In love with Los Angeles
Los Angeles (L.A.) has been all that I expected and more. We obviously began our stay with an open air bus Hollywood tour. Most people who know me well will know that I am completely obsessed with reality t.v. (yes, I can admit it), reading trashy tabloid magazines and the trending fashion scenes. This tour touched partly on some of these things, it took us to some famous actors homes, showed us all the interesting landmarks/ trending restaurants and a stop with a hilltop view of L.A. which was breath-taking. Our first week in L.A. also took us to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, local parks, The Farmers Market, K-Mart and the Dollar Tree Store. I of course also found the Goodwill Store fairly quickly. We also took quite a few rest days at home in our first week as our schedule had been fairly busy on the cruise and we were all a bit exhausted. Our air bnb here in West Hollywood, L.A. has been yet another winner and we felt right at home nearly straight away. Our hosts Melissa and Jude have been very welcoming and friendly and made us feel very relaxed. Jude is from West Africa and is a Shaman which I found to be quite interesting. He invited myself and Peter for a session on spititual healing. I took him up on his offer and I will talk about my experiences in my next blog (coming soon). Getting back to the Goodwill store, my first step into there I couldn’t believe the number of rails of clothing.
The store has everything to offer from men’s and ladies clothing, to shoes, to toys, homeware and many accessories. Just to note that everything sold in the Goodwill Store has been donated and thus second hand but the Donation Centre where the goods are received have very good staff who sift through the items making sure that each item is worth selling in the store. We have nothing quite like this back in South Africa where the second hand clothing trend is still up and coming. Most of the clothes in the Goodwill store situated here in West Hollywood seemed to be either brand new or in good condition. Also I couldn’t believe there were so many brand names on offer like Zara, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Nike, J Crew, Mossimo, Forever 21, H&M and even Ralph Lauren. I literally spent about an hour in the Goodwill and Dollar store each day for the entire week. Aiden and I would love adventuring in both stores finding hidden gems but Aiden preferred the Dollar store, trawling the toy aisle (testing out the toys as he would like to call it) forever and we would walk out with at least one toy (yes, he has me twisted around his little finger). Then we would head over to the Goodwill store which was conveniently located next door. He would then run around hiding behind all the clothes rails and charming the socks off all the employees there, whilst I browsed the clothing rails getting more and more excited about my finds. I was told that each Saturday the store would choose a colour label that would be ½ price for the week and then on a Thursday that same colour labelled item would only cost a dollar. This blew my mind. The fact that you could buy an item of Zara clothing for example, in perfect condition for a dollar (R15.00 for all my fellow South Africans), I couldn’t quite believe it. I obviously then had to go back on Thursday for purely fact checking (wink, wink) to see if this was whole dollar per item thing was true. It was! I then felt it my civic duty to have to buy at least 10 items of clothing. The only sad thing was that if you found an amazing jersey for example but it had the wrong colour tag for that week or day, you would have to pay full price (not that full price was exorbitant as I think the most expensive clothing item in the store was $6.50), but it almost started to feel like a game where you would have to look for all purple tag items on a Thursday ($1 day). I must say it was quite addictive and I would sift through the rails for ages just wanting to look at all the different items on offer and having the fun of trying completely different items on (as things ranged from vintage to trending). I think Peter started to worry where I was at some point as I think the one afternoon I only got home like two hours later than expected (I tend to lose track of time in clothing stores and the Goodwill store was no exception).
All kidding aside though, and as much as Aiden and I were having fun in both stores, what struck me was the amount of homeless people we saw walking to and from the store here in West Hollywood and the amount of homeless people hanging out daily outside the parking area on the pavement trying to sell their wares. Some of them were even my age which was scary and sobering at the same time. We have homeless people back home in South Africa and much poverty but we don’t see it in your actual face everyday, like you do here in West Hollywood. A lot the homeless people seem to have mental issues too and as you walk past they will scream at you, but this almost makes me feel 10 times worse for them as you feel like where are these peoples friends or families to look after them? All they need is some care and a safe place to stay where they can be looked after or get the medical attention they deserve. This week I met a homeless man named Sonny outside the Donation store here in West Hollywood. Aiden and I had dropped off some donations at the Donation store that day and had done some brief shopping. On our way out of the store I saw Sonny walking towards the store so I greeted him as I usually do to people. In passing he asked Aiden what his name was and Aiden promptly replied “Aiden”. Sonny then chuckled and I thanked him for the sweet compliment about Aiden and we went on our way. As we were exiting the parking lot area he ran after me.
