Karl: Its April 30th, 2010 and we’re sitting on an uncomfortable bench in front of Gelson’s on Santa Monica Blvd. I’m here with?
Karl: And who is your little friend here? *nods to yapping Chihuahua in Abigail’s lap*
Abigail: This is Leonardo da Vinci.
Karl: How old are you, Abigail?
Karl: What would you say your occupation is? I take it you’re freelancing odd jobs at the moment? *refers to “HOMELESS, WILL WORK” sign that Leonardo is sitting on*
Abigail: I’m just trying to survive, that’s all.
Karl: What did you do before you became homeless?
Karl: Oh okay, so that’s your gig? There are probably a lot of opportunities for that here, no?
*hopeless shrug from Abigail*
Karl: You and I first met here, outside of Gelson’s.
Abigail: Yes. I remember you.
Karl: So where do you live?
Abigail: I don’t live anywhere, I’m homeless.
Karl: Uh, right. Sorry. But… where do you stay, I guess, is what I’m asking? Where do you sleep?
Abigail: I have an old car parked down the street. I sleep in my car.
Karl: How long have you been here now?
Abigail: I’ve been here probably 4-weeks. I came here for a little while, went back to Arizona and I was like, *groan* it was the same thing, I was unhappy, and I was depressed while I was there. I stayed with a family member and I just sat there and ate the whole time.
Karl: Has the community been nice to you? Welcoming?
Abigail: Very nice, very kind, very generous. Very helpful, I mean, when I first got here, they weren’t at all. And they changed since I came here. It seems like, when I first got here they weren’t, you know… They wouldn’t even tell me where stuff was, I couldn’t get anyone to help me at all. In fact they wouldn’t even talk to me. I would ask them, “Do you know where this is?” And they would just… *makes motion of someone sticking their nose up in the air*
Karl: This is people walking down the street?
Abigail: Yeah, I would ask, “Is there a gas station near by?” And they would just…
Karl: Ignore you.
Abigail: Yeah, they would just turn away. And then, after a couple weeks, they all started, everybody started giving directions, and the next thing you know, I was opening the door for somebody, and everybody started opening doors for everybody. Seems like they got a lot nicer. Seems like I saw a change after I was here for awhile, I saw people getting kinder, nicer, more giving. Yeah… it seems like people got a lot nicer.
Karl: Maybe its the weather. *laughs* It was pretty cold 4-weeks ago. Is there any one-person in particular that you’ve met, who stands out?
Abigail: Just, people who bought food for my dog, good food, you know, the canned food. I can’t afford that.
Karl: Does that happen often?
Abigail: Well, when I hold the sign, they’ll help me.
Karl: So what brought you here, specifically, to West Hollywood?
Abigail: When I was in Arizona, I was applying to a lot of jobs here, online, and I got a lot of requests for interviews. More so than there, there I couldn’t get anything. So I thought, “Well, maybe I have more of a chance,” here. Then I wanted to try the entertainment business which I’ve never had an opportunity to try.
Karl: Are you an actor?
Abigail: I think so. I’m a very intense person. Sometimes I have some strong emotions. I can summon them up easily. I can get them to come, at any second, I can bring my emotions, you know… You know what I mean.
Karl: You can summon up the characters.
Abigail: Yes, I can do that. So maybe that was my calling, maybe I missed that.
Karl: Have you had any bites? Have you been auditioning?
Abigail: Um, I am having trouble with my pictures. First of all I couldn’t get a photographer to… well, it takes money, you gotta have money to do that. And, if you can’t find anybody to help you with that, you gotta find the money, or gotta get a job. It takes money to do that. You know, so it’s hard, it’s not easy. Nobody who ever made it, very few, maybe Kim Kardashian, or Paris Hilton… *pause*
Karl: So you’re shooting pretty high, huh?
Abigail: No, I’m just saying, they’re celebrities, but they already had money. A lot of the actors, they were homeless. There are a lot of big names who were just regular people, their families didn’t have money. For instance, Jewel was homeless.
Karl: Really? I didn’t know that.
Abigail: Yeah. There’s a lot of them who were just… starving. There was one of them, all he could afford to eat was potatoes.
Karl: So, how do people… do you have a card, or a website for people? How does a potential employer call you back?
Abigail: That’s the problem. Hopefully they’ll give me the message. I mean, I know I can get extra work.
Karl: Yeah, a lot of people do that here.
Abigail: Online, I have this website that I signed up on and I’ve been getting a lot of emails from casting directors. They’ll email me and tell me the address to send my head shot and information to.
Karl: Oh good. I didn’t realize you were online. How do you check your email?
Abigail: No, I can get online. The library has a computer.
Karl: So what do you do at night when you’re not working.
Abigail: I go to sleep at about 7:00. I don’t really do too much. I just… try to get money, try to take care of myself, get my showers. I just try to survive. Right now, I don’t know what to do until that changes. I don’t understand, I tried to get social security, I couldn’t get it. Couldn’t get any welfare. I wasn’t able to get a hearing before a judge to get social security. So what else am I supposed to do?
