Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Biddie Mason--A Los Angeles Pioneer and Civic Leader

Biddie Mason

As a Los Angeles native, I prided myself on my knowledge of the history of this city. However, it amazes me how much I have been able to learn about Los Angeles since living on Skid Row. Having developed this loved for history during the last few years, my pursuit of more historical knowledge never ended because I landed on Skid Row. In fact I pursued it even more vigorously as it kept my mind off of my worries and pain.

I started learning about downtown Los Angeles when my father took me to Central Ave. Having developed his passion for photography, he wanted to photos of the Coca Cola battleship with his wide angle camera which he built. It was the last place that he and I went together before he died.

I always felt that the more I learned about Los Angeles, the more I learned about my parents and myself. My father was born here and my mother was raised here having moved to Los Angeles from Northern California.

Of course when I started my triathlon training I read all of the plaques at USC and those plaques provided much in history about Los Angeles, starting with learning the full name of the City of Los Angeles,El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles.

When I arrived in Skid Row I was able to feel the history of Los Angeles like never before. I have always been fascinated by old buildings so I was able to appreciate the architecture of yesteryears and learn more about the development of this city and the people that helped build it. It is funny how good things can come from excruciating experiences. It guess it is a matter of getting through them to a certain point so we can experience them.

One day I was trying to find a short cut to Broadway from Spring street and found a walkway that extended from street to street just north of the Wells Fargo branch between 3rd and 4th on Spring Street. In the middle of the walkway I ran into this Historical monument.

It was about Biddie Mason who was a slave from Georgia. She came to California and won her freedom. She become a very successful real estate entrpreneur and philanthropist and could be arguably one of the first advocates of the homeless here in Los Angeles. She also was one of the founders of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the oldest predominantly black attended churches in the city of Los Angeles. I never heard of her before living on Skid Row. I found that amazing.

I can not do Biddie Mason justice but I encourage you to see the write up about her that Wikipedia did. Please click on her name,Biddie Mason, here and read the Wikipedia write up about her.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Starting to Exhale, Welcome to My Home. Hearing myself think

The view from my window looking to the South/Southwest
The view from my window looking North/Northwest
This is most of my room and you see the assembled workstation. I write to you from that location. There are newer buildings and units with more amenities but for me, I think I could not ask for a better situation to study and work as well as have access to other areas of downtown. This phase will be interesting.
These are individual pieces of the workstation. I purhased it the day after I moved in and wasted no time in putting it together so I be productive. I work and study right there. I do pushups, situps, and yoga on the carpet.
My first purchase on Skid Row. I said goodbye to them. They protected me and proved to me that I can build again from nothing.
Ah yes. I can sit down for a few minutes and talked to you before I go to work today.

First I had some grocery shopping to do. A visit to the post office was after that. Finally I took a photo of those shower/pool shoes. It was a long time coming. Perhaps it should have been done a long time ago. However, things happen when they happen.

I am ready to let go I suppose. After a couple of clicks, I tossed the sandles in the trash, threw the trash out and finally settled in on the bed. More of the past was gone. I am welcoming the new and a bright future.
I purchased those sandles after a month of living on Skid Row, in the shelter to which I was ordered by the court. I had no extra clothing and whenever I needed to wash what I had, I did it by hand in the sink. I had no money and asked no one for anything. Every time I wrung out a pair of socks by hand I told myself that I was going to survive this. I thought of the camping trips that I took with my father as a kid where we hiked in the Sierra Nevada and survived off of nature. No tents for us. We slept on the ground and what we ate depended on how much fish was caught in the day. Yes, those trips taught me how to survive.

My first concern was my feet. In jail, everyone had to be careful to avoid acquiriing a staph bacteria infection. It is easy to get in places where people bathe and step in water or in places where moisture is present. Shower rooms, bath houses, swim pools are environments where staph infections are common and thrive.