I’m not sure if he thought I was struggling in some way as I had looked back and had seen him exchanging words with the Goodwill store’s security guard who by now I knew quite well. I had made friends with most of the people who worked in the store by week 2 of our stay but I’m not sure if they were aware that I was a tourist shopping out of fun and not necessity. There are a lot of homeless people shopping in the Goodwill store itself and I saw many an interesting character over my time shopping there. Back to my story about Sonny though. So as I was exiting the parking lot area, Sonny ran after me to stop me. He then said that he and his friend Chrissy had been given 3 bags of goods by a stranger and that there might be some items for Aiden in the bags. He wanted to give them to Aiden as he said he had no need for them. I wasn’t sure what to do in the moment as Aiden doesn’t really need anything as such, but I thought it rude to carry on walking and dismiss him. I also got the feeling that people don’t really give the homeless the time of day here in Los Angeles and so Sonny and I got to chatting whilst Aiden played with the toys that Sonny got out of the donation bag for him. Sonny explained to me he and his friend Chrissy (the lady that accompanied him) were currently living on the streets trying to make a living where they could. Sonny said he grew up in a tough home and environment which led to the situation he found himself in now. I asked Sonny if Chrissy was his wife but he laughed and said “No”, and that Chrissy and him were just friends and that they looked out for each other.
He alluded to the fact that the streets could be a tough place to live and so you would need someone watching your back for you. My heart really went out to Sonny and I wished that I could somehow help him on the spot but didn’t know how. I asked him if the Government doesn’t have some sort of funding for him but he said many programmes you would have to wait up to 8 years to get into and that many of the donations from Goodwill (which he can’t even afford to shop in) don’t come back to help the homeless in Los Angeles, as they help other issues such as people with disabilities. I found this fact to be devastating as surely society and government should help the homeless in some better way than making them wait up to 8 years for shelter. The conversation ended a few minutes later and I thanked him for his generosity towards Aiden (for the toys) and myself (as he even offered me clothes from the donation bags). It’s truly amazing how those in need will literally be willing to share the clothes off their back with you, whereas the rich and powerful who are sitting with most of the country’s wealth are willing to give nothing back. As Aiden and I walked home my mind was everywhere and I wasn’t sure how to put this recent encounter with Sonny into perspective and then as we were about to unlock the gate to our air bnb, Aiden asked where his balloon was? The Mickey Mouse one we had just bought him from the Dollar Tree Store. We had forgot it in the Donation Store… Aww! So I was promptly instructed to walk all the way back to collect it. Aiden and I then made the rather short walk back to the Donation store, and there we saw Sonny again in the same place. We quickly collected the balloon which was luckily being safeguarded by one of the friendly employees there. On our way out of the parking lot area, I chatted briefly to Sonny again and asked if I could take his picture. He agreed and we also exchanged e-mail addresses. I said I would like to write about him in my next blog and he said that would be ok. I plan on sending the blog to Sonny to show him that he had an impact on me. My heart truly goes out to him and I hope that his luck will change soon and that he might find room and board somewhere safe. If anyone reading this would like to help Sonny, please can you keep him and his friend Chrissy in your thoughts and hope for their well being whether it be in prayer or positive thoughts. I’ve really started questioning what we are brought into this life for? I mean people can go their whole lives being so self absorbed and uncaring, not taking into consideration those around them. Could I have been one of those people back home? I’m not sure but what I do know is that this year has really made me start thinking more about what I can do to give back in some way and start caring more for those around me.
A little bit about Goodwill’s mission and vision:
Goodwill focuses on training, employment and job placement for people with disabilities, transitioning individuals to independence and productivity.
To be the leader in providing services to those with disabilities who want to work, but face barriers to employment. To train and place them in jobs they can perform successfully and retain.
Check out more for details on what Goodwill stands for and does on their website. Also if you want to help in any way or even donate you can find out how to do this on:
Until next week,
Keep staying positive and be awesome!