Drifting and striding, in Hollywood and elsewhere, with Geoff Nicholson - author of The Lost Art of Walking, and Walking in Ruins withcholson, author of Toff Nidrifting and stomping withcholson, author of The Lost Art of Walking, considers the narrower and wider shores of obsessive pedestrianism.

Sunday, January 1, 2017


On the morning of December 27th on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and McCadden Place there was a young black man, standing very straight and still, and saying “Fuck” loudly, repeatedly, rhythmically.  The street was too crowded for people completely to avoid him, but the many passersby, mostly tourists, were doing their very best to pretend he wasn’t there.

The young man was holding a stack of CDs.   It’s the kind of thing quite a few scammers do on Hollywood Boulevard, and being of sound mind I’ve never got involved, but I gather the drill is they “give” you a CD, sometimes even sign it for you, then ask for a “donation.”  Declining this turns out to be much harder than you’d expect.  Even so, it struck me that yelling fuck at passersby, in fact possibly at the whole world, was not the very best way to draw people into your CD scam – unless it’s a hip-hop thing.  Below is a man with a better technique.

There was plenty of other action on the post-Christmas, pre-New Year Boulevard that day.  It is, of course, a common complaint that Los Angeles lacks street life, yet here you could find the homeless, the drug-addled, people dressed up as Batman or Minnie Mouse, guys drumming on empty buckets, panhandlers - at least one of them in a wheelchair exposing his stump: all of these people more than willing to extract a little gelt from the tourists.

The tourists in turn appeared to be in a constant state of confusion, asking themselves questions (I imagine), some more Existential than others – “Why are we here?  What are we doing?  What are we supposed to be looking at?  Did we really come all this way just to go shopping at The Gap?”  In despair some of them end up walking round the Madame Tussaud’s waxworks.  Because yes, this is a walking street – as Johnnie Walker was there to remind us.

And of course people were taking lots of photographs, of the stars in the sidewalk, of each other, and of course of themselves.  For these folks there was a stern warning stenciled on the ground.

I didn’t see anybody taking much notice.  And even if it were true I don’t imagine the American people would want to give up their selfies any more than they want to give up their guns. 

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