She's making good time, rolling east on 5th in the middle of the street and banking left on Los Angeles. The rim of her left wheel is coming loose, creating the illusion of a lopsided wobble. A bag containing all her clothes hangs off one handle; a bag of birdseed dangles from the other. She likes to feed the birds.
Someone gave her a painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe a while back, and, like a miracle, it brings her luck. She holds up the painting and passersby give her money. If she gets $40, she goes to a hotel. If not, to a shelter. Right now she's headed to a shelter, but she gladly pauses and smiles proudly as she shows off Our Lady, her savior.
No. 7: Kenneth Bradley, 55
It looks like a wheelchair convention across 7th Street from Station 9, one of the busiest firehouses in the nation. Four wheelchairs are parked against a trio of Christian outreach storefronts closed for the night, and Bradley comes by in a fifth. A spinal infection put him in the chair two years ago, he says.
I look around and Villaraigosa is there again, taking it all in.
"I've counted about 25 wheelchairs," he says.
I had been telling Villaraigosa that if you spend any time on skid row, you'll see people lighting crack pipes and shooting up right in front of you. And now a man sitting on the street sticks a needle into the crease of his arm, looking for a vein he hasn't already worn out. A few feet away, a man in a wheelchair lights a crack pipe.
Some of these folks are aware this is the mayor of Los Angeles standing here. To the junkies, it doesn't matter who he is.
It's the first time I've seen Villaraigosa speechless.
No. 8: Jerry Cano, about 40
Over the past several days, Cano has alternately yelled at me and thanked me for being on skid row. He has wanted to talk and wanted to wheel away. He was in a car accident in Culver City five years ago, he tells me.
"We have nothing to hide," his girlfriend tells him, asking him to open up.
Cano looks depressed, angry and just plain tired.
"I don't wanna be a junkie no more," he says.
No. 9: Ronald A. Bedan, 65
He's slumbering in the alcove of a taco shop but seems to wake up practically in mid-sentence, telling me about his career in corporate America, his clothing line in Canada and his plans to introduce a quality burger to the menu of the taco shop, which is owned by a friend and potential business partner.
The nearby intersection of 7th and Stanford is known for its transsexual prostitutes, but there's not much activity there at the moment.
Bedan, wearing a Johnny Walker cap, says dizzy spells put him in the chair, and he's spent 10 years on the streets.