Hey neighbor! Good to see you!
She was yelling at me from across the McDonalds parking lot. She was pushing her cart, as she does most afternoons, on the prowl for cans and bottles to take to the recycling center. She lives in a Cratchit trailer behind another trailer behind the house at the end of my block.
Sometimes we hear her yelling profanities at no one in particular as she walks past our yard. She doesn’t mean anything by it. It’s just her way. She’s actually quite sweet.
Her landlady passed away, as did the landlady’s husband. Now the landlady’s mentally challenged adult son has title to the house. He works as a janitor at Wal-Mart. He comes home and plays Call of Duty with the volume turned up to the distortion level and the sound of machine gun fire emanates from the open doorway, tumbling down the block in gusts of mayhem. Three times a day the son rides a handicapped scooter to one of the local fast food outlets for his meal and carts it home in a basket. He lets rooms both inside and outside the house to an assortment of people, including this woman’s ex-husband. The house and its many surrounding structures are a rabbit warren for the dispossessed. There’s a man who’s rented there for 26 years. There’s another who shuffles up and down the block, stooped over at the waist from illness or injury, frequently leading a small boy by the hand, occasionally carrying him on his shoulders. Sometimes they are dressed for church.
Together they make up a sort of misfit family of convenience.
And then….you get off the 405, in North Hills….
There are a few reasons why this bothers me, besides the obvious. For one, this has been developing for at least half a year. The Parthenia St. undercrossing happens to be one of three in the Valley featuring a 144 foot long mural: Los Pajaros -Birds- of California. On Roscoe, there’s the Bear Mural. On Nordhoff, there’s the Fish. All delightful, if not quite Pasadena-like, and all painted by local students. On the North side of Parthenia, unremoved tagging has obscured much of the work. Here on the south side, what started as a small encampment of a single shopping cart and a plastic tarp has expanded like Ewing’s sarcoma over the entire sidewalk.
The City of Los Angeles in its majesty has decreed any blight along the 405 or Metrolink right of way no longer to be its responsibility. The underside of these structures are in effect consigned to a civic state of nature, even if they face a heavily-used public street in a densely populated neighborhood and kids have to step off the sidewalk onto a busy thoroughfare to avoid the debris field.