I saw a hungry man today …

Today… MJ & I were at the farmers market enjoying a perfect summer Sunday in Hollywood… farmers were providing samples of the freshest fruits in town… the street musicians were playing… people were discussing important topics with words like … “vegan, raw, cold pressed, unfiltered and gluten-free” while carrying wicker baskets from home to protect the environment. It was a safe place with people who seem to know more than me.

The best part of Sunday is the variety of ethnic foods… anything from Korean to Middle Eastern… it’s there being cooked to perfection. Today, we decided on Middle Eastern… I got a grilled vegetarian platter and MJ got chicken and lamb kabobs. There are no words to describe how good it smelled and tasted. For $20 we got enough food to feed a family of four with enough left over to feed them again! It was a feast!

Anyone that knows us will tell you food is paramount in our lives. The act of eating is almost a religious experience and we worship it several times a day! Say Halleluiah and Amen!

Something important happened after lunch that I don’t want to forget… because it took me back to a life I walked away from in Florida. I want to share it …

Scattered between the food vendors at the market are shared tables and chairs so you can relax while eating everything in sight…  It’s a perfect place … a sax player played the blues and a poet sat at a typewriter banging out poems for a $1.00. Everything about it was safe and welcoming… sorta like hanging out at your grandmother’s place after a family dinner.

Once we had eaten about 1/3 of our food we headed to the trash cans to throw a perfectly good feast away. It was there that I had an epiphany… just as one of the containers hit the trash I looked to my left and there was a homeless couple. The woman looked at me but the man looked away. I asked the man if he was hungry and offered him our lunch. He said nothing and continued to look away. The woman step forward and said he was embarrassed and yes, they were very hungry… so I handed them the food and the one I’d just tossed into the trash. Nothing else was said about it… nothing needed to be said. I did nothing heroic by offering food I was about to toss… but they did something for me.

They reminded me of a day when I was hungry. I’d spent the night in jail for public intoxication after leaving Pete’s Bar in Atlantic Beach, Florida. Once sober, I was allowed to leave with $1.00 to my name. For some reason, the police kept my belt and shoe laces… so I was a ragged messed walking back to my oceanfront condo a few miles down the beach. I remember walking into a McDonald’s filled with surfers and kids enjoying a day at the beach and I remember the humiliation of not being able to order from the Dollar Menu. I was hungry and 6 pennies short of food. I remember holding my belt less pants up with my hand and shuffling in my lace less shoes home. That was low a point in my life. Today, the hungry man reminded me of my own past. I hope the food helped him because he certainly helped me.

This is my journey… this is my life!

Rob Cantrell

Do you really live with those people?

The corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Whitley Avenue is where my life began… I was on the planet long before I got there… but I wasn’t living. I know it lacks the glamour you’ll find  3 blocks away… I don’t care what’s up the street. This is my world and I love it!

On the corner is a building with a historical plaque explaining something important happened there in 1921… I’ve never bothered to read it. Inside is the non-airconditioned convenient store where women in black burkas work behind the counter. I’m never sure if they’re looking or talking to me because I can’t see them. I’ve wondered about a value system that would require me to wear black cloth and look through a ventilated opening at the world.

Do they have hopes and dreams?

What type of sadness is that material hiding?

Could I have enough faith in God to be willing to live my life in exile or could a God love me who required it?

I’ll never know.

Usually, I get my 2 Monster energy drinks and forget about the women until I return later in the day. Maintaining a caffeine addiction is a full-time job. Addictions and I go way back…

Whitley Avenue is unlike any other street in Hollywood. It is home to the grandest apartment buildings in Los Angeles. These were once home to Clark Gable, Ronald Reagan, Ginger Rogers, Elizabeth Taylor and later Johnny Depp and Tom Cruise. They stand as monuments of grandeur. With names like the Fontenoy, Fleur de Lis, Monticedo and Havenworth each demands respect and gets it. The lobbies are unbelievable with carved ceilings, Tiffany lighting and museum quality furniture. These buildings had doormen and elevator operators and a receptionist seated waiting to announce your arrival. Unfortunately, each has suffered at the hands of owners trying to maintain them… the lush lawns have been replaced with artificial turf.. The kind found at miniature golf courses and complex security systems keep them safe.

