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A Night on Skid Row!
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A Night on Skid Row

Smiley, my guide down skid row.
Smiley, my guide down skid row.

A Night on Skid Row

Skid Row at three a.m. smelled like one hundred years of oil and gasoline and fifty years of heroin and blood spilled onto pavement and then congealed in the dew before daylight. Hitchhiking through the Mojave Desert at night had not worked out well. My heavy eyes searched for any place to sleep.

A construction site looked good: tall stacks to block the wind, tarps to hold in my body heat and hold out the rain. Without an alarm, the workers would find me in a few hours or worse they might start work and knock over the stacks and crush me. With my mind twisted from too many horror movies, I backed away.

A wrinkled woman in short dreadlocks flashed her teeth into a wide smile. “Hello, sir,” she said, her words flowing unnaturally, “Do you have a dollar? I’m really hungry.”

She smelled like old sweat. I smiled and shook my head, “Sorry, I don’t have any money.”

“No money?” She gave me the sad puppy look, “But yo’ a pretty white boy, cours’ yo’ have money.”

I pulled out my money. One dollar, all that I had. “I don’t really use money.”

“Yo’ don’ use money?”

I shook my head, and told her I was a traveler, a hitchhiker. “and a dumpster diver when I need to be,” I said, looking for connection.

Her eyes roamed over me. She nodded. “I like yo’ hair, it’s like I am who I am and maybe I am little crazy but I’m not gonna let anyone mess with me. Aggressive.” She said about my shoulder length braided blond hair speckled with colorful bands.

“So wacha yo’ gonna do tonight, sleep in one of these hotel rooms?” They be costin’ $60 a night, but you know what baby, if you give me $30 I can gech yo’ a room.”

“Thanks, but I really don’t have any money, I’ll just find a spot on the street, somewhere away from the cold.”

“A white boy with a smile like yo’s don’ need to sleep on no street, jus’ go over to the gas station and pan handle. Yo’ gonna make big money.”


She was right. Normally when I hitchhike, people give me rides or invite me home for the night. In California it was different. People wouldn’t stop offering me money instead of a ride. I didn’t want money, I wanted to ride. “No worries, I don’t need any money, when the sun comes up I can hitchhike out of here.”

“Nah, I goch it, jus’ give me yo’ dollar and come on”.

I smiled and handed her my dollar. I had to trust her. It was my new mantra, philosophy, belief.

…Part 1 of 4…

Hey, I’m Eric, is my travel blog. I write this website to show you how easy it is to live, work and travel all around the world. I’ve been traveling almost 8 years now. I’m just about to publish my new book Where the Wind Blows: Traveling around the World on $5 a day

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  1. This be an awesome story; although it wouldn’t hurt if you organized the dialogue. Also, do you have any journals from your voluntary homeless experience in Charlotte? That would be a great contrast to complement this story in terms of East v West Coast USA.

    • Glad you like it. I don’t have my notes from Charlotte anymore, they are on tape somewhere, but that somewhere could be anywhere. What do you mean by organize the dialogue. I appreciated any advice. 🙂

      • By organize the dialogue I mean….
        — Eric ) What do you mean by organize the dialogue?
        — Me ) Sort it like this…. even though the dialect difference is obvious, it would make it more realistic like this

  2. Wow. I can’t believe your family doesn’t freak out about your career/lifestyle. I’m 65 and have a secure pension coming, but am getting major grief about my plans to move to Cambodia and open a proper guesthouse business. Interesting.

    • Na, they know I always find myself in adventure and I go for it. Plus it’s not like they could stop me. So they read my stories and enjoy my adventures 🙂 Don’t worry about your grief, you will get it even when your successful, people just don’t understand that Cambodia isn’t the Cambodia of yesteryear of the Iraq of today. I think your idea is a good one, hit the market while it’s young and mature with it.

    • Hey Steve, I am glad you like it and being there made me sad as well. Smiley’s eyes sparkled with energy and excitement all night, but in the end, because of the position she is in, no amount of work will improve her life, not unless drastic changes we made. Changes which I doubt she could handle herself.
      I’m afraid there are countless Smileys across the USA and the world, those that are, and those that will be. I wish that night that someone had had a moment when they saw two roads before them and could have chosen a better road. From what I observed, everyone there had been taking the only road, the familiar road all their life.

    • Glad you like it 🙂 and while the world is crazy, it is pretty safe, people are just looking for other people to respect and sympathize with them, most people are not looking for enemies. But I will do my best to stay safe in this crazy world 🙂

  3. This was just fabulous, Eric!! Not sure I would have been brave enough to go walking around skid row. Love your stories! Keep them coming!

  4. they got to start purging these nut cases nation wide.

    round them all up them worthless carcasses and put them thru a tree grinder.

    who says they should live out there expensive worthless lives burdening others.

    • Thanks for your comment, but I have to disagree. Someones value cannot be determined by the amount of money they create for the world. Two examples, first JK rolling, a welfare recipient and now a billionaire, and Gandhi who caused the british empire major expenses and in the end created little of economic value, even if he did liberate his country. This list goes on and on and on. In Fact that night I was on skidrow if you saw me, you might wanted to put me into a tree grinder as well. However before this day I had been involved in starting and working with huge medical programs that helped tens of thousands of people, and since then I have worked with huge companies like Adidas and Nike to help make sure they don’t accidentally use slave labor(this is a really big issue) or violate workers rights in their supply chain. You could easily argue that this later job had a negative effect on the income of these companies, after all checking and cracking down on abuse is expensive, whereas using slave labor is much cheaper than hiring someone.

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