The Rip Post                                Riposte Archive


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          It’s 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.
          Urban adventurers? 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 cred!
          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 the 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 parks.
          Hey, Ozzie Guillen, you’ve just won the World Series! Where are you going now?
          I’m goin’ to downtown L.A.!

          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 skids.
          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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