Welcome to the Lowes hotel
and the Hollywood-Highland Center.
Two buildings with mismatching floors
connected by a labyrinth of corridors
where folks wander around
where they are
nor how to get
where they want to go.
An atrium encircled by
restaurants and shops.
A huge movie set with Babylonian motifs
including two larger than life elephants
rearing up towards the sky.
Passing beneath the watchful gaze
of Charlie Chaplin
the one who was blacklisted
I walk through a Fellini like movie of
endless sets spilling over each other
I hear the Eagles
welcoming me to the Hotel California….
“…And I was thinking to myself
this could be heaven
or this could be hell…”
“…Some dance to remember
some dance to forget…”
warning me as I try to exit the parking lot
and struggle with the pay machine
“…You can check out any time you like
but you can never leave…”
A Hollywood star from the music world arrives at the hotel in a Rolls.
A BMW pulls up for valet parking.
On the streets crowds pass by
stepping over stars
including one for a wanna be dictator
as they swipe their credit cards
over and over
adding to their endless, high interest debt.
Buying memories and moments of fun
freedom from daily preoccupations with
bills, mortgages, rent and health care.
In one of the most expensive areas in the country
street vendors and artists
attempt to make ends meet
living month to month
rent, food, maybe health care, and not much more.
Remind me how that works.
Across the street from the pricey hotel
and brightly lit shops
the ones who lost it all
sit and sleep on sidewalks.
There are approximately 59,000 homeless people in Los Angeles County
around 37,000 in the city alone.
I invite you to check out these sites
Homelessness is a humanitarian crisis.
What if humanitarian services were valued
as much or more than military service.
Can you imagine this?
7% of homeless people in the LA area are veterans.
So much for valuing service given to military and country.
How did I end up here
in this area along Highland and Hollywood avenues?
Amma went to Hollywood for five days
so I went to see Amma.
It’s as simple as that
or so I thought.
Soon after arriving I became aware that all my senses
were completely and thoroughly overwhelmed.
I realized that I came to this place
to be with
in the diversity
in our society.
To be reminded
I live in San Ramon
a suburb of the Bay Area
land of shopping centers and malls
where people walking along the streets
are rarely seen
and where homelessness
Standing in the middle of intersections
I wanted somehow to process
what I was seeing and experiencing
to make sense of it all.
Universes coming together, colliding, overlapping, and sliding apart.
For a moment
to be a witness
to experience this flow of humanity without judgment.
To be curious about the woman who yells about Jesus saving us all.
To be curious about the man sleeping on the sidewalk
in wanting to be safe
tries to stay awake at night.
And where did that slice of pizza and drink come from?
Where are all the folks crossing the street going?
Where did they come from?
How did I end up in this movie?
Ah yes, Amma came to Hollywood.
In some way it seemed perfect that she would come here
being the eye of the hurricane
an island in the midst of swirling rapids.
For five days she offered hugs to those who found their way to her.
Twelve plus hours a day she sat and gave darshan
blessed, hugged, wiped tears, and rubbed people’s backs
whispering precious words in their ears
offering comfort, hope, guidance, care, gentle kindness.
She hugged me tightly.
I let myself sink into her care and comfort.
Breathing in deeply
filling my lungs beyond capacity.
The sound of her voice
carrying equanimity into every cell of my being.
All surroundings disappeared
maya gave way
My heart swells.
For a timeless
I am them
they are me
Our common thread