day our nation buried Ronald Reagan, our 40th president,
was a National Day of Mourning.
Postal workers, along with City, State and Federal employees,
were given a Public Holiday. Throughout the week, media
coverage continued relentlessly as our everyday lives reflected
bios, reflective pieces, film clips, and finally full funeral
coverage. On that Thursday of the funeral, regular TV programming
was preempted so the nation could participate in the loss
of the president and bid our farewells.
having a Public Holiday, I raced off to work.
east on 4th Street, traveling my usual freeway bound route,
I braked for the stoplight on Molino and 4th, and it was
then that I noticed the area cordoned off with yellow police
tape. In the mix of police cars and officers was the Coroner's
wagon. The City Coroner was bending over a blanketed person
lying on the sidewalk. Lowering my car window I asked the
nearby officer "what happened?" His reply was
a straightforward "It's a deceased homeless
Near the dead man's body was a shopping cart with a small
amount of personal items.
signal light turned green, and as I continued to the freeway
I could not help but think that 21 years ago (just before
the Reagan era) it would have been uncommon to have a deceased
homeless person on the street. (See note)
the car radio droned the solemn narrative of the Reagan
funeral, I realized the irony of John Doe dying on the very
day the man that put him there was buried with National
our 40th president and as California governor, Reagan cut
social programs to the needy, cut programs that offered
assistance to the mentally ill, cut programs that allowed
for the less fortunate to be housed and clothed and the
less-than-sane to maintain a reasonable existence with proper
medication. This was done by flick of the pen and a comment
that "Homelessness was a choice." (As president,
he also considered AIDS a choice and as it spread like wildfire
through the gay male community, he played a Pontius Pilot
role and washed his hands of it).
Reagan reduced social spending, he increased defense spending
and cut taxes for the rich. The Reaganomics theory was to
cut taxes for the wealthy (referred to as "trickle
down economics") because if the rich do well, so does
my drive home that evening, again I waited for the light
to change. The corner was as it always is. The body was
gone, the Coroners Wagon was gone, the police cars and officers
were gone, and the yellow police tape had been removed.
The only remainder of the morning's occurrence was John
Doe's shopping cart. The shopping cart was being emptied
by a homeless man and he was filling it with his own collected
bottles and cans. The National Day of Mourning was over.
The word homeless has become a catchall phrase for mentally
ill, shelter-resistant, drug-dependant, and the generally
down-and-out persons who have been shut out of their homes
for reasons of job loss, etc.
Los Angeles' 'Skid Row' is by far the nation's largest concentration
of homeless people. Several thousand miles away in Washington
D.C. the 2005 budget is being hammered out. To this writer's
knowledge the current administration has never toured the
area that could shed the most light on the homeless situation.
And yet, with aggressive ignorance the current administration
is proposing $70 million expenditure on the national Samaritan
Initiative, targeted to end chronic homelessness within
10 years. A proposal by the Bazelon Center for Health is
to increase that budget expenditure. Click
here to add your support.
As a tradeoff for this penny-pinching and impractical solution,
the administration is calling for a 1.6 billion cut to be
taken from Section-8 housing vouchers.
social service providers say that countywide, the Samaritan
Initiative would help maybe 100 individuals where the cuts
in the Section 8 program would affect over 5,000 families.
The other evening at a LARABA meeting Qathryn Brehm an activist
in the Downtown Neighborhood Council verbalized her feelings
on that Council. I and others felt she spoke for us as well.
Her copy follows:
My thoughts on the Downtown
I have lived
in the Arts District since 1985. Whenever anyone asks me
where I live I proudly answer
"I live Downtown Los Angeles."
To that they generally
reply with a question 'you live where?"
Or 'I didn't know anyone lived there'.
I would bet you have had
that very experience.
A couple of months ago I was invited to my first Neighborhood
Council meeting. It was on Bunker Hill for the then newly
forming Downtown Neighborhood Council.
There were at least 40 people in attendance. The attendees
represented many different groups. Seniors, youth groups,
cultural institutions, homeless, city workers, city officials,
some of them worked Downtown, but the majority
were residents that both lived and worked in Downtown.
I was struck by the energy in the room. What we all had
in common was that we all loved Downtown and wanted to make
a positive difference.
A few meetings later I volunteered for the Boundaries Committee.
