Wednesday, July 08, 2015

The DTLA Residency

What I’ve taken to calling my DTLA residency—my 9-night stay in a mini-loft in the old Hellman Building on 5th and Main—ended this morning, with neither a whimper nor a bang, but with the usual blur of rushing to the bus stop. I had to be at Union Station for my 11:15 a.m. train to San Diego Comic-Con, and I didn’t want to risk arriving too close to departure time.

The DTLA experiment had been a grand success. I ate well, learned a lot about the neighborhood, successfully lived without a car, and didn’t get mugged, though when I stumbled over the crime stats on a real estate aggregator website, I was taken aback by the theoretical risk. But then I brushed it aside, remembering too well the state of Avenue B in the early nineties when I’d moved there. Didn’t get mugged there either. 

 I’d been catcalled my first day, and yesterday a man did that irritating breath thing. There’s a name for it, but I can’t remember it. The breath thing is a quick sucking sound, a little less obvious than the classic wolf-whistle, and disgusting as hell. You want to just smack the person for turning an innocent walk down the street into something disconcerting.

 Not the first time, no. And I’m impressed how far we’ve come in a few decades to where street harassment is worth remarking on. Once, it was so common no one even talked about it. Like cracks in the sidewalk or gum on the curb, catcalls were just a part of life.

 Admittedly, there are a few countries where street harassment (“compliments,” according to some clueless yahoos) is still common and acceptable. I’m not going to point fingers. This is about my stay in Downtown Los Angeles.

I can’t tell if I want to set up shop in DTLA or not. Today, I love the access to services and food, and the easy life of jumping on the metro. But then, do I want to be in the middle of the great divide, where rents are $1800-and-up, except when they’re free if you’ve got a tent? Is it ethical to spend $30 on an entrée while a homeless person stares in the window? And if you are doing it somewhere else, where no one is watching, is that really any different?

I used to hate outdoor cafes in Alphabet City, because you’d get hassled for change, and sometimes you just want to eat, not wrestle with guilt. I can’t tell if it’s meaningful to live on the front lines of this, or meaningless, since it’s happening whether you bear witness or not, and it’s not about you.

As for gentrification…I have no idea where these people living in tents on Skid Row are supposed to go. There are so many homeless people in Los Angeles. Is the social services system here underfunded? Ignored? Well, probably. Isn’t it everywhere? Housing the homeless seems insurmountable when looking at the pop-up tent cities, when watching people bathe in the Los Angeles River from the window of the train.

 Anyway, the answer to the question of is DTLA for me is: I don’t know yet. I have many more areas to try before deciding. And because I don’t know, I tried to pack in as much as I could to my short stay.

My final excursion this morning was to G and B Coffee and then to Eggslut, both in Grand Central Market. G and B is accessible to all, but Eggslut has insane lines on weekends, and I’d avoided it so far. But then I read about the “Slut,” which is the specialty item, a coddled, poached egg over potatoes, all in a jar. Huh? 

 I wasn’t even sure I wanted that. Waiting in line seemed a stretch.

But I was game for trying if it didn’t involve a lot of hassle.

So this morning, I left the Hellman loft at 7:30, stopped by G and B for a delicious latte, then waited with a small group until 8. A bell rang, and we were all allowed into the market at 7:59.

The smarter move would be to come in from the Broadway side. Eggslut (no, I can’t explain the name but there’s no denying it’s memorable) is on that side, and you’d get there sooner from there. But I’m a fast walker and I made it to be second in line.

I bought the “Slut” as well as the “Fairfax.” The latter is an upscale version of an egg-on-a-roll, only for a ridiculous $7. I got it because I wasn’t sure the “Slut” thing was going to work for me.

But it did. I think it’s the chives and salt, but the combination of tastes was delicious.

After eating more eggs than any single person probably should, I packed up the loft. I’d say I stood back and surveyed the space I’d been in for the last eight nights, but that’s just nonsense. It was more like I threw everything into the bag in a rush, grabbed my laptop plug, and ran down the hall dragging my luggage while rolling up the adapter cord and wondering if I got everything before locking the keys inside the apartment.

And now I am again in transition, owning a house and a single car garage in New Jersey, renting nothing, living out of a bag with most of my possessions in twin storage units in Burbank and Jersey City. Superpowered by Eggslut, sitting by the window on the Pacific Surfliner as it winds along the coast down to San Diego.

Next stop: A short work-related residency at the Grand Hyatt. See you there.

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