This is my first story for National Geographic online — on the large numbers of deportees who end up staying in Tijuana, the city that they and their parents first crossed through years ago with such optimism on the way to a better life.
These men are everywhere in the city. You see them wandering, with ball caps and small backpacks. Most are undocumented in the country of their birth, as they’ve lost, or never had, birth certificates, Social Security cards and the like.
For Tijuana, though, the question is, how does a town that lived from the energy of people passing through to a better life absorb tens of thousands of men returning traumatized, depressed, beaten.
A timely topic given the president’s speech last night.
The piece contains fabulous photographs by Eros Hoagland. (The shots on this post are mine.)
I spent Good Friday in the Hollywood Hills with some police and deputy sheriffs, who were removing homeless encampments. (Here’s the LAT story.)
One homeless fellow lived high into the hills. Two officers and I followed him up to where he had his tent. It was well above the Hollywood cross, where his neighbors were a hawk and a deer and another homeless guy.
He said he was bi-polar, and had been in prison in Missouri and was out in LA escaping a bad marriage, among other things. He made the trip up the hill every night, he said.
Down below were new houses near Lake Hollywood, where officers tell me the new residents are now bothered by people coming up to look at the Hollywood sign.
Anyway, we moved him out of there. He carried a large suitcase on his back past the cross and down that hill, off a promontory from which we had a virtually 360-degree view of Southern California.
The officers and I grabbed bedding and bags of his belongings, one of which was a Star Wars light sabre.
He gave me a staff, saying it was given him by the “necromancer” and could raise the dead. He had a Darth Vader mask as well.
Down below, the Ford Theaters advertised an upcoming show as “Naked Before God.”
The religious symbolism never stopped coming all morning.
I spent yesterday with police and Sheriff’s deputies as they traversed hills and freeway embankments looking for homeless folks. They moved them out, offered them services, such as shelter housing, which some of them took. (See the LAT story.)
One encampment had nine people, sleeping in a line next to a wall that ran along an on-ramp to southbound Highway 101. The place was strewn with bedding, cigarette and fast food wrappers, and hand-made signs. Here are a few.
I’m doing a story now about a young fellow, Nathan Vickers, who was a drag queen or a transgender woman, and was shot to death on a street known as a prostitute hangout in Hollywood in November.
Part of the story is exactly who Nathan Vickers – or “Chase,” or “Cassidy,” or “Chastity” – was, or intended to be. He’d come from the Bay Area and seemed to seeking a transformation of one kind or another.
Helping me figure out Nathan’s world is Troy Erik, a former queen and current activist. A woman named Amber, he told me, knew Nathan well in the days leading up to his death. We went looking for her, as we’d heard she was just out of jail.
We looked at Donut Time (Santa Monica and Highland) and at the adult bookstore (no name) behind it, and in front of the $1 Chinese Express, whose prices didn’t keep it from going out of business.
We never did find Amber. But Andre, a sociable street fellow, said he’d known Chase or Cassidy. “She always dressed as a woman when I knew her,” he said.
We also happened upon “Grace” – a queen who enjoyed enormous renown in the 1980s because she looked, in drag, exactly like pop diva Grace Jones, and is now homeless. That’s next post.