We lived in Los Angeles between 1988 and 1991. What a difference three decades make, but what Gitiim and I found astounding during our summer of 2019 visit, was the degree to which Los Angeles has transitioned into a real-life “tale of two cities”.
Touring downtown L.A. by car, we made that first abrupt transition, by simply crossing an intersection, or two, in one direction, then another, then another; it was continuous. Within a span of several blocks, we went from streets lined with distinguished looking skyscrapers housing some of L.A.’s high-end fashion shops, designer showrooms, the jewelry mart, and several noteworthy international fine dining spots, to the stark transformation of human beings living in tents, on the streets. The stark contrast of “Skid Row”, within the perimeters of the city’s thriving “Fashion District”, created an indelible impression! Here, businesses continue to operate, and seemingly nice apartment buildings are occupied, while outside their walls, running north to south, east to west, street after street, row, after compact row, are pitched tents that shelter thousands of the city’s six to eight thousand homeless—the forgotten citizens of the “other” Los Angeles. To the outsider, it appears there are clear lines between those living below on the sidewalks of “Skid Row”, and those working here, and residing in those neat apartment buildings. And both firmly established groups appear able to navigate their separate course, going about their daily business—those working inside offices, and showrooms, well protected from the elements, and those out on the streets, hustling to get needed public services, the next meal, a drink, a smoke…a “fix”. On the surface, at least, the two groups—the haves and homeless—within their tight, parallel worlds, manage to get on with their separate lives, and have made it the norm to simply coexist.