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  • Driving across Hollywood, I am taking back roads to avoid the touristy traffic jams of Sunset and Hollywood Blvd.

    Even on Saturday afternoon it is a slow ride. I hit reds all the way. Guy on a bike whizzes by between my crawling car and the curb barely missing my side mirror; he keeps ahead of me, but I almost catch up at intersections. Makes me wish I were on my bike too.

    After the 4th traffic light near-miss next to the Gower studios, his repeated appearance earns him a bit part in my improv road play.

    I name him “Grime”; his hoodie has the word splattered across the back.

    I wonder who he is; never getting close enough to see his face without causing an accident, I try to see him through his neighborhood, around Fountain Ave. and Cole St., just below Sunset; the unglamorous underbelly behind the main arteries of our celluloid Oz facades.

    Looking for character clues I am struck by accents of miscellaneous color bursting all over. Grime’s neighborhood is a stage rocking with vibrant explosions. They are trivial, random and so very LA.

    In the next 4 blocks I notice the following:

    Crimson curb.

    Peeling paint peach balcony.

    Chartreuse chimney on a torn roof.

    Fuchsia and gold tattoo parlor awning.

    Striking black and white graffiti.

    Cadmium red trash can.

    Cobalt mailbox.

    Chunky Latina swinging her emerald hips.

    Flaming orange range double-decker Hollywood tour bus.

    Burnt siena dirt in a dry gutter.

    Does he give any of these colors any thought while zooming by?

    Or are they bleached irrelevant by blandness of non-descript apartments and concrete driveways around him?

    No matter how much he has in his pocket, or what’s his game, he is surrounded by color. Yet he chooses to label himself with "grime": he wears a metaphorical cloak of dirt.

    What IS his story?

    We live in the same town. Our paths run parallel for a few heartbeats, but our lives are very different.

    I will never know really how different.

    Eventually my Grime turned the corner and pedaled out of sight. After he unknowingly rocked my world.

    He made me pay attention. I wrote about it.

    Now I will look-out for local color when am stuck driving through a bland part of town.

    Who knows what palette of stories I will find?
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