It has since been more work than ever dreamed. But the rewards
of meeting my incredible neighbors have made it so worthwhile.
Downtown by it's very infrastructure is the Library, the
Museums, the Music Center. It is the Alley in the Fashion
District, it is Farmer's Market, it is Central Market. It
is the wonderful free concerts held in various
courtyards all summer long.
The scale of Downtown Los Angeles is larger than life
but so is her heart.
is residents and it is businesses.
If Downtown means power than lets be empowered
Downtown neighbors are moving forward and are asking us
to join them. so we can continue to say proudly
I live Downtown Los Angeles!
Since the Convention was right
in Downtown Los Angeles I had been avoiding it at all costs.
I managed successfully to avoid the congested areas all
week. But on that Wednesday I had been invited to
the Women's Event 2000 honoring the California Women Democrats.
It was an afternoon tea at the Biltmore and not to be missed.
Had to dress up of course, and it was
hotter than it had to be for anything other than shorts,
sandals etc. Sabrina dropped me off in front
of the Biltmore, there was very little traffic so I arrived
early. The hotel is old and beautiful and as I was
admiring the paintings and murals I literally ran
into Whoppie Goldberg. This is L.A. that type
of incounter happens.
I found the location of the event and signed in.
Met up with Briana and Susan and found our table. There
were just under 1000 people mostly women. Senators,
mayors, congresswomen, board members of this and that,
lots of representatives from various corporations and organizations
and, of course, our table of artists. The tables were
beautifully set with silver trays of sandwiches, chocolate
strawberries and other incredible deserts.
For a few hours, we schmoozed, ate, drank tea
and listened to several rousing speeches and when we had
had enough, we left.
We decided to take the Dash home. On our way to the Dash
we cut through Pershing Square. The Pershing Square
of so much attention and fear the weeks prior. It
was to be where all the demonstrators/protesters were suppose
to be. There was only one little table with flyers and a
few t-shirts for sale.
We headed down 5th St. to Broadway only to see about
150 police in riot gear spread across the intersection.
As we got closer they told us 'the marchers were coming'.
We crossed the street where another line of 100 or so were
covering that side. They made us stand behind them. When
'the marchers' were about 6 blocks away (there were suppose
to be 6000 of them) there were sirens and motorcycles
and from behind us came another 100+ police in full riot
gear, tear gas canisters on their belts, metal night sticks,
rifles (painted fluorescent green) that shoot rubber bullet
and face shields running in unison toward us.
We quickly got to the sidewalk and stood against
a building. Several stories above us someone
threw a bottle from a window. The police stopped and
train their rifles over our heads.
Susan kept saying this is like Madison, Wisconsin
We take shelter in a bakery. Several other
business owners along the street closed their metal gates
and the bakery we were in locked the front doors.
At some point the police were satisfied that it was an under
control situation. They refocused on 'the marchers' who
are now only a block away. We left the bakery to see the
approximately 400 'marchers' pass the intersection.
A rag tag group of about 400 heat
weary folks with signs and banners passed by. Certainly
not the 6000 freaked out politicos that were expected and
Then it was all over. We ran to get the bus. As our
bus passed City Hall we noticed the Parker Police Center
is barricaded on all four surrounding blocks. Uniformed
officers everywhere. Several other fleets of police cars
and motorcycles passed us here and there. So I got all my
convention experiences in in one day and on Thursday it
was is all over.
It is nice to have visitors to our beautiful city,
but also nice to have everyone go home.
a moving experience...
It seems as a young person out on
your own, the moving process is relatively simple. You decide
to move gather a few friends and on Saturday with a couple
of carloads you are moved have a few beers and by that evening
you are sleeping in your new digs. It is easy and
you may do it quite often. Whenever you get bored with your
surrounding, want to move in with a new friend you just
pick up and leave.
You basically have fewer possessions. At one point in my
very early 20's a potential landlord commented that
they did not like to rent to young people because they only
stayed 6 months and then were gone. I remember thinking
that 6 months was a long time to be in any one place.
Eventually it takes more carloads and more friends and you
are not so quick to throw things away because you realize
they are not that easy to replace.
Ultimately the move is a moving van along with several carloads.
Finally, you really hate the thought of moving and the word
'move' propels everyone in earshot to quickly conjure plans
for 'the move' weekend.