After collecting cans for a month, I was able to purchased a pair of sandles, and in the process, proved to myself that I could make it happen and build from nothing. It was at about that time that I started washing my clothes in the washer and drying them outside. More progress, That is how it all began for me on Skid Row. Little by little. And now I am throwing those sandles away. The strength gained from the process of struggling and utilizing my resources and exercising patience hA helped me build character in ways that I never knew existed. Actually the character was there. The foundation was set by my parents but aspects of it had been dormant too long and needed to be tested.

I have been wanting to sit and talk with you guys but I could not find it in myself to write. It is the first time I have been able to just sit still, feel and absorb as my system has been bombarted by noise every since I entered the mail dormitory at Los Angeles County Jail and there has been on going change and evolvement. On my first night in jail there was a riot and it was loud in that room of 100 beds from that day on. Fighting and yelling were normal events during the course of every day. At times the noise was a respite from the tamborines banging inside of my head and heart, during those quiet moments, when I did not have a book to read, or paper on which to write, when my thoughts would go to areas where deep emotional pain and confusion danced around like happy rats and roaches in a pile of garbage.

The noise was just as loud in the shelter because people had music devices from which loud rap music would bounce off the walls twenty four hours a day. I found a hiding place, sitting in the guard shack during the day, every day, baking in the sun, writing non-stop, researching my emotions and thoughts as best I could. But I was in nomad's land, in ways I never knew existed. The brief moments of peace would would be interrupted by the inevitable drug deal in front of my eyes, or a drug user ducking behind a car to hit a pipe or stick a needle in his veins to ease that jones that for heroin that had been a monkey on his back. Never a dull moment.

Next stop was San Julian street, the heart and soul of Skid Row where a raging battle for its soul wages on as I speak to you. There, I advanced from Skid Row Kindergarten and started learning what the place really was about. I had been on Skid Row for 8 months and knew I knew was ignorant of its ways. Now, on San Julian
I could hear the confusion inside of my head and feel the pain deep in my heart. There was no way way to mask it or hide from it. The roach infested room was small and depressing but it had one thing going for it. It was my OWN room.

I was scared to move into it. It was horrible. I remember one of the counselors at the shelter asking me what was wrong. Why was I stalling to make the move? I looked at him and with tears flowing I said I was scared. Then I yelled it as loud as I could as if finally coming to grips with the fact that my future was uncertain and terrifying. Most people are worried about going back to drugs when they leave those shelters. That is the common thread of conversation when people move out of places like that. That was the least of my concerns. I was not ever going to do that. I was concerned that my status as a felon would prevent me from securing employment or I would not be allowed to renew my real estate license. Perhaps my general relief benefits would run out and I would become homeless. Absolutely terrified of it. The administrators at the shelter told me later, that if anything went wrong, I could return to the shelter. I was thankful, but I was just as terrified of returning to the shelter as I was at being homeless. Many people recycle themselves to those shelters after they relapse. It is their safety valve. They know they can do drugs and the light will be on for them when they need it. I wanted no part of participating in that cycle. I was moving to a street where drugs where openly sold and used. Many people crumbled with that temptation in their face every day. However I was taking a step to move out of Skid Row and I had no intention of going backwards. It just drove me crazy that I had stopped doing drugs at least 18 months before moving to San Julian St. Yet, I was surrounded by more drugs and people that actively did drugs than ever before. It just did not make sense to me.

When I first landed on Skid Row, I I would view the downtown Skyline at night and it appeared to me to be a massive prison wall fencing me in and separating me from a life of normality. Every thing on the other side of it was normal and I was horrified that my standards of a normal existence was going to take a permanent structural shift.

Then something magical happened. I closed the door to my room on San Julian St and was alone. It was the first time I was alone in over 18 months. I could take off my clothes and lay nude on my bed. I did not have to hear a person snoring or farting next to me while they were sleeping. Most of all, I did not have to wonder who would be in the bed next to me when I awoke. Would it be the same person? Would he be crazy and prone to sudden violence? Would he even wake up in the morning? Deaths are very normal in those shelters and one man said good night to me one night, walked to his bed, sat down, and laid back. He eventually closed his eyes and never woke up. When I awoke at five in the morning, the counselors were evacuating the dormitory in preparation for the coroner to arrive.

