Stay Off Crack
It was 0600 and still dark when I arrived to my destination on San Pedro St. in Los Angeles. My job as a movie medic brought me to the Midnight Mission to work for a day. I was happy that I was being transported in a studio truck and not driving myself. It made me feel a bit safer. There were hundreds of people lining the streets. I saw people walking briskly, sleeping on the ground next to the buildings, sitting on the curb holding their few possessions, a lady pulling her pants down on the side of the street and going to the bathroom as if it was no big deal, a drug deal on the corner, and a lady screaming and dancing in the middle of the street. After seeing all this in the first few minutes of my arrival I new I was in for an educational day.
The construction crew got out of the truck to make contact with our location representative. They told me to stay inside the truck and lock the doors, I did so gladly. I saw our security guards on the side of the truck which made me feel a bit more secure. You are never sure what a crack head might do to get some money for their next fix. I had already watched several drug deals go down, and then watched the buyers sit on the side of the street against the building to either shoot-up heroin or smoke crack out of a glass pipe. Boy, this was really up close and personal and I found it fascinating.
I was very happy we had plenty of private security as well as security from the mission. M. was stationed at the truck door where I was sitting. He was from around here, he knew these people, he was a success story for recovery and now works security for the mission. He had a positive attitude and was ready to live life. Every-time I opened the window or door of the truck I would have several people come up to the window and make comments that were not your usual hello or how are you doing. M. would have to ask them to leave me alone. No one gave him a hard time, they did as he asked. This is when it came to me, oh-my-god where am I going to go to the bathroom. I thought OK, I won’t drink any water and I won’t eat. Who would want to eat around here anyway. It is so dirty.
Around 0800 the food starts to arrive and the pace of the street picks up another notch. Cars pull up and open their trunks and pass out all kinds of food. Usually they give a religious sermon of some sort before they pass out the food. You can tell when a food car pulls up because everyone seems to run in the same direction and then you see them walking with food in hand or picking it up from the street and eating it. When the next car pulls up they run over to it and the feeding frenzy starts again. There does not seem to be a shortage of food if someone needs it and makes an effort to get it. M. from the mission says it is like this everyday. One church was passing out water and snicker bars another soup and sandwiches. I also saw hot dogs, mac and cheese, chips, fruit, chile, and sodas.
It’s about 1000 and the movements of the people in the street is starting to get wild. It seems that many of the people have had their morning dose of drugs. I noticed their movements became more disorganized and uncoordinated. Many people now are walking around with their jaws clenching and grinding to the side (common with crack use). Their arms and legs move in an awkward way. I saw a young women walk by that was probably beautiful at one time. This was until the drugs took hold of her and made her a dirty, skinny, ugly looking person. One man is yelling in the street, raising his fist in the air, and doing a dance of some sort. A few minutes later he is on his back in the middle of the street with people poking him to see if he is alive. He gets up 20 minutes later to start dancing again. A bit later the police are arresting a couple of people. In a matter of minutes a large number of police show up to take care of business. The crowd start to dispurse. I was impressed with the restraint and control the officers used when dealing with this tuff crowd. the police looked and acted very professional from my view.
1200-OK I can’t wait anymore I have to get out of the truck and use the bathroom. I had security walk me through the line of people and into the mission for men. I have to say I was very surprised and happy to find out that the inside of the building and the bathroom they let me use was very very clean. I was impressed. I made it back to the truck without any negative incident. When I got back into the truck I noticed a Cadillac pull up across the street and let 3 women out. A man got out of the car (he was dressed how I would envision a pimp). He said something to the girls and then they walked into the crowd of people several feet down the street. I asked M. what that was all about and he said they are the hustlers. The girls would attract a client and then 6 big men would show up and take the money.
1400- The energy of the street seems to go in waves. It goes from a frantic pace to a fast flurry. There is a man selling lighters and cigarettes for 0.50 cents each. There is a very pregnant girl wandering around. A father walking with a small child. He has her attached to a leash so she can’t get lost in the crowd. The parents that have children make me the most sad. M. told me that the families with kids can get a safe place to sleep at night. That is a good thing. Sometime you would see someone that didn’t seem to fit in. They looked like they were new to skid row. M. told me if they stay long enough (about 2-weeks) they will soon look and act like the rest of the people here.
1600- My day here is ending, I am glad. I feel exhausted even though I worked out of a truck all day and mostly observed. I feel drained and exhilarated at the same time. My mind is whirling. The other crew members say they feel the same way. It is hard to explain. I feel for the people on the streets. Some are mentally deficient, others made a choice by getting hooked on wicked hard drugs. This makes me appreciate all that I have. I will never complain that I don’t have a new couch or a new dress. I will always be thankful to have my own shower and toilet. I will curl up in my comfy safe bed at night with a new appreciation. This day made a big impact on me and one I will never forget. I am glad I had the opportunity to observe life from a different perspective. I am glad it is over.