Since childhood I have been enthralled with people watching. I don't require some grand affair to be watching people be people. No, for me, it's more immersing when humans are just doing what they (we) do on normal every day days. They way we walk. Move our hands and hair. Look up into the sky. How we lie. Live. Be. That's who I am as a photographer too. I like taking candid shots of people and things. Yes, things too. But of course things. A random Coke can rolling down the street being pushed by the invisible wind. A bird racing to the middle of the road for bread. A wave of water begging to wet feet.
Today I didn't have to be at work until 12:30 but I left home hella early and so pulled into the Baldwin HIlls Crenshaw Plaza's mall/movie parking lot to write, pray, think, watch. Repeat. But not necessarilly in that order.
First I observed four young black men who pulled next to me. One bumped my car door with his as he tried to exit the vehicle, and quickly excused himself and called me Miss. Miss? Ma'am? Ms.? Where did the time go?
Man 1: (front seat passenger) Ey, y'all niggas git out.
Man 2: (back seat passenger) We fin to.
Man 3: (other back seat passenger) I'm finna see if this muthafuckin' phone can charge while the car off.
Man 2: Never mind. Blood just called. Let's go.
Let me say here that this is an ordinary day. An ordinary Los Angeles day just off Crenshaw. These noises are not new or unusual noises or colors. These are smells of the city. I love this dirty, stinky, colorful city.
A black woman in her late sixties pulled into the parking lot almost directly in front of me. But she did not see me. We did not see each other. We are not accountable to or for each other. That is what street life is what would have you believe. She drove an old dirty gray Kia and used some kind of steering wheel lock to prevent theft. I am inclined to believe that no one would want to steal her dirty gray Kia. That's how we do. That's how we live. Like what we have is not worth a damn. Not worth the time it would take for someone to steal it. See how quickly I judged what she has? I didn't know that people still used those locks but she had one. She had one. Fifteen minutes later the woman returned to her car and put an address in her GPS that sat on her dashboard. I think that's what she did. I thought it lovely that she had a GPS and an old steering wheel lock like that. Christmas? Her granddaughter I surmised. She did not take the lock off the wheel. There were helicopters hovering above. Helicopters are a usual occurrence in this neighborhood. I am tired of saying that about helicopters and our neighborhoods. Aren't you tired of hearing it? The woman sat in her car and looked into the sky. She seemed to be praying. Older women sitting in cars with steering wheel locks seem to be praying. Don't they? Wouldn't they?
She got out of her car again, held movie tickets in one hand and a large denim blue purse over the opposite shoulder. She took about ten steps stopped, turned around and looked at her car almost like she was making sure it was securely locked. Then she noticed me. Now, now she saw me.
A black man in his early twenties walked slowly and I would say suspiciously eyeing a black security guard just seconds too long. Security guard was in the middle of the street talking to another guard in the company truck.
Two women in hospital scrubs walked across the parking lot probably headed toward the clinic. But then you never know.
Suddenly the helicopters left as if they were phoned of a bigger emergency than black people shopping and going to the movies.
Maybe nurse 1: Hey Curtis! (She yelled to a young black man who pulled up beside her. They embraced through the window.)
There was music playing from the theatre. Stevie Wonder's voice boomed from outside the advertisement center. A black mother in her early thirties whom I thought I recognized from a poetry event last month sat on a bench with her son, who seemed about four.
Three black women walked into the theatre. The women ranged in ages from thirty to fifty. Maybe this is the hour older women feel most comfortable going to the movies.
There were five black men standing in front of the Taco Bell near the theatre. The young men were in the street. An older black man drove up and blew his horn at the young men to get through.
Older black man: Git the fuck out the street, muthafuckas!
Young black men: Ey, yo, fuck you! (As they moved out of the street)
Quickly, about seven young men ran from the theatre and rushed toward my way.
Man 1: That IS that fool!
Man 2: Yep, that's that same silver Infinity! Come on!
Man 3: Come on, y'all!
That's when I left. You know, about my mama not raisin' no fool and all.