So I went to sleep. It was the best sleep I had in almost two years. It was a deep sleep. Furthermore I could sleep as long as I wanted to sleep. For 18 months I was awakened by county sheriffs in jail or the counselors at the shelter when they suddenly turned on the lights and jolted you awake at 5:30 AM. That morning, I slept and slept. I woke up and realized that I had a little bit of freedom. I de-instutionalized myself just a little bit. But I got up put on my clothes, went to Chrysalis and opened a blog account at blogomonster. Two weeks later I opened one up at Blogger.

I did not have the luxury of too much freedom. I was still in serious institutional jurisdiction; three weeks of County classes--what they call employee training. I had just finished two weeks of classes at the shelter. I had to attend a week of classes at Chrysalis before I moved to San Julian Street in order to use their computers. Let us not forget the court appearances and the residential compliance requirements of my new residence. They took up time on my calendar. If you miss court that was problem. If you missed a Chrysalis class, there would be no computer privileges. And if you did not comply with the residential rules you could be evicted for lack of compliance. Some of those rules you learned about as you went along.If I missed a County class, they would cut off my benefits and I would be homeless. In short, I had no time of my own to think. I could only respond to the demands that were a part of the transition.

I walked all over downtown each day to blog, going from one computer bank to another until my time expired. But I had to blog. I did not miss a day. It kept me focused and the librarie were the only places where I could find some peace and quiet because there was no quiet in the building where I lived.

Music vibrated through the walls as my neighbor felt everyone should listen to music at one in the morning. A woman, who lived across the hall, would yell and scream into her cell phone at different lovers constantly. She had been waiting for a year twenty months for her social security allotment to be approved. That is considered a promotion from general relief(welfare) on Skid Row. Once that allotment is approved, one is considered upper middle class. It is like finding gold. When a person gets approved, the whole neighborhood knows. She was there before I got there and she was still waiting for it after I moved out. However, I found out that after I moved out she relapsed terribly, was kicked out of the building and now is living in the streets. Everyone says I would not recognize her.

Then I moved in here. I did not say good bye to anyone from that building. I was not scared of this move. I aggressively pursued it. My confidence was back. I did not tell anyone I was moving out. I just moved and before you know it. I was here. I wanted to share everything with you.

I wasted no time in purchasing a work station from Office Depot. I had new household goods. I discarded some more of the institutional tatoos that were implanted on me and for the first time in two years, I had total silence. I not only have external silence but through the passage of time I have more inner peace-emotional uncertainty in many cases has been resolved. Doubts and anxieties have subsided.

Most people on Skid Row do not like silence because they must deal with themselves. I cherish it and had worked for years to finally seize it. I thought for sure that I had arrived when I stopped consuming drugs while triathlon training. I was ready to grow and lead a productive life. Yet life threw me curve. So what!!!!

I survived it!!!!! I am sitting here talking to you and telling you the process of my emotional survival and you my friends were so instrumental in that. Where once the skyline was so distant and forboding, I am closer to it, I am four floors up and can see the details of it, feel a part of it and my activities extend beyond it. My world is expanding.

I have met some virtual friends on the internet and they message me throughout the day providing me with support and encouragement. A couple of old friends are back in my life and they call me or message me and we chat. All of these things have been developing but they have come together in such a nice way.

Private bath rooms. My own keys. My own mail box. I do not go to a building and have meals handed to me in a paper bag. I no longer need someone to sign their name on a meeting record sheet witnessing my attendance to an AA,CA meeting. Those sheets were just as much a part of me as my eyes and mouth for the last 18 months. They are a staple of Skid Row.

