Last month we ran an obituary for long-time homeless woman Irene “Smokie” McGhee. She had been homeless since her husband died in 2004, and become a fixture in my neighborhood for some years before she gained worldwide notice as the recipient of Elvis Summers’ first tiny house. She parked the little structure on wheels on my street, Van Buren Place, a few blocks south of where I live. Sometime late in 2015, in response to complaints from neighbors, police asked Smokie to move a block to the east, to Budlong Avenue near Jefferson Blvd. She cried bitterly before she went. “Not Budlong,” she moaned. “It’s all drug dealers there.”
It was only one block to the east, but it is a different world. Van Buren is a quiet street of neat four-plexes and old houses. Budlong at Jefferson is anchored by Freeport-McMoRan’s Jefferson Oil Drill Site. A wide grassy margin between the sidewalk and the wall surrounding the pumping facility is home to a daily swap meet, a hangout for gang members and drug dealers mixing with the marginal vendors Smokie lasted there only a few months. Early in 2016 she disappeared. The word on the street was that she had fled drug dealers to whom she owed money. Read more
A prospect of events to come during Trump presidency; Cops, protestors and Trump protesters in Union Square:
Photo Credits 2016 to Mary Reinholz
By MARY REINHOLZ
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
These famous lines from Emma Lazarus’s sonnet “The Great Colossus,” composed in 1883 and engraved in a hall within the pedestal holding the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, have long been a siren song beckoning immigrants, refugees and exiles who believed in the promise of America as a land of freedom. Read more
By Bob Vickrey
The Walking Dead is no longer just television fiction. The real life version that walks among us every day is far more frightening.
As I took a stroll along the sidewalks of my neighborhood recently, I skillfully dodged an oncoming daredevil skateboarder, but realized that a greater imminent danger lay just ahead. Several weaving pedestrians approached me as they stared down at their phones while texting a message.
This familiar scene now plays out daily all over this country, as everyone seems to be impersonating those stumbling zombie characters from the television show. Whether they are walking or driving, these menacing figures seem eerily hypnotized by incoming messages received on their cell phones—which they hold in a virtual death-grip. Read more
Smokie, as her friends always called her, died November 8. She had won some fame as the first recipient of one of Elvis Summers’ tiny houses. The LA Times noted her passing with a photo of Elvis leaning over her casket. The Times said she was in her late fifties. She had told me in April 2015 that she was sixty.
I first met Smokie in 2013. She lived on the streets in my West Adams neighborhood, thin and frail. She had a bicycle and a shopping cart, and would appear on most days with one or the other, collecting recycling to sell, her main income. She often went hungry. She said she had been homeless since 2004, when her husband died of lung cancer. Sometimes I’d give her a dollar or two, once in a while a five. I had known her for a year or two before she would tell me that her real name was Irene. She was said to be a grandmother, but she did not speak to me of her children. Read more