The corner of 6th and Gladys Street in downtown Los Angeles is much like any other in this bustling city. Lots of traffic, lots of pedestrians, and lots of dirt and grime.
But this corner is also unique. Almost a magical corner. And somewhere at this intersection, in both the richest city and the poorest city in the world, there is a story.
Let’s see if I can count it.
In Los Angeles, “Skid Row” is the common name for a six-block area of downtown that provides clothing, food and shelter to thousands of the most oppressed residents who have chosen to call Los Angeles “home.”
These men and women struggle with alcoholism, drug addiction, and homelessness. Many others suffer from mental illnesses ranging from simple depression to full-blown schizophrenia. These castaways of what we call society wage a daily war against a combination of all of the above, if they have the strength or the resources to fight.
“Cardboard condos,” dormitories made of boxes, paper, and trash line the side streets. Here in the “Row”, the number of liquor stores far exceeds the number of places of employment. There are more opportunities to obtain crack and heroin than there are for training or medical assistance.
The men and women who make up Skid Row’s population are not recent immigrants, nor are most of them people who have chosen to live on the streets and alleys.
They were our neighbors, friends, and schoolmates. They are our veterans. Some are our brothers and sisters. Before falling so far, some of them were given other names; Mom and Dad.
At this intersection of Hopelessness and Despair, soup kitchens and detox centers are rarely short of patrons. AA meetings are held every night and twice on Sundays in a park that is a park in name only; some concrete and some old trees surrounded by a very tall metal fence. The distant lines of the fence form a point that ends where our magical corner begins.
But just as a magician must have experience in person, they must also visit 6th and Gladys St. during the day, so that you can see it clearly and experience it immediately. Come see how the other half really lives. And while you walk towards our magical corner, do what its inhabitants almost never do.
When you arrive at the bus stop that borders the cement park, surrounded by the bleak realities of life for those on the other side … stay there for a moment and look around at what we have become.
And then do what its residents cannot afford to do.
Look up and read.
Read the sign above the bus stop that says “MTA 460-Disneyland.”
From the corner of 6th and Gladys, from downtown Skid Row, there is a bus ride directly to The Magic Kingdom, the happiest place on Earth.
Except “Happiest Place on Earth” is not a destination for those who live here.
Somewhere, somehow, someone made a big mistake.
And while it may not be magical, it is definitely a trick.