I see grass outside of my windows as well as the leaves of trees swaying within arms reach. Greenery everywhere for me to see. When I walk out of the front door of the building, my business is in the opposite direction of the critical mass of despair that is, for the most part, the signature of Skid Row. I no longer have to hear "Cavi, Cavi. Weed. Weed". I no longer hear "Red White and Blue", the mating call for Welfare fraud. I am not in that environment.

Before I moved from the Marshall House to this building, I walked around and saw many people that I had met during my tenure on Skid Row. Most of them are living on the streets. It is sad to see but I had shed so many tears watching people relapse and go backwards in many ways that I had no more to shed. I accepted that as a part of the Skid Row experience. I just paused for a second to absorb it and in my mind I would say goodbye. And I never see any of them. Rarely do I see someone from the Transition House or The Marshall House. The ones I plan on seeing have given me their contact information. But I never go back and visit those places. They are my past. I grew from it but I am no longer engulfed by it and the atmosphere of desperation, stagnation, hopelessness that goes with the endless cycle of chaos that most experience in one form or another in this neighborhood.

When I go to work, I no longer see the swarms of people in front of the missions as I no longer pass them. I hate the pain that I saw for so long.
I just don't see as much of it.

I was unhappy that I had to go to the court ordered classes after spending 8 months at the Transistion House. I was suppose to be in a program. I did everything they told me but the judge wanted something else. So after 4 months in jail, and 8 months in a shelter, the judge said I still had to take a year of classes--52 for anger management. Needless to say, I was angry about it. I spoke to Jose Egurbide every morning about it. Well, that is not exactly true. I yelled at him on the phone about it. I was livid. He would let me rant and rave. I thought I would never get through it. But interesting enough the classes were on the other side of the skyline. So I look at it philosophically. I will have completed 35 tomorrow night. 17 to go. Piece of cake. I remember when I could not figure out how I would pay for them. I have paid for all of them except the last 100 dollars. That will be paid within a couple of weeks. I have the money but I will pay it at my convenience. I am ahead in payments by two months.

So now I am not angry. I am not terrified. I look at this whole experience philosophically. In fact, I am amazed at it. It is rapidly settling in the horizon behind me and I see a new sun rising for me. It is beautiful. I have much to do but I am at the point where I enjoy putting together the pieces for success, internally and externally. Sure I have frustrating moments or worries of doubt but I know I will survive. I remember those camping trips. I remember those nights wringing out my clothes. I remember getting through everything and I somehow have found my way. I will continue to do just that.

So as you can see my friends, I have had a lot to absorb and I just could not sit down and talk to you. I thought about each and every one of you and how much you have meant to me and my growth. Eric Richardson gave me a tremendous gift when he told me to blog about my recovery and experience on Skid Row. He told me that people talk about recovery but no one really talks about it. Well, I certainly did not know anything about it but I do now. And frankly I dont think most people know about it. Otherwise we would have more references upon which to locate answers to questions about the process. My process was delayed a couple of years because of fate. Or in the big picture was this suppose to be a part of it. A tough challenge to test my strength of conviction. It has opened up been instrumental in creating routes of discovery while I am on this road for truth
and understanding.

Going through this tunnel of experience and answering the challenges that were presented to me, seemed so overwhelming and insurmountable. Progress was inch by inch. Step by step. But slowly, over time distance was put between me and the past and progress toward my goals were being made. Layers of skin were being shed and eventually a certain synergistic momentum was taking a life of its own.

Suddently with all of the progress-- physical, mental,emotional, financial,tangible and intangible there has been an equilibrium of growth and development. This is necessary to avoid states of anomie, imbalances or disequilibriums of vital prerequisites for stable existence and also set the stage to further along the path of actualization of goals.