Karl: Out of curiosity, what does West Hollywood do for people in your situation?
Abigail: Well, I went there today and she didn’t really…
Karl: Where’s “there?” A shelter? City Hall?
Abigail: Yeah. Everyone told me to go there. She said they had a room, at Social Services, that they would take me back in a room, but she didn’t take me back there.
Karl: You went in, you said, “I need help,” and they kicked you out?
Abigail: Well, she didn’t kick me out, but she gave me a pamphlet to this other place, “PATH,” which seems nice, but… I don’t know. It’s just, so frustrating. I guess I could go to someplace called PATH, but they wouldn’t help me with money, or anything, but I guess I would just, have a bed there.
Karl: You don’t want that? Well, you have your car to worry about I guess.
Abigail: It might get stolen.
Karl: Do you have a lot of stuff?
Abigail: I’ve got what I need. As long as I’m with it.
Karl: Are you medicated?
Karl: Oh, good. So you don’t have to worry about prescriptions running out, or immediate medical expenses.
Abigail: No. I could get them, if they worked. But they had me on some medicine and it didn’t work.
Karl: What are you diagnosed with?
Abigail: *gets choked up*
Karl: It’s okay. You don’t have to tell me.
Abigail: Well, I was diagnosed with Attention Defecate Disorder several years ago. And I had this prescribed medication for that, and then all of a sudden they decided I was a schizophrenic. I really don’t understand it. It doesn’t make any sense, unless I’ve experienced severe identity theft.
Karl: I’m sorry to hear that.
Abigail: That’s okay, it’s not your fault.
Karl: Well, Abigail, what could the city do to improve things for people in your situation?
Abigail: The homeless, or mentally ill?
Karl: Both… either.
Abigail: They really can’t help. All they can really do is let me do what I’ve been doing. The police have been doing a great job, they’ve been very helpful. They’re not trying to give me a ticket for something. I mean, I don’t really know… This one girl came up and said, “Oh, they’ll just write you a check over there.” *points to City Hall* I thought that was a little strange. Do they do that?
Karl: I don’t know, but if they do, we should probably head over there. *laughs*
Abigail: Oh, the only big issue I’ve had with this city is the parking. They gave me a parking ticket, and… I probably could’ve paid… you know… what I needed was to make payments on the ticket. I could’ve paid it, but slowly, maybe $10, $20 a month.
Karl: What was it, $60 or something?
Abigail: It was an $80 ticket.
Abigail: But, this was the problem. And if they could do this, it would probably help a lot of people… If they could set up payment-plans for people, even if they charged a little extra for it, oh, that would help people a lot. Because that parking… it is just…
Karl: Yeah, they really get ya.
Abigail: It’s crazy. And they don’t give anybody any chances. They assume everybody’s wealthy, and they’re not. I said, “Sometimes, I don’t have any income, can I set up a payment plan?” They said, “No, you have to pay the ticket first to get a hearing.” I said, “Oh, I’m poor, so I have to pay the ticket so I can get a hearing to get it dropped.”
Karl: And then what do they do, give you a check?
Abigail: Yeah. And I told her I can’t get the money back at the bank. I said, “You know, I can probably try to muster up $80, but, I probably won’t be able to get the money back.” So if they could let people set up payment plans, that would be huge.
*Man in old-junker stops in front of our bench and propositions Abigail. She refuses and rolls her eyes.*
Karl: Encounter many weirdos? Probably a ton of ’em here?
Abigail: Just homeless people.
Karl: Other homeless?
Abigail: Yeah. They follow me around a lot.
Karl: Oh really? No trouble though, right?
Abigail: I think some of them are trouble. They wanted to sell my dog out from under me and stuff.
Abigail: I had troubles with some of them. They seemed to know that I was outside too… they just… weren’t very nice to me, some of them.
Karl: Does that happen late at night?
Abigail: No, it was during the day. They knew about my situation, but, I’m going to go back to Arizona with my son.
Karl: You have a son? Is he here?
Abigail: No, he’s not here.
Karl: Sure, you want to be near him.
Abigail: Well, just for a couple weeks or so… See if I can get another, something going on.
*Leonardo explodes into yapping at an approaching wheaten terrier*
Karl: Um, what are some of your favorite places to go?
Abigail: I like the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Karl: Yeah, it’s really nice over there.
Abigail: I like to go in there, it’s pretty.
Karl: Have you been up to the Sunset Strip?
Abigail: *shakes head*
Karl: Oh, you should walk up there, it’s cool.
Karl: Yeah, you might like it. You just walk up… *points north toward Sunset* You can see the hotels up there *squints and points at The Mondrian* You see ’em?
