The first time I first came to Los Angeles was right after the riots of 1992 and right away I was thrilled. There were charred remains of burned down buildings all over the place, but that didn’t phase me. I had just gotten discharged from the United States Navy and wasn’t back home in Illinois. I grew up in a small town in Illinois. It was a nice town to grow up in but not a fun town to be stuck in, especially at 21 years old.
Redondo Beach was my first Los Angeles living situation at the Riviera Holiday on Palos Verdes, just two and a half blocks from the shore. It was amazing. Every night I could hear the ocean waves from our living room. It really was a different city back then, immediately fascinating me in how despite the fact that a riot had just caused a lot of damage and there was a thick tension in the air, people were talking. I had just gotten out of the Navy and was fascinated by the spirit of the city of Los Angeles in how just about any night of the week, I could make a new friend. We used to have a “coffee scene” and there were so many of these coffee joints, some of which were almost indistinguishable from a bar or restaurant. You could see live music at a lot of them, ranging from some flamenco act to a jazz trio to even some boom boom poetry slam. It was almost like the bar scene but for pseudo-intellectuals and A.A. addicts who were eschewing the pretentiousness of the bar scene. Of course, this was before Starbucks’ stock split and ultimately ended up turning this beautiful city of ours into one great big strip mall. But I digress…
When I say to people that L.A. is a totally different city today than it was back then, they invariably ask, “better or worse?” I see and hear a lot of people complaining about the housing situation, about rising rents, about the homelessness problem, about crime and police violence. To which my response is simple, “you weren’t here in 1992, were you?” I lived here from 1992 – 1993, moved back to Illinois to go to school a bit and came here in 1996 after dropping out to pursue adventurism at the Mexican border that could’ve just as easily landed me in prison, but that’s a whole other story altogether that’s better left to fiction anyway. But let me tell you a little something about Los Angeles in 1992. Never mind the fact that it was heavily damaged from the riots with the numerous charred buildings. All of that was rebuilt and then some. I was in South America not too long before having come out here then, and if you’d ever seen the movie, City of God, let me tell you that Brazil was a lot like that.
But when I got here, Hollywood really wasn’t all that much better than that. We had feral children in Hollywood, ranging anywhere from 11 to 26, and trust me the ones in their 20s were still children. They were the throwaways and runaways of the local narcissistic drug addled L.A. parents who were too busy with themselves and their own proclivities to give much more than 0.00039% of a shit to notice how screwed up their kids were. I remember when tourists would check out the Mann’s Chinese Theater, walk about 5 blocks past a row of outlaw bikers, cholos, pimps & hos, runaway feral children, and evangelical nutters before they briskly walked as fast as they could back to their tour buses to get the hell away from Hollywood. It was the place where people with no money who wanted to try their hand at the L.A. Hollywood scene of being an actor, writer, musician, comedian, dancer, or director, could go to live on the cheap. Today, you’ve got to have money to live in Hollywood. It’s cleaned up real nice, and family friendly too. Never mind all the panhandlers in Spiderman getup, that’s happening in Vegas too for some reason, you can’t find a cheap apartment in Hollywood in 2018. When I got here in 1992, hell even all the way up to 2005 or so, Downtown L.A. (DTLA) was straight up scary. Seriously, I never wanted to go spending any significant amount of time there. Cute white girls are walking their doggies at 2AM in 2018, do you not see the tremendous changes?