You might be in Chinatown if you see the following:
People wearing hospital gowns with plastic wristbands, waiting for the bus. Hospital gowns and nothing else, you know what I mean? Not even one modesty patch among all of these individuals. Where are they going, but more importantly - I think - where are they coming from?
An elderly man is lying on the sidewalk, with both piss and spittle in the appropriate places. He is unconscious and breathing hard. People step over him and keep going. Horrified, a good Samaritan calls 911. When the ambulance arrives, the drivers ask the good Samaritan, “Did you find him like this?” Well, yes, I said, I didn’t do it to him. After getting him up on a bench, they give me a look, and they leave. Man continues to sit on bench, no more explosions of fluid though. I go back to work, feeling like I have wasted people’s time, including the victim's. Was I supposed to step over him, too? What if he rose up while I was straddling him? What would happen then?
In Fort Street Mall, a man is shouting at an ATM, arguing with it. Now we all have done this, but usually under our breath. Maybe he had just had enough with the eccentricities of this particular machine. Maybe the machine took his card, and wouldn’t give it back. (I have often worried about this, having heard of one case in which this actually happened, back in 1990.) No one seems to notice but me, so I keep walking. I can hear his voice from blocks away now, and the elaborate string of curse words is truly incredible. A few colorful combinations are new and novel to me, so of course my brain stores them immediately.
A tattered woman is holding on desperately to a rusty light pole. At 8 a.m. in the morning. Now, I have been guilty of nearly the same thing, trying to keep my balance when objects are spinning out of control, but never at 8 a.m. on Hotel Street. People walk by and order hot bread from a nearby store. I place my order, too, and wait for it. The light pole lady has shut her eyes now. I want to tell her, don’t do that! It’ll make it worse. Only I don’t think that in this particular case, it can get much worse.
Trying to find a table where I can eat my lunch, I notice that there are many bird splatters decorating both the tables/benches and the ground all around them. Is bird shit like lightning, that it seldom strikes the same place twice? Evidently, it is not. It has struck over and over again, in exactly the same places and seems to be impervious of rain. I then observe that people are looking up and pointing; I frantically prepare for an onslaught of shit. However, I follow their gazes and see a naked man, gesticulating wildly, from his perch on the side of a building, next to a fountain. Was he going to try and jump into the fountain? What was he trying to say? Was it the end of the world? His message was never forthcoming because he was presently escorted down by a pair of cute Honolulu Sheriff Deputies. I considered the ramifications if I were to do that. They were awfully cute, and he had definitely had their full attention.
Cutting through the park across from the HPD substation, I say hello to a number of seemingly homeless individuals. One is smoking an ice pipe and cordially offers me a hit. I notice that she has no teeth but I don’t hold that against her; she may actually be quite an accomplished person. I have heard that toothless prostitutes downtown make more money than those with teeth. I don’t know why. I consider the pipe and the lifestyle (for real) but then politely decline.
Outside of the drug store (ha ha), a young man is begging people to buy him Pop Tarts. No one seems to pay attention. I thought of my own son, and so I purchased two big boxes of assorted Pop Tarts. He seemed deliriously happy and went away with them. Later, I was cautioned to never do this again because he could have traded them for drugs. How many boxes would he had have to collect?
Further down into the depths of Chinatown, a woman is walking back and forth in front of an empty store window, talking to herself and looking intently at her reflection. Now, I am an actress; I have done the same thing. And we were near the college. So I passed no judgement on this one.
On Christmas Eve, a man is sitting patiently and quite alone by the bus stop; he is wearing a Santa hat and has Grinch makeup on. Next to him, there is a well-written cardboard sign proclaiming, “I’m not going to lie. I just want money for beer.” I paused to admire his honesty, and I gave him my last $5.00. I know this is against all the rules, but he just had such an endearing personality, and the Grinch makeup was right on. I kissed him on the top of his Santa hat, and wished him a Merry Christmas. As I walked away, he yelled out, “I love you!” and I shouted back, “I love you, too!”
Against all the rules. Gotta love Chinatown.