Monday, July 14, 2008

The DellDog Does NoHo: Part 3 -or- Who Is Really Important, Anyway?

But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.
Matthew 19:30

The fullness of the realization that I would make a lousy paparazzo came at the end of the evening adventures. The inkling that I would make a lousy paparazzo came at the beginning of the evening adventures.

After dropping Israel off at class, the DellDog, Keller and I wheeled down the road apace to my favorite Chinese . . .um, diner? The hole-in-the-wall with outside seating is cleverly disguised as a no-go when choosing edible fare. Yet, the place is absolutely FANTASTIC, and I'm oh-so-glad that Gil found it, some months ago!

That night, I parked about three blocks away, to give Dell a good leg stretch. I approached the diner from the alley. An unusual move, which gave me a different vantage point in terms of view.

Beside the large dumpster located at the side of the building, a homeless man had taken up residence. Splayed out under the baking sun, his sleeping frame gave me pause to consider my surroundings. Sure enough, it was as if a colony of homeless people had suddenly traversed the LA city streets until they came to this corner. My corner, once viewed as safe, and pleasant, even if lackluster in ambiance.

A loudmouthed underling negotiated cigarettes with a passerby. Up ahead, seated at the outdoor tables, two women sat, each at at their own.

The one woman seemed quite agressive. Her self-chatter was rough, and she would intermittently take a drag off of a cigarette, and toss a glass case in the air, only to have it slam down on the table. Her dress was coarse, and I determined I'd have to sit elsewhere.

The second lady was also lost in her own world. She did not appear aggressive, as I veiwed her from behind. Rather, she seemed quite proper, and had the large shopping cart, weighed heavy with trash-to-treasure type belongings not been nearby, I *almost* would have missed that she was homeless.

That was, of course, until I took better note of her clothing. If you can imagine Carol Burnette's floppy hat as she played the cleaning lady, and imagine that hat done in a pink, white and red print, you will have imagined this lady's hat.

Following your eye downward from the hat, one would see long rhinestone earrings, pleasantly positioned in her earlobes: the first clue that something was not quite right. Out of place is an understatement until coupled with the long, elbow-length red satin gloves and matching red satin purse sitting nearby. The woman's dress was peasant-like, but a complementary color to the reds that adorned her body.

The vendor's three year old daughter had taken a liking to Dell, and, since I was a familiar face, she came out to sit with me in the sun as I ate my delicious Chicken and Bell Peppers. Chatting away, the little girl seemed oblivious to the two tresspassers seated nearby.

Aggressive finally stood up and angrily moved her personhood elsewhere, muttering under her breath some obscenity only known to her. The little girls' parents removed their daughter to allow me to eat in privacy, which left the Beauty Queen and I alone on the porch.

I continued watching Beauty Queen as she dug through her purse repeatedly, talking to herself in nonsense chatter; removing various articles, then replacing them, only to pull out another treasure. My eye caught sight of the honey bear bottle no longer filled with honey, but a red liquid, which I guessed to be koolaid. I desparately wanted to take a photograph, but I restrained myself, out of respect for this woman's destitute lifestyle.

I began to wonder about her. How did she get in this condition? What family members wondered where she was, how she is doing, or did they care at all? Who might be looking for her, from the land of health?

That's when my delicious meal began to turn dull in my eyes. Each continued bite became more laborious, as I considered Beauty Queen's diet in her current state.

The crisp red, green, and yellow peppers danced happily before my eyes, beckoning me to have them thrill my tastebuds . . .but they no longer held appeal. I quickly closed the styrofoam box, and wiped off my fork.

Taking a deep breath and standing, I made a wide half-arch berth so that I approached Beauty from the front, so as not to startle her. She was oblivious to my presence, as her nonsense chatter continued.

"Lady!" I used a strong voice to capture her attention.

"Yes?" she said, now peering up at me from under the brim of her floppy red hat, her earrings glistening anew in the evening sun.

Startled at the brightness I saw in those eyes, I almost wondered if I had made a mistake. Surely someone with this much life and vitality in their eyes couldn't possibly be in the condition she was in! Her dress once again gave her away, as I continued.

"Have you eaten today?"

"Yes!" she said, smiling, as her African American descent came into clear focus before me.

"Oh good!" I said, somewhat bewildered. "I have half of a meal, untouched, in pristine condition here in this box. I want to give it to you, if you would like to eat it."

"Allright." she said simply, going back to her imaginary task of rummaging through her belongings deep in the jowls of the red satin purse.

I placed the tray next to her and turned away.

Walking to the corner, I turned to see if she were eating.

She was not.

I began to second guess myself. Perhaps I had completely misunderstood the entire scene. Why, oh why hadn't I photographed her, or thought to ask if I could photograph her?? What if it was all a ruse, and . . .

My brain whirred at an alarming rate as I loaded the dog and the stroller and the baby back into the car. Because of where I had parked, I had to manuever the corner where the diner sat.

As I did so, my heart leaped.

The little black woman with gleaming eyes, red floppy had, rhinestone earrings and red satin gloves sat eating with a sense of sophistication, as though she owned the joint.

Perhaps she does.

At that moment, I knew I had done the right thing, in every aspect. The meal, the restraint of photography, the regarding of a human life.

A Beauty Queen in God's eyes ate well that night. How glad I was for it.

For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good . . . Mark 14:7

1 comment:

Beth said...

I think you did the right thing, sharing your meal with the Beauty Queen.

Your story reminds me of the time we ventured into downtown Seattle when the boy was about 12 months old. We stopped at a McDonald's for lunch/dinner after the show and noticed a very well worn gentleman. He stopped to chat with us as he sipped a coffee, and it occured to us that he didn't have the money for a lunch. So, we treated him to a Value Meal...cheese burger & fries I think. It was a very good feeling that we had done the right thing that day.

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