Heat, Cash, Truants, Army Veteran, East Los Angeles

I’m on the southbound Metro Gold Line.

Three teenagers jump on the train in Highland Park.  They are ditching school.  The school year started today.  One girl has big messy hair.  She clutches a sweater on this 90 degree day.  The other girl has dyed hair and careless makeup.  The boy quietly listens to music from his earphones.  They plop down and sit beside the doors.  They are planning their covert return to school.

A thin man of moderate height boards the train at Heritage Square.  His shiny hair is combed back.  His sideburns are thin and long.  His facial features are sharp and his eyes are clear.  His long-sleeved brown cowboy shirt has light blue embroidery on the arms, back, breast, and shoulders.  He wears fitted blue jeans and canvass high-top sneakers with red, orange and yellow flames on the sides.

The cowboy is a musician.  Upon entering the rail car, he places his guitar bag on the floor, unzips it, and takes the instrument into his hands.  Without ceremony, he begins to play.  After 8 bars, he sings, “I hear the train a-comin’.  It’s rollin’ round the bend.”

The people in the full car are uncomfortable for a few moments.  The talented cowboy continues to play and sing.  He has my attention.  He has the attention of the other passengers.  The truants giggle.  The girl with the messy hair taps a pole and bobs her head.  “But I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.”

He doesn’t let a second pass when he follows up with another Johnny Cash song after finishing “Folsom Prison Blues”.

“Hey, get rhythm when you get the blues.”

All feelings of apprehension that existed in the car dissipate.  We all settle in and appreciate the cowboy’s talent.

The ditching teen with the messy hair drops a bottle of cheap blue liquor.  The bottle rolls between the chairs.  Everyone sees it.  An older lady smirks.

His second song ends.  He packs up.  There is a smattering of applause.  He exits the train at Union Station.  I watch him leave.

Two exits later.  The wandering youth leave the train.  These kids are young and dumb.

An armed forces veteran boards in East Los Angeles at the Mariachi Plaza station.  He looks through his left breast pocket and pulls out a dollar bill.  He wears four big rings – one gold and one silver – two on each hand.  His large silver belt buckle with gold accents complements the quality of his rings.  He has on black slacks, a camouflage jacket, and an Army Veteran baseball cap.  His small and wrinkled face resembles the condition of my grandfathers’s, when they died in their eighties.  He holds on to his clinical cane.  The old man’s right shirt pocket is bulging with cards and folded paper.  His left breast pocket holds several pens.

We reach the end of the Metro Gold Line in unincorporated East Los Angeles.

This is my day in L.A.


Stephen Legaspi

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