Saturday, October 9, 2010


In past days, I've had reason to spend some time in downtown Los Angeles. Most people seldom do so outside of perhaps having Lakers tickets or a court date. I can't say that I entirely blame them for largely staying away, because it doesn't as yet match up to more heavily trafficked and populated city centers elsewhere. It once was more than it is now. Consider LA's Broadway. It's lined with grand old theaters where the film industry once held its premiers. Today those theaters are either shuttered or have been converted for down market jewelers and other unjust purposes. Much of downtown is like that, the area around City Hall and Bunker Hill aside. Though much of downtown is presently in circumstances reduced from that height, it is already ascendant and well past its nadir. Even were it to never amount to more, I believe I would love it even in spite of its clear faults. There are rough patches and rather affluent districts, and so long as one keeps that straight, the area is quite enjoyable.

The thing I think I notice the most is the architecture. Los Angeles does not receive the credit for this that places like Chicago or New York do, and that's a shame. There are a number of sparkling new buildings and developments in LA's downtown, the Ritz-Carlton and the LA Live complex being among them, but that's only a small part of it to me. Every time I go down there, I am awestruck by the classic, historic structures that lie on every street and in every corner of the neighborhood. There are so many buildings of a kind they don't make anymore that harken back to older days- it's the businesses they once housed in a bygone economy as well as the style in which they're designed. They're styles one finds in coffee table books, and modern construction doesn't seem to bother with that effort. Also since dispensed with is the apparently solid construction that seems to be all brick and steel, with none of the cheaper, less sturdy materials that are now the rule.

It's just heartbreaking that most of the buildings have come to such an ignoble mode of existence, called home as they are by shady businesses or by nothing at all. There's a certain feel to many parts of downtown, and I think I half-imagine myself in an older time. I make associations with business and government that I'm not able to adequately describe. There's also a kind of film noir thing there, and I can kind of see myself as a private eye out of Chandler or Ellroy slumming around while solving some sordid crime. In a fantasy that comes to me easily, I stop off for a hot dog on the street, then pump the vendor for information about strange happenings on some particular night. He's reticent, but with a combination of cash enticement and snappy threats, I extract what I'm looking for and hop into my massive Packard and drive off. I guess I'm a visionary or at least imaginative.

I see what the area can be and maybe will be. There are a lot of great plans. They want to renovate those theaters and install a streetcar that shall run by them. I think the most progress is being made in the districts seized upon by artists, who can always be relied on to find cheap rent in dodgy areas, then pave the way for the more well-to-do crowd that pushes up the rent and forces them to move on. It's a good system. I keep thinking I want to move there, but it hasn't worked out yet. I'll get there one of these days, whether it's a hip place like Little Tokyo or something on the northern or western margins where affluent couples play with their children and custom-bred dogs.

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