Wow folks, this is where it all began! Eight years ago this month I was lonely. Working more than full time for little pay, I was craving genuine human interaction without having to spend money. In fact, I was finding that when money was involved, the interaction was almost always less than genuine. So, there I found myself wandering down to Hollywood Boulevard in the evenings to cook my dinner on the tailgate of the pickup truck I was living in. “What are you doing?” passerbys would ask. “I’m making some dinner. Would you care to join me?” And thus an interaction would begin. People of all kinds would sit and eat with me, and then sip tea for hours as I brewed pot after pot.
Now, fast-forward eight years. I’ve since purchased a short school bus and converted it into a mobile free teahouse, as well as a fairly self-sustaining home on wheels. Edna (the tea bus) and I haven’t been on Hollywood Boulevard in 5 years – not since I first purchased her and was living in LA again. In that time we’ve travelled the west coast dozens of times over, as far east as Colorado, and served over 20,000 cups of free tea to around 8,000 people. We’ve served in the mountains to hikers, on the beach to surfers, on city streets to urbanites, and at festivals, farmers markets, art walks – but nowhere compares to Hollywood Boulevard.
They don’t call this place Hollyweird for nothing. Folks have heard me say time and again that there are folks of all kinds here, from TV producers to gutter punks, from college students to Japanese tourists. One can always count on a VERY diverse crowd at a tea party on Hollywood Boulevard. And last Tuesday was no exception.
We rolled in a couple nights before just as we arrived LA, just to get a look at the old stomping grounds. I stood there in disbelief of my bravery for serving tea amongst this madness when I was 22 years old. There are people heckling you to take tours, buy their rap CD (“Do you like hip hop?”), spare them some change, etc. There are people out to party, people out to make a buck, people out to see the stars on the sidewalk.
I knew this was going to be a full circle moment, so I asked some friends to do some filming. Capturing some of the interesting interactions was such a beautiful thing to do. There’s people in good cheer, a homeless veteran getting some things off his chest, good shots of the diversity the bus draws on the Boulevard, even a reunion with a tea sipper from five years back, etc. The resulting footage will go into a new 5-minute video I am working on for the tea bus’ website. Many of the photos throughout this post are stills taken from that footage. Thanks to Michelle and Ryan of America ByCycle, Jim, and Ally for shooting footage. I’m going to try and get out there once more to get more footage before I leave LA.
It was this diversity that created the tea bus. It was these genuine human interactions that created the tea bus. It was the smiles, the fist bumps, and the tea shared amongst strangers that created the tea bus. And for this, I want to say thank you to Hollywood Boulevard.