A Close Encounter with a Homeless Man
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
Of course, a lot of cities in this country get a different kind of population shift. Downtown Los Angeles, for instance, attracts people with money and displaces many of the poor. A lot of them have been living in downtown LA in so-called SROs, single-room occupancy hotels. They are old, most of them rundown. Poet Lewis Macadams also lives in downtown LA, and he writes short stories about it. We air them here on Day to Day. He calls these his "Close to Home" tales. Here's one about the changes Lewis sees.
Mr. LEWIS MACADAMS (Poet): My friend does pro-bono work for the tenants of an SRO hotel up the street from me. When it opened 100 years ago, presidents of the United States occupied the suites. Back in the 1980s, it was crawling with junkies and punk rockers. Now, it's one of the last places in the neighborhood a poor man or woman can get a room for less than 700 dollars a month.
My friend is brilliant, but no matter how hard she tries, in ten years that building is probably going to be a luxury co-op. I think the most she can accomplish is to make sure the people living there now can keep a roof over their heads, but I don't tell her that. I just point out the ornate upper balconies, and the elegantly arched windows on the building across the street and say, this building has good bones.
We walk past a noisy musical instrument store, and my friend's husband pointed out a cheap white plastic saxophone in a display window and said, that's what Ornette Coleman bought when somebody threw his sax off a cliff. Why would somebody do that, I asked, astonished? I guess because they thought all his music was good for.
As we started to cross the street a black guy with yellow eyes suddenly lurched toward my friend and sneered, how's it going Jimbo? Checking on your investments? Then he nodded towards my friend's husband, and he asked if he were a homosexual. Yes, my friend's husband replied, and everybody laughed. As we were walking down Main Street toward Pete's, the place downtown where the politicos go, we were discussing it. Why did he call my friend Jimbo? Why did he ask if her husband was gay? Maybe he was just a nagging reminder that people like us might take charge of his building, but we could never control his street.
CHADWICK: A "Close to Home" story, another in our series from poet Lewis Macadams.
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