Alley no. 108, Parking Lot (2008, Los Angeles, CA, 10:30pm)

Alley no. 108, Parking Lot (2008, Los Angeles, CA, 10:30pm)

While searching for a location to shoot, I pull into a small industrial complex that looks like it was drop kicked a few times, then left to bake and rust. I immediately feel good about this place, so I stop and get out to look more closely. Hobbling toward me is a homeless man who asks me what I want. I tell him I’d like to take some photos here in a day or two and he tells me he can help. “I’m Jesus. I live here, and I take care of the parking lot. I’ll give you permission to take your pictures.” I look at him, but I’m uncertain he can take care of anything. Nevertheless, I agree to use his help.

I return two days later with my friend Jeff and I start looking for Jesus. From under a blue tarp, thrown over a rusted out collection of garbage, he appears. He is groggy; he lives under the tarp and I woke him from his sleep. I get to work setting up and I get to know Jesus. He was an electrician in his previous life, and was very good at his job. Drugs and alcohol have given him this new life. He’s been living in this parking lot for many years, in various spots.

“So what does the owner think about you living here?” I ask him.
The owner wanted him out for a long time, but when the business owners here learned of this, there was an uproar. They wanted him to stay, and finally the owner gave in. This seemed very warm-hearted of the tenants, but there’s more. They all have businesses that require an electrician’s expertise, and Jesus is their man. In return he is paid a few dollars, saving these companies a lot of money. The owner lets Jesus stay, but has asked him to keep an eye on the place. Apparently he takes his job seriously, and the owner seems okay with him now.

“And the police?” I ask.

“I love the police. When they are here there is no trouble, the gangs keep away. Sure, the police used to kick me out of here all the time, but I always came back and they finally gave up. Now we are friends.”

Jesus stays close by for the 3 hour shoot, and his presence is comforting. I start to believe this homeless man really does have some authority to let us be there. We finish shooting and I give Jesus $20. He is very grateful. I tell him he should look for real work, but he points to his temple and shakes his head. He believes he’s too far gone and is now unemployable. Still somehow this wreck of a man has established a little business for himself, and has carved out his bit of dignity in this parking lot.

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