by RIP RENSE
true: when a city rots, the rats move in.
In downtown L.A., the
rats have a lot of money---enough for some really nice nests that go for
between $700,000 and a million. Even before they are built.
It’s the most amazing
transformation since Michael Jackson changed his race. Old, decrepit,
urine-drenched, wobbly-kneed, stubble-faced downtown L.A., whose main drag,
Broadway, resembles a high-rise Tijuana, has become de rigueur, hip, trendy,
cool, vogue, hot, sweet, and all those other idiotic adjectives.
Yes, now you can have a
great view of. . .all those other downtown buildings! A picturesque tableau
of.the wretched and forlorn shooting up and smoking crack on early morning
curbs! Breathe deeply of the mélange of diesel exhaust and dust that puts
the “part” in “particulate matter!” Glory in the earwax-cracking cacophony of traffic noise,
freeway hiss, police choppers, wandering jabberers, sirens. . .
The L.A. Times carried
a story the other day with the stillborn headline, “Living Gets Loftier
in Downtown L.A..” It began by describing the absolutely harrowing,
death-defying travails of a couple of young “urban adventurers” who live
just north of Skid Row.
Yes, this is the term the article's author, Cara Mia DiMassa, used. All
three of her. Well, I have urban adventures all the time, chiefly consisting
of nearly being killed by latte-swilling, cell-phone-yapping women in SUV's, but I’m guessing the author meant something different. Something like. . .having a lot of
money and living near Skid Row.
Yeah baby, now that’s an
urban adventure! Just think: every time you go outside, you have to navigate
through real, gen-yoo-ine societal detritus! Authentic down-and-outers!
Dyed-in-the-wool crazy people! What is the popular term among the terminally
callous? Losers. Why, some of these losers might ask you
winners for money, or
talk to themselves loudly about Vietnam. You might even have to step over
human excrement on the sidewalk, which is far more adventurous than
stepping around dog excrement in Sherman Oaks, eh?
Now that’s real street
For the record, here is the actual dilemma
reported by the urban adventurers
in the Times article: their Skid Row-adjacent rental was converted into a
condo, which they bought, but then---brace yourself---all the “coolest people” who had given
regular “rooftop parties and barbecues” moved away. Oh no! What’s more,
these adventurers had to hire a “concierge” to provide extra security
for the building. Monsieur, please uh-do not pee on zee hubcaps. . .
These are the brutal
streets of downtown Los Angeles! This is the naked city.
No more cool people
to party with? My God, what's an urban adventurer to do?
And where is Raymond
Chandler when we need him?
The day was as sticky
as two-dollar hooker in a port-a-potty. I knotted my tie to go with the one
in my stomach and stepped out of my loft. It’s on the first floor, but they
call it a loft because that adds a couple hundred g’s to the price. That’s
how it is in downtown these days. All the cool people were gone. Things had
changed. Things had changed since the days the warehouses actually had
wares, and the newspaper buildings actually printed newspapers, and the
streets had more tracks than the population of 5th and Los Angeles Streets.
It’s gentrifying now, which is a lot like the opposite of putrefying,
although some cynics might say otherwise. The pungence of fresh street puke
whacked me in the nostrils, and a black guy with a long shirt and no pants
shouted at me about the stock market messing him up. I threw him a quarter
and hustled along. I had an appointment with my broker.
|I thought the pioneers and urban adventurers were
latinos who kept Broadway and much of downtown alive and vibrant for
the past few decades. . .
You see, a “demographic
shift” is happening downtown---so says the Times article, quoting one “upscale”
condo owner near Staples Center, the sports complex named after a stationery
store. (Don’t you really wish people would stop saying things like
“demographic shift?”) Here is the upscale owner's full quote:
“As prices have
increased and amenities have increased,” said Upscale, “there is no
question you are seeing a demographic shift. The first generations of
pioneers and early adopters were going on faith that certain things were
going to come. The lifestyle is actually there now. Only now you are going to see people who are leaving decent neighborhoods
and. . .choosing downtown.”
Wow. This guy must have
majored in “human resources,” so leeched of humanity is his syntax. Hey, I didn’t know there were “pioneers” moving downtown, did you? I missed the
covered wagons on the Harbor Freeway. And I must say I am puzzled by the
plethora of “early adopters” downtown. What could possibly be the draw for
young foster parents? Good to know, though, that “the lifestyle is actually
there now.” But where? Where is the lifestyle? Somewhere between
millionaire and cardboard-box-dwelling AIDS-ridden schizophrenic, as near as
I can figure.
And my goodness,
according to Upscale, these urban adventurer pioneer early adopters
have been bravely “going on faith” that their condo investments would accrue
value! What noble, daring, courageous souls they must be. Faith-based real
estate speculation! Thank God their gambles are being rewarded for. .
.choosing downtown! Thank-ya, Jeeezus!
Well, to tell you the
truth, all this time, I thought the pioneers and urban adventurers of L.A. were the
latinos who kept Broadway and much of downtown alive and vibrant for
the past few decades---and the merchants and residents of lovely Little Tokyo
and teeming Chinatown. As for "going on faith," I figured these were the
thousands who live in tents and cardboard boxes, and crap in alleyways. Too
bad “the lifestyle isn’t actually there” for them now. Cardboard doesn’t
seem to appreciate.
But musty floor space
in ghost-inhabited old office buildings really does. All of downtown has
become a jewelry district. Dumpy, forgotten brick buildings from the ‘20s
and ‘30s are as good as Google. And prices are only going higher; all
manner of spectacularly unnecessary development is set to erupt around
Staples Center: entertainment complexes, luxury hotels, possibly wild animal
Hey, Ozzie Guillen,
you’ve just won the World Series! Where are you going now?
I’m goin’ to downtown
Yet year after year,
newspaper article after newspaper article merrily hails the rebirth,
rediscovery, resurrection of the place ("Living Gets Loftier in Downtown
L.A."), only parenthetically noting the rejected and repulsive of Skid Row and
surroundings---until last month, when Times columnist Steve Lopez finally
emphasized the um, contrast. Give the man a Pulitzer.
So grisly and detailed
were Lopez’s reports from the Row---portable toilets are essentially
whorehouses---that the mayor took a walk down there with Steve and swore
he’d fix it all up. Good idea, about thirty years late. Here’s a suggestion:
add a fat tax on all the fat gentry rats curling up in "lofts" and condos,
and use it to pay for whatever facilities are constructed to help those on
The rats won't complain,
either. After all, getting those grime-encrusted losers off the
streets will only help property values. And then urban adventurers
won’t have to hire concierges to protect themselves anymore.
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