Okay, I know he said he lived downtown, but I didn't think it would be downtown. Google maps indicated the address I searched fell between 4th and 5th Streets on South San Pedro. It's common knowledge in this little city that Downtown LA is currently undergoing a revitalization. Where former toy factories once spewed out, uh, toys and harmful dioxins, are now trendy, spacious lofts. Considering it's almost impossible to find a two bedroom home in this city for under $500,000--so say my friends who have houses--Downtown is a bargain. Everything I read about it sounds great. Developers are constructing new condos and attracting new businesses, supermarkets, restaurants, etc. Sometime in the future, professionals will be able to live, work and play in the area, enjoying all the amenities we Hollywood Hills/WeHo/Los Feliz/Beverly Hills denizens have without having to leave Downtown. It's possible to catch glimpses of this new Downtown. If you head to MOCA there are nice courtyards, fountains, elegant new apartments and an upscale restaurant (possibly more?) in the museum courtyard. If you were sitting at the restaurant sipping Chardonnay as a summer breeze kissed your face, you might think, "I could see myself living here."
As I mentioned, the area is in the process of revitalizing itself, which means it's not quite there yet. So when my friend said he lived downtown, in Little Tokyo, I kind of imagined I'd be heading to one of these aforementioned areas, possibly near the place where I had sushi a couple years ago.
My friend's apartment is smack dab in the middle of LA's skid row. Actually, I think skid row technically spans a nice stretch of Los Angeles Street. So my friend is skid row adjacent.
There's a kind of anarchy in this part of LA. The streets are teeming with homeless people, many of whom suffer mental disorders. There are bodies on the sidewalks, in the streets, a lot of hustle and bustle, as well as drug-induced inertia (okay, I'm assuming this part). Not surprisingly, I kind of stood out--you know, having all my teeth and a car. And while I like to consider myself a champion of homeless causes, when I'm at the epicenter of poverty and despair, I'm not thinking so much of how I can help their plight as much as I'm wondering if I should leave my iPod in the car or take it with me. I weigh the options in my head: is it more likely that I'll be mugged if I take it with me, or is it more likely my car will be broken into if I leave it there? Broken car window or suddenly purseless? I feared the broken window more. Having your car broken into is kind of a rite of passage in Los Angeles. It happens to everyone, even in "nice" neighborhoods. It's happened to me twice so I'm ultra paranoid. And the second time my crappy car had a crappy stereo. The thief stole my crappy stereo!
Anyway, I found a parking spot right in front of my friend's building. Get this: the parking meter charged twenty-five cents for ten minutes. Excuse me? I plunked a buck fifty in the meter for one hour. I felt really self-conscious when I got out of my car. I'd taken two quarters out before I left my vehicle thinking I didn't want anyone to see me with my wallet out. That'd be like waving jerky treats for bulls in front of a bull.
The apartment itself? Gorgeous. High ceilings, lots of light, spacious--everything one would want in a living situation...minus the tent city on the sidewalk.
I won't be moving downtown anytime soon.