had corralled me into locations of the city that were paralyzed, or at the very least, plagued with unapologetically destructive volumes of the “economically challenged.” At each destination you would find the cold comforts of social prejudice in all of its myriad facets.
Everywhere you turned was a paradigm of unprecedented drama. Psychosis and decay were more and more prevalent at each relocation, until finally I barricaded myself into a section off of Exit 8A right between the 101 freeway and Bronson, in the area of land where the bridges and ramps formed a secluded refuge that was dangerous to travel to. There I hunted for a coping mechanism, yet found nothing but murky bursts of reasoning for my propellant.
I truly feel I was relocated time after time because it was well documented that I refused to suffer through this unbridled display of carelessness without taking action. I was the homeless person who cleaned up the neighborhood and freed it from the shackles of its unhealthy decay, and I am a (third gender) educated, tough, and talented transsexual female who does things her own way. The sheer oddity of having such a unique person as a mascot for the more desirable homeless image was enticing for law enforcement and community leaders.
It was like they needed my skills as an old school street survivor to be displayed publicly to help direct and motivate the other homeless in the areas, and lead by example. It was either that, or they felt I would be more productive if I wasn’t allowed to get comfortable with my situation. Perhaps they didn’t want me wasting my abilities, while all I wanted was for the police to forfeit a tiny section of this parceled out world, and allow me to build a utopian garden, and remain stagnant, alone, and comfortably numb.
By the time I arrived at McCadden I had successfully rehabbed four of the six areas I had been directed to. I showed up tired and unmotivated. The previous few nights had been spent in nomadic wandering, casually guided by the police it seemed. I had chosen to finally abandon one of my spots near the LACC and the Braille Institute because of a vision I had had, that one of my children might go to college there, and I couldn’t handle the idea of them seeing me in that shape.
The area had been an unsuccessful rehab, and when I left I was run out of every spot I stopped at, all while desperately searching for a place to be. I was pushing a shopping cart filled with all of my belongings and had another in tow with my dogs’ belongings. It was mistakenly stacked top heavy, and was secured so poorly that maneuverability was futile, and the cracked sidewalks would tip it asunder.
With each new stop my dogs and I would find new confrontations, until finally I was at the point of breaking. I was on the cusp of losing my sanity, and I had nobody left to turn to for support. I didn’t want to lose my dogs so I gathered my residual courage and strength, and headed towards a program I had heard about.
The program promised that in exchange for hard work, you would be rewarded with a fulltime job and housing. I thought this was going to be my last ditch effort at rehabilitating my life, yet it fizzled and capsized like so many of the hopes out here, falling apart because of my legal Medical Marijuana usage. How dumb.
Slowly I packed my cart for a longer trip, intending to head towards Santa Monica. I turned to my dogs with a defeated expression and pleaded for them to be patient with me. They responded by lying down, and refused to cooperate. I sought out a cutaway around the block for us to rest up, but had a hard time finding it.
When I got to this neighborhood I passed out from exhaustion, and when I awoke I found a bag of McDonalds filled with food, two Marlboro cigarettes and one Newport, four dollars, and a cold water next to me. I don’t know who gave me these things but it meant the world to me.
It became apparent that some unforeseen force had brought me to this geographical oddity. I didn’t yet know why, but now I understand. I needed to focus on somehow building myself back up. I craved stability, family, and happiness. The block was filled with problems but I could see the solutions and I could also see that the neighbors would welcome the rehabilitation of their neighborhood.
I began by picking up trash and assisted with the emancipation of the disorderly homeless that clustered in congregation, I then swept the streets, and removed the weeds. Soon I took the entire block over and began planting beautiful trees and bushes that were donated by a local nursery called Dream Garden.
I felt the change. The neighbors started conversing with me and applauding my achievements, the local businesses started beautifying and organizing their properties—often while thanking me for the boost. It felt amazing—just watching—as even teenage kids seemed to respect the block, and as parents felt safer.
One by one people in the neighborhood opened their hearts to me and my dogs. I thank the community here for that. I worked my way from the sidewalk on a soiled towel next to a shopping cart, to a gated area where I now have a garden shed converted into a home office, and a big outdoor space to garden and tend to my arts.
I sleep next to my dream car—a 1965 Ford Mustang coupe I call “Jane” after Jane Goodall. It once was in showroom shape, and was in a rock video, but now it sits here retired and in need of repair, yet ready to shine again, just like me. When I was first given this spot by the owner I was surprised to find my dream car covered in a tarp and eroding beside me—I felt like it was a message. For me it symbolizes a metamorphosis, and that pivotal point when you are close enough to touch your dreams.
I have a secret garden. Here you will find a waterfall sculpture I built out of the remnants of junk concrete—with a well-trained eye you can see in my design, an homage to the first National Monument. I have a Valencia orange tree, a pomegranate, a dwarf Meyer lemon tree, and several strawberry patches, all to harvest fruit for the neighbors.
I was recently cast for a role in the movie Fail, Fail, Fail, Success. I have been adopted by people living in the area—these people regard me as family, and it completes me. I may be homeless and working voluntarily, but the intrinsic value of having a place where I finally fit in, is priceless and my gratitude is deep.
I love Hollywood. I had always heard that this place was filled with devious people, but all I encounter are artists and dreamers, and they protect their own. I have come so far and I see no end in sight, so yeah, I think my kids can be proud of me again one day. Like my favorite film legend Jack Nicholson said, “What if this is as good as it gets?”
Well, Jack, I’ll take it.