East L.A.-born Sean Carrillo's recent A Vanishing World blog offers some inspiring memories from when he and his wife operated the Cafe Troy coffeehouse in downtown L.A. from 1990 to '95. This was long before the current wave of gentrification began to make a dent in downtown's skid-row, crack-ruined ambience. Carrillo's latest post, "Coffee Talk," is a long recollection of the couple's interaction with their neighborhood's changing cast of homeless characters. There was the cheerful Flower Guy, "a tall and slender man [who] collected nearly dead flowers from the
trash bins at the central flower mart then manicured and revivified
them for sale at discount prices."
There was also Frank Parker, who "made wonderful jewelry from the leftovers of technology, mostly copper wire from buildings as they were being installed. Frank came and went as he pleased in the café and even slept there for a time as a stand-in 'night watchman.'" When Frank died his funeral drew filmmakers, poets, musicians, Al's Bar bartenders and community activists -- a surprise reminder to Carrillo and his readers that the homeless have both histories and lives not seen by us.
Similarly, but with a much happier ending, are Carrillo's recollections of a man he dubbed Wyatt Earp, whom he describes as "a maniac, plain and simple. He was about five and a half feet tall and never shut up. He had scruffy hair and a scruffy beard."
The story's payoff comes years later, when Carrillo and his wife meet a
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completely unrecognizable Wyatt Earp outside a MOCA opening. Wyatt is now cleaned
up and repossessed of his real name, Frederick Carothers, and living in
Norway with a fine-art professor -- a woman who helped him reconnect to a
passion for painting he'd abandoned during his homeless diaspora. Carrillo's blog offers a steadicam view both recent L.A. history and a look at one man's interaction with it.