Friday, October 19, 2012

fear and loathing of downtown

skid row and the homeless are a small part of the collection of scum that frequents downtown.  though dangerous and projecting an unpleasant presence at times, they are avoidable and predictable.  the really insidious scum occupy the bank buildings, institutes of government, and law and insurance offices.  they greet you with a smile, peddling services they call "essential" while using scraps of paper and computer transactions to suck the life out of people.  they dress well and are expert at putting people at ease, making sure they promote just the right level of fear first, lest the innocent bunnies not know what kind of deadly risks they're taking.  outside their offices, this courtesy tends not to be exercised so carefully.  after all, what's in it for them?  being courteous to a client might land a contract.  taking up two seats on a train or feigning a handicap merely reinforces a mutual contempt with the locals.

despite all this, downtown is the best melting pot los angeles has to offer.  the wolf-in-sheep's-clothing act is one everyone is happy to play.  the benefits are just too good.  there's so little risk and so much money, so little guilt and so much free time, so little responsibility and so much power.  anyone with an education can play, the rules written by the players so the sooner you get in, the more rules you get to write.  how can anyone resist?  this unbridled show of greed allows downtown to stand in stark contrast to the rest of los angeles.

the county of los angeles is a grand paradox.  by almost every measure, diversity is very high, people from all over the world collecting here to seek out dreams.  yet by almost every measure, los angeles is heavily segregated, huge racial majorities the norm in neighborhoods all over town.  watching the legions push off to their battle stations from these disparate places everyday, coalescing into this army of greed, is a grim reminder of predator and prey.  by its labyrinth of rules, the predators paralyze, neutralize and pacify their prey, promising to bring order to a chaos of their own creation, pushers in every sense, like arms dealers inciting war in some backwater banana republic to create demand for their product.  but like lions and tigers and leopards, predators are a necessary part of the landscape.  how else to weed out the weak?  how else would this train i'm writing from get built?  and how else do you keep a restless population occupied when basic needs, food and housing, only demand a quarter of them work?  with too much free time, people revert to their animal states, a healthy occasional exercise; but when guns, knives and hundreds of horses under a hood are so readily available, it's not long before prolonged reversions turn into true chaos.

of late, the sanitizing forces of the gold line have begun invading downtown.  dog-walking, posh pubs, art galleries and the general stench of trust fund backed lifestyles, failed creative projects and all, are everywhere.  it's like the kids from the privileged parts of the west side grew up and needed a change of scenery, volunteering as refugees.  they didn't realize being a refugee is uncomfortable, so they took their cool and convinced developers to provide them with new fortresses where moats made of concierge desks, paid armed security and gated underground parking keep the unwanteds out until they're needed as extras.  they also didn't realize the food and entertainment were a bit different, so they convinced the city to build them new playgrounds where concrete and advertising made sure others wouldn't linger while the chosen were resting in their loft-fortresses.  slowly, surely, they are realizing they didn't want a change of scenery at all, but somewhere their parents were too afraid to go so they could be left alone.

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