Welcome to Wall Street

Friend and I were on our way to a famous ice-cream joint called Fosselman’s in Alhambra.

It was still rush hour. Friend decided to cross downtown instead of taking the I-10 highway.

Lo and behold, he got us to the armpit of LA.

Congested rows of tents, makeshift camps with umbrellas as rooftops.
Pretty creative.

Men and women, meandered the street.
They were here. But they weren’t really here.
They weren’t depressed, depleted, or deprived….
But numbness, written all over their faces, mostly African-Americans.

I didn’t need to roll down the window of the BMW to smell the air they were breathing in.
My hand grabbing the leather door handle.
My back tight against the car seat.

I glanced over at my immaculate African-American friend behind the wheel.
My eyes screaming, “Get me outta here.”

“For a country as wealthy as ours, I still can’t figure how we have allowed this to happen. It’s a disgrace. Sorry”

Friend hit the gas.

Before we sped off, I caught sight of the street sign.

It reads: Wall St.

 

Saturday afternoon is my Grocery Day.  I walk to Trader Joe’s in Westwood. I would pass this kind-faced woman with a tender voice, “Could you spare any change?”

Only a recent LA dweller in Fall 2015, I would stop and apologize because I only carried credit card.

Later I exchanged notes to quarters for laundry. But I found myself ignoring her with my bagful of changes… Or any homeless people I passed by.

I couldn’t spare any. Because I had nothing to spare. I was just a student, I reasoned.

But that’s a lie.

Here is the voice in my head barking back—

They’re fortunate enough to be born into this free country but they still let themselves descend to begging?

Your country won’t spare me. So why shall I spare you?

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Never judge a book by its cover

I talked with the classmate from the screenwriting class during recess yesterday evening.

The lad is from Ireland. He was in finance for 13 years. Eight years in London. Another five on Wall Street. Still carrying a gruff Irish accent, he dons the same weathered baby-shit brown tee to the class. I would’ve never thought in a gazillion years that this lad in front of me used to be in suit and tie all day long for the most part of his adult life.

“I never wanted to be in finance.” He cut to the chase. “Money was good. But I was miserable.”

He pulled me in right away. A storyteller he is.

“I went there to make just enough money so I can live off later to write my own films and get them made cheap. I know my stories would never go through the studio pipeline. I have savings.  Now I want to apply for film school to get ahead with my pursuit.”

Wow.

“How do you like your film school experience?” He marched ahead with the big question.

I explained that if he wanted to write lots of scripts, UCLA Film School is a no-brainer. Because of its quarter-system. When I was there, I wrote one full-length feature script every ten weeks, along with other classes like Howard Suber’s Film Structure, and miscellaneous classes like producing, acting. I did feature and TV pilot in one quarter plus other classes and TA. It was sheer madness. But I learned about my limits and potentials.

He was concerned about the odds of getting in. Wall Street has its mark on him.

“There are thousands of applicants, right?”

“But you are a very good writer.”

I think he’s playing a good hand. Of course, there is luck and other x-factors. But how would you know if you don’t try?

We had to dash back, because the class had started. Scanning his baby-shit tee again, I beamed.

Good to meet you, Ex-Wall-Street-Wannabe-Filmmaker from Ireland.

 

Yours truly,
YZ