The walk from the front door of my work building to the sunny California beach is three blocks. The streets are lined with restaurants, boutiques, and other hip shops to attract the people vacationing here to stop in and unload their wallets. Useless crap like Venice Beach ink splattered hoodies, Native American inspired rugs, The Gap, wheat grass juiceries, and the "doctors" office can be found anywhere within a 10 minute walk.
My walk, however, leads to the bluffs over looking the Pacific Ocean of yellow sand, million dollar homes, and mountain lined landscapes. It's breathtaking. At sunset the skies fill with an unlimited array of colors. Hues of pink, yellow, purple, and orange sometimes accompanied by white, fluffy clouds fill the sky. As the sun disappears behind the dark ocean and bright, twinkling stars come out it makes you want to stand up and clap as the sunset show wraps up...and then your interrupted by a crazy-eyed hobo with a shopping cart full of aluminum beer cans...
I made the mistake, as most new comers to the area do, of giving all the change in my pocket to anyone who asked. "It's not that big of deal." Inside my head, "You have enough to share. Look at him, he deserves it." I would say to myself "Maybe they really are going to buy food. You are doing a good deed." Reassuring myself over and over again...and then I realize I was going broke myself. Within a week I was down $40 and saw first hand my money go right to a liquor store after I gave someone change.
The homeless population is a very well kept secret in Southern California. Okay, maybe not that big of a secret. As time passes I am slowly but surely getting to a first name basis with some of them. No matter how deep our relationship goes, no matter how much we converse, the conversation always starts the same. They notice me walking by and remembering to ask me for a dollar like I owed it to them. Homeless Phil, a tall white bearded man in jeans and a "OBX" tee shirt, was about to take a sip from the water fountain the other day then paused. I strolled by on my way to the sunset and Phil slapped his forehead as if he almost forgot to scratch ask Matt for a dollar off his daily to-do list. "Hey, do you have that dollar?" Phil asks "What dollar could he possibly be asking for?" I thought as I responded with a stern "Phil. No." We have done this dance many times before. He turned with a friendly smile and said "All good, tomorrow maybe." continuing his drink from the fountain. I wave, keep smiling, and keep walking.
On the corner right before crossing to get to the bluffs Nancy, a voluptuous, tattered, cat and bag lady with a red Lakers hat, is waiting...and yelling at traffic. Normal. She puts on a crazy act (or at least is my assumption...and I assume this because she speaks to locals without yelling at them) to get the tourist to give her all their change. She quickly snaps to as she spots me out of her peripherals. "JESUS DIED FOR YOUR SINS! REPENT AND..." She takes a quick break from speaking the Lord's good word. "Oh hey honey! Got that dollar today?" in a very different soft spoken, motherly voice. "Damn it." Once again inside my head "Nancy, looking good." I say "No dollar today." A smile breaks across her face and she turns to continue "TODAY IS THE DAY OF SALVATION!" She yells at a blue Ford Escape as it passes. I am making friends quickly here.
Finally reaching the bluffs I gaze at the sunset. No matter how many times I see it, no matter what mood I am in, or how stressful, important, or impactful my existence is...it all fades away. We are just specs compared to the awesome power of mother nature. The sun may rise where I come from but it sets here...and its amazing. When you get the chance to check out the sunset in Santa Monica look me up. I will introduce you to some friends of mine...you probably owe them that dollar you forgot about.