A couple of weekends ago I assisted in moving two separate
parties. One on Saturday and another on Sunday. Not sure
how that happened. I have skillfully avoided moving people
for most of 7 years. But circumstances will arise
and it was kinda fun. Both moves were rather well choreographed
and rather painless with the exception of the next days'
muscle aches and pains.
I admire friends that keep their personal possessions to
a minimum. But for the rest of us it is no wonder that storage
companies have proliferated the last several years.
Making art requires a certain amount of materials. I have
the greatest collection of wood scraps, fabric samples,
odd paint colors, metal findings, magazines etc.
One never knows what is needed for that next art piece.
That is my excuse and I am sticking to it.
An Early Heartbreak-
On Valentine's Day I always think of Dickey Bauman. He sat
in front of me in 4th Grade. With his curly hair, freckles
and great sense of humor I thought he was a godsend. On
that 4th grade Valentine's Day he gave every single kid
in the 4th grade a Valentine except for me.
I was, of course, heartbroken.
The idea was that every student gave a Valentine to every
other student and the nun was to make sure that no one was
I felt I had been more than slighted.
The funny thing is you never knew what memories will stick
with you. I am not sure I ever learned the lesson that Dickey
Bauman was teaching me that day.
The reality was that I got
28 other Valentine cards from every other kid in the
class. Some were given out of sheer obligation but a few
were given with mutual regard.
The really cool thing was that I still have a friend from
that class who I reconnected with after 30 years, thanks
to the internet. So maybe my lesson was to focus on what
one receives and not what never happened.
Valentine's Day is really
about love of and for friends and I am thankful for
the truly wonderful ones I have.
However, I take great pride
in the fact that Dickey (now Richard) Bauman grew up to
be an incredible photographer.
I like the idea that I recognized a fellow artist even then.
length x width = sq. ft.
Our discussion was about the vacant loft
space on 3rd floor in Brianas building. It had rented for
$2.00 a square foot.
It was decided that after all the space in discussion has
two brick walls, high ceilings....and it has wood floors....and
the light is great! Okay at $2 a sq.ft, the space is 1400
sq ft, that means that it is duh! $2800 a month. plus utilities
plus park- ing plus insurance and plus whatever else gets
I started to do my math. At 2 dollars a sq. ft.....I looked
down at my size 9 Nike's and realized that my feet were
costing me $2 a month to just rest on the floor. I started
to look around my space. M-m-m the large dining room/work
table that I cannot live without 4' x 12'... Gotta get the
calculator on this one m-m-m-m $96 a month. My bed just
a typical queen size bed okay $70 a month. Kitty litter
box and all of Marcels cat stuff about $10 a month, no problem.
So the things I need to live with take up space. After all
it costs money just to live. I accepted that with adulthood.
Then I started to take into account all the things that
are just taking up space. The boxes that I keep putting
off that go to St. Vincent de Paul is costing me $12
a month, the several boxes that a friend left with me "for
a couple of weeks while they got settled in Seattle"
has turned into almost a year...... yikes! $25 a month.
The materials from completed projects that should be neatly
filed or thrown out..hum-m-m more than I can figure right
Okay so the prices in the neighborhood are climbing. The
occupancy rate is at zero. There are waiting lists. I breathe
a sigh of relief, I have a lease for 2 more years.
But at this current rate of increase, I will not be
able to live here.
And then at dinner the other night an investor mentions
that the 10 acre Santa Fe property on 3rd and Santa Fe sold
for 10 million. The next day I look around that area
and I see what I have seen for a year, vacant buildings
with For Sale signs on them. I also realize only a
few of the building in the area are artist owned.
Vacant parcels are valued by their location.
Vacant lofts are valued by the artists and related industry
that inhabit and frequent the surrounding lofts.
Los Angeles has to recognize what so many other international
cities already have realized. Artists and art industries/
products are an important thread in the cities fabric.
Los Angeles needs to lend an economic hand to her artists
and their communities.
She will be greatly rewarded.
There is something sexy about a woman playing a guitar-
A couple of weeks ago I went
to Al's Bar for 'web cast night'. As we walked in, our very
own Arts District 'Big Lucy' was on stage.
I had dragged my friend Brianna.
I had repeated to her what I had been told that it was 'a
must experience', our very own Al's Bar as seen all over
the big Wide World Web.