I see the actors that clamor to live on Whitley with loaves of French bread and bottled California wine punching security access codes to get inside their little piece of Hollywood. Considering a 2 bedroom apartment starts at $6,000 a month … a little piece is all anyone is going to get…. including me!

These buildings are only part of Whitley Avenue… the rest is far more interesting… and that is why I stay.

Time waits for no man… especially in Hollywood.

Gone are Whitley’s magnificent mansions owned be silent movie stars… bulldozers and wrecking balls took care of them. In their place are apartment buildings as ugly as anything created in the 1960s. The biggest and the ugliest is my home…. The Hollywood Ardmore. Conceptualized as modern urban living of the future. It’s massive and houses 350 families in a 12 story tower. If the other buildings are golden era stars …. the Hollywood Ardmore is Jane Mansfield. She’s big and flashy and in everyone’s face. Like Jane Mansfield… you want to look at it… be part of what’s happening inside the glitzy lobby. Anything that big must be spectacular and it is indeed. The views from my apartment expand from the Hollywood sign, Capital Record building to the Los Angeles skyline…. unbelievable! Every sunrise is a masterpiece.

The Hollywood Ardmore is where I became friends with a famous adult entertainer. He says entertainer … I say porn star. There is no doubt you’d recognize his face and other features… chances are he’s on the computer hard drive you’re looking at now. We’ve all seen porn on the internet… some are just more honest about it. I’ve learned a lot from him most people don’t know. Such as the average male performer is paid about $150 per scene and stays in the business less than a year. He’s a veteran with over 1,000 “performances” viewed worldwide and has won several international awards for films I won’t mention. $150,000 doesn’t seem like much money considering he’s in a multi-billion dollar industry doing all the work. He’s survived addictions, arrests, ridicule, plastic surgery and life. He’s a survivor. He said… “Rob, love is a piece of cake if making love is all there is to it”. Maybe he’s right …

Two of my favorite buildings on Whitley Avenue are the Motel 6 and the Korean retirement building. These places fill me with wonder and delight!

The Motel 6 is perfect for the European or Asian tourist wanting to experience Hollywood. It’s steps from the Walk of Fame and everything a wandering heart could want. It’s also home to hookers, transvestites, drug addicts and dealers… diversity brings so much to a community. You might as well embrace it!

Motel 6 is where Annie and the Bishop live. The Bishop is a street corner preacher with an angry face. He is so black … he’s purple! Everyday I see him in solid white… white suit… white hat… white shoes holding a white Bible. He looks like Gladys Knight’s runaway Pip. I think he got two years off for good behavior and is hanging on the corner working for the savior.

Annie is a woman in her 80s living on social security… she’s always in a dirty house coat… always sitting on her walker…  always smoking small brown cigars and always cursing the Bishop. She has more hair on her chin than teeth in her mouth. I don’t think she’s buying what the soul winner is selling.

The LAPD never leaves Whitley Avenue… why look for work when it comes to you? Blue lights, hand cuffs and helicopters are so common I don’t really see them anymore. I’ve learned the difference between the cries for help and those of pleasure… and if I miss anything the old ladies in front of the Korean retirement home are there to report every transgression. It’s like TIVO with an accent.

Whitley Avenue turns into Whitley Heights in just two blocks… that is where the Bohemian rich and famous live in $3 million homes overlooking Los Angeles. They have no idea what they’re missing behind those secured walls. It’s sorta sad…

By most people’s standard life on Whitley is an abomination of moral decay. A place where dreamers and telephone screamers spend their lives in chaos… a place of broken dreams… a place to walk away from if you can and never look back… but it isn’t. The porn stars and preachers make it human. Each has sinned differently…. but below the mire life heaps on them is kindness.  Maybe life didn’t turn out as planned … maybe there’s things they’d like to forget… it doesn’t matter. They have survived and they have value.  Like me, everyone has a past and hopes for a better life.

Whitley Avenue is full of sinners who will probably sin again… I think I’m gonna stay a while.

This is my journey … this is my life!

Rob Cantrell

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