NR Digital

Wringing Bell

by Daniel Foster

Enrich not thyself on the taxpayer dime(s)

Bell, Calif. — When you come off the 710 and onto the Florence Avenue ramp, there is on this particularly smoggy August day a dirt-encrusted drifter, standing in a litter-strewn, overgrown strip of soft shoulder and holding a scrap of cardboard, on which is written an illegible message for the presumed benefit of passing motorists. He shakes his head slowly, rhythmically, from side to side as you roll by and turn right onto the avenue, passing over what is loosely referred to as the Los Angeles River — a sorry trickle of dingy water moping its way through a weed-lined, cracked-concrete channel, under a phalanx of latticework-steel electrical lines, each of them an ugly little Eiffel Tower.

On your right is the kind of gas station that has a token-operated, unisex restroom; on your left, a drab strip mall dominated by an outpost of the California Department of Rehabilitation. Farther off, trailers and modest one-story houses of pink and beige and aquamarine, on chain-link-fenced lots as much concrete as grass.

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