There was no possibility that I was going to watch the news or doom scroll on Twitter on election night. As I grabbed a back up battery, I rushed out the front door. I always carry an extra SanDisk card in case I forget my card in my camera which last night I did as I was anxious to get into the city and in my car I went. Beginning on Sunset Blvd, I headed east from Laurel Canyon. That’s when I began to see my city with boarded up stores as far as Western Avenue. I stopped by Objets d’Art & Spirit, to see the owner who has worked for decades to build her dream in Los Angeles. This store was on LaCienega for nearly three decades and is now on Sunset Blvd. My heart hurt to see her store being boarded up with plywood.
Motion Picture Editors Guild on Sunset Blvd.
Objets’ d’art and Spirit.
Self Portrait on Sunset Blvd.
This sign gave me hope.
I parked my car so I could walk my city. Yes, my city. I grew up in Los Angeles specifically in the San Fernando Valley. Back in the 70’s, there was less crime. The worst thing that happened here was a hub cap was stolen off a car. The abuse went on behind closed doors. Now, as I walked around with my camera near Western and Sunset, I saw the taco truck where people gathered to place their orders. One man was hanging lights as the others were cooking meat and vegetables and onions over a hot grill. I saw people on their cell phones and others waiting for the bus. Mothers holding their children’s hands, a couple taking off on their skateboards after a quick chat with me. I was filled with so much hope for my city, my country, our world.
As I drove south towards Melrose, I still had no idea how close the polls were. I thought of my father, who came to this country from Poland as an immigrant after working with the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society for five years, to get the proper permissions to enter America. His hopes were to start a new life, a life after the Holocaust and America was his chosen dream. My father taught me that with hard work, I could create my own dream and I did but it required dedication, commitment and a never ending drive and persistance to become a stunt woman in Hollywood.
As I drove west on Melrose and saw more store fronts all covered with wood to protect the stores from the inevitable damage, I stopped at another taco bar on the street. There were 4 people working there from the women chopping the onions to the one creating the warm tortillas to the men again cooking the various meats. I thought of my father, who worked at least 4 different jobs to put food on the table for his five children. I passed movie studios were I have worked over the three decades in Hollywood not only as a stunt woman but in locations. My dreams came true in this city. I know this city like no other from where to park without getting a ticket to where to get the best street taco. Still, I remained hopeful for the outcome of this election.
As I drove south on Highland and headed to Wilshire Blvd and onto Beverly Hills, I had heard that Rodeo Blvd was boarded up but I had no idea what was in store for me. Not only boarded up stores but all access to Rodeo Blvd was blocked with barriers, police and security guards. Here, I spoke to a young man and asked if he knew where we were in the polls. He said it was close. I asked him who he voted for as I could feel his answer in my bones. “Trump” he replied “And now I regret it.” I had no words so I stayed silent. This was the first time I checked my phone all evening to see the poll numbers.
Photographing Beverly Hills and all our city with boards up and down the streets hurt my heart. What has happened to our country and can we save it? When I awoke this morning, November 4, my dear friend Ruth, who has been building homes in Los Angeles for years, posted the poem “Good Bones” by Maggie Smith on Instagram and wrote “America! I believe you have good bones.” Maggie Smith writes out of experience of motherhood, inspired by her children. And, Ruth, who has worked so hard to raise her two children in Los Angeles, gave me hope this morning.
I thought of my father, who would buy the crummiest homes because he said “It had good bones” and how he bought homes and built homes all over the San Fernando Valley to support his children and give them a better life than he had in Poland. I awoke with hope, again.
Good Bones by Maggie Smith
Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.