We smoked a joint 15 minutes before we reached the North Hollywood train station so my head was in funny places. Naturally, this mindset made everyone on the train the most interesting person in Los Angeles. The High School students to my left. The Latino couple to the right. The man who asked us for change so he could catch a bus. Everyone seemed authentic and present. We were all going somewhere, together, and even though no one said a word to each other something was understood. I remember feeling glad to simply share that space and moment with them. It’s a feeling I never get experience when I’m alone in my car with the windows up.
We continued on those tracks and made small talk to pass the time, got off at Hollywood and Vine, and everything went to Hell. Crowds of belligerence garbed in Santa Claus outfits and reindeer antlers stumbled down the block in a bacteria-like drunken stupor. They went from bar to bar, drinking and chatting and yelling and laughing and celebrating the holiday spirit. Boozy smells exited their mouths and contributed to the stink that is Hollywood Blvd.
Trailing the Santa Claus Crawl was a small group of Christmas season protesters. They were dressed outrageously. One carried a sign that read: “FUCK SANTA.” Another one said this as we passed her: “Say NO, not HO, HO, HO!” It was a bold attempt but they were clearly outnumbered. Their cries were muffled amongst a sea of red hats, poofy pants and the jingling of bells. “At least both sides are being represented,” my friend said. But really, what did any of this have to do with Christmas?
One block further and we met the Kush Doctor. He had on sunglasses and stood outside a rented building with a white coat and clipboard. “Come on, you can do it,” said the woman standing next to him, encouraging us to get a medicinal marijuana recommendation. I took a peek inside their doctor’s office. It was one room with a few fold-up chairs and a table. That’s it. It was either the most blatant sting operation in Hollywood or a seedy business just asking to be shut down. It probably should be shut down I guess, and judging by the fold-up chairs and empty room they are well aware of it.
“Is Hollywood always this crazy?” I asked my friend. “It’s Hollywood,” he said.
Just up ahead was a crowd of people wielding cameras and smiling. It was a porn shop. I realized this because right inside the display window was Ron Jeremy, in the flesh, in a Santa Claus outfit. He had two porn stars wrapped around him. His face was fully buried in one’s breasts and his hand was slowly creeping up the other’s thigh. “It’s not everyday that you see fucking Ron Jeremy,” said a passerby. People whipped out their cellphones to snap a shot while Ron’s tongue slowly slid along a clavicle.
It was all too much to analyze; it was insanity. And on our final stretch my brain was sent into overload, a near meltdown moment right there on Hollywood Blvd. I imagined the newspaper headline: 23 year-old’s Brain Explodes Near Hollywood Christmas Production. For this was not your regular, run-of-the-mill Christmas production of It’s A Wonderful Life. It was literally the L. Ron Hubbard’s Winter Wonderland Latin Extravaganza. Crowds formed, television crews filmed and tourists were welcomed to watch the five-hour event with the purpose of “Making a Child Happy this Christmas.”
All I wanted was a piece of Pizza but was forced to stomach the scum and euphoric delusion of a broken boulevard. How much more could I have handled? Every block felt like a punch in the face or a jab in the stomach, and it all hit me so fast that I couldn’t process anything that was happening.
Walk down one block and it’s people yelling, laughing, and taking pictures next to plastic statues of actors and actresses who have been dead for years. Another block you’ll see old men dressed as Elmo and Cookie Monster, waving and giving hugs to kids. There’s too much action. It’s all happening and exciting and everyone is going to make it big. But every once in a while you’ll notice the cracks in the sidewalk and the gum muddying the stars. If you look close you’ll see the homeless people with dirty hands dying in doorways, covered in plastic bags or searching for scraps in trash cans. And you’ll say, wait, something isn’t right here. And you’ll pause and think about it, but before you can complete that thought a maniac dressed in a green outfit screams nonsense towards the Hollywood sky and you forget all about it.
I was only there for one hour but I left feeling completely lost. I knew I had experienced something utterly depressing — but what exactly? It felt hidden and masked behind these tiny explosions of excitement, puffs of smoke and plastic death statues. All I could do was stand, and stare, and move on.