We wanted to experience the
full web cast event. So at the time of the webcast we got
together in my studio. Revved up the computer, connected
to AL's Webcast URL (a hyperlink to be found somewhere on
this page) and there it was.....in full view of the internet
world.......the crusty bar at Al's.
"Tip or Die' sign right
above the bar...... Stacee tending to business behind the
bar......and then with another click of the mouse we saw
the entertainment on the stage. Saw the backsides of the
small crowd (still pretty early in the evening). Intermittently
heard the music.
About 11 o'clock we decided
to go to the bar and see the action first hand. As
we arrived a band was loading or unloading in front of the
bar. Opened the door as the sound hit us in the face. We
paid our $6, (unfortunately no discount for the media).
Said hell-o to Stacee ordered a couple draft cold ones.
Now here is where I digress.
I somehow expected "Light! Camera! Action!", the
Hollywood stuff I was raised on. However, there was none
of that. Instead it was like any other time I was at Al's.
There was no sense of the camera or what was taking place.
I heard myself say "Where are the cameras?", a
small jell-o box size object was pointed out. No real lens,
no obvious film loaded obtuse optical intrusion. Just a
tiny camera and a couple of small short wires. Apparently
the "web crew" were behind an obscure area through
a locked set of doors. I would guess that 90 percent
of the people there in the bar had no idea their image was
being sent around the world.. A touch of Big Brother in
The night went quickly. Brianna
talked with a lawyer that used to live in the area, a
business student from U.S.C., a waitress from Millie's,
a musician from the next band, a guy who was trying to get
his band a gig.at this infamous club, a few neighbors and
several others friendly folk.
I roamed the place.
Of course, there is no conversation in the stage area because
of the multiple decibels. There is an e-mail photo
booth and for one dollar I was able to e-mail my brother
Lipoz in London, and send him a photo of me with "Al's
Bar" written on the booth wall behind me.
All in all a great evening
and much more fun than just watching the webcast.
"Artists are weird!" someone
"We are not!" retorted Samantha.
standing on the corner of Traction and Hewitt, with my 12-year-old
niece Samantha, an already professed artist, along
with several friends and neighbors. We were wondering what
the inspiration was behind a pair of sneakers with their
laces wrapped around electrical wires high above our heads.
The time I speak of, was several years ago. Samantha
and her sister were visiting for the weekend and wanted
a tour of the Arts District. Now, I must admit, I
had been free-lancing on the Westside for a several
months, after 12 hours of work, I would arrive home exhausted,
park in an underground parking lot, and it is safe to say,
my feet never touched the pavement. I had not noticed, what
was a gradual decline in this district, over a period of
just a few months.
Our walk that day and the talks with fellow residents marked
the many changes that had taken place over these months.
Vagrants plying their illegal trade from borrowed shopping
carts. "The Pointers" (as they were called), a
group of unauthorized valets that stood in the middle of
the darkened streets. They would point Al's Bar patrons
toward a vacant parking space. As the visitor would exit
their parked vehicle, the 'pointer' would suggest that they
would "watch their car". Of course, for a small
donation. The proposition was rarely turned down. Most visitors,
understandably, were afraid to say no.
Other area streets were filled with cardboard boxes serving
as a shelter for the night; the trees along 4th
Place were merely aerial holding tanks for unlawful possessions
i.e. weapons, crack pipes, plundered merchandise. Stolen
car batteries ransacked glove compartments were an everyday
(and night) occurrence.
For any of us that were here then, it is a time we would
rather forget and for those of us that are more recent arrivals,
hold these times in disbelief. The neighborhood was under
siege. No one had guests park their cars on the streets
and no one walked at night alone.
A few weeks later I found out that the tennis shoes were
an urban symbol for "drugs sold here". In other
words, stand in the proximity of the shoes and a drug vender
would contact you. After I knew this, I began to notice
them hanging on fences in parking lots, near schools, vacant
Several residents proclaimed enough was enough. They took
action. They organized the Neighborhood Walk, reported all
crimes to the police, organized neighborhood clean-up
and got to know other neighbors. Within three months we
noticed a difference. Within six months we were better than
I say all this to say, it is happening again. There
is a gradual encroachment of cardboard sleeping arrangements,
red-eyed pan-handlers etc. Most residents feel that if we
did it before, we can do it again.
You have a right to a safe and clean environment, but sometimes
it takes a few phone calls.