I look out of this window and suddenly I can see certain things in the Skyline that I could not see when I first arrived. I was too far from them. I could not see the details. Just like the view, I can see things in my life in technicolor that I could not see in the past or would not accept. I will share these things with you over the coming weeks. I also have been able to form some theories of my own about Skid Row and the dynamics of all of the stakeholders. It has taken time. The theories are my own but hopefully will generate thought and discussion.

However the truth starts with me and I will bare it all as I have come to know it. And taking time out to experience aspects of normality again have helped me appreciate many things. So in effect, it was a working vacation of sorts. But I am back and this last term of independent study on Skid Row should be quite interesting and productive.

All of this has come together during the Olympics. It was four years ago, a few months before the Olympic Games in Athens when I started training for the triathlon. My father had just died and I told him I would complete a triathlon. In doing the training I found out so much about myself and found myself again and stopped consumption of drugs. And the detour of life tested me. But I really loved those Olympic Games that year and felt close to my dad as we always enjoyed them together, especially when I was a AAU swimmer. The Olympic Games are about people overcoming obstacles in life. Many of those obstacles are with oneself, no matter what the circumstances. It is a test to maintain perspective and purpose even in trying times. I guess the past two years drove that point home with me. I look foward to sharing with you my evolved perspective in the coming few weeks. My classes will be over at the end of the year and I will be free to start fresh some place and no doubt I will leave my home town and do just that.

I am glad that I have had this time to talk with you again. I will be talking to you every day again. There is much to talk about. So until tomorrow. Good night world. I love you.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Lyndon Hotel Open House

A couple of weeks ago, Anita Nelson, executive director of SRO Housing Corp., announced the opening of the Lyndon Hotel Apartments on 7th and Wall in the Skid Row community. Some final odds and ends were left to be done even thought the multi-million dollar renovation was completed. They were origionally scheduled to open its doors for residents on July 1. That opening date had to be postponed but the SRO staff has done a tremendous job in getting things together and processing all of the applicants. It is no easy to task to coordinate the information flow from banks and government agencies in such an undertaking.

This morning the Lyndon Hotel opened its doors for viewing. It is my understanding that individuals who were assigned a unit were able to view it and the rest of the facility.

The building will start move ins very shortly.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

"Red, White and Blue"------- Medicare/Medicaid Fraud on Skid Row

Today,the FBI served search warrants on health care providers operated by Pacific Health Corporation; Tustin Hospital and Medical Center and Los Angeles Doctors Hospital Corporation for Medicare/Medicaid fraud. Apparently the Instituitions used homeless Skid Row residents to defraud Medicare/Medicaid.
The Los Angeles Times has a the details of the story.


I read something recently where a person said, in effect, that the purpose of a writer is to write, not what we know or can write ourselves, but to write what we can not write for ourselves. Keeping in that spirit, I will not write any further about the medicaid scandal news story. I will write about matters relating to it while providing other opinions about the story.

"Red, White and Blue. Red, White and Blue". Those were the first utterances other than "Cavi.Cavi. Weed. Weed" on San Julian Street when I moved into the Marshall House. I had no idea what it meant but it was clear that whatever it was, there was a connection to illegal activity. Unless there was a new drug on the street or a new slang term for an already existing one, it was not drug related. Instinctively, I speculated that it had something to do with fraud. I asked a friend of mine and he confirmed that "Red, White and Blue" referred to the white Medicare card with red and blue strips across it and that it was one of many ways that people were able to make money on Skid Row.

Men stand in front of all of the missions and shout Red, White and Blue every day. They pick up people and drive them, in a van, to a medical facility. They paid a friend of mine one hundred and fifty dollars each time they picked him up he says.
They used his card on several occasions.

My friend is very very smart. He knows how to figure things out. It is his opinion that once they register you at the facility, your card is used many times--not just while you are there but when you are not around. The logic being that it is difficult to track the person. He is homeless and, furthermore, the person is subject to illnesses. Therefore it would not draw too much attention. So provider keeps billing.

