Afghan journalist Emal Haidary came to Los Angeles on a five-month journalism fellowship, sponsored by the the Daniel Pearl Foundation. He worked at the LA Times from April through August and just penned a lengthy Column One piece about his experiences in America. The whole piece is worth the read, including Haidary’s experience of being here when Osama bin Laden was killed, and his impressions of constantly being mistaken for being Latino. But we found this section the most interesting.
Isn’t America supposed to be the richest nation in this world? Then who are these homeless people on the streets? In Los Angeles, you can’t walk down the street without being approached by people who beg you for your spare change.
But in L.A. I also found the freedom that America is famous for. You can grow a long beard, or you have fake breasts; you can be as skinny as a stick of macaroni but still go out jogging, or you can sit in front of the TV all day long and be as round as a barrel — either way, you are fine, it is Los Angeles.
You don’t have to be embarrassed if you drive a big car alone all day, or shave or do your makeup while driving; after all, that is what everybody does here.
But L.A. is too spread out, and not only the city — the people, hearts and souls are also too distant.
Haidary lived in Santa Monica during his stay in LA. Too bad he didn’t spend a month or two in Boyle Heights. That would have made for an interesting read too.