By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
By Dennis Romero
“It’s the astronomy of looking down at this planet and others, from satellites,” Whitesides explained. Whitesides moved to L.A., however, not to remote-sense but to join a space “entertainment” start-up. The company’s nondisclosure agreement was so tight, that Whitesides can’t discuss what he was doing, even now that the start-up is belly up.
“Space tourism and entertainment are new industries that are going to happen,” he insisted. “But we’re the post-Challengergeneration. I’m concerned that our generation hasn’t had a chance to actively engage in space yet.”
Hidalgo, a second-generation Cuban immigrant, chatted (in Spanish and English) with friends from her various global postings, which included the United Nations Space Generation Advisory Council in Vienna, NASA in Houston and the Arctic (studying bacteria).
“For a long time, the space community has been perceived as old white guys in ties,” said Hidalgo. “This is a first effort to take space and get pop culture back into it.”
One Hidalgo crony regaled us with tales of the hot beach-house parties NASA interns throw. The friend has postponed his dream of becoming an astronaut to pursue another goal, “financial stability” by the age of 30 (he’s 23). The third time he mentioned “stability,” we asked him exactly what he meant.
“Retired; never have to work again,” he said serenely.
On that note, we decided to press forward and watch the go-go dancers before exiting with some souvenirs, including a cunning little vibrating Power Puff Girl. We’re pretty sure the huddle of people snorting something off the go-go platform weren’t from Caltech.
My friend Joe and I were walking along the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, when we spied a discarded cardboard sign that read, “HOMELESS PREGNANT WOMAN PLEASE HELP!” Over the previous three years, I had observed a young blond woman with such a sign, decorated with the same Day-Glo orange peace sign, panhandling in the popular shopping area. No baby ever appeared, but the woman seemed to be raking in the dough; unless the human gestation period has mutated drastically, this appeared to be a scam, and a very successful one.
Joe dared me, an adult male, to pick up the sign and try my hand at begging. As I happened to be turned out nicely at the time, in a leather jacket with a big fake diamond in my ear, I couldn’t resist. Sitting down under a lamppost, I slipped two $20 bills under my polished cowboy boots and put out my sign. A crowd began to gather. An actual homeless guy, his bedroll slung across his shoulder, asked if I was really a woman. “A quarter a question,” I responded. He readily forked over two bits for my answer: “Read the sign,” I said.
Teenage kids began congregating, lobbing questions I was only too happy to answer — for a price. The rowdy bunch was most interested in learning if I had earned the two Jacksons under my boots by using the cardboard sign. “What do you think? The bucks obviously stop here,” was my response. Perplexed yuppie couples jumped in with their own questions, obediently dropping ducats to get their replies. Joe dumped a paper plate of food on the concrete and offered me a buck to lap it up like a dog. The homeless guy, joined by several yuppies venting a newfound political awareness, yelled at Joe for trying to humiliate someone so down on his luck.
A man walked by, stopped in midstride, looking perplexed, then returned and handed me a fiver. In just 20 minutes I had made $10.25, a pay rate of $30.75 an hour, or more than I had earned at several previous jobs. I reflected on how the young woman, working this scam for three years, might have hurt the cause of the real homeless. But I decided to keep the sign. You never know when you might need a few quick bucks.