5th And Main Streets, Los Angeles on Saturday, February 17, 2018
I was in Los Angeles for one week. I hadn’t seen the city in ten months and there were some big changes, at least to my mind. I was trying to locate the people that I’d photographed that would not leave my mind, and spent many hours with people as I found them. I would say that it was a dramatic few days, and I will return permanently in June. Some things haven’t changed at all, though, and have in fact deteriorated visibly.
Visible deterioration did not occur in India’s life. She was very beautiful on the day that I saw her. She was clean, and dressed in clothes that some caring individuals must have given her. Her feet were not blackened from wandering the streets without shoes, and she was unmarked physically, in contrast to the bruises and black eye from last year.
I was at 5th And San Pedro on the morning I was supposed to be in Hollywood giving a presentation about my pictures. I needed every spare moment and had no time to spare, as I wanted only to revisit and photograph the places and people in my memory. 5th And San Pedro had undergone a remarkably unfortunate transformation–the intense murals that dominated the corner of the intersection were erased and scaffolded over to accommodate renovation. The drama and life that had once made the Cuban Corner a live explosion of electricity, a uniquely formed and permanently visible cyclone was gone forever. I stood near a young guy with a bullhorn, and the corner that I stood on the opposite side of the intersection, next to a small convenience store, was alive and well and it’s usually chaotic activity remained unchanged. I asked why the bullhorn? And he answered, very nervously, that he was a street preacher, and that he was very nervous! And trying to will himself to begin his sermon. I figured I’d hang around….and as soon as he started, I realized that I’d have to leave, because a man in a wheelchair suddenly rose and began a verbal rant that was escalating in pitch and anger. When I decide in an instant that it’s time to leave I always act immediately. I rarely do abandon what I’m doing, and when I do it is because it’s become intolerable.
As I headed on 5th Street toward San Julian Park, I turned suddenly to see if the guy had calmed down, and I saw India, walking slowly, eyes down, in the morning light. Had I not felt the need to leave the corner I never would have seen her…she would have slipped silently down the street.
When I walked to her she smiled. Some of what I heard walking with her as she made her way to 5th and Main was not a revelation. She was much more coherent than the last time I had seen her, and, although disconnected sentences and thoughts punctuated her line of reasoning, it was deeply troubling for me to listen to.