Hand Outs

My car is a mess. Filthy. In a huge, car-conscious (or -dependent, take your pick) society like Los Angeles, it’s either okay or not okay, depending on which end of the “diversity” spectrum you put your stock in: the overly image-conscious end or the self-important, I-don’t-give-a-rat’s-arse end. You can’t forget it also depends on what kind of car you drive to start out with. That is, the shiny, painted base on which to lay the infamous smog and dirt upon.

Curious that I never see any dirty Hummers: H1’s, H2’s, nor H3’s.

There’s so much money to be made from car washes in L.A. – you can see one on each block in the metro area. I used to get my car cleaned at work. That is, when I gave a damn. Sometimes, the parking attendant would have his guys wash a bunch of our cars on Wednesdays, inside the garage. And then about a year ago, my boss says:

“Do you want your car wiped down? Not washed, with water, or anything. I was outside Yum Yum Donuts in The Valley and this homeless guy came up to me and asked if I had a job for him. So I told him to take the bus and come down to Beverly Hills and see if maybe he could polish a few cars off in the garage and we’d pay him.”

I can see why he’d approach my boss. He doesn’t have an inkling of pretentious air about him; at the same time, he drove a Mercedes-Benz CLK 53 AMG. That is, before the CLK 63 AMG came out and he was so upset he no longer had the fastest Mercedes 4-seater (gotta carry the kids around, you know) convertible that he had to immediately go for the trade-in.

So Big Mack took the bus to our workplace once, sometimes twice, per week. Now, Woodland Hills to Beverly is a long way to travel, especially by bus. I admired his tenacity. Our parking guy and Big Mack kept it to spray-and-wash for liability reasons. Also, Big Mack needed to work while sitting down. He had man boobs and was an extremely sweet, charming man (one not causal of the other).

There wasn’t enough work to go around; but my boss didn’t want his efforts to find work go unrewarded so he would give him at least $20 no matter what, everytime he ventured out here. I’d have him wash my car at least once a week and gave him a little contribution of my own, as did a few of our other coworkers. Still, social justice issues aside, I’m guessing it still wasn’t lucrative enough for being so far away from his homebase and having that income not be all that predictible.

I haven’t seen him for probably a year, but it’s just one example of many which I value when it comes to generosity. A lot of them have been exhibited by my boss, another example of which includes his taking off work early to go deliver cases of water and packages of baby carrots to the Southern California firefighters during the last wave of fires – which also happened to be the worst.

On the other hand, there’s this guy, who I’ve noticed has Tourette’s, and who sits outside The Coffee Bean next to my work, everyday. No one really knows what he does for money, only what he does with his time. He’s a bit of a permanent fixture, really. Sometimes we’ll see him inside the shop, but mostly he’ll be outside on the sidewalk sitting at the tables they have set up there. My boss handed him a $20 bill once. He didn’t take it. Instead, he responded,

“I’m not homeless.”

I mean, that’s my boss. And when you are around a whole lot of money day in and day out, sometimes what keeps you sane is being around someone who has a whole lot of money but also a bleeding heart. 

I’ve run the whole gambit of charitable values. For the most part, I’ve been exposed to the tradition of giving no handouts, for example to the homeless, with the throw-away assumption that “[they] would go spend it on booze, anyway.”

And I know what many would say about liberal Los Angeles (eat your little alliterative heart out). That I moved to this corrupt city and am now doomed for hell, or something. But I can honestly say that yes, I moved to Metro L.A. – not Orange County. Maybe I would’ve picked O.C. if I didn’t think the white people were spoiled, rich or conforming enough where I’m from. But instead, I wanted a taste of reality and diversity – to be close enough to people so that I couldn’t turn a blind eye to those in need and accept people for who they are. So I could develop relationships with interesting and yes, influential people. Have access to tons of resources at my disposal. Maybe even absorb some of the huge amounts of talent in this city by way of osmosis.

I think it’s ironic that “pagan” is so often used to dismiss big cities, which are categorically and entirely corrupt to those, for example, in the Bible Belt or other rural areas in the States. Etymologically, “pagan” means “country-dweller.” In the city, sure, there’s a lot of crap and we are image-conscious to the point of superficiality , but that just means it’s that much more worth it when you weed through it – because when you get to the core of it there are true gems here. At the same time, maybe, just maybe, there’s enough love to hand out to everyone and being packed into this city like we are makes it that much easier.