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The Soloist—Just Show Up and Be a Friend

The film (and the book) The Soloist tells the true story of an unlikely friendship between Steve Lopez, a reporter for the L.A. Times, and Nathaniel Ayers, a talented musician and homeless schizophrenic living out of a grocery cart. Lopez had been trying to come up with a story for his newspaper column, and it struck him that Ayers might just be one.

Lopez began investigating and learned Ayers had attended Juilliard for two years in the '70s before having to leave for "personal reasons" that all turned out to be associated with the sudden onset of schizophrenia. The story focuses on their friendship as Lopez tries to get Ayers the help he needs to get off skid row and become a productive member of society. At one point Lopez writes:

He plays for a while, we talk for a while, an experience that's like dropping in on a dream. Nathaniel takes nonsensical flights, doing figure-eights through unrelated topics—God, the Cleveland Browns, the mysteries of air travel, and the glory of Beethoven. He keeps coming back to music. His life's purpose, it seems, is to arrange the notes that lie scattered in his head.

There's a particularly moving scene in the film when Lopez is frustrated that none of his attempts to help Ayers seem to be effective. A friend tells Lopez, "You can't fix [the city of] L.A. and you can't fix Nathaniel. So just be his friend and show up."

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