Edward Hopper at Dolores Restaurant at 3 am, 1987

When I lived in Los Angeles and didn’t have a car, I walked the city a lot. Frequently I did this at night because I was nocturnal and having depressive problems.

There were a lot of hours spent on the streets of West L.A. and Hollywood. I peered in store windows, read newsboxes and flyers, talked to street people. I read cheap paperbacks in all-night coffeehouses to keep my mind off whatever was eating me. When they were running, I took buses, but walking was more reliable.

When you’re a pedestrian at night on a street like Pico Boulevard or Bundy, you’re invisible. Cars blow past you at 50 all lit up and blasting music. Buses will leave you at the bench yelling and waving as the driver zones out heading for his turnaround. Even the other night pedestrians keep their heads down and look straight ahead much of the time. Only an occasional cop will see you, slow down and shine his light for a moment, or maybe even get out and make you play “who am I?” in case you’re trouble.

That’s how I learned that the world is made of broken concrete and asphalt. It’s a dry, chilly place lit by fluorescent bulbs. In the distance you can always hear a freeway and a siren or two, and there’s always an airplane in the sky. Other people are crazy, dangerous, or just boring. Everything costs money. And a cup of bad coffee and a book are not much of a defense against that or the enemies within.

7 thoughts on “Edward Hopper at Dolores Restaurant at 3 am, 1987

  1. That’s so true it hurts
    Your observations are valid for other parts of the country, even sunny old Cape Cod. Desperation, despair, and loneliness breed alienation quite effectively, which is flavored by one’s location.
    Around these parts, we refer to those unpleasant parts of early adulthood as “adventures in poverty.”

  2. I live a block from Delores’s and it’s the perfect place to meet someone when you don’t want them to know where you live. and the 65 year old waitresses always call you “hon”. I like that.

  3. That’s how I learned that the world is made of broken concrete and asphalt. It’s a dry, chilly place lit by fluorescent bulbs. In the distance you can always hear a freeway and a siren or two, and there’s always an airplane in the sky. Other people are crazy, dangerous, or just boring. Everything costs money.
    No, no, that’s just LA.

  4. Only A Nobody Walks In L.A.
    I used to walk to work five mornings a week, going from Culver City to Santa Monica. It was a nine mile walk; to arrive by 6 AM, I would leave my house at 3 every morning. Most of the time, the weather was forgiving; sometimes it wasn’t, but I had an umbrella and a waterproof pair of boots.
    At 3 AM, the crazies and the druggies and the small-time criminals are as scared of you as you are of them. Especially if, like me, you’re 6’6″, dressed like you want to kill someone, and perpetually glaring at everyone who comes within a hundred yards of you (actually, I was squinting, because I’d lost my glasses, but no one else knew that). I must have seemed like a monster; thugs and homeless people alike crossed the street to get out of my way. The only people who fucked with me were the cops, who stopped me virtually every day for the first month that I was doing this. By the end of that month, every police officer in West Los Angeles knew who I was; I had the streets all to myself after that.
    Lucy’s Mexican and American Food on Sepulveda and Culver. Big Tomy’s on Sawtelle and Pico. Donut Star on Pico and Sepulveda. Carl’s Jr at Santa Monica and 26th. These were the places where, after the first week, everyone recognized me, knew my order, provided me with human contact. It’s not much, but how much does a person really need?
    I sometimes miss walking in the pre-dawn hours. Not enough to start up my crystal meth habit again, but enough to make me occasionally wistful.

    1. Re: Only A Nobody Walks In L.A.
      That’s interesting. I know all those places from the same context. For me it’s almost 100% negative because I was so depressed at the time. Although I do miss the taco stand at Santa Monica & Bundy. A Starbucks is a poor replacement.

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