Thursday, February 12, 2009

Three Portraits: Los Angeles, California


"Where is he, now?" Hal called from the kitchen.

"He's merging onto the 10, it looks like."

The slow-speed car chase had been on for hours and we could not look away. Neither could many Angelenos, our eyes glued to our respective television sets. Rumors spread quickly that the man in the driver's seat was a celebrity. A rapper, perhaps. In town for The Grammies. I even went so far as to follow White Bentley on twitter. We watched, Hal and I, shaking our heads.

"Why don't they just put the spikes down on the freeway, already?"

"I know. I'm getting bored! Something happen, already, geez."

"Why is he driving so slowly?"

"Why is he heading back home to North Hollywood where the chase first began?"

"Why is he using his turn signal to change lanes when he's the only car on the road?"

"He's using his blinker?"


A man running, afraid to stop. A man who used his turn-signal to change lanes on an empty highway while running from dozens of LAPD and Highway Patrol. A man at the end of his rope, squinting from spotlight of helicopters and news crews, his very demise a sort of demented entertainment for me and thousands more. We watched until midnight when the news story ended to make room for diet pill infomercials and went to sleep curious as to his fate. How did it end? How does it usually end? Why must it always end?

The next day we found out he had died, turned the gun on himself during the four hour standoff, alone in the $120,000 car he could no longer afford.

He wasn't a celebrity at all but a man who owned a business that failed. A man who lost everything financially and couldn't emotionally deal, a George Bailey without the Clarence.



Hal and I have not been financially affected by the economic downturn. The thing about having nothing is that you can't lose anything. We don't own a home or have investments. We don't drive fancy cars or go out for meals. We don't have to cut corners because we've never had corners to cut. We rent a two-bedroom duplex in a neighborhood surrounded by mansions and victims of Madoff. We're safe because we've always lived precariously.

Hal is a freelance writer/producer for reality television. The production he's currently working on ends Friday and he will be out of work once again as he usually is after a show ends. We have lived for the past four years on work ephemeral, our income(s) mostly unstable and jobs temporary so for us the uncertainty of work is nothing new. And for that I feel lucky. Prepared. Just as, in a way, I feel relieved to be investment-free, and yes, even broke.



I watched an elderly man ask for a job application at Trader Joes, yesterday. He had to be in his 70's. Maybe older. It was disconcerting, watching him negotiate with the store assistant manager. He had lost everything, he explained, and was eager to work.

"I haven't worked in a few years and you probably can't tell by looking at me but I'm a strong man. I have big arms," he said, flexing his biceps. "Plus, I like Trader Joes. Sometimes I shop here."

"I'll see what I can do," the assistant manager responded, clearly affected by the man who walked with a slight limp out the glass doors and toward the bus stop on the corner of 3rd Street and La Brea.

Rebecca Woolf
Los Angeles, California