The first thing I did today was stop by Starbucks for breakfast - it's a bit of an addiction and Yosemite left me in withdrawal for a Mango Drangonfruit Refresher and a Chicken and Double-Smoked Bacon Panini. P.S. this is not a healthy eating blog.
Actually, if I'm completely honest, the first thing I did this morning was roll over and scroll through Twitter to see all of the politically tumultuous chaos I missed. A ton of mass shootings and gun violence deaths - which I could go on a full blown rant about but rather I'll just link this (and this) handy dandy podcast episode by Science vs. which is a fabulous podcast that challenges the ideas we have about different (sometimes controversial) topics with actual scientific data from peer-reviewed articles that are published in accredited scientific journals. Let me restate that for you: my blog is not peer-reviewed or accredited, neither is CNN, or any other major media outlet. While this doesn't mean that they are intentionally lying to you about anything it does mean that for the most part their articles are not written by someone with so much as a Bachelor of Science in something, let alone a PhD/MD/or other doctorate ahead of their name which is what the authors doing substantial research in scientific fields such as psychology, biology, or any of the other -ologies. In addition to that, very few journalists have much more than a basic understanding of statistics let alone could interpret complicated statistical results such as those in the massive breadth of research on violence, its causes, and the relationship that different kinds of weapons have with violence. I will say two things though: science has shown that video games do not cause sustainable emotions of any kind let alone violence (ie: video games don't cause someone to kill someone else in real life.) Secondly, the people that commit gun violence do often suffer mental illness - very often antisocial personality disorder if not other disorders, however, ASPD does not inhibit your ability to tell the difference between right and wrong and it doesn't cause delusions that might cause you to commit a violent act without fully understanding what you are doing so it is not an excuse. I say all of this as someone who is studying as a psychology and biology major and I have a few more classes in these areas than the average person or journalist. That being said I am not an expert, I am a student.
Like I said, I could certainly rant about gun control, but after Starbucks I met a homeless woman named Barbara outside of Dunkin Donuts and decided to buy her a latte and a donut and eat breakfast with her. She's a lovely 42-year-old woman who claimed to have just escaped a home with domestic violence. She said she was hoping to make it to Pasadena to a battered women's shelter and I hope that she makes it. I've noticed an enormous homeless population, but equally there are security police officers that make certain it isn't a safety issue. I've found that it can be really heartwarming to sit down and eat with someone who doesn't have as much as you and just have a conversation. You don't have to invest anymore than food and I strongly encourage that you don't risk your safety, but it only costs $2 to buy someone a donut or an apple. Rules of the road: stay in a very public place, keep your things close to you, don't engage with someone that makes you nervous or scared.
I finished my morning with that barre class at Pure Barre that I mentioned yesterday. The young woman at the front desk, Kaitlyn, was there again today and was incredibly friendly and fun to talk to. She reminded me of my friends back home and made this world feel smaller and more familiar. The class was incredible, it was the cardio version of their barre class so it really got my heart pumping and my face dripping with sweat. Every muscle in my body was shaking by the end and I was afraid I might have to crawl out of the studio. The people were lively and kind and the teacher, Stephanie, was incredibly sweet and made sure to introduce herself and give me a great introduction to their gym. Students do get a discount at Pure Barre gyms.
I returned to my room for a quick, cold shower to get the sweat off of me and then worked on the blog for about an hour before departing once again. This time it was just down the block to Shake Shack, though I took the long way around so that I could see what else there was to see and happened to find some absolutely gorgeous street art murals and a view of the Orpheum theater. When I reached the Shake Shack entrance I saw a homeless man sitting in the entrance with his pants down and his ass on the cement. The manager and a police officer were standing over him clearly trying to get him to leave of his own accord. By this point I was so incredibly desensitized by all of the bizarre behavior of homeless people in the area that I just stepped over the man and went into Shake Shack without batting an eye. I don’t particularly want to psychoanalyze what that says about me.
I ate Shake Shack for the first time in memory, though I’m sure I’ve had it at least once before. The chocolate shake is, of course, the best part of the meal, with the burger being a close second.
After that, I tried to walk from Shake Shack to the Thinkspace gallery which I had read about in various magazines when trying to find things to do in the area. It was close to the hotel and so I figured that I would be fine walking the short distance. In this instance I am using a literary device called “foreshadowing” because walking this short distance was not, in fact, fine. I found myself in a homeless encampment not four blocks from my hotel, it’s hard to describe the people without it being from a place of privilege and so instead I will describe my own feelings. I felt sympathy, but also fear and the distinct feeling of being both out of place and eerily of being watched. I knew that people were looking at me because they did so blatantly. I knew that I was out of place because it was commented on. I kept my head down and looked at my phone for directions while walking as fast as I could without running, but I was just walking deeper. When I saw a street lined with tents I turned and took a different road, only to walk past people that sent cold icicles down my back. Any woman reading this will know what it feels like to have this feeling of ice cold descend down your spine, we’ve all felt it at some point in our lives. It was then that a homeless man threw an empty Poptarts box at me, startling me and I looked over just long enough to see his jack-o-lantern grin. I call it that because it stretched his face unnaturally and framed his one front tooth, the only tooth that was left in his mouth. The man had ripped most of his hair out and so only had straggles of stringy black hair amid red, infected patches of skin and a sun-worn, leathery face. It was then that I ducked into a Chinese toy shop and called an Uber to take me back to the hotel. I was done wandering downtown Los Angeles, it was enough for me.