Abigail: Mmm, hmm
*Leonardo again, Abigail pats his back and holds him tight*
Karl: Yeah, if you just walk up the hill there, that’s a famous street up there. There are a lot of nice hotels up there. It’s fun. They have gorgeous lobbies… there’s one called The Standard?
Abigail: Oh, I’ve stayed there before.
Karl: Really? Nice, I’ve never seen the rooms myself.
Abigail: That’s a really funny place. *laughs*
Karl: Yeah, it is. They’ve got that great patio.
So… are you happy here?
Abigail: Yeah. I’m happy here. I just need to get it together. It’s hard when you don’t have any money. A lot of my money went quick when I got here, trying to find places, trying to find where things are, having to go back and forth, and back again. I wasted a lot of my money.
Karl: Can you go back to Arizona and earn more there?
Abigail: Well, maybe not return with more, I can only get money in California. I can’t get money in Arizona. Isn’t that funny?
*Angry male-voice emits from building across the street*
Male voice: Shut up that yapping dog!
Karl: Fuck ‘im. Don’t worry about it. I get the same thing when my 3-year old is crying out here.
Abigail: He’ll get what he deserves.
Karl: So… *pauses between barks* Are you wanted there or something?
Abigail: No. It’s real shady. They’re saying I’m a felon there, but I didn’t get arrested or anything.
Karl: Who’s “they?” The police?
Abigail: It’s on the computers, the computers are weird there. The computers there don’t… *stares into distance*
Abigail: *LAUGHS* No… they don’t jive! No, they don’t. They don’t jive at all. I wish they would do something about it, but nobody’s… I mean, look what they’re doing over there… I mean… Aren’t they like, firing 100 police officers?
Karl: I don’t know much about Arizona’s politics. I know that we’re boycotting travel to Arizona over their anti-immigration law. Have you read about that?
Abigail: No, I haven’t. The only problem is, some places here are doing the same thing. Not the good people. The celebrities and stuff, they’re all good. They’re good, you know what I’m saying? They’re… *drifts off into deep thought*
Abigail: Yeah! I mean, they wouldn’t be involved in anything like that, but there’s places here that are doing the same thing. That’s where it’s headed, the same as Arizona. The same thing they’re doing here is going to cause the same problems they’re having in Arizona. The same thing’s gonna happen, except for the people here will be able to sustain everything. They’ll be able to keep it together. There’s enough money here to keep everything together.
Karl: I sure hope so. On that note, where do you see West Hollywood 20-years from now, the way things are going? Do you see this place flourishing, or falling apart?
Abigail: It all depends on the choices they make.
Karl: What choices could be made that would cause the city to fall apart?
Abigail: Not following the same set of rules. If you don’t follow the same thing for everybody. If you’re in the government, you have to follow the same rules as everyone else.
Karl: Are you referring to corruption? Or… special treatment, you know, for celebrities?
Abigail: No, they can do that. They have enough problems already, they deserve special treatment.
*Leonardo yaps at poodle across the street*
I’ve experienced the opposite of that treatment, so if you can get that, you deserve it.
Karl: How so? You’re not famous enough? *joking smile*
Abigail: No. I wouldn’t say I’m a celebrity, but it seems like a lot of people know who I am. In New York, people knew who I was.
Karl: Really? You spent time in New York? Did you like it there?
Abigail: Yeah, I loved it there. People knew who I was there.
Karl: It’s a nice place, a good town. You didn’t want to stay there?
Abigail: I can’t afford there.
Karl: Yeah, it’s expensive.
Abigail: It’s like here. I mean, before I would’ve been okay, but my money got stolen here. I had to start putting my money in other places.
Karl: Oh no, that’s terrible.
Abigail: Yeah, that’s why I’m so poor. My money got stolen. A lot of it. I had about $300 or $400 stolen.
Karl: Out of your car?
Abigail: Out of my purse.
Karl: Ugh… *wince* that’s devastating. I’m sorry to hear that.
Abigail: That’s okay. But that’s what makes it so hard. I was able to get it, but then it’s just…
Karl: Gone. Yeah, my mom and I were in London when I was a kid and she got ripped off too, and we didn’t have any money. It’s frightening, especially in a strange place. Yeah, it’s terrible when that happens.
Well, I’d better get back to work. I’ll let you go, but… is there anything else you want to leave me with?
Abigail: No, but if you think of anything else, any ideas, like I said, I’ve had a lot of things happen to me, I’ve been in a lot of situations.
Karl: No, I can tell, you’re a very interesting person. You’ve been through a lot of things. Say, would you let me take your picture, with those flowers behind you? *points at floral bush behind bench* It’s fine to say no, you don’t have to, but I like to do portraits of people, and you would be a great one.
Abigail: Maybe another time, I don’t have any make-up on.
Karl: Well, I think you look beautiful, but that’s fine, I know how ladies are. *laughs* No problem. How about just of Leonardo then?
Abigail: *laughs* We look awful.
Karl: You look fantastic.