Yeah, sure, people keep saying there’s a renaissance in the neighborhood but all I see are streets devoid of life, scores of homeless people, and callous pockets of ostentatious wealth. It's a huge culture shock after Japan, where the streets were bustling and immaculate, and I only saw three homeless people in two weeks. Well, okay, DTLA has great tacos. But it still smells like piss and desperation.
My chef friend Chris who is an L.A. native suggested that I check out Grand Central Market. That was the best advice I could’ve gotten. I swear I died and went to taco heaven. It was great to be reminded that underneath all the flashy Americana, Los Angeles is really Latino.
|Grand Central Market neon.|
|El Torres spices. So much chipotle and beans.|
|Window into the Pupusería. It's the El Salvador version of arepas. After much deliberation, I decided to try a pupusa because they don't have these in NYC. And also, it seemed like a meal for just $5.|
|Holy shit this was good.|
Standing all by itself surrounded by concrete buildings that look like tombstones, the truncated funicular was a sad reminder of what Downtown L.A. used to be. I flashed to the scenes in the film of Yvonne wandering through the busy streets of L.A., gazing longingly at fancy shop windows, passing by rollicking bars full of people grooving to the brawny sound of an R&B beat. Now the only people on the street are curled up under ugly velour blankets with a shopping cart next to them.
|A still from "The Exiles" showing Angel's Flight in 1960. Omigod there was actually street life in L.A. once!|
|Angel's Flight today. Bunker Hill was levelled in 1969 and the funicular was disassembled. In 1996, the city set it up again|
a block away from its original location.
I spent three days in DTLA feeling more and more depressed. What's saddest to me is that a huge percentage of the homeless people are brown. Yes, there are a lot of homeless people who are mentally ill or have substance abuse problems. But a lot of them are just old and poor. I can't help but walk down the street thinking that one or two mistakes and I would be huddled under an ugly velour blanket too.
If you don't believe that the economic divide cuts across race lines, then all you need to do is get on a Los Angeles bus. It takes hours to get anywhere. You wouldn't be on a bus in Los Angeles if you had a freaking choice. You're only on a bus in Los Angeles because you can't afford more than $1.75 for transportation. And everyone on the bus is some shade of brown. Because if you're white, you can afford an Uber or a Lyft.
The only things that help with the bleakness of the city are the good people here, the food, and the natural beauty of the place. I keep stopping in my tracks in amazement at the botany here. The sun shines even in scrubby DTLA.
|And to think, two weeks ago, I was in Japan where people have picnics under these trees.|
|What even is this? It looks like it should be in the ocean with some yellow fishes hiding inside of it.|
|There are bushes of this crazy plant everywhere. The red tube-like things are stamen & they unfurl from little buds.|
I'm trying to like this city but I hate it. I've got to make some money and get out of here.