Another variation of that scenario, according to my friend who has witnessed this is as follows. They recruit anyone. The person does not have to have a Medicare card. They just need a body. The recruiter already has a Medicare card in their possesion, stolen or acquired from beating a person. The card, gained from the beating, serves as payment for a drug debt.

As I said earlier, hearing "Red,White and Blue" was not the first time I received the signal that criminal activity was alive and well in Skid Row. I wondered into a facility with a new met acquaintance when I first arrived to get some clothes. A woman who worked at the place was very upset. She stated to her superior, in front of several people, that she was tired of seeing her co workers steal clothes donated to homeless people. These clothes would come in every day but the workers would go through them first and take what they wanted first. They clothes would not be taken to be worn by these workers. The person indicated that her fellow workers owned a thrift shop and the clothes taken were used to increase the merchandise inventory for the purpose of selling them to the general public. A year later when I strolled through Skid Row with City of Los Angeles officials and members of the editorial board of the LA Times, another woman ran up to us and made the same claim, that similiar activity was occurring at another facility.

Four months ago, a man, whom I know, walked into the place where I work, to retrieve some mail. He moved out before I began working there and was surprised to see me. I was introduced to him by some of the people in Skid Row who are trying to make a difference. The introduction gave me a certian amount of instant credibility with him and we quickly developed a rapport between us. Our friendship and mutual respect has continued to grow since then.

"Man, you look tired," I said, as he approached the window.
"Yeah, I am. We are having some type of inspection and audit coming up and they are getting the books ready," he responded. "They have me working overtime to help get things ready".
That statement raised an eyebrow so I bluntly asked him a question,
"Are they teaching you how to double count the beds and employ that application in preparing for this inspection as you say?"
There was no hesitation in his answer. "Yes, they are.". He looked at me with this look on his face that seemed to be asking "How could he know?"

Working in the corporate world, one becomes familiar with certain basic office procedures and business practices. When you see things that are a departure from certain accepted practices those activities catch your eye and you store that in a memory bank. The problem is that you see that too many times in Skid Row. They are not isolated incidents.

Skid Row is associated with criminal activity. Perenially, much of that association is linked to drug sales and prostitution. That image of Skid Row serves its purpose in deflecting attention away from those that are making millions in bogus paper trails. That activity is not practiced by the crack street dealers or prostitutes. It is a regular activity of those who sit in office suites far removed from the Skid Row arena.

It does not take much to sense criminal activity on Skid Row. You can smell it. Your instincts pick it up as soon when you land on the 'Row'. It does not take much to figure out what is going on. I tried to write a couple of news organizations once to see if they would give Skid Row more attention than just the ordinary holiday dinner segments. I felt that any one with any street sense could walk around Skid Row and smell that something, many things were array. With good investigative reporting, they might have even won a Pulitzer Prize. But nothing happened.

And then the press conference took place about the Medicare scandal. Sure enough Skid Row was on every ones' mind. I received a call from a City official. He asked me,"Walt, have you heard of anything on the street called 'Orange and Blue'?"I have a reporter on the line and she wants to know." I chuckled when I heard him say that. A reporter, eh. I asked myself if this was what a reporter did. Does a reporter call up a City official after a story comes out, and in doing so, take a "Cliff's Notes" approach to researching stories. Or does a reporter take the lead in investigating issues that need examination and understanding? You can not take the "Cliff's Notes" approach, the short cut in research , in understanding the various elements and issues that are a part of the Skid Row phenomenon. People think that Skid Row is a place. Yes it is.

However Skid Row is more than just a place. The very problems that people have in Skid Row are problems that can be found across America. It is a microcosm of sorts. And like in Skid Row, attention only comes to respective issues after a crisis captures the spotlight in America. A reporter asks a few questions and is satisfied with a few answers, not knowing if the information source is primary or secondary. Furthermore the interests in the issues that gather the spotlight lasts only as long as the ratings allow. That alone perpetuates the media, in some ways, to continue being lagging collectors for information as opposed to leading researchers and entities that provoke thought and necessary change in areas that are vital to the health of America's individual citizens and its collective community.

