Sunday, April 19, 2009

Walking With Ron 6

I called my friend Ron yesterday morning at about eleven.
"What's up, Richard?"
"Hey, let me borrow twenty bucks."
"I'm going to the Hippie Kitchen right now. Wanna meet me there."
"Yeah, I'm just leaving the house, and I'm going that way to meet James."
"Alright, I'll meet you there."
Ron was referring to Tall James, of course, who I met there first, as we saw Ron approaching from Fifth Street. "Tell Ron I went upstairs to get his movies," he asked me.
I told Ron that, and that I was going to get something to eat.
"Take your time, Richard."
What I got was beans and salad. The sign inside the kitchen announced that today's meat was pork, but it must have been pureed because I certainly couldn't locate any meat particles. It was good though. Ron had brought some plastic containers which he got filled with beans and salad to take home. They were giving away bags of chopped lettuce which we both took advantage of. We teamed up with Tall James, and he and Ron exchanged DVDs. I believe they were of the pornographic variety.
We left Tall James.
"Where you headed?" I asked.
"I'll walk with you."
We slowly, and I mean slowly, made our way from Sixth and Gladys, to a check cashing facility on Seventh near Towne. Ron was not in a hurry today.
"I got my drivers license yesterday," he said.
"Your f--king s--ting me. And on a Friday!" (See Walking With Ron 2)
"Yup, sure did," he laughed.
"I don't believe it."
For years Ron had put off doing it. He got three of the eighteen questions on the driving test wrong, which was the limit, so he barely passed, but pass he did.
"But I gotta pay seventy five bucks to Maryland. Man, my past is catching up with me,
Apparently Ron had some unresolved legal issues in his home state, like driving under the influence and fleeing police pursuit, and was currently ineligible to receive his license.
At the cash checking place he made a withdrawal from an ATM machine, and he gave me a twenty dollar bill.
"They finally paid me this week," he said. "First time in two weeks."
We left the store and continued walking south to Dukes, a convenience store, just a little south of Eighth Street, on San Pedro, right in the heart of the Flower District. Ron made his purchases, we left and continued north towards his place.
"Hey, you know that new movie, The Soloist, is that about your friend, what is his name?" I asked.
"Yeah, Nathaniel. That's the movie about him and Steve Lopez. I introduced them."
We were speaking of Nathaniel Ayers, the musical virtuoso who lives on the streets downtown Los Angeles, and as a third year student at Juilliard suffered a mental breakdown, and has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. The Los Angeles Times columnist, Steve Lopez, met Nathaniel in 2005 near Pershing Square where he often plays classical music on the violin or cello for change (sometimes with only one or two strings), got him a gig at the Walt Disney Music Center, and wrote columns about him, and a book, resulting in the upcoming film, "The Soloist," staring Jamie Foxx as Nathaniel, and Robert Downy Jr. as Lopez.
"Man he got two million dollars for that. Gave it all to his sister. He don't want it. You look at him, he's just like Terry, he don't want to get off the streets."
His sister used the money to found the Nathaniel Anthony Ayers Foundation, an endowment aiming to support artistically gifted people with mental illness.
I've met him a couple of times while walking with Ron. A quiet, skittish individual.
Ron purchased a single rose for a dollar from one of the many flower shops lining the streets. This was intended for one of his neighbors who he had had a romantic relationship the previous evening. Ron is a sentimentalist.
"You want to see pretty women this is where you come. Women and flowers, man oh man."
We continued north to his place.
"Hi, how ya doing?" Ron would say to people he knew who we passed.
Ron's house is extremely cluttered. Shoe boxes piled high in one corner, clothes scattered about, caned goods on the floor and shelves. I had to sit on his bed again as the lone recliner was filled up with different items. He put on an MP3 I had given him and we listened to the Allman Brothers and Chicago, some songs I hadn't heard in literally decades. At one point we both sang along to "Only The Beginning."
After about forty-five minutes I said, "I've got to get going."
"Okay Richard. I'll walk with you."
Which he did, south on San Pedro to the bus stop on Sixth. At one point he admonished me for walking too fast. "You've got to stroll, Richard, stroll. Then you can see things, like these trees." He pointed out the rows of majestic, circular rows of trees of an unknown variety that lined the street, that I had been aware of for years, but had paid no particular attention to.
"They must have been here for over a hundred and fifty years."
He was right. They are beautiful.
There were two metal bars strapped to the ground near each trees base making them difficult to steal.
"Alright Richard, I'll call you."
"Bye Ron," I said as I caught a quickly approaching 18 bus back to my box.
Thus ended my walk with Ron. I'm almost positive we'll do it again someday, probably soon.

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