L.A. oozes talent. It’s where some artists come to die… on stage over and over, like a Buddhist who just can’t get it right. So you’d think there’d be some abandoned buildings somewhere for them. A place where they could suffer as artists must. And there was.
Many years ago in what is today’s L.A. Arts District a few artists kicked out the rats and began taking over empty, decrepit warehouses and factories. These were buildings that had been victimized by America’s 20th Century boom-and-bust economy. By the time the city found out about the human infestation, it was too late. The artists had garnered enough attention from the press and support from their moneyed art-collecting sponsors to become a political threat. So, instead of throwing them into the street, L.A. built an arts zone around them. At least that way the city could charge them a little rent. And besides, the city reasoned, an occupied building was better than an unoccupied one.
With time, entrepreneurs began pouring money into the dark, dingy spaces. They converted some into clean, well-lit galleries. These attracted wealthy collectors who loved coming down to enjoy the gritty, urban neighborhoods. The zone was a success. But success for some was not success for all. And not all the attention was on the art.
Urban living was becoming a trend among young professionals. And investors began buying some of the buildings and converting them into lofts for young professionals wishing to experience gritty thug life — but without the grime, crime and brother, can you spare a dime.
In time street walkers were replaced by dog walkers and the former crack hovels began to sell $8 lattes. Struggling artists could not struggle enough to pay the new rents and left in the night. Start ups soon replaced them. New start ups sloppy with money employed accountants and marketers and their assistants whose dollars attracted high-end eateries and microbreweries. These establishments promised farm-to-table vegetables and only the finest meat, butchered from free-ranging animals who, in life were as pampered and coddled as the fresh faced 20-somethings who would now be dining on them. These restaurants no doubt alluded to “the sacrifice” as a non-violent, calm process involving Ambien, soft lights and classical music in the background.
And with that the arts district had been won, like the wild west. No longer would one be subjected to foul odors or decent priced coffee. Meter maids now prowled streets that once caused even the most seasoned beat cop to pause and count the days until retirement. Crime is nearly nil. The homeless have been moved a few blocks down. And the weathered brick walls have been slathered with tasteful yet bland interpretations of street art. But late at night one can still hear the small abused wheels of a distant shopping cart, pilfered and filled with plastic. Siren blasts, their clamor echoing against the brick and glass. And the lamentations of a madman somewhere in the darkness venting his frustrations.