Los Angeles: The City of A̶n̶g̶e̶l̶s̶ Ghosts
Updated: Feb 8
That’s what I hear every time I interact with someone now. Not “Have a great day,” not “I’ll see you later.”
I’d rather let myself silently choke than cough out loud and receive the bewildered looks from whoever is near me. And God forbid I touch the elevator button with my finger - it’s a must to use the inside of my sleeve, or better yet, gloves.
It’s safe to say that life right now seems a little too much like a Hollywood film to be reality. Yet here I am, sitting in my Hollywood apartment, where most of my roommates have all up and left already, my ticket back to Indianapolis freshly booked.
I’m sure most people are about as sick of hearing the word “Coronavirus” as the virus is sick itself, but I realize that being in a city like Los Angeles during a crisis like this is a unique experience.
I planned for two years to spend my last semester in college in LA, and it felt kind of like I was cheated out of a huge opportunity. Then I realized being here for this was an opportunity in itself.
I took a camera out to the Walk of Fame and to Downtown LA to document what “social distancing” looks like during the first week of “the Quarantine.”
A few background notes to start:
Two weeks ago Coronavirus was just one of the Top 5 headlines in my daily CNN current event email I read over my morning energy drink and protein bar. It usually was third or fourth on the list, and quite honestly, I skimmed a good majority of it because it seemed like the same thing every time. There was word of Americans getting it on the cruise ships, and then rumors someone had it while they had been at LAX.
I had friends from Europe visit and half-jokingly wear masks home when they left in the beginning of February, and I laughed. When people started buying gloves and hand sanitizer, I bought them just for the heck of it, and I laughed. When people stormed the grocery stores and fought over toilet paper like it was the newest XBox, I stocked up on some items, and I laughed.
Then the Arnold Expo was cancelled. The Study Abroad kids were sent home. Coachella was delayed. My peers and I started wondering if somehow, what started as a good way to make a joke with a pair of Coronas, could send us packing our bags, too.
The NBA was cancelled. Tom Hanks tested positive. President Trump banned international travel from the majority of European countries. Videos of Italians trapped inside their homes singing to stay sane surfaced the internet.
I wasn’t laughing anymore.
Within a week, my internship vanished, my classes went online for good, my peers gave hugs and then hit the highway home, and Los Angeles was ordered by the mayor not to leave our houses unless absolutely necessary.
Forget laughing. I was crying. Weeping, to more accurately put it.
But this is how it was for people all over the world. Minor things were cancelled at first, and then everything escalated. Unemployment spiked. Gyms were closed. Restaurants were carryout and delivery only, if open at all. We were told not to get closer than 6 feet from one another (that’s how far the virus can travel from a person).
Yet others continued to try to fight the system and live their normal lives. So, in the midst of trying to comprehend exactly how I was feeling knowing in my heart that it was time to leave my favorite city in the world when I had only just begun to make it home, I started taking pictures.
Here is Los Angeles, California on Thursday, March 19th, 2020, at mid-afternoon:
My apartment building closed everything down but the units themselves. The leasing office was still open, but they asked us to call or email if possible to practice social distancing. No more pool, no more gym, no more lounge or game room.
Streets were void of any traffic. You could theoretically jaywalk anytime and you’d be safe from being hit.
There was no music playing. Restaurants were closed shut. The ones that were open had signs telling people it was delivery or takeout only. I asked one worker if I could take a picture of their sign, and he practically begged me to do it, thanking me, as if somehow it would help increase business.
The restaurants still sporting the typical “OPEN” signs in neon lights were eerily empty, their doors wide open and not a soul in sight.
The Walk of Fame was sparse. I could gaze down the line of stars and it would be a minute before my eyes collided with a pair of shoes.
Celebrity home tour guides sat on their phones, defeated, trying to talk anyone who walked by into a tour.
Police were outside many locations. Some gave me stern looks and a shake of the head when I tried to take pictures of the stores from the street.
It was a little frightening how loud the “Walk” sign sounded compared to everything else; something that used to get washed up in the hustle of shoppers and tourists now pierced the air and cut through the silence.
I walked past a nearly empty parking lot on the way back to my car that I parked at a meter off Hollywood Blvd and Gower St. Out of around 6 spots, I was the only one occupied.
Downtown, I made my way to Grand Central Market. Someone had put papers up with bible verses on the lamp posts.
Grand Central Market itself was closed off to the public - pickup only. A security guard gave me a look that said, “You need to leave,” and I did my best to snap what I could before I moved on.
It was disheartening seeing a woman working her food truck with no one in sight. People left and right wore masks and gloves. It felt, in all honesty, like a creepy horror movie. I couldn’t wait to get back in my car.
As of yesterday, the “Safer at Home” directive took place at midnight. No leaving unless absolutely necessary for essentials.
My bustling, glamorous city was becoming a ghost town in a matter of days.
Choosing to leave and go back to Indiana was a hard decision to make. But watching everything deteriorate here has left me feeling hollow.
I fly out Sunday night, and I’m sure taking pictures at this point isn’t a legally warranted reason to leave the apartment, so I hope the next time I step foot on the Walk of Fame, it’s summer and it’s bustling again.
And there isn’t a Coronavirus face mask or pair of gloves in sight.