.. I walk around its sweet waters a
couple of times a week-
It is one
of the many green spots near Downtown. It is a virtual oasis
with ducks, geese and maybe a hundred different types of
trees. There are other walkers, runners, and people enjoying
this green space. On weekends, there are even paddleboats
available for rent. Moreover, it is drivably close.
On the south
side of the Lake, on any given weekday, anywhere around
7:30 a.m. there hums a steady flow of traffic. All traveling
eastbound, streaming into Downtown Los Angeles. The daily
Downtown working folks. They stream in with the early morning
light and as daylight dims, they will just as assuredly,
stream out again.
has tried for years to cast a positive image on her civic
Downtown. However, when the subject of where one lives enters
a conversation, I will answer "Downtown Los Angeles".
There is always a blank stare. I will quickly add that,"
is near Civic Center." and there is still a blank
stare. I also try, "Near Little Tokyo!"
At some point, there is the inevitable "You live where?"
and the favorite, "Aren't you afraid?" and the
inescapable "I haven't been Downtown in years."
that most people think of Downtown as a maze of one way
streets, a hub of international danger, a crazy industrial
network of humanity, and maybe, just maybe, during the week,
on evenings and during weekends, it is none of the above.
As of Friday afternoon, it is quiet. It becomes a sort of
I, for one,
love these quiet times. I like the fact that I can run up
to Bunker Hill Market in the late evening, cruising through
green lights, windows open, radio blasting, accelerating
through the 2nd Street tunnel. Hardly a car in sight, couple
of people here and there
long Memorial Day weekend was especially quiet. Even as
Crazy Gideons limped through these quiet days, an
ever-vigilant parking enforcement guy puttered down the
street. Being a long holiday weekend, I'm sure his ticket
quota had not been reached. He was on the lookout for not
only parked cars, but cars posed for any serious violation.
With the whole of
Downtown Los Angeles' streets empty, our vigilant parking
guy knows where to go to find parked cars. So with hope
of making his quota, he putts over to the Los Angeles Arts
At least someone
knows we live here.
A Live Performance-
Last Saturday evening, a group of friends
and I went to see Paul Mackley in his performance of "The
Fever" by Wallace Shawn at Cafe Metropol. The performance
started at 8 p.m., we gathered in front of our building
at 7:30 p.m. Surprisingly we were all on time.
As the five of us continued up the block, we laughed, talked
and caught up on events of the week that had just passed.
At one point the conversation shifted to the film crews
that were filling the street. They were
obviously going to be working into the night. The compressors
were rumbling, the crews were bustling, the
off-duty officers were directing traffic, huge
'Brazil' like cords snaked through the street.
We hate them... we love them....we have friends that work
in the industry...they disrupt our daily lives.....one friend
comments that the City of Los Angeles issues more
film permits for the Downtown Arts District than any other
area in the city. I did not know that.....another
of us pauses and asks an obvious question. "Does any
of that money go back into our area?" We all had opinions,
but no one knew the answer.
We arrived at the cafe with plenty of time
to order coffees and decant the bottle of red wine we had
brought. I was thinking about how nice it was to just walk
to this wonderful venue, no "drive time",
no looking for a parking space, no designated driver. It
is so un-L.A.
As we got comfortable, the theater experience
began. A lone actor appeared, no props,
except for a large paper cup of coffee. The character
begins to tell us of a gift that he received as a child.
As the character opens the gift, a smaller
package appears and then another smaller package and so
on, until he gets to the real treasure with anticipated
delight. As I am caught up in his performance, my
mind drifts. I think of our neighborhood and how some
first time visitors see a rough industrial facade,
and how the press always mentions how grimy the streets
are. This is what the film crews wants to see... what the
camera sees......But for those of us that live here,
we know the treasure that is held inside the outer wrappings.
It is our friends, a community, that we have
For over 60 minutes the actor held his audience
in the palm of his hand......when the performance is over,
the audience leave with good-bye's, and promises of get
togethers, breakfast meetings, phone calls and e-mails.
We all trailed out the front door and we noticed a "For
Sale" sign on the huge, one square block, commercial
buildings. A member of the crowd comments
"I think it is going for around 3 to 4"
"You mean million?", we ask as we gasp.
A few moments of silence and someone says, "We just
have to make more money!" We all cheer the thought
and start our walk home.