“Spare Change” Explained…

DSC_0578 - Copy - Copy - CopyTwo days ago I posted a poem, Spare Change, about the “slow crawl of night” .  I appreciate the “likes” on this, so I’d like to provide background on this effort.

In the late 1970s I wandered around the streets of Los Angeles at night and in the early morning. I wasn’t homeless, just strapped for cash. I had a job as a magazine editor in West LA, but lived 400 miles away. Sometimes at the end of the month I couldn’t afford a cheap motel, so I pulled all-nighters.  The routine went like this: I’d work late, then walk to a Laemmle Theatre in West LA that showed independent foreign films (Fassbinder, Almodovar, Altman, etc.). I bought discount tickets to save bucks.  Around 1o p.m. I’d go to the Apple Pan on West Pico Blvd. for a 2,000 calorie meal (burger, fries and pie). After drawing out the feast for as long as I could,  I went outside to met the slow crawl of night head-on. I had to kill six hours without spending more than a few dollars.

LA doesn’t sleep–there’s always someone around, at least that was true back in the 1970s. I’d walk for an hour before stopping at an all-night diner(several to chose from) where I’d nurse a cup of coffee for an hour or two and curse under my breath when what I thought what was an hour, in fact, had been 15 minutes. Finally, I’d walk for another hour before settling on a diner where I could sit in a booth with a coffee and a newspaper (free ones were usually left in a booth by a fellow night wanderer).I’d perfected the appearance of reading when I was actually asleep.  Finally, around 5 a.m. small pickup trucks with giant vacuums mounted in the bed would go in and out of parking lots sucking up debris. This noise signaled me that it was time to go to work and wash up in the men’s room before employees arrived–I had a key to the building.

I’ve never forgotten how long the night can be. In truth, I enjoyed it.

And, I googled “Apple Pan” and found that it is still operating on West Pico and sports a four-star rating–the place looks the same on the net. Maybe I’ll walk there again sometime…


Published by 67steffen

My labels: grandfather, father, veteran, writer, poet, photographer and dreamer in pursuit of the meaning of life. Getting close, although I'm running out of time--probably why I'm so close.

2 thoughts on ““Spare Change” Explained…

  1. This is really interesting Steffan. I worked in homelessness for a while and the strategies you describe to keep warm and sheltered sound so similar to what I used to hear. It’s interesting that you enjoyed it – do you think that’s because it was just now and then and therefore a refreshing break from routine or an adventure? The enjoyment might have dropped off if it had become every night, without other options. In any case, it sounds like quite an experience.


    1. Yes, it was a break that put me in another zone that I couldn’t imagine unless I was in it. What I didn’t enjoy was living with a single digit in my savings/checking account at the end of the month. Thanks for commenting.


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