These pieces of gold that provide knowledge and insights into human behavior and illness are not burried and difficult to find. You can stumble over them on
Skid Row. However to do so news entities must be present. They must be diligent in their dedication to understanding the problems of individuals and by doing so they can understand and explain the problems of America at large to the American family and encourage the powers at be to take steps to cure them, --not a patch work "spotlight reactionary approach" but a methodical approach based on the total understanding of the single elements and components and how they integrate and create devastating outcomes to individuals, families and communities.

Let me give you another example of how many things are not addressed in articles about Skid Row. It was the LAPD who, through the observant eye of its undercover officers, noticed aberrant behavior that began this investigation of fraud. They are often accused of putting the homeless in jail. However no one is giving them credit for discovering this multi million dollar fraud that exploits the homeless. Let us be fair. I might add that in articles and in the broadcast media there was talk about how criminals exploit the homeless. I pose this for thought. The media is not stealing millions of dollars away from the homeless. But I say this. By only reacting to "spotlight" news, are they, in one way or another, realizing it or not, exploiting Skid Row to generate news ratings. I say change this and become a force for change. If Skid Row were more in the watchful eye of those that can keep exploiters and criminals at bay,by exposing the truth, perhaps they could dissuade those from surrendering to the temptation of committing crimes and perpetuating many illnesses that are in Skid Row.

Yes, the exploiters take advantage of those that have drug habits and, yes, they know that a few dollars offered them will be accepted because they will be able to satisfy that jones with the purchase of new drugs. However that is not all of it.
The exploiters take advantage of an attitude or perception, right or wrong of those that feel they have been disenfranchised--that it is ok to get back at the government and rip them off because they are the government, not realizing those tax dollars, ultimately, come from individual citizens. That must be pointed out as well.
All aspects of Skid Row illnesses need to be addressed so that Skid Row can advance toward healthiness. In doing so America can advance as well.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Skid Row Art Exhibit

Powerful painting isn't it. The man is laying on the sidewalk with nothing. Yet he has his faith. With that, some may say he has it all.
This captures the activities on most Skid Row streets. I find it interesting how the artist has captured the sense of community in his work.


On July 22, I was walking down the hall of my new building when I ran into Barbara. She is one of the artists of Skid Row. She told me about the Skid Row Art Exhibit that was to be held at the James Wood Community Center on 5th and San Julian.
She recently has been recovering from back surgery but was rather nimble piling numerous paintings in her wheel chair to cart them over to the center.

According to Barbara this was the first art exhibit in the history of Skid Row. I told Barbara that I would not miss it and I was able to keep my word, entering the center shortly before going to work. I was surprised at the quantity of paintings that were present. The paintings were refreshing and I was impressed at how uplifting they were.

Don Garza interviewed Barbara one day a few months ago while she was painting outside of San Julian Park. She commented on that very point--that her paintings are not sad and the reasons for that. Please watch the video.

When I began my Skid Row experience, I believed deep down that it was going to make me a better person. There was no doubt in that. I also believed that there was a beautiful side of Skid Row. I just had not experienced it but I believed that it existed. The art exhibit, Skid Row Basketball League and other activities in Skid Row are indications of that very point. There is beauty in Skid Row. There are great lessons in Skid Row. As for me, I am finally beginning to experience the positive sides of this experience. Please watch the video.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Shooting Near Central Ave/7th St.

According to neighborhood witnesses, a shooting occurred last night in the vicinity of 7th St. and Central. Indeed, shortly after 9:00Pm paramedics rushed down 7th street east towrds Central. Reports from individuals who were at the scene said that two male hispanics were standing on the sidewalk when a car drove up, stopped and shot them with an automatic rifle.

Police helicopters were seen in the sky searching the area for suspect
Reports could not be confirmed that the victims died at the scene.