The Best Bench in Town: Being Homeless

HereBus2 in Los Angeles we have tours of the stars homes, celebrity death tours, tours of the artwork in subway stations, Hollywood Forever cemetery tours, Universal Studio Tours, and many, many more. I, however, would be happy to give you a free tour that is both interesting and practical. I can offer the Homeless tour.

On my tour you’ll learn:

*The best thrift store is the West Hollywood location of Out of the Closet

*Bus #3 is the best bus for getting a good night’s sleep. The entire route is from downtown Los Angeles to downtown Santa Monica which, via bus, is a 90 minute trip each way. Sure, they make you get off at each end, but you only have to wait 15 minutes before you’re allowed to get back on for another 90 minute snooze. Another option is to take Bus #2 which runs a nearly identical, but longer route. The problem with #2 is that it eventually veers off onto a winding road and your head will bang against the window too much.

*The best place to hide your duffle bag during the day are the bushes near the West Hollywood City Hall.

*The best food pantry is at the huge Catholic Church in Hollywood (I can’t remember the name.)

*You can’t sleep on the benches in downtown Santa Monica, but the police don’t bother you if you sleep on the benches on the Santa Monica Pier. The best bench in town, I found, is the one closest to the Ferris Wheel. Hell, it even comes with a beautiful ocean view.

There’s some useful information that I hope you’ll never have to use. I learned all this first hand.

Last week was my sobriety birthday. Thanks to Alcoholics Anonymous, and my higher power, I’ve been clean and sober for 10 years. Over those years I’ve shared at A.A. meetings the story of my homelessness and how my life was saved by getting sober. OOPS. Apparently I’ve been lying all this time. Well, maybe not lying, but I have been telling a falsehood. My mind was very foggy the first year or two after getting sober and only recently did I realize what a scrambled mess my memory was (still is.) So much of a mess that it’s taken ten years for the cobwebs to clear and I now remember that I was never homeless when I was drinking. As a matter of fact, it was about a year after I got sober when it all fell apart. I had not yet been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, so I could not understand why I seemed to struggle more than friends who had gotten sober about the same time.

It’s easy to look down on the homeless as being raging alcoholics, crack users, or just plain lazy. There’s some validity to that, but, from my experience, being on the streets is a fulltime job. It’s exhausting both physically and mentally. It’s difficult to find a job when you’re dragging your clothes around while you look for a place to hide them, or trying to figure out what and where you’re going to eat each day, or where you’re going to sleep each night. And then there’s the issue of clean clothes and hygiene. For whatever reason a person ends up living in the streets, it’s a horrible struggle to get back off so give them a break before you judge.

The saddest part was that I wanted help. The mental health center in Hollywood is huge, but, that is because it is so busy. I had already been diagnosed with depression and I believed all I needed was some Wellbutrin or some other anti-depressant. I tried twice there to get help at that clinic but each time they closed without helping me because they had run out of time.

My therapist told me that the memories I’ve lost may stay that way – lost. I hope that’s not true because I want to put the pieces together so I can understand. No, wait. I do understand. I was a person with undiagnosed bipolar disorder who was not on meds and who would get confused and disoriented easily. Eventually I was able to get a job and a place to live. I wish I could tell you how, but, I have no idea. I can’t remember how I got off the streets any more than I can remember how I got on them in the first place. I hope someday I will get enough memory to tell the rest of the story. Then again, maybe it’s best if I can’t. The rest of the story may be boring. Maybe it’s more fun to fill in the holes with your imagination.

20 comments on The Best Bench in Town: Being Homeless

  1. I find parts of the memory keep coming back, the better you feel. There are parts and pieces that I don’t want back, but there are small pieces that I have appreciated. Best of luck on this one, Bradley!

    1. There were other points in my life that I had memory losses and thought it was the best until they finally came back to me. I believe I’ll be glad if these finally do.

  2. This was a sobering reminder that some people’s lives can take a horrible direction. Great piece and i’m glad you came out the other side..

  3. There is a theory about memory loss, that is the reason we lost it because we do not want to remember. One of the reasons could be the truth was too tough for us to accept, or to confront. My sister remember all the details of her earlier life, which were better be forgotten, so she simply torture herself daily. I dearly hope that she could “suffer” memory loss.
    However, since you already had bipolar back then, the loss of you memory can be simply because of your mental confusion. No matter what, I think you are very brave to write this post, and to try to understand what happened to you. From what you’ve touched so lightly in this post, I could tell it was hard time, so hard that most people could only understand if they went through exactly routine, carried exactly same mental condition. I admire your courage and look forward to read more of your precious memory.

    1. Thank you for your comments, Yun. I think if the memories return it may be difficult, but I think it would be for the best. I guess I’ll know if it ever happens. Some of the memory loss is likely due to my meds as well.

  4. I was homeless for close to a year, but it was my own decision. I had a home to go back to, if I chose, but I preferred to be out on the road. I had a beat up old car I could drive around in, which eventually broke down for good, which I used to sleep in at night. I stole food from supermarkets to get by. I make friends easily, so was always meeting people who let me shower or hang out at their place when I needed to. The cops would hassle me occasionally, but after a while they got used to seeing me around and left me alone. I became a kind of local character. It was really a fun time for me, nothing like the anguish you went through.

  5. Hello Bradley,

    I feel like I rode that bus with you. I am saddened you ever had a moments worry or not enough care or food. I pray you will always have the necessary things for a comfortable life. This was humbling to read, for it makes any concerns I’ve had fade into the background. The best in life to you! Merry Christmas.

    1. Thank you, Theresa, for your kind words. When things seem like they are out of hand, these memories help to put things into perspective, especially this time of year.

  6. Really moving. I have done some writing about homelessness (and Bipolar for that matter, since my wife has it), but it has been very abstract and without any real first hand experience, so I love the insight that this post gives, and even more that you have managed to pull through. That’s a long sentence!

    The “bench with a view” is my favourite bit. 🙂

  7. Thank you for your comment MV. If you’re going to sleep on a bench it might as well be a nice one.

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