Would you dare to live downtown? [Op-Art]
Downtown Los Angeles' renaissance over the last decade, complete with new lofts and trendy bars, hasn't concealed the crass reality of urban life. Joseph Daniel Fiedler illustrated the area's dichotomy for two Sunday Op-Eds, one that celebrates life downtown and another that calls it a nightmare.
For editor and writer Joan Springhetti, the experience living downtown has been invaluable. She's watched a seedy neighborhood transform into a diverse and thriving community she can't give up, despite her long crosstown commute to work.
Plenty of downtown residents have lived here longer than I have. Many more have moved in -- and some have moved in and out. This place is not for everyone. It can be noisy, gritty and annoying.
But if I didn't live downtown, I wouldn't have had the chance to hang out in a real speakeasy. To come home for lunch when I was on jury duty. To watch life unfold on the street and marvel at the skyline from my own windows. To be not only part of a community but part of building it.
Mike Armstrong, who writes screenplays and television scripts, was not as taken by the city. Armstrong writes that he was lured by the price of a big, beautiful loft and by the hip restaurants. He quickly learned the reality of the neighborhood when two murders occurred across the street and the firecrackers he heard on Independence Day were actually gunshots.
I've lived in big cities before: Boston, New York, Toronto. I've been mugged, and I've seen things on subway platforms at night that I'm still trying to forget. But downtown Los Angeles exists in its own separate category. It's the low-grade horror movie of American cities.
At night it's an odyssey of sirens, police helicopters and, if you're unfortunate enough to find yourself out on the sidewalk, a particular class of zombie-like human being seemingly so devastated by drugs or mental illness or both that he or she can't even form the words to ask for money.
Illustration: Joseph Daniel Fielder/ For The Times