Los Angeles is not known for its minimalism–in fact, it’s home to the shopping capital of the world, Rodeo Drive. Hollywood is famous for its lavishness and excesses. The bigger the better. On our trip to Los Angeles, I saw quite a few shabby apartment buildings but very few “average” homes. Most of the houses I saw there were bigger and nicer than any house I had ever seen in my life. Even the less fancy houses were still LARGE.
It seems that everyone there is trying to live like a celebrity, even if they aren’t one. While talking to our Uber driver, he told us he was going to get a BMW, maybe a Tesla. He also made sure to mention that his partner is quite wealthy and has a six figure income. I responded “wow, that’s nice!” and he responded that those are just “normal” cars around here. (Which isn’t really even true, because I noticed no shortage of Hondas, Toyotas and Chevys. Just goes to show how skewed his perception is–probably from hanging around his partner and other people who make six figures.)
Everyone seemed to be very well-dressed. Even those dressed casually seemed very “put together,” for lack of a better way to describe it. It was obvious they put some serious effort into choosing their outfit for the day. Almost every woman seemed to have a designer purse and almost every man seemed to have a flashy watch.
The glamour and excess made the homelessness and poverty that much more striking in comparison. Living in an area that also has year-round warm climate, I am no stranger to homeless people. There is a panhandler on the corner of many roadways near our downtown area. I’ve often seen multiple people sleeping under an overpass or on benches in the park. In Los Angeles, there are tent cities, people digging through garbage, and the homeless people just seemed dirtier. This is probably because most stores have a security guard and a bathroom locked with a code to prevent theft or sink bathing. Despite seeing many more homeless people there, very few of the homeless people in Los Angeles approached asking for money or had signs asking for money or food. Where I am from, nearly every homeless person you see has a sign or will approach you for money.
At one point, on the Santa Monica Pier, I was eating pizza outdoors on the patio of a very nice Italian restaurant and a homeless man was picking through the garbage can feet away from me, which made me feel like a horrible human being. He was nearly close enough to reach out and touch. It broke my heart. Why did I do nothing? Why were we all pretending not to see him?
It was really hard for even me, a self-proclaimed minimalist, not to get caught up in it all. Last week, I almost spent an obscene amount of money on a Salvatore Ferragamo purse, which I absolutely do not need. I’ve been making a conscious effort to feel grateful for all I already have. There’s very little I truly need to be happy.